Bethabara Historic District

Bethabara Historic District  near Winston Salem encompasses the surviving buildings and archaeological remains of a small Moravian community, that was first settled in 1753. Located in present-day Forsyth County, North Carolina, it is now a public park of the city of Winston-Salem. It was designated National Historic Landmark in 1999.

Bethabara (from the Hebrew, meaning “House of Passage” and pronounced beth-ab-bra, the name of the traditional site of the Baptism of Jesus Christ) was a village located in what is now Forsyth CountyNorth Carolina. It was the site where twelve men from the Moravian Church first settled in 1753 in an abandoned cabin in the 100,000-acre (400 km2) tract of land the church had purchased from Lord Granville and dubbed Wachovia.

Its early settlers were noted for advanced agricultural practices, especially their medicine Garden, which produced over fifty kinds of herbs.

Bethabara was never meant to be a permanent settlement. It was intended to house the Moravians until a more suitable location for a central village could be found. Just six months after arriving in Wachovia, the Seven Years War (known as the French and Indian War in America) began in western Pennsylvania. The violence quickly spread to southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina. Bethabara hosted a large number of refugees until 1761. The establishment of a central town was delayed for thirteen years because of the growing Moravian population and hundreds of refugees.

Once it was felt safe to do so in 1766, the central town, Salem was begun. Many of the buildings in Bethabara were dismantled, and used for the new structures in Salem. As the houses were taken down, the small rootcellars were pushed in and filled.

With Salem completed in 1771, the official seat of government was transferred from Bethabara to Salem. Only a few residents remained behind. Bethabara became a farming community which supplied food to the other Moravians towns in Wachovia.

In 1788, a slave, Johann Samuel, was made superintendent of the farm. He was freed in 1801, after 50 years of servitude to To the Moravians. Bethabara continued to decline. The principal industries were farming and pottery, well into the 1850’s.