Features appear in each issue of Pennsylvania Heritage showcasing a variety of subjects from various periods and geographic locations in Pennsylvania.

More than any other, Conrad Weiser (1696-1760) captured the imagination of the Pennsylvania German community during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a time when its leaders asserted its right to be considered a major participant in the building of America. The veneration he was accorded led to the creation in 1923 of the historic park bearing his name and interpreting his various contributions. Located just east of Womelsdorf in Berks County, and administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC), the Conrad Weiser Homestead is both a memorial to the colonial leader and an evocative example of the early historic preservation movement in the United States.

Conrad Weiser is, perhaps, the most complex – and misunderstood – individual in the history of colonial Pennsylvania. Because autumn marks the three hundredth anniversary of his birth, his role in Pennsylvania – and American – history deserves reappraisal. Known to the Iroquois as Tarachiawagon or “Holder of the Heavens,” and addressed as “Honest Conrad” by the family of founder William Penn, Weiser was a farmer, and interpreter of Native American languages, a diplomat, a soldier, a magistrate, a lay religious leader, an entrepreneur, and a loyal and highly rewarded associate of the Proprietary government.

He was involved in the onset of the French and Indian War and, subsequently, in bringing it to a successful outcome for the British Empire and its American subjects. As a mediator between the Native Americans of the Mid-Atlantic region and the governments of several colonies, Weiser contributed significantly to winning the Appalachian frontier and the Ohio Valley for settlement. Actions he took in his official capacity during this era of frontier expansion and Indian retreat, compared with his personal beliefs, suggest a plethora of puzzling contradictions. He was known early on for his Christian spirituality and was throughout his life a friend of Indians, but he emerged as one of the architects of schemes that forsook the policies of William Penn and the first generation of Quaker colonists for a program of insidious, covert, and manipulative aggression.

Born November 2, 1696, in the village of Affstat in the duchy of Württemberg, Germany, he arrived in America with his father Johann Conrad Weiser in 1710, joining at first the Esopus Settlement (near present-day Kingston) in New York’s Hudson Valley. Two years later the Weisers joined fellow Esopus Germans moving northward to the settlement of Schoharie in the Mohawk Valley.

An intensely significant event in Weiser’s life occurred when he was sixteen years old. In winter and spring of 1712-1713, he lived in a village of Mohawks, a constituent tribe of the Iroquois Confederacy known as the Six Nations. He stayed as a guest with the family of Quaynant, a Mohawk chief who had become fond of him, and before the end of his sojourn he was adopted into the family of Quaynant’s wife. Evidently endowed with a facility for absorbing languages, Weiser learned to speak Iroquoian fluently, began to understand Native American culture (unusual among European settlers), and initiated lasting friendships. He was profoundly impressed by the Iroquois emphasis on truthfulness and courage. And so was set the course that would eventually place Conrad Weiser in the forefront of relations between the Iroquois and the colonists.

He married Anna Eve Feck in 1720, and they eventually had fourteen children. Nine years later he left Schoharie for Pennsylvania’s lush and fertile Tulpehocken Valley, a frontier settlement which had been occupied by Germans migrating from New York beginning in 1723. At the site now preserved and interpreted by the PHMC as the Conrad Weiser Homestead, he and his wife and their children gradually developed a prosperous farming operation. He built a tannery and engaged in surveying. Like many prospering farmers and tradesmen, he began to speculate in land. His investments in property became extensive as his association with the Proprietary government gave him opportunities to acquire valuable land.

During his early years in the Tulpehocken Valley, Weiser devoted himself as much to his spiritual life as to the building of his family’s economic stability. Not long after arriving, he accepted the responsibility of lay reader and schoolmaster for the fledgling German Lutheran congregation. He conducted simple reading services for his neighbors on Sundays and catechized their children, typifying the experience of most Pennsylvania German rural congregations during the eighteenth century.

