Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr. (1696 - 1760)

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Nicknames: "john", "johann"
Birthplace: Affstätt in Herrenberg, in the Duchy of Württemberg, Germany
Death: Died in Tulpehocken near present-day Reading, Pennsylvania, United States
Managed by: Paul Douglas Van Dillen
Last Updated:

About Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr.

Conrad Weiser

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Johann Conrad Weiser (November 2, 1696 – July 13, 1760) was a German Pennsylvanian pioneer, farmer, monk, tanner, judge, and soldier. His most significant contributions, however, were as an interpreter and emissary in councils between Native Americans and the colonies, especially Pennsylvania.

Early years

He was born in 1696 in the small village of Affstätt in Herrenberg, in the Duchy of Württemberg (now part of Germany), where his father (also John Conrad Weiser), as a member of the Württemberg Blue Dragoons, was stationed. Soon after Conrad's birth, his father received a discharge from the Blue Dragoons and moved back to the family ancestral home of Gross Aspach. Fever claimed the life of his mother, Anna Magdalena, in 1709 after war, pestilence, and an unusually cold and long winter, ravaged the lands. Wallace notes that Conrad Weiser (senior) wrote for his children, "Buried beside Her Ancestors, she was a god-fearing woman and much loved by Her neighbors. Her motto was Jesus I live for thee, I die for thee, thine am I in life and death."

His family moved to the frontier town of Schochary, New York, by 1710 at the expense of Queen Anne. There the German immigrants were placed into indentured servitude, as per a signed agreement, to burn tar to pay for the journey.

At age 16, his father agreed to a chief's proposal for him to live with the Mohawks in the upper Schoharie Valley. During his stay with them in the winter and spring of 1712-1713, Weiser learned a great deal about the Mohawk language and the customs of the Iroquois while enduring hardships of cold, hunger, and homesickness. Conrad Weiser returned to his own people towards the end of July 1713.

On November 22, 1720, at the age of 24, he married a young German girl, Anna Eve Feck (Faeg). In 1723 the couple followed the Susquehanna River south and settled their young family on a farm in Tulpehocken near present-day Reading, Pennsylvania. The couple had fourteen children, but only seven reached adulthood.

[edit]Service

Weiser's colonial service began in 1731. The Iroquois sent Chief Shikellamy, an Oneida chief, as an emissary to other tribes and the British. Shikellamy lived on the Susquehanna River at Shamokin village, near present-day Sunbury, Pennsylvania. An oral tradition holds that Weiser met Shikellamy while hunting. In any case, the two became friends. When Shikellamy traveled to Philadelphia for a council with the province of Pennsylvania, he brought Weiser with him. The Iroquois trusted him and considered him an adopted son of the Mohawks. Weiser impressed the Pennsylvania governor and council, which thereafter relied heavily on his services. Weiser also interpreted in a follow-up council in Philadelphia in August, 1732.

During the treaty in Philadelphia of 1736, Shikellamy, Weiser and the Pennsylvanians negotiated a deed whereby the Iroquois sold the land drained by the Delaware River and south of the Blue Mountains. Since the Iroquois had never until then laid claim to this land, this purchase represented a significant swing in Pennsylvanian policy toward the Native Americans. William Penn had never taken sides in disputes between tribes, but by this purchase, the Pennsylvanians were favoring the Iroquois over the Lenape/Delawares. Along with the Walking Purchase of the following year, his treaty exacerbated Pennsylvania-Lenape relations. The results of this policy shift would help induce the Lenapes to side with the French during the French and Indian Wars, which would result in many colonial deaths. It did, however, help induce the Iroquois to continue to side with the British over the French.

During the winter of 1737, Weiser attempted to broker a peace between southern tribes and the Iroquois. Having survived high snow, freezing temperatures and starvation rations during the six-week journey to the Iroquois capital of Onondago, he managed to convince the Iroquois not to send any war parties in the spring, but he failed to convince them to send emissaries to parlay with the southern tribes. Impressed with his fortitude in the pursuit of peace, the Iroquois named Weiser "Tarachiawagon", or "Holder of the Heavens." Spill-over violence from a war between the Iroquois and southern tribes such as the Catawba would have drawn first Virginia, and then Pennsylvania, into conflict with the Iroquois. Therefore this peace-brokering had a profound effect on Native American/colonial relations.

In 1742, he interpreted at a treaty with the Iroquois at Philadelphia, at which time they were paid for the land purchased in 1736. During this council, the Onondaga chief Canasatego castigated the Lenape/Delawares for engaging in land sales, and ordered them to remove their settlements to either Wyoming or Shamokin village. This accelerated the Lenape migration to the Ohio valley, which had begun as early as the 1720s. There, they would be positioned to trade with the French, and launch raids as far east as the Susquehanna River during the French and Indian Wars.

