DRACHART, CHRISTIAN LARSEN (Lorenz, Lauritsen), Moravian missionary in Labrador; b. 23 June 1711 at Skaelsk
pr, Zealand, Denmark: d. 8 Sept. 1778 at Nain, Labrador.
Christian Larsen Drachart, the son of a merchant, was brought up after his father’s death by his uncle, a Lutheran clergyman. He took a theological degree at Copenhagen and then entered the Seminarium Groenlandicum, a Lutheran institution founded in 1737 to train prospective missionaries for Greenland. In 1739 he was ordained and sent to the mission at Godthaab.
Drachart had shown an interest in pietism while a student and he soon made contact with the Moravian Brethren who were settled at New Herrnhut, in the immediate vicinity of Godthaab. Their influence on Drachart was profound, and he began to adopt some of their practices. As a result he came into conflict with his superiors in the Lutheran mission; they had never approved of the Moravians’ missionary tactics, which in their view played too much on the emotions. In 1745 he married a Moravian and was accepted into the New Herrnhut congregation. He retired from Greenland after his wife’s death in 1751 and lived at the Moravian settlement of Herrnhut, in Saxony. He worked as a porcelain painter there until 1765 when he volunteered to help found a mission for the Inuit of Labrador.
That summer Drachart joined Jens Haven and two other Moravian Brethren on a voyage to Labrador to find a place for a settlement and “try the tempers of the Eskimaux.” Haven sailed north along the coast but Drachart was detained at Chateau Bay, in southern Labrador, by Hugh Palliser, the governor of Newfoundland. Palliser needed an interpreter to persuade the Inuit to cease trading with the French and harassing the British whom he was encouraging to establish a fishery on the south Labrador coast [see Nicholas Darby]. For three weeks in August Drachart combined the roles of government agent and missionary, a situation he found distasteful. His position was made more difficult by the fact that he did not speak English and had to rely on the assistance of an English Moravian, John Hill. Drachart nonetheless succeeded in winning the confidence of the Inuit in the area, some of whom had met Haven the year before, and persuaded them to meet with Palliser. On 21 August a form of treaty was made; the Inuit agreed to regard the British flag as a sign of friendship and to stay away from the British fishermen. Once Palliser had left Labrador in early September Drachart, rejoined by Haven, resumed the more congenial role of evangelist.
Following the 1765 voyage, the Moravians refused to return to Labrador unless they were given a land grant, a request which Palliser and the Board of Trade rejected. Drachart went to live at the Moravian settlement of Fulneek (near Pudsey, West Yorkshire), England. Here, from June until October 1769 he cared for Karpik, an Inuit boy captured by a detachment from Fort York (Labrador) in November 1767 [see Francis Lucas*]. Under Drachart’s influence Karpik accepted Christianity, and his death from smallpox was a bitter disappointment. This incident reversed Drachart’s decision not to return to Labrador.
In 1770, the land grant conceded, he joined Haven on another exploratory voyage. Accounts of this journey indicate that Drachart preached with the utmost persistence at every opportunity and conducted the negotiations by which the Inuit “sold” a tract of land to the Moravians. The following year he sailed to Labrador for the last time as one of the missionary party that was to establish a settlement at Nain. Too old for travelling, Drachart nevertheless took an active part in the spiritual work of the mission. He died at Nain in 1778, and his body was laid out for the Inuit to visit, so that they could see his “friendly and smiling look” and learn not to fear death. It was an appropriate end for a life dedicated to the conversion of the Inuit.
PAC, MG 17, D1. PRO, CO 194/16. L. T. A. Bobé, Hans Egede, colonizer and missionary of Greenland (Copenhagen, 1952), 187–88. J. W. Davey, The fall of Torngak, or the Moravian mission on the coast of Labrador (London, 1905), 104–6. Finn Gad, The history of Greenland (2v., London and Montreal, 1970–73), II, 254–60. Hiller, “Foundation of Moravian mission,” 47–54. “Gr
pnlandsmissionæren Christian Drachart,” Atuagagdlitit/Groenlandsposten (Godthaab, Greenland), 1963, no.13, 17.