Apr 10, 2023

The murderous saga of a 1700s Lexington County religious sect

J.R. Fennell
Lexington County Chronicle
April 5, 2023

One of the strangest and most notable events to take place in what would become Lexington County during the colonial period occurred in the years of 1759, 1760, and 1761 in the Dutch Fork. That is when the notorious and somewhat mysterious Weberites came into existence. Although records are incomplete and facts are sometimes obscured by legend, the account of the Weberities is a fascinating look into life in the backcountry during a time of war and stress.

Jacob Weber (also spelled as Weaver) was a Swiss immigrant who came to Saxe Gotha in 1739 with his brother. Weber underwent a conversion and started to preach to his neighbors starting around 1759. According to some sources, Weber’s group practiced animal sacrifices according to Old Testament rules and some fantastical accounts reported that they started dancing naked in the woods. Either way, the group grew and began to exhibit cult-like characteristics, as some members were apparently forced into joining. Soon, Weber began to believe that he was God himself and that a man named John George Schmidtpeter was Jesus Christ incarnate. An escaped slave named Dauber (or Dubard) was declared to be the Holy Spirit.

The only ordained minister in Saxe Gotha, Christian Theus, attended one of the meetings of the Weberites, where he was insulted and asked to recognize Weber as God. Upon Theus’ refusal, the congregation tried to drown him. However, Theus ran for his life and managed to escape after finding an enslaved person on a boat on the Broad River. Theus tried to get the colonial authorities involved to no avail.

During this time, the leaders of the sect began to have disagreements. Dauber was murdered by the sect, and Schmidtpeter murdered a Saxe Gotha resident named Michael Hans. This may have been an attempt to prove that Schmidtpeter could raise the dead. The murder of Hans enraged Weber who ordered his flock to beat and trample Schmidtpeter to death since he was Satan in disguise.

The murder of Hans was enough to get the attention of the authorities in Charleston though. The militia intervened and arrested seven of the Weberites. Four were found guilty and one, Jacob Weber, was executed. Weber wrote a confession while imprisoned and may have promised to rise from the dead after his execution.

To learn more about the Weberite cult, visit the Lexington County Museum.

J.R. Fennell has served as director of the Lexington County Museum since 2007. He holds a master’s degree in public history and a certificate of museum management from the University of South Carolina.


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