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Yesterday we spent the day touring Winston-Salem. I love touring historic places and thinking about how people lived a couple of hundred of years ago.

Here’s a short history of Salem, from my impeccable memory.

The Moravians settled Salem in 1766, from what I gathered, because it was in the middle of nowhere and a way to perpetuate the religion and keep its adherents brain-washed and uninfluenced by the rest of the world. In a word, a cult. The Moravians divided society into “choirs,” a group of like people: unmarried women, widows, single men, and those of like age. Each choir had its own tasks to perform, and I suppose, a built in support network. (I wondered what happened when a woman lost a spouse and had to enter the widows choir. Was she still allowed to have her former friends?)

At the time Salem was founded, it was the back country. A tavern was built to provide a place for travelers to stay, so that the rest of society could stay protected and not be influenced by the ideas and habits of strangers. (Moravian travelers would stay with other Moravians.) Alcohol was allowed, but moderation was encouraged. Women who stayed in the tavern were allowed to drink, but had to take their drink to their room. Men could drink and socialize in the common room and play games, as long as they weren’t betting or gambling games, which might cause bad feelings between visitors.

Travelers rented bed space, not a room, so it was possible that a traveler would be sharing a bed with another stranger. Men and women had separate rooms, of course, maybe different floors, I’m not sure. The bed support was rope, which wound back and forth underneath the “mattress.” One look and you pity the ages before chiropractic care. It was also easy to see how things like lice and crabs were easily spread. The mattress looked like a feather bed, something not easily cleaned. The whole thing looked unsanitary and gross, and I’m not a squeamish person. Maybe it’s not all that different than modern day hotels. Now I wish I hadn’t started thinking about this.

People of that age had to be good planners. The fire had to be started two hours before it was time to cook. The temperature was measured by a very scientific method of determining how long you could hold your hand over the fire. The food doesn’t seem too bad. They had fresh food from the garden, and the pets, or farm animals, depending on how you look at it. They even had cakes, nicely decorated too. In the late 1700s, particularly in the back country, sugar was a precious commodity, so people of that time consumed only a pound a year. Some studies say that Americans consume one to two pounds of sugar per <em>week</em>. Makes me want to bake a cake every day, because I can.

By the 1800s Moravians were educating girls as well as boys. Even though there was a law prohibiting teaching slaves to read and write in North Carolina in the 1850s, the Moravians continued to educate them. They had slaves though, so in essence, they were barely better than anyone else in the South. (I’ll save that diatribe for another day.)

Moravians were known as fair traders with good business sense. They were known for their pottery and something else, which I can’t remember at the moment. The Moravians focused on skilled trades rather than farming. The church protected the tradesmen by limiting competition in the village. In the interest of making sure that every family could support itself, there was only one master tradesman for each trade.

By the last decade of the 1700s, the Moravians were second in the country to have running water. The water ran to the public squares and major kitchens in the village. I found that pretty remarkable and impressive.

Here are some pictures from our trip. Most of the pictures are from the toy museum, which proves that children have always been spoiled and over-indulged when families had the financial means to do so.

There was more interesting stuff, but I can’t remember it at the moment. Hope you enjoy.

November 2007