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Conrad Weiser

Weiser, Conrad,1 an active, enterprising man, conspicuous in the annals of this county from its organization till 1760, was born in Germany, 1696. At the age of 18, in 1709, he left his Vaterland, accompanied by his father' and seven brothers and sisters; with three or four thousand other Germans, they went to England; thence they sailed for New York, where they arrived the 13th of June, 1710. In the fall of the same year, the father of the subject of this notice, and hundreds of 'German families, were transferred at Queen Anne's expense to Livingston District, where many of them remained till 1718; that year about one hundred and fifty families moved to Schoharie to occupy lands presented to Queen Anne by a Mohawk chief, for the benefit of these Germans. While residing here, Conrad Weiser's father, in 1714, became acquainted with Quagnant, a chief of Maqua or Mohawk nation. Quagnant proposed to the father to take Conrad with him into his country, and to teach him the language spoken by his nation; the father consented, and Conrad accompanied the chief to his house in the autumn of 1714. Here his sufferings, according to Weiser's own journal, were almost intolerable. He was exposed to the inclemencies of a severe winter, "pinched by hunger and frost," menaced with death by the inebriated Indians, to escape which, he had often to flee and conceal himself till reason was restored, and "a second sober thought," restrained their threats. Having spent eight months among them, and acquired the principal part of the Mohawk language, he returned to the German colony, where, as interpreter, he acquired a competent knowledge of the language, in a very short time,

Owing to a defect in the titles to their lands which involved them in difficulties, this German colony was dispersed; some remained at Schoharie; among these was Weiser, the interpreter, others left, in search of a new home; these wended their course in a south-westerly direction till they struck the Susquehanna, where they made canoes, freighted these with families and goods;--floated down the river to the mouth of Swatara Creek thence they worked their way up till they reached a fertile spot in Tulpehocken, where they settled amidst the Indians, in 1723.

Weiser, as stated, remained at Schoharie, till 1729, when he, his wife and four children left, and followed his relations and friends to Tulpehocken, where they were all cordially received. Here he took up a tract of land within a few miles of the site of Womelsdorf.

He, as occasion demanded it, acted as interpreter between the Indians and German settlers. Though he had determined to spend his remaining days in private, his talents soon attracted the attention of the Government, and his services, as interpreter, were repaired, by the Hon. Patrick Gordon, Lieut. Governor of Pennsylvania, as early as 1781; for that purpose, Weiser accompanied Shekellany and Cehachquey, Indians, who had returned from the Six Nations, to Philadelphia. He was called on repeatedly to act as interpreter while pursuing the improvement of his farm.

He was a man of unbounded benevolence, and disposed. "to hope all things." It was through him the Moravian brethren were made attentive to Indian natives, especially the Iroquois, or Six Nations. Mr. Spangenberg received the first account of them from Conrad Weiser, a justice of the peace, and interpreter to, the Government in Pennsylvania.

The Governor and Proprietor of Pennsylvania had sent him in the winter of 1736, to treat with the Iroquois, concerning a war ready to break out between them and the Indians of Virginia, and to endeavor to settle the dispute amicably. On this journey of nearly five hundred miles, he suffered great hardships. The weather was uncommonly severe, and he had to force his way, mostly on foot, through deep snow, thick forests, brooks and rivers, carrying provisions for several weeks on his back.

Count Zinzendorf visited him August 14, 1752, where he met, at Tulpehocken, a numerous embassy of sachems or heads of the Six Nations, returning from Philadelphia. The count was desired to preach the Gospel to the Indians; Weiser was interpreter on this occasion, adding in conclusion of the discourse: "This is the man whom God bath sent, both toe the Indians and to the white people, to make known his will unto them," confirming his words, after the Indian custom, by a present of a piece of red cloth.

Sometime in the month of September, Conrad Weiser visited Shamokin, a populous Indian town, where he interpreted between Shikellimus and the Count.

He attended all the principal Indian treaties held for a period of more than twenty-five years. About the year 1752, Conrad Weiser, in connection with the Governor of Pennsylvania, Chief Justice Allen, Mr. Peters, Secretary of the Land Office, Messrs. Turner and B. Franklin, was appointed a trustee and manager of the Public Schools, which were established through the efforts of the Rev. Michael Schlatter. By virtue of their commission, the trustees established schools at Lancaster, York, Reading, New Hanover, Skippack, and Goshenhopen.

During the French and Indian hostilities, as Lieutenant Colonel, he commanded the second battalion of the Pennsylvania regiment, consisting of nine companies. "They were thus distributed-one company at Fort Augusta, one at Hunter's mill, seven miles above Harrisburg, on the Susquehanna, one half company on the Swatara, at the foot of the North mountain, one company and a half at Fort Henry, close to the gap of the mountain, called the Tothea Gap, one company at Fort Williams, near the forks of the Schuylkill river, six miles beyond the mountains, one company at Fort Allen, at Gnadonhutten, on the Lehigh; the other three companies were scattered between the rivers Lehigh and, Delaware, at the disposition of the captains, at farm-houses, others at mills, from three to twenty in a place."

The duties of the numerous positions he filled were always discharged with fidelity and ability; he was both capable and honest. He closed his eventful life, July 18, 1760. His remains were interred July 15, near Womelsdorf, Belts County. He left seven children and many relatives to lament his death. Weiser was a man of strong mind-cultivated in the' never failing school of experience. His poetical effusions only remain, a few of which are said to be well written. The following is the concluding verse of a hymn furnished by him at a church dedication:

Fuer Feuer, Krieg and Wassers-Noth Wollst du dies Haus bowahren ! Damit nach unserm sel'gen Tod Die Nachkommen erfahren, Dass wir dich, wahren Gott, geliebt Und uns in deinem Wort geubt, Um deines Namens wlllen.

  1. From Rupp's History of Lancaster County, p. 256 sq.

Source: An authentic history of Lancaster County, in the state of Pennsylvania; Lancaster, Pa.: J.E. Barr, 1869, 813 pgs.

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