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 both 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 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.
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 fifteen he
voluntarily decided to live amidst the Mohawk tribe of the
Iroquois. Conrad attained significant knowledge of the not
only 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 significance
of the use of Wampum in conducting matters of diplomacy with
Weiser moved to the Tulpehocken area in Pennsylvania in
1729, erecting a house upon 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
1730’s and 1740’s.
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 Colonial 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 Homestead
28 Weiser Lane
Womelsdorf, PA 19567
The site is administered by
PHMC and aided by the Friends of the Conrad Weiser
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