Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Spangenberg, Augustus Gottlieb
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Spangenberg, Augustus Gottlieb
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|Edition of 1900. See also August Gottlieb Spangenberg on Wikipedia, and our Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography disclaimer.|
SPANGENBERG, Augustus Gottlieb, Moravian bishop, b. in Klettenberg, Prussia, 15 July, 1704; d. in Berthelsdorf, near Herrnhut, Saxony, 18 Sept., 1792. He was graduated at Jena, and then became an assistant professor in the university there. Subsequently he was appointed to a professor's chair at Halle, but his association with Zinzendorf and the Moravians gave such offence that he was dismissed from the university, and joined their church. In 1735 he put himself at the head of a body of Moravian immigrants, and established a colony at Savannah, Ga. Thither came Bishop David Nitschmann, who ordained Spangenberg a presbyter of the church, and sent him to Pennsylvania, where he labored among the German sects. Such work was interrupted by a visit that the bishop commissioned him to undertake to the mission in St. Thomas. After his return he resumed his labors in Pennsylvania, went to Savannah in order to cheer his brethren, who were in distress on account of the war impending between England and Spain, and finally sailed for Europe in 1739. Having been appointed to preside over the Moravian churches in this country, he was consecrated to the episcopacy, 15 June, 1744, at Herrnhaag. He arrived at Bethlehem, Pa., in the autumn of the same year, and, with the exception of a brief period from 1749 till 1751, which he spent in Europe, ruled the church until 1761 with singular ability. The settlers at Bethlehem, Nazareth, and other Moravian stations were poor and had heavy financial engagements to meet, but Spangenberg provided for them with such care, and managed the affairs of the entire colony so successfully, that his brethren gave him the honorary name of “Joseph.” This name he accepted, and used it in signing his letters, and occasionally even official documents. In the year after his arrival at Bethlehem he undertook a visit to Onondaga, the capital of the Six Nations, with whom he concluded a treaty that had in view the establishment of a mission among them. On this journey, which proved to be very arduous and full of dangers, he was adopted into the Irnquois confederacy, receiving the name of Tgirhitontie, or a Row of Trees. In 1752, accompanied by five associates, he made his way into the wilds of North Carolina, where he superintended the survey of a large tract of land that the church had bought of Lord Granville. It was a hazardous and difficult undertaking. In the following year he visited Europe and reported to Count Zinzendorf on the progress of the American work, returning in 1754. During the French and Indian war, and especially after the massacre of the missionaries on the Mahony, near what is now Mauch Chunk, Pa., 24 Nov., 1755, he displayed no little courage. Bethlehem became the frontier town in the direction of the Indian country, was surrounded with a stockade. and carefully guarded against attacks from the savages. Spangenberg was in stated correspondence with the governor of Pennsylvania, who acknowledged the great benefit the bishop was conferring upon the whole colony by thus holding his town. After the conclusion of the war he resumed those visits to the Indian country in which he had always taken a particular delight, and baptized several converts. In 1760 Zinzendorf died and Spangenberg was called to Europe in order to assist in the government of the Unitas Fratrum according to the new constitution. He took his seat in the chief executive board, of which body he was the president for twenty-three years. He lived to be eighty-eight years of age, and his episcopate continued for forty-eight years. Spangenberg was a learned theologian and a man of great power, and yet as a Christian humble as a little child. His presence was commanding; his countenance showed the nobility of his character and the love of an overflowing heart. Among his numerous works the most important are “Idea Fidei Fratrum” (Barby, 1782; translated into English by La Trobe under the title “Exposition of Christian Doctrine,” London, 1784); “Darlegung richtiger Antworten” (Leipsic, 1751), and “Schluss-Schrift” (1752); two polemical works in defence of Zinzendorf; and “Leben des Grafen von Zinzendorf” (3 vols., Barby, 1772-'4; abridged English translation, London, 1838). There are two biographies of Spangenberg, Jeremiah Rislers “Leben Spangenbergs” (Barby, 1794), and Carl F. Ledderhose's “Leben A. G. Spangenbergs, Bischofs der Brüdergemeinde” (Heidelberg, 1846; French translation, Toulouse, 1850; English, London, 1855).