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C h a p t e r f o u r Land and Family The Pietist Migration to North Carolina in the Late Colonial Period The Freys rode into Wachovia, North Carolina, on June 10, 1765, after a fourweek journey from Pennsylvania. A wave of emotion likely engulfed them as the party—twenty-one people in all—surveyed the hilly countryside of their new home. These migrants surely felt tired after a monthlong trip that had subjected them to bad roads, swirling rivers, steep hills, and lonely wilderness stretches. And they surely felt relief that the most vulnerable among them— seventy-five-year-old Peter, the family patriarch, and fifteen-month-old Tobias, the youngest member of the Frey clan—had safely come through the journey. But they also must have entered Wachovia with heavy hearts: one member of their party, a single man accompanying the family, had drowned a few weeks earlier while helping them cross the treacherous waters of the Potomac River into Virginia.1 The strongest emotions may well have belonged to Peter. The father of this large brood had traveled the longest and farthest to reach North Carolina, and he had undertaken this journey at an age when most men would have been enjoying the quiet comforts of a porch rocking chair. Peter was born in Wingen, Alsace, on September 27, 1689, and had brought his wife and seven children to the New World in 1734 when hard times struck his native land. Frey settled his family in eastern Pennsylvania, in Berks County, where he and his sons took up farming.2 The Freys had arrived in Pennsylvania as religiously indifferent Lutherans but had seen the light after hearing a Moravian bishop preach on the saving grace of Jesus Christ and the liberating power of the new birth. The Moravian message struck them with the force of a thunderclap. It jarred and “awoke” them. The alarming message that they were unsaved and that their souls were 108 The Protestant Sojourner in mortal danger carried such force that the Freys abandoned the cabin they had so recently built and moved to Heidelberg, a farming hamlet where they could participate in a growing Moravian congregation and learn how to be reborn.3 Picking up and moving for a third time must have been difficult for Peter. He was entering the final stage of his life (indeed, he died only a year after arriving in Wachovia), and he had already endured the rigors of a transatlantic ocean crossing. Yet he moved south to join a community belonging to a church of which he had never even heard a few years earlier. His behavior raises several questions. One is quite basic: Why do such a thing? The Freys, after all, could have saved themselves the bother of a difficult migration and remained in Pennsylvania to farm and to worship at the Moravian congregation in Heidelberg. Or they could have moved to a farm near another congregation in Pennsylvania (as they had done before). But they rejected those options, instead heading south to begin life anew. What was it, exactly, about land that made the Freys pick up and move to the southern frontier ? Their decision seemed to run counter to accepted notions of what a good Pietist should do. In the canon of Pietism, worshiping the Lord and reforming Christianity were always to come first. For the reborn Christian striving to lead a life of discipline and piety, didn’t land represent something selfish—the desire of its holders to get ahead to make money? And didn’t land represent individualism—a grasping for personal wealth at the expense of faith? The Moravian experience provides insights into these questions and the complex role that land and family played in the migrations of religiously minded people in early America. As with Scotch-Irish Presbyterians and others , obtaining land was a means to achieve religious ends: migrants sought to provide for their families both economically and spiritually. These Pietistic migrants had joined the Moravian movement in the northern colonies and Maryland, had undergone (or had attempted to undergo) a new birth, and had become active members of this German-based group. Yet despite their decision to join a devout religious movement, they retained their family-based cultural values. They did not renounce marriage, as did some religious radicals , most notably at Ephrata. Nor did they turn their back on the world, as did some separatist Anabaptists. Traditional family life remained important to...


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MARC Record
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