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The Birthplace of Effingham County

Boltzius Statue

The statue of Rev. Johann Martin Boltzius was placed here as the Salzburgers marked the 275th anniversary of their forefathers’ arrival in Georgia during the 2009 annual Heritage Day celebration.

Johann Martin Boltzius (December 15, 1703 – November 19, 1765) was a German born, Lutheran minister to the Salzburgers.

Clergyman Johann Martin Boltzius was born at Forst on the Elbe, Lower Lusatia, in what is now Germany, on December 15, 1703. Boltzius was a hard-working priest who, among his other duties, ministered to pupils in an orphanage – exhibiting excellent traits of organization, humanitarianism, and supervision. It was these traits that led him to be recommended to the Georgia Trustees as minister to the Salzburgers intent on migrating to Georgia. Boltzius dutifully accepted the challenge, though he spoke no English and little of the Salzburger dialect. But he was a quick learner and soon picked up both languages, corresponding frequently in each. The Salzburger settlement site, called Ebenezer, was on a sandy pine barren surrounded by swamps just north of Savannah. Crops could not grow there and Ebenezer Creek proved to be unnavigable; many settlers and virtually all children born there died in the first year of settlement. When these deficiencies became apparent, Boltzius convinced James Oglethorpe to allow the Salzburgers to move to another site. The new site – called New Ebenezer – proved to be successful, thanks largely to the work of Boltzius. Here, he ministered to his people, also assuming many secular duties – such as supervising purchases of materials, the distribution, clearing, and planting of land, construction of houses and other buildings, and the keeping of records. Boltzius was a vocal supporter of the Trustees’ ban on slavery, which angered many Georgians. The Salzburger site was one of the few examples the Trustees could point to that agriculture in Georgia could be successful using free labor. Boltzius remained the spiritual and secular leader of Ebenezer until his death on November 19, 1765.  Source: Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library, University of Georgia Libraries


Clergyman Johann Martin Boltzius



This picture is a portrayal of Rev. Boltzius during the 2012 Historic Ebenezer Christmas celebration.

This picture is a portrayal of Rev. Boltzius during the 2012 Historic Ebenezer Christmas celebration.

This article about the Statue was originally posted on September 3, 2009.

The preparations have been ongoing for the last two and a half years for a day 275 years in the making.

Ann Purcell, left, and Martha Zeigler, right, show off what the statue of Johann Martin Boltzius will look like.

The descendants of the Salzburgers will have their annual Heritage Day celebration on Labor Day, complete with the addition of two long-awaited projects. A statue of Rev. Johann Martin Boltzius, the spiritual and political leader of Effingham County’s original European settlers, will be unveiled, and a book of letters written by Boltzius to associates in Germany.

“A significant amount of planning has gone into this,” said Ann Purcell, former president and a member of the Georgia Salzburger Society board of directors. “Those two projects took a great deal of preparation. A lot of thought has been put into it.

“This has taken a big team of folks for a day that will be remembered throughout the state and community.

The statue of Rev. Johann Martin Boltzius was placed on this pedestal as the Salzburgers mark the 275th anniversary of their forefathers’ arrival in Georgia during the 2009 annual Heritage Day celebration.

The event is drawing dignitaries from far and wide. Austria’s ambassador to the U.S., Dr. Christian Prosl, is expected to be present for the ceremonies, as is Germany’s consul general in Atlanta, Dr. Lutz Hermann Gorgens.

“It is a big celebration of the history and heritage that has come forth from those Salzburgers,” Purcell said.

The original Salzburgers gathered at St. Anna’s Church in Salzburg, Austria, before making their way on foot to Rotterdam, The Netherlands. From there, they sailed across the English Channel and then spent more than 100 days aboard the Purysburg, the vessel that carried them to America.

The Salzburgers arrived in Savannah in 1734, and Gen. James Oglethorpe led the new arrivals to their new home north of the city.

The New Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church will be home to many of the activities Monday. The church itself is 240 years old, and Purcell pointed out the celebration isn’t so much about the church but about the worshippers who built it

“It is the people who made that building what it is today,” she said.

Dr. Russell Kleckley, the scholar who conducted the translation and transliteration of Rev. Boltzius’ writings from Old German to modern German and then to English, will be on hand to sign copies of the book of letters.

The director of the Francke Foundation, Dr. Thomas Mueller-Bahlke, also will be present. The Francke Foundation was the “orphanage/archives/school,” Purcell said, that assigned Boltzius to lead the Salzburger pilgrims to their new home. Dr. Rudolf Freudenberger, retired pastor of St. Anna’s in Salzburg, will be among the guests.

The Georgia Salzburger Society will be hosting its brethren from the German Salzburger Society as well.

The weekend includes several different events from the usual Heritage Day celebration. The ringing of Georgia’s oldest bell will herald the start of the thanksgiving service Monday. There will be tours of the cemeteries, including a cemetery on the Georgia-Pacific property that was part of a former church and small community. A commander’s tent from Wormsloe will be set up to display the trade that went on between Savannah and the Ebenezer colony.

“We do expect more folks to drop in this year,” Purcell said. “There’s a lot of history and a lot of folks are coming here because of their interest in history.”

Juergen Groeschl (left) stands next to the statue of Johann Martin Boltzius while Roger Stephens explains the history of the area. (Matthew Goricki/Effingham Now)