History of Conrad Weiser
Conrad Weiser was born in Astaat, Germany, in 1696. His family migrated to America in 1710, settling in New York State. It was in this vicinity where Conrad initially gained contact with the Iroquois Nations. At the age of 15, he voluntarily decided to live amidst the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois. Conrad not only attained significant knowledge of the language but also the customs and traditions of the Mohawk tribe, which proved invaluable later in his career. For example, Weiser was one of the few Indian/Colonial interpreters who comprehended the overwhelming importance of the use of Wampum in conducting matters of diplomacy with the Iroquois.
Weiser moved to the Tulpehocken area in Pennsylvania in 1729, erecting a house on a farmstead that would eventually contain 890 acres of land. Weiser’s knowledge of the Iroquois was immediately employed, as an Oneida Iroquois, Shikellamy, enlisted Weiser’s abilities as a diplomat to negotiate a series of land ownership treaties between the Pennsylvania colonists and the Indians. Weiser was able to maintain fairly stable relations between the Pennsylvania government and the Iroquois Nation during the 1730s and 1740s.
Weiser’s success in mediating Indian/Colonial politics established a tremendous ethos of credibility in the eyes of the Pennsylvania Government. Weiser was appointed Lancaster County Magistrate in 1741, thrusting him into his first “official” role in colonial government. He continued to negotiate territorial matters with the Indians in this position. Then, in 1748, Weiser was named one of the commissioners of the town of Reading, in which he bought a plot of land and built a second house.
Weiser made several journeys to New York and central Pennsylvania to attend to matters of Iroquois diplomacy. However, by 1752, Weiser had grown rather exhausted in negotiating with the Indians and decided to attend to local affairs. Weiser desired to establish a separate county from Lancaster in which the town of Reading would be located. His wish was granted, as the county of Berks was created in 1752. Additionally, Weiser was appointed the county’s first justice of the peace.
The American segment of the Seven Years War erupted in 1754. An incident in 1755, known as the “Penn’s Creek Massacre,” left several colonials dead and many others missing in the wake of Indian attacks in northern Pennsylvania. In response to this uprising, Weiser was placed in charge of a local militia in the Tulpehocken region. Then, in 1756, Weiser was appointed Lt. Colonel of the First Pennsylvania Regiment. Until 1758, he spent most of his time riding between Forts Northkill, Lebanon, and Henry in Berks County as well as other forts under his charge.
Weiser conducted his final substantial contribution to Indian/Colonial diplomacy in 1758, negotiating the Treaty of Easton, which concluded the vast majority of Indian insurrection in the eastern third of Pennsylvania. He retired to his house in Reading after completion of this treaty and expired in 1760. Conrad Weiser’s body currently resides in a family burial plot to the west of what was believed to have been his house in the Tulpehocken area.
Conrad Weiser’s historical contributions to Pennsylvania simply cannot be overlooked. Weiser was predominantly responsible for negotiating every major treaty between the colonial settlers in Pennsylvania and the Iroquois Nations from 1731 until 1758. In addition to serving as one of the most knowledgeable and successful liaisons between the Indian and the colonist, Weiser was chiefly responsible for the settlement of the town of Reading and the establishment of Berks County. Finally, in 1755, Weiser organized a local militia to quell Indian uprisings during the American phase of the Seven Years War and was appointed Lt. Colonel of the First Battalion of the Pennsylvania Regiment a year later. Exempting some Berks County locals and various individuals with genealogical ties to this man, few are conscious about the relevance, let alone the existence, of Conrad Weiser.
Tulpehocken is the 18th century name used to describe the region in which Conrad Weiser and other settlers lived. It is the corruption of a Delaware Indian word that means “land of the turtle.” Today, the Tulpehocken Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River, still bares this early place name.
The first European settlers came to the Tulpehocken from the Schoharie region of New York in 1723. Over a dozen families followed the Susquehanna River and the Swatara Creek to settle near present day Womelsdorf. Many other German families, including the Weisers, took the same route. By 1730, other German settlers, who traveled through the port of Philadelphia, made their way into the backcountry settlement of Tulpehocken.
Originally, the entire Tulpehocken region was within Lancaster County. In 1752, Berks County was founded out of parts of Chester, Lancaster, and Philadelphia Counties. A part of the new county included some of the Tulpehocken region while some of it remained in Lancaster County. In 1785, Lancaster County again was divided and the northern portion became the new County of Dauphin. The Tulpehocken region was then within Berks and Dauphin Counties. In 1813, Dauphin County was divided, and the southeastern portion became Lebanon County. Today, the Tulpehocken region is in Berks and Lebanon Counties.
Friends of Conrad Weiser
Friends of Conrad Weiser Homestead is a not-for-profit community group that supports the Conrad Weiser Homestead. The Friends group is responsible for sponsoring most special events on site such as lectures, living history, reenactments, candlelight tours, etc. It also provides much needed funding on site for special projects and provides volunteers for events. If you are interested in supporting the Conrad Weiser Homestead, become a “Friend” today! Friends memberships and PA Heritage Society memberships are for 1 year.
Membership benefits include:
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By adding $25 to your Friends dues, your Society benefits include:
The story of Conrad Weiser and the historic site is told through an exhibit located in three different buildings at the Conrad Weiser Homestead.
The exhibit begins in the Visitor Center (Building #1) with two galleries dedicated to Conrad Weiser’s career and accomplishments. The exhibits in this building highlight Weiser’s work with Pennsylvania’s Indian policy, his early life in Germany and New York, and his involvement in many other facets of colonial Pennsylvania history.
