Ernest Hazelius was born on September 6, 1777, in Neusalz, Silesian Prussia (today Poland). He descended from a line of Swedish clergymen that began with a court preacher to Gustavus Vasa. Eric Hazelius, his father, had also been intended for the ministry and had studied theology at the University of Upsala, but after a shipwreck, of which he was the sole survivor, he became a Moravian, married a Moravian girl, Christiana Brahtz of Stettin, and settled as a watchmaker at Neusalz, Silesian Prussia. The boy’s earliest memory was of being in the arms of an old man, Bishop Polycarp Müller at Herrnhut, who blessed him and devoted him to the ministry. He narrowly escaped another destiny: Catherine II of Russia had been a schoolmate of his mother’s, was interested in the boy, and with difficulty was prevented from adopting him.