Like most novels, the first draft of The Fiddler’s Gun has gone through a lot of changes and is a good deal different from the final version that readers will hold in their hands. I did a lot of research while getting to know the various peoples and places of the story and in the earliest drafts a great deal of that research is explicit on the page. But just because the author knows the history of a person or a place doesn’t mean it belongs in the story. A lot of that kind of information gets cut during editing. That doesn’t mean the research was in vain, though. The individual stories and histories behind the persons and places of The Fiddler’s Gun serve to inform the tale in much more subtle ways long after the raw exposition has been excised.
It does make me sad sometimes, though, and one such example is that of the Salzburgers. The Salzburgers were a group of protestants driven out of Germany in the early 18th century. They made their way to Georgia and founded the town of New Ebenezer where much of The Fiddler’s Gun takes place.
Several years ago I paid a visit to Ebenezer for research purposes and had the opportunity to talk with some Salzburger descendants. I came away from that visit with a profound respect for their heritage and I tried to honor that history in the writing of the book. In the end, though, the story of the Salzburgers themselves had to be cut, it just wasn’t essential to the story I was telling.
I’ve always felt somewhat sad about losing that aspect of the story, though, and I thought I’d post a few paragraphs from an early draft to help keep their history alive.
The following excerpt is from the earliest version of Chapter One and has all been cut because it’s non-essential backstory and more than a little over-written.
“The Salzburgers, as they came to be called, hailed from far Germany. They fled the bloody wake of Martin Luther’s ninety-nine theses when the good Catholics of Salzburg took it in mind that excommunication was too good for their Protestant brothers-in-Christ and decided that killing them off was a more proper solution—if not exactly scriptural.
This protestant remnant of Salzburg embarked on a long exodus across Europe, through England, and landed itself at last upon the promised land of a place called Georgia. The place they found they named Ebenezer, from the Hebrew for ‘Stone of Succor’. But like the Israelites of old, the Salzburgers found that the world had plenty of pain and trouble left over, even after the Exodus.
The first winters in the new world aligned themselves with scurvy and dysentery to rob them of half their number right off the boat and moved them to abandon that first settlement. Once more they went to the wilderness. They went down to the river, the Savannah River, and founded a new place along its high green banks, calling it New Ebenezer. The world and the weather, having whittled them down to the quick, left behind a hard, determined people—and a lot of orphans.
The Ebenezer orphan house was the first to lay its foundations in America and the Salzburgers built it to last. It sat upon a small knoll on the south bank of the Savannah River and looked east toward the sea like some age-old wooden battlement of the fatherland commanding the attention of all the nearby woods. Children, to whom the world itself is a place of giants and wonders, saw it in far greater terms than any of its architects could have dreamed. By the mouths of castaway babes it was christened the Castle, for unlike the orphans of the Old World, those in this new one had only tales and stories of such ramparts to quicken their imaginations.”