Salem Nightwatch: 1801 to 1855

John Daniel Christman

In July 1801, John Daniel Christman, a cooper, took over the watch promising to fulfill his office with the utmost care and faithfulness. But with the coming of winter when the hours grew longer and the nights colder, his resolve began to flag. First, he protested that he cannot do his watch in the cold winter nights without a coat but does not have the money to buy one. The Aufsher Collegium stood firm. With a salary of £39, it said, he should be able to afford a coat. Two months later Christman complained again–this time that he cannot keep dry when watching on rainy nights, for he cannot afford to buy a blanket... And on this occasion he had better Luck; the storekeeper gave him a blanket but on condition that in the future in making rounds at night he would go through the store yard.

Samuel Schulz

By 1809, Christman was getting old and the Collegium decided to split the watch between him and Samuel Schulz, a blacksmith. Christman would work until midnight, after which Schultz would take over. But that system did not work entirely well either, because more and more often when he went off duty at midnight, Christman forgot to awaken Schulz, thus leaving the town unguarded sometimes for several hours.

Ill health caused Christman soon to retire and his place was taken by Johann Gotlib Schrocter, a tailor, who apparently was less forgetful. At any rate, he and Schulz held the watch jointly for about eight years.

Even so, the night watch seems to have been a perennial problem for the Aufsher Collegium. Solomon Lick had to be shifted from the after-midnight watch to the before-midnight one because the idea that everybody is asleep might induce him to be negligent and careless. It was necessary to have a brotherly talk with watchman Christina Fockel who was reported not to be punctual.

Three years later Fockel was in trouble again. His health was failing, and on many nights, he as too sick to take the watch. As he understood it, Joseph Stauber would fill in for him on those nights, but Stauber apparently did not understand it that way. The result was that on more than one occasion, no one was on duty for the entire night! And even when Stauber did work, he was a less than satisfactory watchman owing to the fact that he never could master the art of conch shell blowing.


But if the Collegium had its headaches, so did the watchmen themselves; their "customers" were not easy to please. Once in the 1790s it was suggested that the night watchman, instead of blowing, might call the hours and sing a verse for each, which will make his service more agreeable. Adam Koffler, who had the watch at the time, made an earnest effort to comply. But he was not blessed with a strong voice, and within six months, the Brethren and Sisters were complaining that they could not hear him. So the Collegium concluded that it will be better to return to the blowing.

In 1846 the reaction was just the opposite: Complaints have been raised about too much unnecessary noise caused by the night watchman's tooting the hours. It was reported that various inhabitants of the community would rather do without a night watchman than suffer being disturbed continually during the night.

Then, too, the watchmen were beset with minor irritations, such as the time in 1804 when some frivolous people (probably mischievous young Single Brothers)...mock the night watchman's call by echoing it.

As now, the job of watching the town was a lonely one, often uncomfortable due to the element and sometime dangerous. In composing a verse for the last hour, Count Zinzendorf must have understood well the relief with which the watchman finished his nights work: 

The clock is six! And from the watch I'm free. And every one may his own watchman be.