Weiser’s life on his frontier farm was interrupted in 1731 when Shikellamy, a chieftain of the Oneida (one of the Iroquois nations), engaged him to serve as interpreter. He accompanied Shikellamy to Philadelphia for negotiations with Proprietary officials led by James Logan, chief justice of the province’s Supreme Court, provincial secretary, and the Penn family’s factotum in Pennsylvania. Weiser’s linguistic abilities immediately attracted the influential Logan’s attention.

In 1734, Weiser began experiencing a profound spiritual upheaval. He became captivated by the charismatic Conrad Beissel, the German Seventh Day Baptist preacher and mystic who, the year before, had established a monastic settlement, Ephrata Cloister, in the Cocalico Valley. Beissel frequently traveled about the countryside, spreading his message of the need to separate oneself from the world of the flesh. In spring 1735, Weiser and several Tulpehocken Valley residents submitted to Beissel’s baptism, a ritual they followed by burning their Lutheran devotional texts. After several months of wrangling with fellow parishioners, Weiser abandoned his attempt to establish a Beisselite congregation in the Tulpehocken Valley; he left his homestead and took his wife to Ephrata Cloister.

Weiser lived at Ephrata, where he was known as Brother Enoch, for six years, but Anna Eve, who also converted, stayed only a few months. She returned to the Tulpehocken Valley, retrieved their children from temporary homes and reorganized the farmstead. Weiser’s stay at Ephrata was punctuated by frequent visits to his wife, resulting in the birth of four children. His final departure from Ephrata in 1741 was brought on by his growing disgust with the egotism of Beissel and his inner circle. His return to the outside world was facilitated, morerover, by an opportunity proffered by the Proprietary government. Its offer was prompted by his excellent service as Pennsylvania’s interpreter in negotiations with the Iroquois in 1736 and 1737, for which he had taken leave from Ephrata.

Proprietary officials in 1741 offered Weiser the post of local justice of the peace for Tulpehocken, although he was most likely enticed by the promise of additional special assignments which could bring special rewards. Justice of the peace was the most powerful office in the local or county governmental system of colonial Pennsylvania. Operating independently in their loosely defined districts, these magistrates exercised a wide variety of functions. The justices directed the activities of other county officers such as the elected sheriff and county commissioners, and acting as judges, heard civil suits and criminal misdemeanor cases. Chosen by the governor from among individuals of local standing and prosperity, justices made money by charging fees for issuing licenses, certifying deeds, and performing marriages. Weiser served as a justice of the peace until his death, first in Lancaster County, and in Berks County after its creation in 1752.

He entered the world of politics in 1741, in the midst of a developing division among the province’s political forces. The two factions striving for control of the Pennsylvania legislative assembly, which held the purse of the province – and funded major undertakings – were the Proprietary Party and the Quaker Party. (Called “parties” by historians for the sake of convenience, neither grouping truly represented a political organization in the modern sense.) They competed in assembly elections from 1739 through 1765, a period during which the creation and implementation of an appropriate policy for the defense of the province against the threat posed by the French in Canada, and the Indian tribes allied to the French, were of extreme import.

British imperial forces and their American colonial allies waged war against Spain (aligned with the French during this era) in the War of Jenkins’ Ear, from 1739 to 1742; against France in King George’s War, from 1744 to 1748; and again against the French, in the French and Indian War, between 1754 and 1763. Only in the final great conflict was Pennsylvania assaulted directly. The Proprietary Party demanded a strong defense beginning in 1739, while the Quaker Party, seeking to keep the province’s policies in accord with the peaceful principles of the Society of Friends, favored diplomacy with the Indian tribes and the least number of defense measures that the British imperial government would be willing to accept. The Quaker Party managed to retain its sway over the assembly throughout the period, although during the bloody war years of the 1750s, it was forced to concede to the building of frontier forts, the raising of provincial troops, and the levying of necessary taxes.

