Conrad Weiser The Peacemaker

You will discover how Conrad Weiser the Peacemaker worked with principles for freedom and justice established by William Penn and later by  Benjamin Franklin in the new colony of Pennsylvania.

Conrad Weiser, the Peacemaker earned a host of additional titles assigned by historians. They include pioneer, farmer, linguist, Indian interpreter, Justice of Peace, trader, and merchant.

We will explore how young Conrad Weiser learned the ways of the Mohawk Indians, and master their language. Later he negotiates peace treaties that moved our democracy and land ownership forward in Colonial Pennsylvania.

Ancestry Families By Marriage

My Ancestry family and the Conrad Weiser family made a similar journey from the German Rhine River Valley to America in 1710. In a previous Post, German Palatine Migration to America, the numerous social and economic conditions that encouraged the trip across the Atlantic are described in detail.

After the first attempt in the upper Hudson River Valley to claim the land promised by the Queen of England and pay off their passage failed, they moved. With their meager belongings, about 50 families pulled sleds in winter west 60 miles to the Schoharie Valley. The Schoharie location was scouted by a party led by Conrad Weiser Senior. He later was responsible for forming seven farming communities named “dorfs” and naming one Weiser’s Dorf. Capture the complete story of the Schoharie settlement at Ancestry Family moves to Schoharie Area.

Middleburg, New York
Weiser’s Dorf Settlement

My ancestry family that settled in Schoharie Valley located on land in Weiser’s Dorf (today the site of Middleburgh, NY) in about 1716.

  • Johann Peter Schneider Feg, age 44 (6th great-grandfather)
  • His wife Anna Maria Risch, age 35
  • Anna Catherine, daughter, age 16
  • Anna Eve, daughter, age 16
  • Eva Elisabeth, daughter, age 14

Young Conrad Weiser’s ancestral family settled in Schoharie Valley about 1712 on land that became part of the farming village of Weiser’s Dorf. Conrad Weiser was the son of Anna Magdalena and Johann Conrad Weiser, Senior. He was born on 2 November 1696 in the small village of Affstatt, near Stuttgart, Germany.

Conrad Weiser Senior’s family and my 6th great-father were neighbors in Weiser’s Dorf. Young Conrad and Anna Eve become friends and eventual a marriage takes place on November 22, 1720, in Weiser’s Dorf. Conrad was 24 and Anna Eve was 20 years old.

Children born in Weiser’s Dorf from the Conrad and Anna Eve (Feg) Weiser marriage:

  • Philip Weiser, 1722-1761
  • Anna Magdalena, 1725-1742
  • Anna Marie 1727-1802
  • Frederick 1728-1790

Next Conrad and family move to the Province of Pennsylvania to join German families that settled in the Tulpehocken Valley beginning in 1723. This includes Conrad’s father-in-law and my 6th great grand-father Johan Peter Schneider Feg and family. Peter Feg and family settled in the valley in 1724.

Settlement in Tulpehocken Valley

Conrad and family made the 300 mile trip from Weiser’s Dorf in 1729 to settle on about 200 acres of land at the base of Eagle’s Peak. In 1730 Conrad built a limestone house for his family which was enlarged in 1751. Nearby a springhouse was constructed with a cool stream flowing thru the stone building.

Conrad Weiser House
Weiser Home Restored

Early on Conrad was busy with family, neighbors, and friends helping clear land to grow crops. As his farming prospered his land holdings over time increased to about 900 acres. He added a tannery and vineyards. Conrad grew and harvested corn, wheat, barley, oats, rye, and grapes. In the orchards, they picked peaches, apples, and cherries.

Children born after settlement in the Tulpehocken Valley include:

  • Peter Weiser 1730-1785
  • Christopher 1731-1731
  • Jacob 1731-1731
  • Margaret 1734-1777
  • Samuel 1735-1796
  • Benjamin 1736-1736
  • Jabez 1740-1740
  • Hanna 1742-1742
  • Benjamin 1744-1782

Infant mortality rates were extremely high before mid-wives and doctors became available to deliver babies. Conrad and Anna Eve with a family of 14 lost almost half of their children in the first year of life.

