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The Wachovia Historical Society is a repository for many artifacts and collections that reflect the history of Forsyth County and the Wachovia Tract. Some of the artifacts have belonged to the society from the time of its formation, and others were donated by individuals over the years. Many of the artifacts are held and used by Old Salem Museums and Gardens. We will feature many of these artifacts and collections, with their histories, on this website.

The Wachovia Historical Society (WHS) owes a debt of gratitude to the Single Brothers of the Moravian community of Salem, North Carolina, who began collecting objects which held special significance for them and storing them in a cupboard or schrank in the Single Brothers' House in the eighteenth century. This group of objects forms the nucleus of the WHS collection.

The Young Men’s Missionary Society (YMMS), formed in 1840, continued this tradition with objects from the Moravian mission fields and started the first museum Salem in 1844. By 1894, there was enough interest in the growing collection to form the Wachovia Historical Society, which was organized officially in 1895.

In 1952, shortly after Old Salem, Inc. was chartered, the Wachovia Historical Society agreed to place its collection on loan to Old Salem since Old Salem has greater capacity for preserving, administering, storing, and exhibiting the important objects collected by the Society. Since 1952 Old Salem has been the agency actively collecting and exhibiting decorative arts appropriate to the historic houses and shops that make up Old Salem Museums & Gardens. These two collections together form what is the most comprehensive collection of southern Moravian decorative art in America.

The Wachovia Historical Society collection also includes notable examples of furniture, textiles, metals, ceramics, paintings, and ephemera all of which document the lives of Moravians living in Wachovia in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Some objects in the Wachovia Historical Society collections, such as the extraordinary earthenware shop sign made by master potter Gottfried Aust in 1773, are icons of American decorative art and are known to scholars and collectors internationally. Others, such as furniture made using traditional Germanic construction techniques or paintings depicting Moravian communities and people, speak specifically to the Moravians' heritage and their lives once they settled in North Carolina. When studied and exhibited in their original context—the communities settled by the Moravians in North Carolina in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries—these objects tell a remarkable story of the faithfulness, ingenuity, industry, and adaptability of one important group of American settlers in the North Carolina backcountry.

In addition to the decorative art and ephemeral collections owned by the WHS and administered by Old Salem Museums & Gardens, a significant number of cultural artifacts collected by Moravian missionaries working with Native Americans and other indigenous peoples in the mission fields were given to the WHS over the years. The WHS generously donated this collection to the Museum of Anthropology at Wake Forest University.

Another significant sub-collections owned by the Society, the Frank Jones Photograph Collection, was placed on loan to the Forsyth County Public Library in 1983. Please read the description of this collection in a separate article.

For additional information about any of the objects in the Wachovia Historical Society collections, please contact Johanna Brown, Curator of Moravian Decorative Arts, Old Salem Museums & Gardens, jbrown@oldsalem.org.

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Shop Sign (1773)
Gottfied Aust
Salem, North Carolina
Lead-glazed earthenware
Diameter 21 ¾"
Collection of the Wachovia Historical Society,
Courtesy of Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Corner Cupboard (1760-1775)
Photograph by Wes Stewart
Maker Unknown
Bethabara or Salem, North Carolina
Pine, paint, and glass
Height 82 5/8"; Depth 33"
      Collection of the Wachovia Historical Society,
      Courtesy of Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Photograph by Wes Stewart
Schrank (1775-1790)
Silver Spoons (ca. 1810)
Johannes Krause
John Vogler
Salem, North Carolina
Salem, North Carolina
Walnut and poplar
Height 80; Width 51 1/2; Depth 17 ¾
Collection of the Wachovia Historical Society,
Courtesy of Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Die (1805-1820)
Photograph by Wes Stewart
John Vogler
Salem, North Carolina
Length 3"
Collection of the Wachovia Historical Society,
Courtesy of Old Salem Museums and Gardens.
Photograph by Wes Stewart
Frank Jones Photograph Collection

Franklin Buxton Jones, Jr. (1914-1975) was a Winston-Salem native who worked 38 years as a photographer for the Winston-Salem Journal.  During his lifetime, Frank photographed people, places and events in his hometown, and in doing so, chronicled the daily life of the city that he witnessed through his camera lens.

Some people claim that Frank was born with a camera in his hands.  And in truth, it’s hard to imagine Frank without at least one camera strapped around his neck.  In addition to the daily assignments from the newspaper, Frank also photographed the changes that took place in Winston-Salem, with the forethought that these changes should be documented to tell the Winston-Salem story.  He also collected older photographs of the city, commenting that “unless someone collects these old photographs, there’ll be no visual record of what went on in the past.”

Frank Jones, 1938
Jones receiving his Moravian costume, 1967
Frank Jones with exhibit photos

When Frank died in 1975, he willed his photographs to the Wachovia Historical Society. In 1983, the Wachovia Historical Society placed Frank’s photograph collection on permanent loan at the Forsyth County Public Library. In the ensuing years, the collection was organized, identified, and cataloged for use by the public. These photographs have been displayed in public and private buildings, and have been published in magazines, books and newspapers.

Many of Frank’s photographs can be viewed at www.digitalforsyth.org, as the result of a digital project by the Forsyth County Public Library and other local repositories. Inquiries concerning the collection can be made to the Photograph Collection Librarian at the Forsyth County Public Library at 336-703-3072 or to rawlsmg@forsythlibrary.org.

West Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, 1940. Frank Jones Photography

By Molly Grogan Rawls, author of Winston-Salem: From the collection of Frank B. Jones Jr.  Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.

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