Conrad Weiser was thoroughly attuned to the attitude of his Proprietary patrons. In an action clearly expected of him by government leaders, he threw himself into the campaign for the October 1741 elections to the provincial assembly. He did not run for delegate himself but encouraged support among German-speaking citizens for the candidates friendly to the Proprietary interest. Weiser wrote a pamphlet urging fellow Germans to support the Proprietary Party for the sake of strong defense. Although widely respected by his countrymen in Pennsylvania, he failed to generate much support. He attempted to raise backing for the Proprietary Party among fellow Germans throughout his remaining years, but with much the same result. Disgruntled German settlers gravitated to the Quaker Party when the provincial government failed to fend off Indian raids. When Weiser ran for representative from Lancaster County in 1747 – the only German in the province to stand for election to the assembly in his lifetime – he garnered four hundred votes but was roundly defeated.

After leaving Ephrata Cloister, Weiser returned to the Lutheran fold. Although he did not again occupy a position in the church, he did monitor its affairs, an interest that was strengthened when his daughter Anna Maria married, in 1745, the promising Lutheran minister Henry Melchior Muhlenberg (1711-1787). He broadened his business and political involvements beyond his farm and tannery, the duties of his magistracy, and his activities as Indian agent. By 1746, had entered mercantile pursuits, acting for a few years as a junior partner with ironmaster John Potts of Pottsgrove (now Pottstown in Montgomery County). Potts shipped rum, tobacco, molasses, nails, and a variety of petty goods to the Tulpehocken Valley, where Weiser sold them at his homestead. Weiser also served as Pott’s bill collector in the Tulpehocken Valley vicinity.

In 1748, the Proprietors decided to establish the settlement of Reading on the Schuylkill River to serve as the seat of county government when Berks County would be formally organized four years later. On the advice of Provincial Secretary Richard Peters, Thomas Penn appointed Weiser as head commissioner for the laying out of Reading, for the sale of its lots, and for the supervision of its initial development, a task he carried out until 1753. In 1751, Weiser built the first house in Reading, located prominently on the central square, to serve as his residence. He began to divide time between the Tulpehocken Valley and Reading, where he opened a store.

Effective as head commissioner, Conrad Weiser was best known for other duties, particularly as a diplomat for Pennsylvania and other provincial governments in negotiations with the Native Americans. He emerged as a central figure in the arena of relations between the Indians and settlers of the Mid-Atlantic region because of his friendship with the Iroquois, his language skills, and his appreciation of Native American culture. Although the Six Nations were concentrated in central and western New York in the 1730s and 1740s, they held the key to the extensive areas of Pennsylvania still occupied by other Indian peoples, largely the Lenape, or Delaware, and the Shawnee. In an arrangement known as the Covenant Chain, the Delaware and Shawnee lived as tributary nations to the Iroquois Confederacy. This status guaranteed Iroquois protection, but the tributary nations were forced to exercise discretion in their relations with people outside the Confederacy’s dominion for fear of provoking the ire of the Six Nations.

When Conrad Weiser took leave from Ephrata in 1736 to act as interpreter for the government in its deliberations with the Iroquois, Chief Justice James Logan had been dismissed as provincial secretary by William Penn’s sons. The Penn brothers discovered that Logan had benefited more from Land Office affairs than they had, yet they trusted him to supervise Indian affairs. Logan initiated a series of moves that resulted in a major coup for province in the area of Indian relations. Meeting in Philadelphia, the parties concluded an important agreement for the comprehensive and final purchase of the lower Susquehanna Valley. The simple fact that a number of purchases for some of the same land were ignored – transactions for which tributary peoples had already been paid – pleased the Iroquois. Weiser returned with the Iroquois delegation as far as Shamokin (the vicinity of present-day Sunbury in Northumberland County), located at the great fork of the Susquehanna River, where Shikellamy resided in his capacity as an Iroquois tribune superintending the fealty of the Lenape and Shawnee to the Confederacy.

