U. S. Independence July 4th, 1776

United States Independence July 4th, 1776

The United States of America was formed by the founding fathers of the original 13 colonies, declaring our U. S. independence on July 4th, 1776, from Great Britain. Following the Declaration of Independence, more important tools for governing were created by colonial officials. They include the Articles of Confederation, which the United States Constitution replaced.

My ancestors and thousands of other arrivals made the journey to the new America for several primary reasons- freedom of religion, freedom from constant wars, and own land to build a homestead for their families. Additionally, the English government was promoting and offering incentives to populate this new world. The Dutch, French, and Spanish already established settlements in America.

This post delves into my ancestry family and their experiences in colonial New York and Pennsylvania leading up to the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776.  My family has the good fortune to be related to Conrad Weiser through marriage. You will discover how Conrad Weiser, the Peacemaker, worked with principles for freedom and justice established by William Penn and later with  George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in the new colony of Pennsylvania.

During the French and Indian War period, George Washington and Conrad Weiser worked together in calming the hostilities against the new settlers from various Indian Nations and the invasion of the French Army into British claimed land in Western Pennsylvania. BenjianFranklin and Weiser worked together to built the first forts in eastern Pennsylvania to house militia and store munitions.

My Ancestors- Schneider, Feg, Feck, Fake 1550-1740

My ancestor’s ship James & Elizabeth sailed from London about December 5th, 1709, with ten ships holding about 3,000 German Palatines. They arrived on 16 June 1710 in the Province of New York at Nutten Island, now Governors Island, New York City. Disease, especially typhus, was responsible for an estimated 500 deaths from London to America. Most of the arrivals were quarantined for typhus and other infections until the Spring of 1711. Thus, one can imagine this area as a very crude encampment arrangement. 

Nutting Island 1710
Governors Island, New York

My Ancestry family includes Johannes Schneider, age 89 (8th great-grandfather), Johann Peter Schneider Feg, age 38 (6th great-grandfather). His wife is Anna Maria Risch, age 29,  and children Anna Catherine, daughter, age 10, Anna Eve, daughter, age 10, and Eva Elisabeth, daughter, age 8. They spent the remaining winter months on Nutten Island in tents without heat. Most likely, lots of bonfires and blankets kept them warmer. Finally, in the spring, the British authorities moved the Island residents north on the Hudson River.

Hudson River Resettlement

Johann Peter Schneider Feg and their family made a settlement into the West Camp in  1711, about 100 miles north of Nutten Island.  First American-born family addition was daughter Anna Margaretha on 18 December 1715 at West Camp, today Ulster County, New York. Her Baptism was at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Ulster County, New York, on 22 January 1716.

Here they hope to work, raise their family, and build a new home with 40 acres of land promised by Queen Ann of England. Instead, the German settlers began to work down their ten thousand pounds sterling advanced by a parliamentary grant for passage, food, and services. The British plan was to use the settler’s labor to manufacture tar from the area’s pine trees. Many colonists were unhappy with this arrangement. They wanted their settlement to include the promised land to start farming and raise their families without government restrictions.

Lack of capable management and the eventual discovery that the pine trees were not providing a quality pine tar doomed the plan for the settlers to repay their debt to England.  By 1712 the British scheme was a complete failure.

The Germans became upset and dissatisfied with their treatment and situation at the West Camp. They blamed Governor Hunter for their status with no way to repay the debt to the Crown, the loss of subsistence support, and no 40 acres to build their first American home.

Winter Trip to Schoharie

They moved with their meager belongings, about 50 families pulling sleds in winter west 60 miles to the Schoharie Valley in 1712. Conrad Weiser Senior with a party searched and found the Schoharie Valley. 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.

My ancestry family settled in Schoharie Valley, located on land in Weiser’s Dorf (today Middleburgh, NY) in about 1716. Family members include Johann Peter Schneider Feg, age 44 (6th great-grandfather), wife Anna Maria Risch, age 35; Anna Catherine, age 16; Anna Eve, age 16; and Eva Elisabeth, age 14.

Over the next ten years, the German Palatines worked long hours to build simple log homes, farm the land initially with broad hoes. They made furniture out of blocks of wood. The Indians taught them how to make their clothing from wild animal skins.

Indians helped the new American farmer from Europe by introducing new crops such as beans, corn, squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and chilies. Later on, my ancestry family added wheat to the crop mix.

 Weiser’s Dorf Settlement

My ancestors added new family members, and marriages took place in barns or larger homes during the winter months. In my immediate Ancestry family, we had a birth (Johann Leonhardt Feg 1717 (5th great-grandfather). The marriage of Anna Eve Feg (aunt 6th generation) to Conrad Weiser Jr. on Nov. 22, 1720. This union united two Palatine families- Weiser and Feg. Children born in Weiser’s Dorf from Conrad and Anna Eve Feg Weiser’s marriage were Philip Weiser, 1722-1761, Anna Magdalena, 1725-1742, Anna Marie 1727-1802, and Frederick 1728-1790.

