|One Hundred Years of the Moravians in Mayodan, North Carolina 1896-1996
|Young, Violet K.
|North Carolina Digital Heritage Center
|Rockingham County Public Library
The Moravian Church was organized in 1457, under the name UNITAS FRATRUM – Unity of Brethren. It is known as “Moravian” because of early history in Moravia.
Long before there was a Mayodan Moravian Church, a group of Moravians on their way from Bethlehem, PA to start a colony in Wachovia, NC, stopped at the junction of the Mayo and Dan Rivers: the very site from which the Town of Mayodan gets its name. Rev. J. H. Clewell gives an account of this journey in ”History of Wachovia”, p. 15.
“The little colony of Moravians left Bethlehem, October 8, 1753, to begin the colony in Wachovia, NC. Their goods were stored in a large wagon and the route was a direct line. They journeyed to the Susquehanna, continued southward to Frederick by Oct. 15, then through the Shenandoah Valley to the Town of Staunton crossing the Potomac, the James, and the Roanoke Rivers. In due time the Pilot Mountain came into view, then they reached the Mayo River, and followed it until they arrived at the junction of Mavo and Dan Rivers, where are situated the present town of Mayodan and the Mill. A short journey and they reached the present town of Walnut Cove and soon after they crossed the borders of Wachovia and founded the village of Bethabara.
“Great difficulties encountered them at every stage of this journey. The heavy loaded wagon was too much for the poorly built bridges, pulling the steep hills, and the dangerously steep descents. Heavy rains, thick undergrowth detained them, so searching for food was added. Accidents to the wagon, sickness of the horses, and then falling snow. Having lagged in their schedule by dismal experiences, they arose at three o’clock in the morning to reach the Dan River that day, but storms and bad weather caused them to miss their goal by seven miles. They were obliged to stop till the storms abated. At midnight the rain ceased, they attached the horses to the wagon, and with lighted torches to guide the driver, the journey was continued to the Dan River. What a picture is presented by those sturdy Christian men as in the midnight hour, when with flaring torches they made their way through the mountain wilds, happy and cheerful, reminding themselves that the day was November 13, a festal day of the Church.” (The day when Jesus Christ was declared The Head and Chief Elder of the Church)
Had these sturdy Christians not endured the hardships of this journey, there would be no historic Bethabara, no Old Salem as we enjoy it today. Nor would there be a Mayodan Moravian Church, which is so much a part of our spiritual lives, and a blessed fellowship begun one hundred years ago.
The story of the first religious service held in the present Town of Mayodan, and the beginnings of our Church, is told on the following pages by Mrs. A. G. Farris, in her articles “The Moravian Church in Rockingham County”, and the account of her father’s life and work “Samuel Parmenia Tesh”; and by Bishop Edward Rondthaler in his “Recollections of the early days of Mayodan”.
The Moravian Church of Mayodan, North Carolina, Rockingham County was dedicated to the Glory of God on November 29, 1896. The first religious service held in the village in July 1895, under the trees near where the Church stands was the actual beginning of the Church. Howard Edward Rondthaler (now Bishop-Moravian Church Southern Province) a surveyor at the time living at the boarding house and Samuel Permania Tesh, who was also staying there, both Moravians from Winston-Salem, conducted this service. The Higgins family, who kept the boarding house, the other boarders there and a few people from the village gathered around as the service progressed. Howard Rondthaler, son of Edward Rondthaler, Bishop also of the Moravian Church, studied for the ministry and became the first pastor of the Mayodan Moravian Church.
The first school in Mayodan was in the Moravian Church, as was the first library.
The Moravians in Mayodan started the Moravian Church in Avalon in early 1900 and was a thriving congregation until the mill there burned in 1911. The Moravian Church in Leaksville, NC was also started by this group in Mayodan; part of them (members) having moved to Leaksville when the new rug mills opened there in the twenties.
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