Conrad Made Peace with Indians

Conrad had an early introduction to the ways of the Indians by spending the winter of 1712-13 with a Mohawk family in the small village of Eskaharie, the colony of New York.  His writings indicate that he was cold and hungry most of the time. Mohawks homes consisted of a rectangular structure built with poles and covered with tree bark. This longhouse was shared with several Indian families. This experience with the Mohawks immersed him into the language, customs and the issues of the Indians.

Conrad followed William Penn’s mandate for fair dealings with the native Indians- Lenape and Susquehanna in his letter of Friendship written in October 1681.

  • In 1731 Shikellimy, vice-regent of the Iroquois Nation introduced Weiser as an Interpreter to the colonial authorities in Philadelphia. This conference meshed together three individuals that would change the direction of Pennsylvania Indian policy in the following decades.  The group members were James Logan hired by William Penn to be his Secretary, Shikellimy and Conrad Weiser.
  • 1732 Weiser with James Logan and Shikellamy constructs Pennsylvania new Indian policy. Under the new policy the purchase of all lands from the Indian nations went exclusively through dealings with the Iroquois nation. They were deemed the most powerful in the North Atlantic region.
  • Tulpehocken Indian Treaty of 1736 was negotiated which allowed all the early settlers in the Tulpehocken valley to finally get indentured deeds to the land they occupied since 1723. This Treaty was extremely important for my 6th great-grandfather Johann Peter Feg (Feck) and family. The ownership of land in America as promised by Queen Anne in 1709 finally took place in the Colony of Pennsylvania. Credit goes to the Indian negotiating skills of Conrad Weiser under the mandate of fair dealings established by William Penn in 1681.
  • In 1743 Weiser was awarded the title of Pennsylvania’s “province interpreter” being the only official title received from the government for his translating and negotiating skills.
  • 1758 The final Easton Treaty help end most of the fighting from the Lenape Indians. They made peace with the colonists.

Here we only have reviewed the Indian treaties and conferences that had a significant impact on the future of early settlers in the eastern part of the Colony of Pennsylvania. Conrad Weiser was very active in negotiating Indian agreements in the colonies of New York, Maryland, and Virginia until 1758.

Historian John Bradly best describes Conrad’s unique ability in working with Indians-he “had a more intimate relationship with the Indians than almost any other of the two million Colonial Americans. He had walked their trails and eaten their food, spoken their language and slept in their longhouses”.

His Public Service

One becomes astonished at the roles and responsibilities Conrad Weiser assumed in an evolving early colonial community and government.

Business and Community Leader

  • 1734 Conrad was involved in the formation of a new township named Heidelburg,
  • In 1748 Conrad becomes involved in the founding and the distribution of the initial land parcels of present-day Reading, Pennsylvania.
  • 1750 Conrad built the first store in Reading.
  • In 1752 Weiser encouraged the formation of Berks County.

Church

Most of his life Conrad practiced the following of the Lutheran faith beginning in Germany. However, he made a brief exodus to the Ephrata Cloisters with family members.   Conrad returned to his Lutheran roots several years later to teach and be a lay minister in the Church.

  • The early 1730s was a period of religious confusion for Conrad Weiser and other Tulpehocken settlers. His almost 100 percent Luthern faith was being courted by the Moravians and by a charismatic preacher named Conrad Beissel. He formed a religious community in Ephrata where his faith promised personal union with God. Weiser and some members of his family participated in their services, however, they went back to the Lutheran Church after a few years
  • In 1743 Conrad Weiser and my seventh-great grandfather, Leonhardt Feeg Feck were involved in the formation of a new Church- Trinity Lutheran in the community of Stouchsburg.
  • Conrad continued his involvement with Reading in 1751 by becoming one of the founders of the Trinity Lutheran Church.

