The Young Men’s Missionary Society was organized in 1840 and began with specimens and information about natural history and cultural practices collected by a world-wide network of Moravian missionaries. This collection grew with the same kind of specimens and information from Salem and surrounding areas. Existing records show that at the time of the merger of YMMS into WHS, 194 artifacts were passed to the WHS. The WHS Collection today numbers approximately 6,800 artifacts. In 1895, the YMMS became the Wachovia Historical Society.
In her collection of tales about coastal New England, The Country of the Pointed Firs, published in 1896, Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) wrote particularly of old, poor, gentle, resourceful widows and long retired sailors left over from the heyday of the region’s nautical eminence. One of her most intriguing characters, Captain Littlepage, lived more in memory of his life at sea than on land and was always ready to reminisce about the sea. On one of his last voyages, from London to Fort Churchill on Hudson’s Bay, his ship, the Minerva, drove on a rock… few of us left alive… Our own (life) boat upset but the carpenter kept (us) above water… and got along the shore to one of those far missionary stations that the Moravians support. They were very poor themselves, and in distress… There were but a few Esquimaux in that region…. There was a supply ship expected, and the pastor, an excellent Christian man, made no doubt that we should get passage in her. He was hoping that orders would come to break up the station; but everything was uncertain. The site of this Moravian settlement was not precisely identified but it was almost certainly in Greenland where a mission had been established in 1733 among the Eskimos by three men, one the carpenter, Christian David.
In his The Wachovia Historical Society 1895-1995, Bradford Rauschenberg reports that in 1857 The Young Men’s Missionary Society, the immediate precursor of the Wachovia Historical Society, From Br. E. Hartwig… received a number of curiosities, procured from different parts: some from Greenland, some from South America, from the Cape of Good Hope, & from the South of France.
Jewett, Sarah Orne. The Country of the Pointed Firs. New York, The Library of America, 1994; 393
Davis, Chester S. Moravians in Europe and America 1415-1865, Winston-Salem, Wachovia Historical Society, 2000; 24
Rauschenberg, Bradford L. The Wachovia Historical Society 1895-1995. Winston-Salem, Wachovia Historical Society, 1995; 25