In 1744, Weiser acted as the interpreter for the Treaty of Lancaster, between representatives of the Iroquois and the colonies of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. During the final day of the treaty, on 1744-07-04, Canasatego, the Onondaga chief, spoke of the Iroquois concepts of political unity:

"Our wise forefathers established Union and Amity between the Five Nations. This has made us formidable; this has given us great Weight and Authority with our neighboring Nations. We are a powerful Confederacy; and by your observing the same methods, our wise forefathers have taken, you will acquire such Strength and power. Therefore whatever befalls you, never fall out with one another."

Benjamin Franklin printed this speech, which influenced American concepts of political unity.

Significantly, after the Treaty of Lancaster, both Virginia and Pennsylvania acted as if the Iroquois had sold them the rights to the Ohio Valley, but the Iroquois did not believe they had done so.

In 1748, Pennsylvania sent Conrad Weiser to Logstown, a council and trade village on the Ohio. Here he held council with chiefs representing 10 tribes, including Delawares and Shawnees, and the Iroquois. He arrived at a treaty of friendship between Pennsylvania and these tribes. Threatened by this development and the continued activity of British traders in the Ohio valley, the French redoubled their diplomatic efforts and began to build a string of forts, culminating in Fort Duquesne at present-day Pittsburgh, in 1754.

In 1750, he traveled again to Onondaga, he found the political dynamics in the Six Nations had shifted. Canasatego, always pro-British, had died. Several Iroquois tribes were leaning toward the French, although the Mohawks remained pro-British.

Early in the summer of 1754, on the eve of the French and Indian War, Weiser was a member of a Pennsylvania delegation to Albany. London had invoked the meeting, hoping to win assurances of Iroquois support in the looming war with the French. Present were representatives of the Iroquois and seven colonies. Because of divisions within both the British and Native American ranks, the council did not result in the treaty of support that the crown desired. Instead, each colony made the best deal it could with individual Iroquois leaders. Conrad Weiser was able to negotiate one of the more successful, in which some lower-level chiefs deeded to the colony most of the land remaining in present-day Pennsylvania, including the southerwestern part, still claimed by Virginia.

In 1756, Weiser was appointed along with Ben Franklin to construct a series of forts between the Delaware River and the Susquehana River.

In the fall of 1758, Weiser attended a council at Easton, Pennsylvania. Representation included leaders from Pennsylvania, the Iroquois and other Native American tribes. Weiser helped smooth over the tense meeting. With the Treaty of Easton, the tribes in the Ohio Valley agreed to abandon the French. This collapse of Native American support was a factor in the French decision to demolish Fort Duquesne and withdraw from the Forks of the Ohio.

Throughout this decades-long career, Weiser's knowledge of Native American languages and culture made him a key player in treaty negotiations, land purchases, and the formulation of Pennsylvania's policies towards Native Americans. Because of his early experiences with the Iroquois, Weiser was inclined to be sympathetic to their interpretation of events, as opposed to the Lenape, or Delaware or the Shawnees. This may have exacerbated Pennsylvanian-Lenape/Shawnee relations, with bloody consequences in the French and Indian Wars. Nevertheless, for many years, he helped to keep the powerful Iroquois, or Six Nations, allied with the British as opposed to the French. This important service contributed to the continued survival of the British colonies and the eventual victory of the British over the French in the French and Indian Wars.

[edit]Other careers

Between 1734 and 1741, Weiser became a follower of Conrad Beissel, a German Seventh Day Baptist preacher. For six years, he lived at the monastic settlement, Ephrata Cloister, in the Ephrata Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. His wife lived there only a few months before returning to their farm. Weiser would visit her frequently enough, however, to father four more children. In addition, he took leaves of absence for diplomatic duties, such as those in 1736 and 1737.

In addition, he followed a mixed career as a farmer, land owner and speculator, tanner, and merchant. He created the plan for the town of Reading in 1748, was a key figure in the creation of Berks County in 1752 and served as its chief judge until 1760. Conrad was also teacher and a lay minister of the Lutheran Church, and founded Trinity Church in Reading.

In 1756, during the French and Indian War, the Lenape began with raids into central Pennsylvania. As Pennsylvania organized a militia, Conrad was made a Lt. Colonel. Working with Benjamin Franklin, he planned and established a series of forts between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. When General Forbes evicted the French from Fort Duquesne in 1758, the threat subsided.

[edit]Death and Legacy

Weiser died on his farm on July 13, 1760. Upon his death, one Iroquois Indian noted to a group of colonists, "We are at a great loss and sit in darkness...as since his death we cannot so well understand one another." Indeed, shortly after Conrad Weiser's death, relations between the Colonists and the Native Americans began a rapid decline.

