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This Day in Georgia History

December 15, 1703

Johann Martin Boltzius Born

To view an image of Boltzius, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Clergyman Johann Martin Boltzius was born at Forst on the Elbe, Lower Lusatia, in what is now Germany. 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 the only evidence 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. [Click here for a link to the Georgia Salzburger Society.]