In 1722 Governor Hunter decided my ancestors and other Palantine neighbors had settled on land without permission. Next, he sold the rights to what my ancestors thought was their land and homestead to wealthy merchants from Albany and Schenectady, Province of New York. The new owners attempted to get leases or purchases of their homestead land or quite the title ( In plain words-Leave).

During the ten years in Schoharie, my  Palatine ancestry families worked the soil and built crude homes and barns for livestock, only to lose almost everything. They were steadfast in believing that the Mohawk Indians gave them the land with Queen Ann’s approval. They had the option to lease, buy, or move.  Some stayed, but many were upset, deciding to seek land and new homes outside New York’s Province.

New Home in  Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Provincial Governor Keith reaches an agreement for the land with my German ancestors in the Tulpehocken Area. The first group of German settlers from Schoharie settled in 1723 near the Tulpehocken Creek and the Mill Creek near the present-day Boro of Womelsdorf. Today this location is near Route 422 and about 10 miles west of Reading, Pennsylvania. The city of Philadelphia is approximately 70 miles southeast of the Tulpehocken area.

Plumpton Manor, Heidelberg Township
New Home for Peter Feg and Family

New Home for Peter Feg and Family

Historians note that William Penn drafted a Charter of liberties for the new colony, “creating a political utopia guaranteeing a free and fair trial by jury, freedom of religion, freedom from unjust imprisonment and free elections.”  Later, William Penn created in 1701 a guideline for the residents of his colony- The Charter of Privileges. (Read the longer story about William Penn and his founding of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.)

Some of the original settlers, mostly farmers, in the Tulpehocken Valley staked out their land claim. Before any viable legal process established to buy, sell or transfer land by a deed in Heidelberg Township. They ended up settling on land claimed by the Lenape Indians. Also, some settled on William Penn proprietary Manor lands which were larger tracks of land initially conveyed to Penn’s relatives, politicians, lawyers, and friends. In the Tulpehocken settlement area, these include Plumpton Manor, Fell’s Manor, and William Allen’s Land.

My ancestors’, Johann Peter Schneider Feg and family, were already settled in 1724 on land that legally became Plumpton Manor lot 22 near the Tulpehocken Creek south of Charming Forge and north Womelsdorf.  After land survey and construction of a deed, his lot consisted of approximately 190 acres located in Heidelberg Township, Lancaster County ( Berks County began in 1752). The Deed B-622b recorded 5, December 1739 showed a payment of 76 pounds for the land.

Peter and his family worked the land, built a house and barn, and raised six children.  Daughters Anna Catherine, Elizabetha, and Anna Margaretha married while living in Plumpton Manor. Likewise, sons Johan Peter and Johan Leonhardt married while living at the homestead. Thus, Johann Leonhardt is my 5th great-grandfather.

Numerous legal battles ensued before clear land titles could be awarded to early Tulpehocken settlers. These hurdles only delayed the dream of owning their land in America for themselves and their future generations. In the case of my 6th great-grandfather Johann Peter Feg (Feck),  his dream of land ownership in America to raise a family finally occurred in December 1739. Unfortunately, his lifelong dream for land ownership was 29 years long.  Johann Peter Schneider Feg (Feck) passed away at age 72 on 5 December 1744 in Heidelberg Township, Lancaster County.

Peace Makers

French and Indian Period 1730-1763

American peacemakers George Washington and Conrad Weiser had their futures shaped early as teenagers.  Washington, at age 16, worked with land surveying parties in the wilderness of his native Virginia colony.  One year later, he was appointed surveyor of Culpeper County, earning money to purchase the first tracts of his land.

Conrad Weiser speaking only German at age 16, had an early introduction to the ways of the Indians. He spends the winter of 1712-13 with a Mohawk family in the small village of Eskaharie, the colony of New York. This experience with the Mohawks immersed him into the language, customs, and issues of the Indians. Conrad was the Peacemaker of numerous Indian Nations and the governments of the colonies, except Georgia from 1730 to 1750.

Washington’s first assignment at age 20 was as a major in charge of training the local militia in military skills. Washington’s first assignment On October 31, 1753, Washington’s second assignment from Governor Dinwiddie of Virginia was to travel on horseback with a small party to Ft. LeBoeuf, near present-day Erie, Pennsylvania.  His mission was to deliver a written message to the French to remove themselves from forts and land claimed by the British, namely the Upper Allegheny Valley. The French refused verbally and in writing, which led to the French and Indian War in May 1754. Washington and Weiser played significant roles in this war.  Dinwiddie pressed George Washington, leader of the Virginia military volunteers, into action against the French and their Indian allies.

