Historical Markers
Conrad Weiser Historical Marker
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Conrad Weiser

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
US 422, Weiser Homestead, E of Womelsdorf

Dedication Date:
April 29, 1947

Behind the Marker

"Brother . . . Let us keep up true Corrispondence and always hear of one another."

-Indian speech to Conrad Weiser, September 19, 1748

Conrad Weiser Homestead, Womelsdorf, PA.
Conrad Weiser Homestead, Womelsdorf, PA.

Keeping a "true Corrispondence" between Indians and colonists in colonial Pennsylvania required skilled negotiators, and on the colonial side of the fence, there was no one better than Conrad Weiser. For thirty years, Weiser served as Pennsylvania's Indian agent and interpreter, traversing the province (and in some cases going far beyond it) to deliver wampum, speeches, and presents. In the diplomatic idiom of the day, "paths" were lines of communication between towns and villages that needed to be kept open, so that a "true Corrispondence" could prevent misunderstandings and disputes from leading to war. Weiser's job was to keep those paths open and clear.

Intercultural negotiators such as Weiser had to be able to do much more than simply speak the other side's language. They had to be physically fit enough to endure long journeys under trying circumstances, brave enough to venture among strangers who might be hostile, and adept enough at native customs so as to speak with comfort and authority before their audiences.

The unique circumstances of Weiser's early life gave him these qualities. Born in Germany in 1696, he came to North America as a teenager in the Palatine German migration to New York. His family settled in the Schoharie Valley, where Weiser briefly lived among the local Mohawks, learned their language, and was adopted into a Mohawk family. These connections proved invaluable to Weiser during his many subsequent diplomatic missions among the Iroquois.

At the age of twenty-three, Weiser married German-born Anna Eve and together they began to raise a family. In 1729 the Weisers moved with several other Palatine families into Pennsylvania's Tulpehocken Valley. Settling near present-day Womelsdorf, Weiser began his three life-long occupations as a community leader, spiritual seeker, and frontier diplomat. Soon after settling on his 200-acre farm Weiser became a justice of the peace.
Chiefs from the Six Nations Reserve at Brantford, Ontario, reading Wampum belts.
Chiefs from the Six Nations Reserve at Brantford, Ontario, reading Wampum belts,...

In 1731, he began a personal quest for spiritual fulfillment. Although raised a Lutheran, he visited German mystic religious leader Conrad Beissel at markerEphrata. Moved by his preaching, Weiser was baptized in 1735 and then joined the celibate order. Soon, his wife also joined the cloister, but their stay at Ephrata was short. Weiser left the order in 1737, but continued his personal religious mission for the next twenty-five years.

By 1731, Weiser had met an Oneida headman, markerShickellamy, while working on behalf of the Pennsylvania government as an Indian interpreter. The following year, when Shickellamy led a group of Oneida to Philadelphia to meet with the governor, Weiser accompanied him as a translator. Provincial authorities in Philadelphia and Iroquois leaders were so impressed with Shickellamy and Weiser that both sides agreed to use them as their permanent ambassadors.

In his capacity as diplomat for Pennsylvania, Weiser undertook numerous diplomatic missions to the most powerful Indian confederation in the colonies. As an adopted Mohawk, he fully understood Iroquoian customs. In his first journey to Onondaga in 1737 his participation in traditional rituals laid the groundwork for further negotiations, peaceful coexistence and a solid working relationship that endured for decades.

Like his Indian counterparts Shickellamy andmarkerMoses Tunda Tatamy, Weiser had a reputation for honesty that greatly aided his work, and Indians respected his participation in their councils. When tempers flared between Indians and colonists in Pennsylvania because of trade disputes, land frauds, or violence, Weiser's timely intervention helped smooth the waters and restore a "true Corrispondence" between the aggrieved parties. Some of his most important diplomatic work facilitated relations between the Iroquois peoples he had gotten to know as a youth and the governments of Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. With Shickellamy, he traveled the paths between Philadelphia, Lancaster, Shamokin, and Onondaga on numerous occasions. He also helped open the diplomatic path between Philadelphia and themarker Indians of the Ohio Country during the late 1740s.

At the Albany Treaty Conference in 1754, Weiser helped convince the Iroquois to sell all of western Pennsylvania to the Penn family. John and Thomas Penn rewarded Weiser for his loyal service to the colony with a large tract of land on the Susquehanna River. In serving their own best interests, however, the Penns, Weiser, and the Iroquois often ignored the interests of the Delaware and other Pennsylvania Indians.

By the mid-1750s, many descendants of the people who had welcomed William Penn into their country were angry with Penn's successors. In various treaties, negotiated in part by Weiser, Pennsylvania and the Iroquois had deprived them of vast tracts of land and pushed them west, far away from their home in the Delaware Valley. Anger over this dispossession turned to hostility during the French and Indian War, when Delaware warriors were among the first to attack and kill Pennsylvania settlers along the colonial northern and western frontier.

During the war, Weiser continued to work as an interpreter, but his sympathies clearly rested with his colonial neighbors rather than his Indian associates. He accepted a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania militia and spent the last four years of his life maintaining a defensive line between the Susquehanna and Delaware rivers. He died on July 13, 1760, and with him passed an age of intercultural negotiation for one of violence and dispossession.

Today Weiser's home, farm and gravesite are a park maintained by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Conrad Weiser State Forest is also named in his honor.
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