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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Conrad Weiser Homestead

The State of Pennsylvania recently announced the Conrad Weiser Homestead at Womelsdorf is one of the historic sites which will no longer be receiving funding to operate. This historic site is less than five miles from where we live. I have driven by it hundreds of times and often thought I want to tour the grounds but it never happened. Now, with the place being threatened with closure, it suddenly seemed urgent to go see the grounds.
When we learned the grounds were open to the public today we decided this is the day to go. The Ringgold Band was also there to give an Independence Day program. We listened to the music and toured the grounds. It was a beautiful, comfortable day and I got a lot of good pictures.
The small house in this picture is the oldest house on the property. It was built by one of the Weisers, however they are not positive if Conrad lived in it or not. If not, he certainly owned this land and lived very close to this spot for the Weiser family cemetery is just a short distance from this house. Conrad, members of his family, and some of his Indian friends are buried in that little family cemetery on the hill above the house.

Conrad Weiser was born in Germany in 1696 and immigrated to the colonies in 1709. He lived among the Mohawk Indians in New York during the winter of 1712-13 so he could learn their language and help the German settlers communicate with them. By 1723 the German settlers in the Mohawk Valley began to move south to the Tulpehocken Valley in what is now Berks and Lebanon Counties. In 1729, Conrad 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.

By the early 1730s Weister 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 the Indian Chief Shikellamy. It was through Weiser and Shikellamy that the Pennsylvania frontier remained stable and peaceful until mid-century.
Throughout his life, Weiser was active in local affairs. He served as a magistrate for Lancaster County (Tulpehocken was part of Lancaster County at that time), 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. He served as a lay minister in the Lutheran Church and became a founder of Trinity Church in Reading. His daughter Maria married Henry Melchoir Muhlenberg, the "patriarch" of the Lutheran Church in Pennsylvania.
Conrad Weiser was a pioneer, diplomat, magistrate, and lay minister. As an interpreter and Indian agent, he negotiated every treaty from 1732 to the close of the French and Indian War. Among his peacekeeping accomplishments was a 300+ mile walk into Indian territory, made at great personal risk, to prevent approaching tribal warfare. "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."

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