Historians likewise praised Washington and Weiser for their integrity, honesty, transparency, and application of skills learned throughout the French and Indian Period 1730-1763. In addition, both men wrote their journals of thoughts and experiences of the French and Indian Period for future generations to study.

First Continental Congress 1774

First Continental Congress was established to coordinate the colonial response to the British Intolerable Acts against the Massachusetts colony. Parliament passed these trade acts to demonstrate British dominance over the colonies after the Boston Tea Party. The main provisions were closing the Boston Port and revoking the Massachusetts Charter, crushing the colony’s right to govern.

Fifty-six delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies met at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, between September 5 and October 26, 1774. This notable group includes two future presidents- George Washington from Virginia and John Adams From Massachusetts. 

The First Congress President was Peyton Randolph of Virginia, where the political discussions were far-ranging over whether Congress had the right to regulate trade.  Finally, they agreed to an economic boycott on British trade. Congress made a Petition to King George III pleading to redress trade grievances and repeal the Intolerable Acts. The petition had no impact, so the colonies agreed to convene the Second Continental Congress. Congress delegates encouraged each colony to organize and train its militia. Benjamin Franklin led the effort of organizing the first militias in Pennsylvania.

 Second Continental Congress Declaration of Independence

The Second Continental Congress’s purpose was to form a government to manage and provide direction for the colonies in a period of contentious trade disputes with the British.  On May 10, 1775, they convened in Philadelphia, where new attendees include John Hancock from Massachusetts and Thomas Jefferson from Virginia, plus Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson from Pennsylvania.

John Hancock was unanimously elected President of the Continental Congress, where his work was mostly limited to a presiding officer. Due to the amount of communication and paperwork, Hancock had to hire clerks at his own expense. The business at hand was to create a unified government for the colonies independent from Britain, fund the impending war effort with Britain, and select a Commander-in-Chief of the Army. 

On June 15, 1775, John Adams representing Massachusetts, nominated George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. At this time, the Army was in Battle with the British in the Boston area. Washington leads the colonial forces to victory over the British and Hussein troops in the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783).

 Next, Congress produced the Articles of Confederation after lots of discussions. Finally, Congress passes the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, while meeting in York, Pennsylvania, to escape the British Army in Philadelphia. This document is the precursor to the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which are the historical documents that provide us our liberty and freedoms in the United States.

Declaration of Independence from Great Britain

The Second Continental Congress brought forth our Declaration of Independence from British rule in July 1776. The Virginia Convention sowed the seed by instructing their delegates to assert Independence on May 5th, 1776. Richard Henry Lee proposed a committee of five to write a draft where Thomas Jefferson received the assignment. A draft copy was finished for review by Congress on July 2,3, and 4. On July 4th, 12 of the 13 colonies approved the Declaration of Independence. John Hancock President was the first to sign on July 4th with his prominent signature.

Thomas Jefferson Home
A Replica of Thomas Jefferson home where he drafted the Declaration of Independence

Two future presidents, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, signed the Declaration. Delegates from Pennsylvania that signed the Declaration of Independence include Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, and George Ross.

News of this important event spread quickly. The first public reading was on July 8th in the yard of Independence Hall. First American Newspaper to publish the story about the withdrawal from British rule was The Pennsylvania Evening Post on July 6th. Also, British and other foreign papers printed the story of our Declaration of Independence.

Crowds in numerous cities tore down signs representing British authority. At least one prominent equestrian statue of King George III in New York City was taken down and converted into musket balls.

Support for the Declaration of Independence July 4th, 1776  

My ancestors and thousands of additional settlers came to America primarily poor with dreams of a new future for their families.

Yes, there were many obstacles from the British appointed officials regarding land confiscation in the Province of New York that took higher priority than land promised by Queen Ann to the early German settlers.

When available, they occupied fertile wilderness land, mostly in colonial Pennsylvania and New York. Labor made these fertile areas into productive agricultural fields for vegetables, grains, pasture, and orchards. These products fed families and were traded to surrounding communities. 

They supported local heroes like relatives and friends who joined the local militia to protect their families from Indian attacks. Benjamin Franklin organized the first militias in Pennsylvania.

Yes, the local militia members volunteered to join the Colonial British Army with no pay fighting the French and Indians from taking land claimed by the British in western colonial Pennsylvania.

Yes, they would be proud of the volunteers who signed up to fight the British in the American Revolutionary War without pay until near the end. In this war, the French became our partners against the British by providing financial help to pay the troops and stock supplies to win the War (1775-1783). Unfortunately, many of these soldiers never made it home to celebrate the American victory with their families.

Our ancestors would be proud of all the founding fathers who worked diligently towards constructing and signing the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, 1776, from Great Britain. 

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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.