His will bequeathed about 4,000 acres (16 km²) and part of his farm to Berks County. The Olmsted Brothers landscaped this park in 1928; it remains a State Park today. The original Conrad Weiser Homestead in western Berks County is being restored with help from the state of Pennsylvania.

Conrad and Anna's daughter Maria married Henry Muhlenberg. Two of their grandsons had important roles in gaining independence for the United States. Peter Muhlenberg served as a Major General in the Continental Army and Frederick Muhlenberg was the first Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.

His great-grandson, Peter M. Weiser (born 1781), was a member of the Corps of Discovery on the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804-1806.

Undoubtedly, however, Weiser's weightiest contribution to history was his service as an emissary between the British colonies and the Native Americans, especially the Iroquois. This service had direct and powerful influence over the histories of the French and British empires, the Native American peoples and the United States.

[edit]Places named for Conrad Weiser

"Camp Conrad Weiser" [1] is a 500-acre (2.0 km2) YMCA overnight camp in Berks County. Founded in 1948, it serves boys and girls aged six to sixteen.

Conrad Weiser Area School District in western Berks County serves the townships of South Heidelberg Township, Heidelberg Township, North Heidelberg Township, and Marion Township, and the boroughs of Wernersville, Robesonia, and Womelsdorf.

The Weiser State Forest occupies 17,961 acres (72.69 km²)on several tracts in Carbon, Coulmbia, Dauphin, Northumberland, and Schuylkill counties in southeastern Pennsylvania. However, since the realignment of Pennsylvania State Forest Districts on July 1, 2005, northern Berks County is no longer part of Weiser State Forest District #18.

[edit]Conrad Weiser Homestead

Weiser's home in Womelsdorf is preserved as the Conrad Weiser Homestead, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The homestead is on Pennsylvania Route 422 in Berks County and contains original and historic buildings on a 26 acres (0.11 km2) site designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. Weiser and his family are buried at the homestead.

-------------------- From "Richard Ellis and his Descendants, 1888".

(Conrad Weiser, father of Nicholas Weiser), a man of learning and genius came from Germany in 1711, and settled in New York.

From "http://www.berksweb.com/weisertext.html"

Perhaps the most fitting accolade bestowed on Conrad Weiser was by an Iroquois, who, speaking to white men upon the death of Weiser in 1760, lamented, "We are at a great loss and sit in darkness...as since his death we cannot so well understand one another."

Who was this man who had such far-reaching influence on relations between Pennsylvania and the Iroquois Confederacy; who had access to provincial governors and sachems alike; who interpreted and negotiated treaties; who was commissioned an officer during the War for Empire; but who also sat as a country judge, served as lay minister, and prospered as a farmer, tanner, and storekeeper?

Conrad Weiser was born November 2, 1696, in the German principality of Wurttemberg. By 1709, his father, Johann Conrad Weiser, had decided to heed Queen Anne's invitation to inhabitants of the Rhine Valley to migrate to England and to the British colonies in America.

The Weiser family settled on the New York frontier and in the winter and spring of 1712-1713, young Conrad resided with neighboring Mohawks to learn the language of the Iroquois and serve as a go-between for the German community.

During his years in New York, Weiser acquired a keen knowledge of the language, customs and statesmanship of the Iroquois Confederacy (or Six Nations), consisting of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, Senecas and Tuscaroras.

By 1723, Germans from the Mohawk Valley had begun the overland trek 400 miles, following the Susquehanna river to settle the Tulpehocken Valley in what is now Berks and Lebanon Counties, Pennsylvania. In 1729, Weiser brought his German-born wife, Anna Eve, and their children to the Tulpehocken region, settling on 200 acres near the present town of Womelsdorf.

Over the next 31 years Weiser became a major land-holder, farmer, tanner and businessman. He and Anna Eve raised 14 children (seven of whom lived to adulthood).

By the early 1730's, Weiser had become known in government circles in Philadelphia for his knowledge of the Iroquois. Provincial Secretary James Logan hired him to guide the new Pennsylvania Indian policy recognizing Iroquois dominance over the indigenous Lenni Lenape and guaranteeing a stable and safe frontier.

Over the next two decades Weiser was constantly directing and implementing this policy through treaty negotiations, land purchases, and journeys to the Iroquois homeland. He worked closely with Shikellamy, who had been appointed by the Confederacy to embody Iroquois authority over the Lenni Lenape.

It was through Weiser and Shikellamy that the Pennsylvania frontier remained stable and peaceful until mid-century.

By 1755, however, growing competition between Britain and France had ignited a full-blown "War for Empire." Diplomacy was put aside as the Six Nations divided over which side to join.