Law Enforcement and local peacekeeper

  • In 1732 Weiser was appointed a magistrate to settle legal disputes in the Tulpehocken area.
  • In 1741 appointed Justice of Peace for northern Lancaster County. ( included most of Berks County until 1752).
  • After 1752 Weiser was appointed the first President Judge of Berks County. A position he maintained until his death.

Military Service

  • 1754 Conrad attends Albany Conference where Benjamin Franklin presented a specific plan for mutual protection and improved government in the Colonies.
  • 1756 Weiser becomes Lieutenant Colonel, 1st Battalion, Pennsylvania Regiment where his responsibility was to build and command several forts along the Blue Mountains from the Lehigh to the Susquehanna River, (Fort Hunter). His friend and fellow peacemaker, Benjamin Franklin assumed a similar role from the Lehigh to the Delaware River.
  • In 1757 the warring sides of the French and Indian conflict ceased with some peace negotiations. The colonies remained under the British flag for now.

High esteem was given Conrad Weiser for his many peacekeeping affairs, government posts, and business interests. Historians wrote, “He was indeed a man of integrity.”

Conrad Weiser Memorial Park

Conrad Weiser died on a visit to his farm in July of 1760 at the age of 63. About 20 years later his wife Anna Eve (Feg) died on June 11, 1781. Anna Eve and Conrad are buried on the old homestead (now Conrad Weiser Memorial Park) in a special grave setting. This grassy memorial area is mostly oval-shaped about 200 feet long and 100 feet wide. At one end is a large statue of  Conrad’s primary friend and negotiator Shikellamy from the Oneida Iroquois Indian nation. At another end of the oval is the Conrad Weiser Memorial commissioned by the Community ( more detail below). In front of the Weiser tombstone is an unusual circle with maybe 10 stones protruding out of the grass area.  Later in my research discovered these are headstones for deceased Indian chiefs.

In  November 1793 George Washington the first President of the United States paid tribute to Conrad Weiser by visiting his gravesite. Historians note that Washington said, “This departed man rendered many services to his country, in a different period, and posterity will not forget him”.

Conrad Weiser Memorial
Conrad Weiser Gravesite

Establishment of the Conrad Weiser Memorial Park began as a community effort with school children initially raising funds. Later the Patriotic Order of Sons of America and the Historical Society of Berks County carved a granite monument in 1909. At first, the Monument was placed on the public school grounds of Womelsdorf and later moved to Weiser Park.

Efforts to acquire land for a memorial park was first suggested in December 1920 by Dr. C.R. Scholl, President of the  Historical Society of Berks County. The Conrad Weiser Memorial Park Association was granted a charter in 1923. Fundraising efforts resulted in collecting funds to set up a $20,000 endowment fund for land purchase.

Land for the Park became a reality in 1926. Mr. and Mrs. LeRoy Valentine, lineal descendants of Conrad Weiser, gave outright the Weiser homestead to the Conrad Weiser Memorial Park Association.  The Association worked on developing and operating the facility until 1935 when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with legislative action received the Park for the general public.

His Homestead is today named Conrad Weiser Park in the honor of his tremendous public service to his community and country. This facility is administrated by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

A visit to Conrad Memorial Park is worth a day trip to the area about 10 miles west of Reading, Pennsylvania on Route 422. GPS address is 30 Weiser Lane Womelsdorf, Pa 19567.

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Ronald L. Fake

Pennsylvania native from York County. After graduating from Wrightsville High School enlisted in U.S. Navy. While in the Navy working in the field of Aviation Electronics decided to enroll in college. Selected San Diego State University with a focus on urban geography and environmental studies. After graduation in 1968 worked with county and state governments, and private industry on the environmental impacts of transportation projects. After retirement started my ancestry research and today I am writing that history as a blog at https://ancestryeuropetoamerica.com.