A History of Hope, North Carolina

Bishop Augustus Spangenberg led a party to survey a 100,000 acre tract of land in North Carolina, which came to be known as Wachau after an Austrian estate of Count Zinzendorf. The name, later anglicized to Wachovia, became the center of growth for the church in that region. Bethabara, Bethania, and Salem (now Winston-Salem) were the first Moravian settlements in North Carolina in the early 1750s.

The first settlers arrived in Novemberof 1753, a group of eleven single men selected to provide the necessary skills for establishing a new community. Four others accompanied them on the journey but returned to Pennsylvania soon after. Additional settlers arrived beginning in 1754 and 1755, including the first women. The first community established was Bethabara, initially a stockaded fort protecting the neighboring farms. Never much more than a farming community in the early days, it is now within the city limits of Winston-Salem, on the northwest side of the city center.

In 1759, the site was selected for a second village, Bethania, about three miles northwest of Bethabara. The first houses were built in the summer of that year, just before an epidemic of typhus broke out that killed ten of the settlers. Bethania had its own church, still an active congregation, and supported the surrounding farms with basic goods and services. Families particularly associated with Bethania in the early days include Binkley, Conrad, Grabs, Hauser, Spainhour, Strub, Transou, and Volck.

In 1773, the fourth planned community of Friedberg was settled. In 1780, the fifth planned community of Hope was settled in what is present-day Forsyth County.

It was begun near the end of the American Revolution as our “English” congregation — all the others spoke the language that Moravians used at the time, German. It and Friedland were the last congregations organized before church authorities restricted growth for the next sixty years. In the nineteenth century it was frequently seemingly abandoned, and for a time it was declared to be so “unhealthy” that a pastor was not stationed there. After the Civil War, in 1866, when a Synod-appointed fact-finding committee met there, the committee was greeted by four people.

Yet by the time the committee’s meeting was ended, the little church was filled, mostly with young people, and the committee reported that it had found much hope at the little English congregation named Hope.

The first English service held by the Moravians in the area that later became Hope was on Easter Monday, April 4, 1763. A number of the families were acquainted with the Moravians, because they had lived near them at the Moravian settlement of Carroll’s Manor in Maryland. Other families followed from Maryland, and in 1775 work was begun on a schoolhouse that would also house a minister and his wife and be the place of worship. The Revolutionary War delayed construction, but on August 26, 1780, the congregation of Hope was formally organized with Br. Johann Christian Fritz serving as resident pastor.

It was rare, though, that Hope had a resident pastor. For most of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century the congregation was served from other churches, most often from Friedberg, then Clemmons, with the pastor reporting as recently as 1923 having to ride “à la mule, as the roads were too muddy for any other means of travel.”

Meanwhile, Hope’s old meeting house, begun in 1775 as a school, had served its usefulness, and the main road had passed it by. A decision was made to relocate some distance away on the Clemmonsville (now Hope Church) Road, and on August 29, 1896, the new church was consecrated. A vestibule with a distinctive belfry was added in 1923 and enlarged in 1975. A Sunday School building was constructed in 1940, and a Christian education building in 1964. A parsonage was also completed in 1961 for Br. John Walker, Hope’s first full-time pastor in more than a century.

Though a small congregation, Hope has observed its centenaries in a big way. For its 100th anniversary in 1880 nearly 2,000 attended, including the Salem Church band and choir members. Hope’s bicentennial in 1980 was a year-long affair with special bulletins and programs and an outdoor drama presented near the anniversary date.

© 2007 - J.D. Lewis - PO Box 1188 - Little River, SC 29566 - All Rights Reserved