Johann Martin Boltzius

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Johann Martin Boltzius (December 15, 1703 – November 19, 1765) was a German born, American Lutheran minister. He is most known for his association with the Salzburger emigrants, a group of German-speaking Protestant refugees who migrated to the British colony of Georgia in 1734. They founded the city of Ebenezer, Georgia to escape persecution in the Archbishopric of Salzburg and other Roman Catholic authorities for their religious views.[1][2][3]


Boltzius was born at Forst in Lower Lusatia, a town southeast of Berlin, Germany.[4] His parents, Eva Rosina Muller and Martin Boltzius worked as weavers. He was awarded a scholarship for theology from the University of Halle. During his time at the university, he studied Lutheran Pietism, which emphasized salvation by grace, strong ethics, vigorous pastoral leadership, and social compassion. Upon completing his studies, he served as the inspector at the Latin School of the Francke in Halle providing Protestant education to orphans.

Ebenezer settlement[edit]

Statue in Ebenezer, Georgia, U.S.

In 1733, he was chosen by Gotthilf August Francke, son of a co-founder of the school, to serve as a minister to the Salzburg Protestant refugees.[5] Boltzius called their journey "into danger, but closer to God", which sheds light on the harsh conditions that travelers often faced during the eighteenth century. This religiously motivated journey was seen as a chance for the Salzburgers to come closer to God by taking on these hardships in order to follow Christ and therefore, this movement was seen as a pilgrimage more than as emigration. Boltzius envisioned this new community as one where God was the ultimate authority. Although he was chosen and seen as a leader for the Salzburgers, he stressed that the ministers were governed by God and that they would make all of the administrative and disciplinary decisions in His name.[6]

In 1734, the group of Salzburgers who sailed from England to Georgia, arriving first in Charleston, South Carolina before proceeding to Savannah, Georgia. James Oglethorpe, the founder of the Georgia colony, met them upon arrival and assigned them the piece of land that would become Ebenezer. Many of the Salzburgers died due to complications from infectious diseases during the journey, and once they arrived in Georgia. Boltzius insisted that these deaths were due to God's works and that the intervention was only a test of their faith. From his entries in the Detailed Reports of the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America (Ausführliche Nachricht von den saltzburgischen Emigranten compiled by Samuel Urlsperger), there are some signals that Boltzius began to blame James Oglethorpe, as representative of the Trustees of Georgia, for the many deaths because of his poor choice of location for the settlement. In 1736, Ebenezer was moved closer to the Savannah River. Boltzius had demanded that the community be relocated to an area with more fertile land, where the Salzburgers could thrive. After an altercation with Oglethorpe, Boltzius threatened to disband the community if they did not receive permission to relocate. [7][8]

In 1737, Boltzius had several conversations with John Wesley over the issue of episcopacy. Boltzius said, "Of this [doctrine] he [Wesley] feels so sure that no argument could be strong enough to sway him in the slightest from his opinion".[9] This led to Wesley's declining to serve Boltzius Holy Communion.

Boltzius established the Jerusalem Lutheran Church and administered the settlement of Ebenezer with a strong religious element.[10] Boltzius also wanted to share his faith with other communities in Georgia. He rejected the Moravians who came into Georgia, but he was able to form relationships with Anglican and Jewish leaders in the community. He was very outspoken when it came to his views about how political issues were affecting the colonies, and this led to his disassociation with many of the other groups in his area. He was strongly opposed to slavery because he thought that it went against Christian values,[11] but for fear of being killed for his beliefs, in 1740 he determined that he needed to become accepting of slavery for the safety of the Salzburgers. He stated that slavery was a new way to spread Christian faith and later purchased his own slaves.[12][13]

Towards the end of his life, Boltzius became sick with malaria and began to lose his eyesight, possibly due to a keratitis.[14]

When he died in 1765, the Salzburgers felt his absence, for they had lost their leader and their guide.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Runyon, Shane A.; Robert Scott Davis (March 8, 2005). "Ebenezer". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  2. ^ Trodahl, Joann (October 2014). "The Salzburger Story and Its Legacy In Rincon, Georgia". Kennesaw State University. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "The Expulsion Of The Salzburg Exiles 1731/32". Pfaender. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  4. ^ "Berlin nach Forst (Lausitz) - Google Maps". Retrieved 2016-02-16.
  5. ^ Ebel, Carol. "Johann Martin Boltzius (1703-1765)." New Georgia Encyclopedia. 15 September 2014. Web. 18 February 2015
  6. ^ Herz, Dietmar & Smith, John D.. "'Into Danger but also Closer to God': The Salzburgers' Voyage to Georgia, 1733-1734." The Georgia Historical Quarterly. 80.1 (1996): 1-26. Web.
  7. ^ Jackson, Edwin L. (December 2, 2003). "James Oglethorpe (1696-1785)". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  8. ^ Cashin, Edward J. (March 10, 2003). "Trustee Georgia, 1732-1752". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  9. ^ Hammond, Geordan (2009). "Versions of primitive Christianity: John Wesley's relations with the Moravians in Georgia, 1735-1737". Journal of Moravian History. 6: 31–60.
  10. ^ "Ebenezer Townsite and Jerusalem Lutheran Church". National Register of Historic Places Collection. December 4, 1974. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  11. ^ Cozma, Codrina (Winter 2004). "John Martin Bolzius and the Early Christian Opposition to Slavery in Georgia". Georgia Historical Quarterly. 88 (4). Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  12. ^ Barlament, James (November 3, 2006). "Salzburgers". New Georgia Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  13. ^ Arnsdorff, Francis Tannie (April 2013). "Ebenezer and the Salzburgers' Separatist Identity in Colonial Georgia". Armstrong Undergraduate Journal of History. 3, no. 2. Archived from the original on 2015-10-13. Retrieved April 1, 2016.
  14. ^ Leffler CT, et al. (2017). "Ophthalmology in North America: Early Stories (1491-1801)". Ophthalmology and Eye Diseases. 9: 1–51. doi:10.1177/1179172117721902. PMC 5533269. PMID 28804247.
  15. ^ Urlsperger, Samuel and George F. Jones (1968) Detailed Reports on the Salzburger Emigrants Who Settled in America (Athens: University of Georgia Press)

Other sources[edit]

Related reading[edit]

  • Jones, George Fenwick (1984) The Salzburger Saga: Religious Exiles and Other Germans along the Savannah (Athens: University of Georgia Press) ISBN 9780820306896

External links[edit]