Weiser undertook negotiations that underscored Logan’s goals. He had originally entered the service of diplomacy in 1731 at the behest of Shikellamy, but within five years he began working for the Proprietors. Although he reported that the bargaining “went hard,” the arrangement in which Pennsylvania would recognize the Six Nations as the sole tribal entity entitled to negotiate with the provincial government. No longer would government leaders deal with the Lenape or Shawnee as in the past. Both the Iroquois and the provincial government won enhanced status. In earlier decades, the tributary Indians occupying Pennsylvania territory had become intractable about land purchases in the face of increasing European settlement. Now the Iroquois would apply pressure to guarantee Lenape and Shawnee acquiescence, and Pennsylvania would become as important a client of the Six Nations as New York. For their part, the Iroquois were to receive financial gains, as well as assistance from Pennsylvania in persuading Maryland and Virginia to recognize the Six Nations as the true owners of land, claimed by the Iroquois under right of conquest, that lay within the territory of the two provinces. (Weiser presided as interpreter at the 1744 conference in Lancaster during which Maryland and Virginia gave the long-awaited recognition of Iroquois sovereignty over designated areas. Canasatego and Iroquois leaders departed Lancaster pleased with the large sum the Six Nations had been paid for the deed they had made to Virginia. But Weiser had not fully explained the terms of the bargain to Canasatego. The deed renounced the Iroquois claim to land within the region assigned to the colony of Virginia under its royal charter. The royal right conferred to the Old Dominion what is now southwestern Pennsylvania, most of Ohio, and a vast territory beyond.)

After the negotiations concluded, Weiser set about obtaining Iroquois compliance with a major purchase of Lenape land in the upper Delaware Valley region, which would be the first major demonstration of the new relationship. The land did not fall within the area that the Iroquois claimed as their sphere of sovereignty, and the Six Nations leaders were at first reluctant. Nevertheless, Weiser prevailed. The Iroquois’ compliance remained secret while Logan and Thomas Penn conducted their negotiations with Lenape leaders for the Walking Purchase of 1737. In fact, the land agreement remained unknown for more than five years. Logan and Penn persuaded Lenape chief Nutimus and company that more land – as far as a man could walk in a day and a half – was still owed to the Proprietors under terms sealed in the lifetime of William Penn, a friend to the Lenape. Thomas Penn, however, did not uphold his father’s ideals. Upon the Lenape leaders’ acquiescence, Logan and Penn unleashed a team of specially trained endurance runners and acquired, absolutely free, a tract vastly larger than the Native Americans had expected (see “A Walk of Injustice” by Peggy Robbins in the Summer 1988 edition).

During winter 1737, Weiser again absented himself from Ephrata Cloister at Logan’s bidding. As they had promised the Iroquois, the Pennsylvania officials began making overtures to Maryland and Virginia. Pennsylvania’s relations with the Iroquois could prove beneficial to Virginia’s interest at this time. A generations-old conflict between the Iroquois and the Catawba, who inhabited southwestern Virginia and western North Carolina, had erupted once more. Settlers had begun moving into the Shenandoah Valley, a veritable highway for Indian traffic, and Virginia’s leaders grew concerned about the threat of violent confrontations between settlers and traveling Iroquois war parties. They feared that any hostilities would precipitate full-scale war between Virginia and the Six Nations. Logan dispatched Weiser on the first of five journeys to Onondaga, the Oneida settlement where the Six Nations conducted meetings of its Grand Council, to carry Virginia’s entreaties for peace.

Weiser traveled from the Tulpehocken Valley to Shamokin, and from there, with Shikellamy as escort, they and their entourage reached Onodaga in six weeks. The Grand Council declared a unilateral truce with the Catawbas, allowing Virginia to serve as intermediary for negotiations. Impressed and moved by his endeavors, the Six Nations conferred upon Weiser the appellation Tarachiawagon, or “Holder of the Heavens,” to honor him as an upholder of peace among nations.

The “Holder of the Heavens” again participated in negotiations in 1742. Recognized as a Proprietary associate, Weiser was in Philadelphia as an interpreter when Lenape leaders Nutimus and Teedyuscung confronted Pennsylvania officials in the presence of the Iroquois headman Canasatego and several Iroquois chiefs. The Lenapes, trusting their Iroquois protectors, were angered by the Walking Purchase of 1737 and sought partial retraction. During the conference, Lenape leaders turned to the Iroquois for support. Canasatego peremptorily ordered the Lenape to vacate the upper Delaware Valley. The Iroquois chiefs humiliated Nutimus and his peers, grabbing their hair and violently shaking them to make all present aware of their diminished stature.

