WOODS: legs of sweetgum (liquidambar styraciflua), apron of yellow poplar (liriodendron tulipifera) and stretchers of a yellow pine type. The boards that enclose the bottom of the apron are also of yellow pine.
CONDITION: The bottoms of three feet and the removable top are modern replacements.
STYLE: With a removable top, deep frame, splayed legs, and flat stretchers, the table’s stylistic heritage is clearly derived from verancular prototypes in southern Germany, northern Austria, and Switzerland. The dovetailed frame conceals a storage area that can be reached only by removing the top, which is attached to the sides with large pins that pierce dovetailed battens, a standard Germanic construction technique.
This table is the earliest known piece of Georgia furniture. It was made at the Salzburger settlement in Ebenezer, Georgia, during its first years of settlement. In 1734 the Reverend Johann Martin Bolzius (1703-1765) accompanied nearly fifty German and Austrian Lutherans to Georgia. They were fleeing religious oppression in the Archbishopric of Salzburg, a city located in the Austrian Alps near the Bavarian border. Three additional groups of Salzburgers, as they were called, followed, and German Protestants from Wurttemberg joined the settlement during the 1750s.
The Salzburger settlement included a number of competent woodworkers, such as George Kogler, the town’s master builder who supervised construction of the orphanage, the flour mill, and the first wooden church. In 1740, Reverend Bolzius described Kogler as “our most prominent carpenter.” In early Salzburger records, Bolzius mentioned only two men engaged in cabinetmaking. The first, Frederick William Muller (d. 1751), arrived in 1736 as a clockmaker from Frankfurt. In 1738, Bolzius lamented that “we have no carpenter or cabinetmaker in the community” and “the clockmaker Mueller is applying himself to such work and makes everything very neatly and industriously…He works not only in wood but also in bone, iron, and other tractable things.” Two years later, Bolzius noted that Muller was “a very skillful man, who can copy almost everything he sees, and he is making such spinning wheels for the people.” By 1741, Muller had made six wooden clocks for Governor James Oglethorpe and operated a lathe producing buttons and knife handles “as good as in Germany.”
Because Muller hailed from Frankfurt, a prosperous urban center on the Main River in western Germany, the more likely maker of a vernacular table with southern Germanic roots would be Hans Krusy (1681-1748), a Swiss joiner who migrated first to Purrysburg, South Carolina, but in 1738 crossed the Savannah River to join the Salzburgers in Ebenezer. Bolzius noted that Krusy was a 57-year-old carpenter from Appenzell, Switzerland, who “can do all sorts of cabinet making and barrel making.” Krusy produced a rice mill for the orphanage and wheels for wagons and carts. In 1739, Bolzius called him “the old carpenter from Purysburg, who is helping to build my house.” As Bolzius noted, Hans Krusy was from Appenzell, a rural canton in the Alpine region of eastern Switzerland close to the Swiss border with Austria and Liechtenstein.
Fighting during the American Revolution left the town of Ebenezer in ruins, and by 1855 it had been largely abandoned. Jerusalem Lutheran Church is one of the community’s few surviving buildings. A large brick structure completed in 1769, it is now the oldest church building in the State of Georgia. Today, both the Ebenezer town site and the church are listed on the National Historic Register, and the town site is the focus of ongoing archaeological investigations.
RELATED OBJECTS: MESDA has several objects that relate to the Salzburger experience in Georgia. These include this table made at Ebenezer (MESDA acc. 2082); a print of the Reverend Johann Martin Bolzius after an original portrait painted by Charleston’s Swiss-born artist, Jeremiah Theus (MESDA acc. 2024.39); a 1747 map of Ebenezer (MESDA acc. 2867); and an early 18th-century Westerwald mug that descended in the Ziegler family of Ebenezer (MESDA acc. 3894).