Neman van Zevely


Born: November 13, 1780
Died: May 18, 1863

Neman van Zevely was a master joiner and water master in Salem, North Carolina during the early to middle 19th century.

Zevely is first mentioned in an impassioned record that his mother’s dying wish was that her son became a member of the Salem Community. The community agreed to allow him to begin work in the joiner shop of Brother Wohlfarth. In 1798, after months of petitioning the community, he was allowed to join the Moravian Church and the Community of Salem on merit of his work quality. He worked under Wohlfarth for three years until Wolfarth left the workshop to become the minister in Friedland.

This left a gap in the workshop as there was no longer a master joiner in Salem. In February of 1801 Zevely was promoted to journeyman, under the supervision of Brother Clauder and John Gambold he seems to have been in a unique position of master-joiner-without-the-name. van Zevely continued to work as a joiner as the next record in a receipt signed by Charles Bagge that Bagge sold Zevely many components to desks and cabinets. Two weeks later, on May 1st, Zevely struck an agreement with the Single Brothers Choir for the operation of the cabinetmaker’s shop in the Diacony.

Between 1801 and 1802 van Zevely took over the management of the water works in Salem. This was not a position he reportedly enjoyed and sought to excuse himself as promptly as possible. However he was offered a raise in salary and accepted the job, which he kept until October of the same year.

Zevely was training an apprentice despite the lack of ‘master’ title. His first apprentice, James Wilson, was allowed to join the community and work as a joiner in December of 1802. He was given the title of master joiner sometime before June 1803 as the church notes.

Zevely and the town had an interesting relationship between one another in the later half of 1803 and beginning of 1804. Zevely was considered too highly paid for his position, while Zevely was off living a life deemed ‘unacceptable.’ Two other brothers were removed from the Single Brothers Workshop, however without a master joiner this put the town council at a tough position. They wished to remove Zevely, or pay him much less, however he was the only person between Salem and Pennsylvania who could do the job. In January 1804 the town and van Zevely came to an agreement, keeping him on as master joiner.

Zevely was always heavily at work making the cabinets and instillations in the new buildings in Salem. In order to keep up with demand he had to have several outside helpers such as, James Cooper. He was allowed to house these individuals in the bake room of the Single Brothers house, a most peculiar allowance.

In December 1805 Zevely is recorded making the cabinets, and shelving for the Store at Brother Kreuser’s request. His time alone as master joiner came to an end in February 1806 with the arrival of Brother Magnus Hulthin who was installed as Vorsteher of the Single Brothers and was to serve as a master joiner in his own right as well. However the town sought to transfer van Zevely to Pennsylvania, as his lifestyle was still too wild for the community’s liking. This realization seems to have caused Zevely to reconsider his lifestyle and agree to live more in lines with the community rules. This caused difficulties in the joinery shop as Hulthin had been brought in under the promise of being the master joiner. However Hulthin was never fully allowed to establish himself, as he was busy in his position as Vorsteher.