Bethabara Church. Photo from the N.C. Museum of History.
On November 17, 1753, fifteen Moravian men from Pennsylvania arrived in present-day Forsyth County on the land they called Wachovia. Bethabara, which means “House of Passage,” was the first community built in Wachovia.
In 1752, Moravians traveled south on the Great Wagon Road in search of a large tract of available land suitable for farming. They selected a 100,000-acre tract of land in the Piedmont region of North Carolina.
By the end of 1756, the settlers had built a church, gristmill, saw mill, tannery, pottery, distillery, and other crafts shops. In 1766, the Moravians began building a town called Salem in the center of the Wachovia Tract. By 1772, most essential buildings had been built and industries transferred to the new town.
As Bethabara dwindled from a central town to farmland, it came to be called Old Town. Today visitors can visit Historic Bethabara Park to get a glimpse of what this early community looked like.
Other related resources:
- Expanding to the West Settlement of the Piedmont Region 1730 to 1775 from the N.C. Museum of History
- Highway marker commemorating the Wachovia Tract
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