The partnership Weiser had helped forge between the Proprietary and the Iroquois proved to be enormously beneficial to the government. The Iroquois, however, had undercut their own position, and the scene had been set for Pennsylvania’s bloodiest frontier warfare. Increasingly prepared to forsake the Covenant Chain with the Iroquois, and pushed into the Ohio Valley region of western Pennsylvania, both the Lenapes and the Shawnees would ally with the French.

In 1748, Conrad Weiser shifted the focus of his contact with Native Americans from northward, toward Onodaga, to westward, through and beyond the great Ohio Valley. His loyalties lay squarely with Pennsylvania and its Proprietors, and he and his Philadelphia associates realized that Virginia had bested them at Lancaster four years earlier. At the conclusion of the Lancaster conference, influential Virginians led by Thomas Lee had begun planning the development of the Ohio territory, and organized the Ohio Company of Virginia in 1747. Principals of the Ohio Company repeatedly asked Weiser to act as their chief agent to the Native Americans. Weiser stalled the Virginians while he gathered information about plans for their enterprise, which he dutifully relayed to Philadelphia.

He traveled into the Ohio Valley to investigate the situation of the Native Americans. The Covenant Chain was acceded to, if with little enthusiasm, by the Lenape, the Shawnee and also the Miami or Twightwee people, a large tribe concentrated in the eastern portion of present-day Ohio. Weiser presented himself to Tanaghrisson, a Seneca chief who served as the Six Nations’ tribune for the region, who lived in the Indian town of Logstown (present-day Ambridge, northwest of Pittsburgh, in Beaver County). Shikellamy had died the year before, and the new tribune had been sent west to follow the migration of Indian population. A treaty of friendship, concluded at Logstown between the Pennsylvania government and the Iroquois and their Ohio Valley tributaries, was considered a direct blow against the French in the region. This agreement incited the French, who quickly redoubled their diplomatic efforts, introduced troops, and built forts in the area to preempt Anglo-American expansion.

Despite the pact at Logstown, Weiser realized that Iroquois power over the Ohio Valley’s peoples was tenuous at best. He believed the disgruntled tributary tribes too strong and too influenced by the French for the Iroquois to intimidate. He recommended that Pennsylvania reverse its policy of 1736 and recognize the right of the Lenape to negotiate without Iroquois intermediaries. On his final visit to Onondaga in 1750, his conviction that the alliance with the Six Nations had degenerated irreparably deepened. Canasatego, always pro-British and pro-Pennsylvania, had recently died. Circumstances indicated that he had been murdered by Iroquois leaders favoring the French. His replacement as headman of the Six Nations, Tohaswuchdioony, was a convert to Roman Catholicism and decidedly pro-French. Apart from the Mohawk nation, most of the Iroquois Confederacy appeared to be shifting its allegiance to France.

In early summer 1754, while Colonel George Washington and his Virginia troops were conducting the opening (but unsuccessful) campaign of the French and Indian War in the Ohio Valley, Weiser served as a member of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Albany Congress. A convocation of Iroquois leaders and representatives from seven British colonies was called by the crown. Keenly aware of the imminence of war, London had demanded a final effort to keep the Iroquois on the British side. Its proceedings were characterized by divisive internal wrangling on both sides. Before it disbanded, the congress deteriorated, and individual colonies made whatever deals they were able with the Iroquois. The most successful of these pacts was made for Pennsylvania by none other than Conrad Weiser, “Holder of the Heavens.” He persuaded several chieftains, individuals not entitled to act for the Grand Council of the Six Nations, to convey a deed for land that amounted to nearly all of the unpurchased territory of present-day Pennsylvania. This included the area in southwestern Pennsylvania the Virginians believed their colony had acquired. The Proprietary government finally held a document with which to thwart Virginia’s expansion.

