Bethania has the distinction of being the first planned community of Wachovia,
not to take anything away from Bethabara, the first settlement.
It was in the midsts of the French and Indian War when Bishop August Gottlieb
Spangenberg arrived in Wachovia complete with orders to begin a new community
and a name for it: Bethania. On June 12, 1759, he and others rode out to
Black Walnut Bottom three miles northwest of Bethabara, and chose a site
for the new town. Eight Moravian families were selected to move to the new
community, and because they expressed such a love for the Moravian Church,
eight families of war refugees living at the Bethabara mill were permitted
to settle in Bethania also. Before leaving Wachovia for the last time, Br.
Spangenberg formally organized the Bethania congregation on April 13, 1760.
On learning that Spangenberg had allowed "strangers" -- non-Moravians --
to move into Wachovia's first planned town, Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf,
the unquestionable leader of the Moravian Church, pitched a furious tantrum
-- and died.
Perhaps because of its mixture of Moravians and newcomers, Bethania has always
been a congregation of, shall we say, dynamic ferment.
In 1771 a large two-story Gemein House was consecrated to replace the hastily
erected 1760 building. By 1790 Bethania had 215 members, and bid fair rival
Salem as a hub of enterprise in Wachovia. A large brick church was erected
and consecrated in 1809 (it burned in 1942 but was rebuilt). In 1822 Bethania
began buying the land on which their houses sat (35 years before Salem began
doing the same thing). A fire company was formed, a militia company was organized
(before Salem), an academy was opened. Why, in 1839 some citizens got the
town incorporated (evidently, though, they never acted upon it).
Most important for the Moravian Church as a whole, the Bethania congregation
has been very active in outreach. Bethania A.M.E., Olivet, Mizpah, King,
and Rural Hall all trace their heritage to the Bethania church "family."
And Bethania has been especially strong in mission endeavor, with the World
Mission Shop being only one token of its service.
Moravian Archives, 2002