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Heritage Day designed to remember Salzburgers
Robert Peavey, docent and assistant curator at the Georgia Salzburger Society Museum, explains the history leading up to the Salzburgers' arrival in Effingham County. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

A group of people that was unceremoniously dispatched from its homeland nearly three centuries ago is about to be richly embraced.

On Labor Day from 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., the Georgia Salzburger Society and Jerusalem Lutheran Church will celebrate the 283rd anniversary of the Salzburgers' landing in Georgia. Known as Heritage Day, the free event is slated at Historic Ebenezer, 2980 Ebenezer Road, Rincon.

Beginning in 1734, about 300 Salzburgers, Protestants who were expelled from their native land (presently Austria), began arriving in Georgia in search of religious freedom. The Trustees of the Colony of Georgia extended them an invitation two years earlier. King George II of England, a German duke and Lutheran, sympathized with them.

The German-speaking Salzburgers were exiled because they refused to adhere to the religious beliefs of Count Leopold von Firmian, the Catholic archbishop and prince of Salzburg. Instead, they opted to follow the teachings of Martin Luther.

"The people stood up to (the archbishop) and he threw them out of the country," said Robert Peavey, docent and assistant curator at the The Georgia Salzburger Society Museum.

In addition to the 300 Salzburgers who ended up in Georgia, roughly 20,000 more were spread among East Prussia (16,000), Holland (200) and other locations (3,500). They were usually forced to leave their children behind and many Salzburgers died during their search for a new home as a result of harsh conditions at sea or in the Alps.

 "It was called 'The Scandal of Europe,' " Peavey said. "Our ancestors endured a lot to get here."

The Georgia group set up along Ebenezer Creek, several miles from the Savannah River. 

See the Aug. 30 edition of the Effingham Herald for more details.