In July 1755, the ambush of General Edward Braddock’s forces, enroute to attack the French at Fort Duquesne (located in what is today Pittsburgh), broke like a thunderclap over frontier Pennsylvania (see “Forts at the Forks: Frontier History Comes to Life at the Fort Pitt Museum” by Jane Ockershausen in the Spring 1996 edition). October marked the beginning of two years of frequent attacks along the fringe of settlement in the province by Shawnee and Lenape raiding parties. Weiser immediately took charge of inhabitants of the Tulpehocken Valley who had armed for defense and organized a volunteer militia. His volunteers patrolled the area, while others stood ready to pursue raiders. Few Indians were apprehended, but his guidance succeeded in limiting panic.

The provincial assembly resolved to raise regular troops, which eventually numbered three battalions. Commissioned lieutenant colonel in command of the First Battalion in 1756, Weiser supervised troops in building and manning a chain of small forts located along his section of the frontier, from the Delaware River to the Susquehanna River. He also employed counter-raid tactics similar to those that his militia had performed. Worn out by the labor and by the criticisms of some highly placed – and, perhaps, envious – individuals, he resigned in early 1758.

Following his resignation from the army, one final triumph in Indian relations awaited Conrad Weiser. During the Easton conference held in the autumn of 1758, attended by the Pennsylvania government, the Iroquois and various Native Americans, he helped hold the initially fractious meeting together. The negotiations persuaded Native Americans of the Ohio Valley to withdraw their allegiance from the French. Not long after, deprived of essential Indian support, the French demolished Fort Duquesne and withdrew. Less than two years after the momentous Easton conference, Weiser passed away at his farmstead on July 13, 1760.

In reexamining the history of the relations between the Native Americans and white settlers, historians may be tempted to dismiss Conrad Weiser as an opportunist. Weiser may have seen himself as agent of an inevitable expansion of European settlement, one who was attaining the best possible conditions to guarantee the existence of Native American society. His caution to son-in-law Henry Melchior Muhlenberg about the limited potential for christianization of Indian society suggests a sympathetic outlook toward the Native American situation. Weiser, noted Muhlenberg in his journal, had found Indians to have “deeply rooted prejudice and secret mistrust [of] the white people as a whole.”

Weiser’s relationship to Pennsylvania German society and culture, including his role as one who appears to have sought to mediate between his community and Anglo-American society, is particularly intriguing. As an agent for the Proprietary interest, Weiser seems to have allied himself with the force that would ultimately prove the most powerful – the expanding, encroaching English-speaking world. But it is important to note that his intended role is also interpreted as having been to lead the Pennsylvania German people to accommodate English-speaking settlers for the sake of their own success. He certainly had made accommodations, as well as sacrifices, by living in a province dominated by the British. Weiser likely believed that if German-speaking people were to thrive in the New World, they must assimilate in some degree to Anglo-American culture.

For one whose influence on American history and whose personal achievements resonate deeply, the Conrad Weiser Homestead is, indeed, a fitting testimonial. With its twenty-six acres of pristine land carved out of Weiser’s original two hundred acre tract and punctuated by a mirror pond, picturesque vistas, statuary and, of course, the original early eighteenth century residence, the historic site captivates visitors with its distinctive colonial era character.

Built in 1729 by Weiser upon his arrival in the Tulpehocken Valley, the native limestone house was restored in the 1920s and 1930s in the popular colonial revival style of the day. The house includes the original section – one room with gable fireplace and bake oven, and a second room, added in 1750. A spinning wheel for flax and ordinary metal – worked plates and cups reflect the simplicity of frontier living and glow with a quiet sense of the past. The charming spring house, also used as a bake house, is the only other building dating from the Conrad Weiser era. A family burial plot behind the house serves as the final resting place for Conrad and Anna Eve Weiser. Seven of their children who died in early youth, as well as several Iroquois negotiators, are believed to be interred in the plot.

