(This was originally published in The Stokes News on May 3, 2007 in my regular column, “The Old Paths.” Some slight editing has been done in this version.)
January 2006 was a momentous month in my home. We went all modern and hooked up to the Internet. I’ve heard it argued that the Internet is an evil thing and should never be allowed in one’s house. The same was said about television when it burst onto the scene. I figure something similar was voiced when radio became popular. Progress always evokes a reactionary response from many folks. In fact, as I began to write this column, a relative of mine dropped by and said TV was the biggest evil to ever hit this country!
You know what? They may be right. Progress is usually accompanied, sadly enough, by many evils. I actually admire people who choose not to have a TV, but I don’t think I am a rampant sinner because I do. I discovered that my TV set has a little button on it that says “Power.” When risque sitcoms, soap operas and nightly dramas come on, I hit “Power off.” But I’ll confess that I keep the power flowing when the news or a ballgame is on. And I must admit that this newest modern evil, a.k.a. Internet, has made historical research exponentially easier!
So late one January ’06 night, I sat down at the computer to research William A. Lash Sr., whom some say was the founder of my hometown of Walnut Cove. After a few hours of dead-end roads, I gave up in frustration. I had learned very little that I hadn’t already read in Stokes County history books, which told me he had immigrated to our fair town from Bethania.
In my aggravation, I decided I deserved some fun after all this eyestrain. Forget Lash; I wanted to read about the Moravians. I was fascinated with them now that my daughter was at Salem College, originally a Moravian institution of higher learning.
Before long, I was glued to my computer screen, close to tears (yes, I’m a sentimental sort!) as I read of the original Moravian settlers who braved the elements to carve out a “village of the Lord” that they named “Bethabara.” Settle down, grab a hankie and listen to an abbreviated version of the story:
In 1752 (purchase finalized in August 1753), Lord Granville of England deeded the Moravians 100,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness for an initial payment of 500 pounds. They named this largely unexplored land “Wachovia.” The elders in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, prayerfully chose 12 Godly, unmarried men with varying skill sets to travel to this new property. Three others would assist in the journey but return to Bethlehem afterward.
They departed on October 8, 1753, with six horses and a loaded wagon. As they traveled through Pennsylvania and Maryland, the weather was stiflingly hot. Crossing the Susquehanna, Potomac, James and Roanoke Rivers was sometimes death-defying. Bridges broke under them, horses got sick, food became scarce.
One momentous day, these weary pilgrims sighted Pilot Mountain in North Carolina. Hope sprang anew as they sang hymns and exhorted each other with Scripture along the way. They followed the Mayo River to its juncture with the Dan River near present-day Mayodan. By this time, snow lay on the ground, and the Dan was swollen. After a few days’ layover, they were able to cross, and so made their way to what would one day be the town of Walnut Cove. Probably near the R.J. Reynolds facility at Brook Cove, they crossed what they called the “Down Forck Creek” and soon came to the border of Wachovia (just past the present-day town of Germanton)–the property they felt God had granted to them.
On the evening of Saturday, November 17, 1753, these 15 Moravian men reached their destination–a deserted cabin with no floor and a leaky roof at the site of what is now Historic Bethabara Village. The first thing they did was kneel to offer thanks unto their God. With wolves howling all around, the closely-knit band of pioneers shared a simple lovefeast and held a church service with joyful singing and prayers of thanksgiving; they had reached their promised land.
By this time, my eyes were misty as I thought about these singleminded men of God who uncomplainingly sacrificed so much to build a better society for their people. At the end of the article, the names of these 15 chosen men were listed. As I scrolled down the list, I stopped at “Jacob Loesch.” His name leapt out at me as something quickened in the pit of my stomach. Suddenly I knew. THIS WAS IT!
With a few more minutes of research, I proved my instinctive hypothesis: Through a name change for easier spelling, “Loesch” had become “Lash.” This incredible man, Jacob Lash, who was also the warden/minister of the Moravian brethren, later bought land on the Town Fork Creek in what is now Walnut Cove. He was the grandfather of the man I had originally been researching, William A. Lash Sr. Here I was 253 years later, about to burst with pride that the roots of my little town reached all the way back to such a Christian man. I thanked God for modern conveniences such as the worldwide web and went to bed, having found my Lash connection without even looking for it!