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Johann Conrad Weiser (1662-1746)

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Johann Conrad Weiser (1662-1746) was a German soldier and farmer who fled his homeland with thousands of other German Palatines and settled in New York. In New York, Weiser became a leader in the Palatine community and when the Germans were in dispute with their English landlords and the government of New York, he was among the representatives who went to London to seek help from the British government. This contributed to the downfall of the governorship of Robert Hunter.[1][2][3][4][5]

Biography

Early life

Johann Conrad Weiser was born in 1668 in Gross Aspach, Germany to Jacob Weiser and Anna Trefz. He married Anna Magdalena Uebele and they had a total of fifteen children. Weiser fought during the Nine Years' War and served as a Corporal in the military. He was a member of the Württemberg Blue Dragoons, and was stationed at Affstätt, Herrenberg, Württemberg in the 1690s. Soon after the birth of Conrad Jr., the Weisers moved back to their ancestral home of Gross-Aspach. Afterward, he followed the trade of a baker. [1][5]

Immigration

Weiser and his family were German Palatines who fled Germany because of the persecuation of Protestants, destruction of crops by invading French armies, and the icy cold winter of 1708-09;[4] Weiser's wife Anna Magdeleana died suddenly of an attack of the gout while pregnant with their fifteenth child on May 1, 1709.[5] On June 24, 1709, Weiser and eight children, moved away from Great Aspach. His married daughter, Catrina, stayed behind with her husband, Conrad Boss and two children. Weiser sold his house, fields, meadows, vineyard, and garden to Conrad and Catrina, for only 75 gulden. The Weisers, along with over 15,000 other Palatines, left their homeland and traveled west to the Rhine river and then along the Rhine into the Netherlands. As the number of German refugees increased, the Dutch decided to send the mto England. In late summer 1709, the Weisers arrived in London, along with thousands of other Germans.[1][3]

Queen Anne of Great Britain was sympathetic toward the German Palatines, and allowed them to stay in England. However, as their numbers grew. the Board of Trade and Plantations prepared a plan to send them to America, and Queen Anne promised them free land.[3] The Weisers remained in England for a few months. They left England around Christmas Day, 1709 on the Herbert, one of ten ships carrying about 4,000 people to America, including Weiser and his family. In early June, the Herbert sank off the coast of Long Island. The Weisers and other immigrants were rescued by the Midford. The Midford arrived in New York on July 7, 1710. From here, the family went to Livingstone's manor.[1][3]

Life in America

After arriving in America, the Palatines stayed at Governor's island until fear of the spread of disease had ceased. After, the Weisers went to live at Livingstone Manor. Despite being promised free land, the English landlords forced the Germans to work for them to pay their expenses for bringing them from Holland to England and from England to America.[4] The Germans were also forced to pay rent for their property. The Germans were divided into five camps, and Weiser was in charge of one of them. The Germans were required to produce tar from the trees there. However, when it was discovered that the trees could not produced tar, he voiced the complaints of the Germans to governor Robert Hunter. In 1711, the English conscripted German Palatines to fight the French in northern New York. Weiser served as a captain in one of the Palatine contingents. Upon their return home, the Palatines discovered that their families had nearly starved. Weiser led the Palatines in complaining to Governor Hunter. Initially, Hunter lost his temper and got upset at the Palatines, but ultimately decided to let them go as they please.[5] Also in 1711, Weiser remarried to Anna Margaretha Müller. His children disapproved of the marriage, as Conrad Jr. writes, "It was an unhappy match, and was the cause of my brothers and sisters' all becoming scattered."[1][3][6]

In the fall of 1713, Weiser and his family reached Schenectady. They stayed at the home of John Meyndert during the winter of 1713-14. The Mohawk Indians also helped the German Palatines throughout the winter, in which they earned their trust.[4] After an agreement was reached with local Native American tribes, German settlers were allowed to move farther west. In the spring of 1714, with the help of Mohawk Indians, Weiser led his family, along with about 150 other families to Schoharie, which is located 40 miles west of Albany. At this time, a Maqua Indian Chief visited Weiser, and suggested that his son, the younger Conrad, go with him and learn the Maqua language, and he did. The Germans who settled here were very poor to start out with. At Schoharie, they grew corn, potatoes, and ground beans to get them through the following year. Life was harsh, and families sometimes went two or three days without food. Eventually, multiple villages in the area sprang up, more food was grown, and thus life improved and people no longer starved. However, despite the fact that Hunter let the Germans go free, he threatened the Germans not to move to Schoharie, or he would see it as rebellion.[1][6]