Meanwhile, the French established an alliance with the Lenni Lenape and other Native American peoples and launched raids against the eastern Pennsylvania settlements along the Blue Mountain line.

Pennsylvania responded by forming provincial militia and building a line of outposts. In 1756, Weiser received a commission of Lieutenant Colonel with command of the 1st Battalion, Pennsylvania Regimen responsible for manning the line between the Delaware and Susquehanna Rivers. He held this post until 1758. In that same year an expedition to western Pennsylvania by General John Forbes resulted in the eviction of the French and an end to the fighting in eastern Pennsylvania.

Throughout his life, Weiser was active in local affairs. He served as a magistrate for Lancaster County, helped found and lay out the town of Reading in 1748, helped to establish Berks County in 1752, and was its President Judge until his death.

Though a Lutheran, Weiser joined the monastic community of Ephrata Cloister between 1735 and 1741. He lived intermittently as a celibate brother, withdrawing from family and political life until becoming disenchanted with the Cloister's leader Conrad Beissel.

Weiser, returning to the Lutheran Church, in which he had served as a lay minister, became a founder of Trinity Church in Reading. His daughter Maria married Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, "patriarch" of the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania.

At this death on July 13, 1760, Weiser owned several thousand acres, in addition to his farm, tannery and the store in Reading.

Movements to honor Weiser's considerable accomplishments culminated in the establishment of the Conrad Weiser Memorial Park by the Conrad Weiser Memorial Park Association in 1928. The nationally known Olmsted Brothers landscape firm designed the park.

Owned now by the Commonwealth, the Conrad Weiser Homestead is administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, which preserves the restored Weiser structures, graveyard and landscaped park, in addition to interpreting Weiser's life.


-------------------- Conrad Weiser (November 2, 1696 – July 13, 1760), born Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr., was a Pennsylvania German (a.k.a., Pennsylvania Dutch) pioneer, interpreter and effective diplomat between the Pennsylvania Colony and Native Americans. He was a farmer, soldier, monk, tanner and judge. He contributed as an emissary in councils between Native Americans and the colonies, especially Pennsylvania, during the 18th century's tensions of the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). When Conrad was 16, his father agreed to a chief's proposal for the youth to live with the Mohawks in the upper Schoharie Valley. During his stay in the winter and spring of 1712-1713, Weiser learned much about the Mohawk language and the customs of the Iroquois, while enduring hardships of cold, hunger, and homesickness. Conrad Weiser returned to his own people towards the end of July 1713. On November 22, 1720, at the age of 24, Weiser married Anna Eve Feck, a daughter of Johan Peter Feg and Anna Maria Risch. (Anna Eve Feck was born January 25, 1705 in Schoharie Co., New York, and died June 11, 1781 in Womelsdorf, Berks Co., Pennsylvania.) In 1723 the couple followed the Susquehanna River south out of New York and settled their young family on a farm in Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania near present-day Reading. The couple had fourteen children, of which only seven reached adulthood. Throughout his decades-long career, Weiser built on his knowledge of Native American languages and culture. He was a key player in treaty negotiations, land purchases, and the formulation of Pennsylvania's policies towards Native Americans. Because of his early experiences with the Iroquois, Weiser was inclined to be sympathetic to their interpretation of events, as opposed to the Lenape or the Shawnees. This may have exacerbated Pennsylvanian-Lenape/Shawnee relations, with bloody consequences in the French and Indian Wars. Nevertheless, for many years, Weiser helped to keep the powerful Iroquois allied with the British as opposed to the French. This important service contributed to the continued survival of the British colonies and the eventual victory of the British over the French in the French and Indian Wars. Weiser died on his farm on July 13, 1760. Upon his death, one Iroquois Indian noted to a group of colonists, "We are at a great loss and sit in darkness...as since his death we cannot so well understand one another."[citation needed] Indeed, shortly after Conrad Weiser's death, relations between the colonists and the Native Americans began a rapid decline.

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Conrad Weiser (Jr.)'s Timeline

1696
November 2, 1696
Affstätt in Herrenberg, in the Duchy of Württemberg, Germany
1720
November 22, 1720
Age 24
Schochary,,New York,USA
1722
September 7, 1722
Age 25
Schoharie, NY, USA
1725
September 13, 1725
Age 28
Schoharie, NY, USA
1727
June 24, 1727
Age 30
Schoharie, Schoharie, NY, USA
1728
December 24, 1728
Age 32
Schoharie, New York
1730
February 15, 1730
Age 33
Tulpehocken, Berks, PA, USA
February 15, 1730
Age 33
Tulpehocken, Berks, PA, USA
February 27, 1730
Age 33
Tulpehocken, Berks, Pennsylvania, United States
1733
January 28, 1733
Age 36
Womelsdorf, Berks, PA, USA