The exhibit continues in the Weiser House (Building #3) with an exhibit gallery and a furnished period room. The gallery deals with the importance of Weiser’s farm as a destination for many different kinds of people in the 18th century. The site attracted colonial governors and politicians, Native Americans, scientists, soldiers, religious leaders and local settlers. The period room in the house is furnished to portray the domestic aspects of Conrad and his wife Anna Eva’s life here.
The Education Center (Building #5) houses an exhibit gallery that explains what happened to the site after Conrad Weiser’s death, the 19th century efforts to honor Weiser, the creation of the landscaped park in the 1920s, and the Conrad Weiser Homestead historic site today. Building #5 also includes the original gravestones of Conrad and Anna Eva.
After seeing the exhibit, visitors are encouraged to discover the Spring House (#4), the Gravesite (#6), and the landscaped park grounds. Special talks and programs are often scheduled within the historic area.
The Museum Shop is in the Visitor Center (#1) and includes items that relate to Weiser and colonial Pennsylvania. The Museum Shop benefits the Friends of the Conrad Weiser Homestead, the site’s community support organization.
Conrad Weiser Homestead
28 Weiser Lane, Womelsdorf, PA 19567
February: Conrad moves his family to the Tulpehocken Valley. Lancaster County is incorporated. Conrad settled on land incorporated within Heidelberg Township, Lancaster County, in 1734.
February 27: Son Peter is born (died 1785).
February 15: Sons Christopher and Jacob are born, "the first lived 15 weeks and the second 13 weeks..."
Ephrata Cloister founded by Conrad Beissel along the Cocalico Creek.
June 19: Daughter Elizabeth is born (died 1736).
August 18: Conrad arrives in Philadelphia with a large delegation of Iroquois. This treaty (conference) "cleared the road" for important negotiations later. Future negotiations would attempt to resolve four areas that threatened peaceful relations between Pennsylvania Indian and European inhabitants.
August 23: Thomas Penn arrives in Pennsylvania to assume personal control of the Pennsylvania Proprietorship. He formally opens the conference.
January 28: Daughter Margaret is born (died 1777).
April 23: Son Samuel is born (died 1794).
May: Conrad and German reformed minister, Peter Miller, join Ephrata and are baptized by Conrad Beissel in Mill Creek. Conrad is known as Brother Enoch. Tulpehocken confusion splits "Reed's" congregation.
July 18: Son Benjamin is born (dies in October while Conrad is in Philadelphia).
September-October: Conference in Philadelphia, "Susquehanna Lands" are purchased.
October 6: Conrad is granted his initial two hundred acres by John, Thomas, and Richard Penn.
February 27: Conrad journeys to Onondaga with "Stoffel" Stump, Owisgera, Tawagaret, and Shikellamy
August 27: "Walking Purchase" is conducted.
Conrad and Stump make a return visit to Onondaga prior to September 27.
Summer: Conrad and William Parsons journey to the Wyoming Valley presumably to "clean up after the Walking Purchase."
The Weisers go to Ephrata to live. Anna Eve leaves after a brief stay. Philip and Magdalena remain there with their father. Weiser is elevated to priesthood.
August 1: Attends conference in Philadelphia with Shikellamy and Sassoonan.
August 11: Son Jabez is born, lives just 17 days.
Conrad accepts appointment by Governor George Thomas as Lancaster County Magistrate while living in Ephrata. Is a candidate for Provincial Assembly.
December: Count Zinzendorf, Moravian leader, arrives in Philadelphia.
January 1: Conrad attends religious conference with the Ephrata delegation held at Germantown for the purpose of unifying all German Christians.
February 27: Daughter Hanna is born, dies August 11.
March 16: Daughter Magdelana dies at Ephrata. Cloister death registers give year as 1741.
July: Conference in Philadelphia; Iroquois confirm "Walking Purchase" by taking the "Delaware by the hair."
September: Travels through the Wyoming Valley with Zinzendorf.
July: Conrad journeys to Onondaga with John Bartram and Lewis Evans.
September 3: Date of Conrad's letter resigning from Ephrata.
April: Conrad becomes a naturalized British citizen.
June-July: Treaty of Lancaster. Conrad signs for the Mohawks who do not send any representatives. Is referred to as Tarachiawagon, "Holder of the Heavens" for the first time.
August 12: Son Benjamin is born, It is not known what became of him after 1787.
August 18: Conrad arrives in Philadelphia with Shikellamy and about 30 Delawares to help "clear the air that was rendered foul and corrupted" by the murder of John Armstrong. In October, Weiser was again in Philadelphia to translate during the trial of Mushemeelin, the Native accused of the crime.
September: Takes eight young men "up to the trail" to Shamokin to build a "locke" (log) house for Shikellamy.
November 15: Attempt is made to burn down Weiser's house.
April 22: Daughter Maria marries Henry Muhlenberg in the Christ Lutheran Church parsonage.
May-June: Journeys to Onondaga, Oswego, and Albany.
May: Conrad's father dies at his home in Heidelberg Township. He was about 86 years old.
October 1: John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg is born.
Conrad is a candidate for the Provincial Assembly a second time.
Reading is founded by Richard and Thomas Penn.
July: Attends conference in Lancaster with Ohio Country Natives.
August-October: Conrad journeys to Logstown, 18 miles below the Forks of the Ohio. Heis accompanied by William Franklin and George Croghan. This journey is Weiser's first major decision on Indian Policy for which he is singly responsible.
December 6: Shikellamy dies at Shamokin.
Builds a house in Reading on Penn Square.
Attends Albany Congress with Benjamin Franklin.
Weiser becomes lieutenant colonel, 1st Battalion, Pennsylvania Regiment.
Attends series of conferences at Easton.
July 13: Conrad dies at home in Tulpehocken Valley at age of sixty-three.