Search billions of records on

History of the German Settlements and of the Lutheran Church in North and South Carolina

G.D. Bernheim
Philadelphia: The Lutheran Book Store

Section 10. The German and Swiss Colonists of Orangeburg, S.C., A.D. 1735.

The story of the settling of Orangeburg, South Carolina is a page in the history of that State which has never been fully written. The cause of this omission can scarcely be accounted for, as ample materials were within the reach of former historians. Certain outlines have been given, but nothing very satisfactory has been furnished.

"The first white inhabitant who settled in this section of country was named Henry Sterling; his occupation, it is supposed, was that of a trader. He located himself on Lyon's Creek in the year 1704, and obtained a grant of a tract of land, at present in the possession of Colonel Russel P. McCord." (Mills, p. 656.)

The next settlers were some three or four individuals, who located themselves at the Cowpens, northwesterly of the low country white settlements; these, and the Cherokee and Catawba Indians were all the inhabitants who had preceded the Germans." (Mills, p. 657.)

The colonists of Orangeburg County and town were mostly German and Swiss, who came over from Europe in a large body, occupying several vessels, and even to the present day their descendants are easily recognized by their unmistakable German names, and are found to be the principal owners and occupants of the soil in this portion of South Carolina.

The principal facts concerning the early history of these colonists are mainly derived from the Journals of Council of the Province of South Carolina, as found in manuscript form in the office of the Secretary of State, as well as from the Church record-book, kept by their first pastors, the two Giessendanners, uncle and nephew, written in the German and English languages, which is still extant, and has been thoroughly examined by the writer; and as these additional facts are now presented for the first time, it is hoped that they may open new avenues, which will afford future historians of the State additional sources of research and information.

That the German element of the Orangeburg colonists came partly from Switzerland, we learn from the records of the Giessendanners' churchbook, as it was the custom of the younger Giessendanner to mention the place of nativity of all the deceased, in his reords of each funeral of the early settlers; and as this emigration from that country to Orangeburg occurred only two or three years subsequent to the emigration of a former Swiss colony to Purysburg, S.C., it certainly requires no great stretch of the imagination to explain the causes which induced such a large number of emigrants from that country to locate themselves upon the fertile lands of South Carolina, which were described so glowingly by John Peter Purry and his associates.

Let any one examine the pamphlets, as found in vol. ii of Carroll's Collections, which Mr. Purry published in reference to the Province of South Carolina, and which he freely distributed in his native county, in which the fertility of the soil, salubrity of the climate, excellency of government, safety of the colonists, opportunities of becoming wealthy, &c., &c., are so highly extolled, and corroborated by the testimony of so many witnesses, and he will easily comprehend what the Switzers must have fancied that province to be, viz.: the El Dorado of America, -- the second Palestine of the world.

Mr. Purry's account of the excellency of South Carolina for safe and remunerative settlement went round, from mouth to mouth, in many a hamlet and cottage of the little mountain-girt country, losing nothing by being told from one family to another; which, with the additional fact, that many had relatives and friends living in both the Carolinas, whom they possibly might meet again, soon fastened their affections upon that province, and induced them to leave the Fatherland, and make their future homes with some of their countrymen in America. Their little all of earthly goods or patrimony was soon disposed of; preparations for a longer journey were quickly made, as advised by Mr. Purry in his pamphlet; the journey through North Germany towards some seaport was then undertaken; and, with other Germans added to their number, who joined their fortunes with them whilst passing through their country, they were soon rocked upon the bosom of the ocean, heading towards America, with the compass pointed to their expected haven, Charleston, South Carolina.

These German and Swiss settlers did not all arrive in Orangeburg at the same time; the first colony came during the year 1735; another company arrived a year later, and it was not until 1737 that their first pastor, Rev. John Ulrich Giessendanner, Senior, came among them with another reinforcement of settlers; whilst Mills informs us that emigrants from Germany arrived in Orangeburg District as late as 1769, only a few years before the Revolution.

Like most of the early German settlers of America, these colonists came to Carolina not as "gentlemen or traders," but as tillers of the soil, with the honest intention "to earn their bread by the sweat of the brow," and their lands soon gave evidence of thrift and plenty, and they, by their industry and frugality, not only secured a competency and independence for themselves and their children in this fertile portion of South Carolina, but many of them became blessed with abundance and wealth.

From the records of Rev. Giessendanner we learn that there were also a considerable number of mechanics, as well as planters and farmers, among these colonists; and the results of this German colonization were extremely favorable to Orangeburg District, inasmuch as they remained there as permanent settlers, whilst many of their countryment in other locations, such as Purysburg, &c., were compelled to leave their first-selected homes, on account of the want of health and of that great success which they had at first expected, but the Orangeburg settlers became a well-established and successful colony.

It has been asserted that the German congregation established in Orangeburg among these settlers was Reformed, which is evidently a mistake, as any one may perceive from the following facts. On the one hand, it must be admitted that the Switzers came from the land where John Calvin labored, and where the Reformed religion prevails, but where there are also many Lutheran churches established. It is also admitted that the Giessendanners were natives of Switzerland, but it would be unsafe to conclude from these facts that the German congregation at Orangeburg, with all, or nearly all, of its members, and with their pastors, were Swiss Reformed or Calvanistic in their faith. On the other hand, although nothing positive is mentioned inthe Record-book of the Church, concerning their distinctive religious belief, yet the presumptive evidence, even from this source of information, is sufficiently strong to conclude that this first religious society in Orangeburg was a Lutheran Church. The facts from which our conclusions are drawn are:

Firstly. - Because a very strong element from Germany was mixed with their Swiss brethren in the early settling of this county, which, by still later accession of German colonists, appears to have become the predominating population, who were mostly Lutherans, and the presumption becomes strong that their church-organization was likewise Lutheran.

Secondly. - It seems to have been a commonly admitted fact and the prevailing general impression of that time, when their second pastor had become an ordained minister of the Church of England.

Thirdly. - In examining their church records one will discover, through its entire pages, a recognition of the festivals of the Lutheran Church, as were commonly observed by the early Lutheran settlers.

Page Two

back button