The government of New York was displeased with the Germans, despite having left New York.[4] In 1715, Hunter sent an agent, Adam Vroman, to Schoharie, to make deeds for the Palatines, despite the land had already been granted to the Palatines by the local Native Americans.[5] The Palatines were resistant, and the land that the Germans had settled on in Schoharie was taken away and granted by Hunter to seven landlords.[1]The German deputies were stripped of their titles, and the promise of free land by Queen Anne was ignored.[3] A warrant was given by Hunter to justices of Albany and Duchess counties for Weiser's arrest, after Vroman complained of mistreatment while in Schoharie, but Weiser managed to escape.[5] This brought an uproar, and the Germans rebelled. They drove out the sheriff who was sent from Albany, and became increasingly hostile to the government.[3]

Commissioner to London

After five years of hostility between the Germans and the New York government, the German Palatines decided to send representatives to appeal to the Board of Trade in London. The community sent three men to represent them: Conrad Weiser, Wilhelm Scheff, and Gerhardt Walrath.[7] Seeing this uproar, Hunter and his allies pretended to work on a compromise to buy time and prevent these men from leaving. Because Hunter had previously threatened to arrest Weiser, the commissioners decided to leave from Philadelphia instead of New York City. They made their way Philadelphia in 1718 and departed on a ship to England. However, they fell into the hands of pirates in the Delaware Bay. They were raided of their personal money, but not the trust money from the Colony. Weiser was tied up and beaten and forced to give up his money. Scheff, said to the pirates, "this man and I have a purse in common and I have already given it to you, he has nothing to give you." They were left without money and without suitable clothing.[1][5]

After encourtering the pirates, the ship landed in Boston for more supplies. The commissioners embarked for a second time and arrived in London "poor, strange, and helpless" and discovered that Queen Anne had died. The new monarch, King George I, was not interested in their case, as the representatives were seen as disloyal peasants who had fled the territories of the German princes. Hunter sent some agents to England, to misrepresent the Germans as rebels and enemies to the Crown. Progress was slow for the representatives. During this time, Walrath grew tired and embraked for home, but died at sea.[7] Later, Weiser and Scheff were imprisoned for debt. They wrote out for help, but their letters were intercepted. Finally, word reached Schoharie and a sum of money was collected and sent for their redemption. After months of waiting, their debts were paid.[1] In July 1720, Weiser and Sheff were able to petition to the Board of Trade.[7]

By this time, Governor Robert Hunter failed to sabotage the efforts of the Palatines, and resigned as governor. The newly commissioned Governor of New York, William Burnet, was ordered to grant "vacant lands to all the Germans who had been sent to New York by the desceased Queen Ann." However, this action was not to the extent that the Germans had intended. Weiser and Scheff were unsatisfied and in 1721, they had an argument; Shauff refused to submit to Weiser's dictation, and so he returned home and died six months later. Still unsatisfied, Weiser returned home in 1723. [1] After five years in London with little success, Weiser came to one simple conclusion: "go to Pennsylvania."[4]

Later life and death

The same year Weiser returned to America in 1723, William Keith, Baronet Governor of Pennsylvania, was in Albany doing Indian business[3] when he heard about the suffering and injustice brought upon the Germans in New York, and went out of his way to inform them of the freedom of justice in Pennsylvania. Upon hearing this, Weiser, with the help of Indians, led a group of Germans from Schoharie to the Susquehanna river, and made their way on foot along Indian paths and by canoe to Tulpehocken, Pennsylvania in the spring of 1723.[1][6] Weiser did not stay there for long, because he did not like the anarchical behavior of many of his fellow Germans. So he returned to New York a few years later. He once tried to purchase land on the Delaware, but was unable to. He wondered around New York for several years. As he neared his death, Conrad Jr. brought him to the home of his grandsons in Pennsylvania in May of 1746 and died soonafter.[1][5]

Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, the husband of Weiser's granddaughter, writes about him as he arrives in Pennsylvania, just before he died:

"He was so worn out by his long journey that he was carried into my house almost dead. After he had lain in bed for 24 hours and had taken some nourishment, he came to himself again and began repeating in broken words the hymn: Schwing dich auf zu deinem Gott...His eyes were almost dark and his hearing gone, so that I could not converse with him. But I could not withhold my tears when I heard him repeating over and over the great texts relating to the blessed attonement in Christ, such as: Himself took our infirmities...to which he added companion texts, such as: Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden...

My father-in-law meanwhile sent a wagon with a bed and had him brought fifty miles farther to his home, and when he had given us his blessing, had with great difficulty reached his destination, and had lived for a short space longer with his Joseph in Goshen, he fell asleep at last amid the heartfelt prayers and tears of the children and grandchildren who stood around him, after having been between eighty and ninety years on his pilgrimage."




Children


Offspring of Johann Conrad Weiser and Anna Magdalena Uebele (1668-1709)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Maria Catharina Weiser (?-1761)
Anna Margaretha Weiser (?-1748)
Anna Magdalena Weiser (?-?)
Maria Sabina Weiser (?-?)
Georg Friederich (?-?)
Johann Conrad Weiser, Jr. (1696-1760)
Christoph Friederich (1699-?)
Anna Barbara Weiser (1700-?) 17 October 1700 (Gross Aspach+ Germany) 1750 (Fort Plain+ New York) Nicholas Pickard (1701-c1750)

Johann Friederich Weiser (1702-1702)
Rebecca Weiser (1703-1704)
Johann Friederich Weiser (1705-1711)
Erhardt Friederich Weiser (1706-1707)
Rebecca Weiser (1706-1709)

Offspring of Johann Conrad Weiser and Anna Margaretha Müller (?-1781)
Name Birth Death Joined with
Rebecca Weiser (?-?)

Offspring of Johann Conrad Weiser and unknown parent
Name Birth Death Joined with
Johann Friederich Weiser (1714-1769)

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Weiser, Clement Zwingli, The life of (John) Conrad Weiser, the German pioneer, patriot, and patron of two races, D. Miller, pp. 12–30, http://books.google.com/books?id=V3YCau5dKIsC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false, retrieved November 5, 2009 
  2. ^ New Jersey Historical Commission, Birkner, Michael J.; Stellhorn, Paul A., eds., The Governors of New Jersey, 1664-1974, Book-Mart Press, Inc., pp. 44–46, http://www.njstatelib.org/NJ_Information/Digital_Collections/Governors_of_New_Jersey/GHUNT.pdf, retrieved November 5, 2009 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Bittinger, Lucy Forney, The Germans in colonial times, J.B. Lippincott Co., pp. 82–88, http://books.google.com/books?id=X8hEAAAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false, retrieved November 14, 2009 
  4. ^ a b c d e f McDougall, Walter A., Freedom just around the corner: a new American history, 1585-1828, HarperCollins, pp. 82–88, http://books.google.com/books?id=Xt6GXVZxz0gC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false, retrieved January 8, 2010 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h John Conrad Weiser Family Association, The Weiser family : a genealogy of the family of John Conrad Weiser, the elder 
  6. ^ a b c Walton, Joseph Solomon, Conrad Weiser and the Indian policy of colonial Pennsylvania, George W. Jacobs & Co., pp. 10, 14–15, http://books.google.com/books?id=ulUsAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false, retrieved November 5, 2009 
  7. ^ a b c Otterness, Philip, Becoming German: the 1709 Palatine migration to New York, Cornell University Press, http://books.google.com/books?id=e17IQ9aFkJwC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_navlinks_s#v=onepage&q=&f=false, retrieved January 8, 2010 
8. Collections of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania



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