The landscape of the Conrad Weiser Homestead is unforgettable. Designed by the brilliant landscape architects, brothers Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. and John Charles Olmsted, the park-like setting features walking and hiking paths, a pond, groves, meadows and a gazebo which offers a sweeping view of the grounds. (Their father and stepfather, Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., designed New York’s Central Park, the campus of Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and various municipal settings.) Originally placed in 1903 in the center square of nearby Womelsdorf by the Patriotic Order Sons of America, a monument to Weiser was moved to the homestead park in 1928. Also prominently placed on the grounds is a dramatic rendition of Iroquois chief Shikellamy, whom Weiser befriended and with whom he traveled through the frontier wilderness to keep peace. A commodious farmhouse, with a European-style floor plan, was erected by John Sheetz who purchased the property nearly three-quarters of a century after Weiser’s death.

The Conrad Weiser Homestead, with its controlled drama, simplicity, and beauty, exemplifies the life and times of an unusual and provocative figure of pre-Revolutionary America and creates for visitors today a personal sense of his unique place in history.

Administered by the PHMC, with support from the Friends of the Conrad Weiser Homestead, the historic site is planning a number of special activities and events to celebrate the three hun­dredth anniversary of the birth of the colonial era diplomat who mediated peace between Pennsylvania and the powerful Iroquois Nation during the first half of the eighteenth century. For additional information about these programs, as well as hours of operation and traveling directions, write: Conrad Weiser Homestead, 28 Weiser Road, Womelsdorf, PA 19567-9718; or telephone (610)589-2934. Individuals with disabili­ties or who need special assistance or accommodation should telephone or write the historic site in advance of their visit to discuss their needs. Persons who are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired who wish to contact a hearing person via Text Telephone may use the PA Relay Center at (800) 654-5984. There is a charge for admission.

Nearly two dozen historical organizations, cultural institutions, and visitors attractions are located throughout Berks County. The nearby Daniel Boone Homestead, Birdsboro, also administered by the PHMC, not only interprets the lives of the pioneering family, but compares and contrasts the ways of life of different cultures in eighteenth century rural Pennsylvania. In Reading, the Historical Society of Berks County, founded in 1869, preserves and presents county and regional history and heritage through permanent and changing exhibits. The Reading Public Museum collects, documents, and exhibits significant works of art, artifacts, and objects, in addition to offering a wide range of cultural programs. Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, Elverson, once an important ironmaking community, has been painstakingly restored to its circa 1840 appearance and offers visitors a glimpse at a period iron furnace, workers’ homes, ironmaster’s mansion, and related buildings and structures. The Historic Joanna Furnace Plantation, operated by the Hay Creek Historical Society, is located in Geigertown.

Established in 1978, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles features an outstanding collection of vehicles manufactured, owned, or used in Berks County and vicinity. Located at the Reading Municipal Airport, the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum collects and exhibits aircraft and aviation-related objects and artifacts.

Additional information about historic sites and museums in Berks County is available by writing: Reading and Berks County Visitors Bureau, 352 Penn Street, Reading, PA 19602; or by telephoning (610) 375-4085 or (800) 443-6610.


For Further Reading

Doblin, Helga, and William A. Starna, eds. The Journals of Christian Daniel Claus and Conrad Weiser: A Journey to Onandaga, 1750. Philadelphia: The American Philosophical Society, 1994.

Graeff, Arthur D. Conrad Weiser, Pennsylvania Peacemaker. Allentown: Pennsylvania German Folklore Society, 1945.

Hunter, William A. Forts of the Pennsylvania Frontier, 1753-1758. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1960.

Neff, Larry M., and Frederick S. Weiser, eds. Conrad Weiser’s Account Book, 1746-1760. Breinigsville, Pa.: The Pennsylvania German Society, 1981.

Wallace, Paul A.W. Conrad Weiser, 1696-1760: Friend of Colonist and Mohawk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1945.

____. Indians in Pennsylvania. Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1993.


The editor wishes to thank James A. Lewars, historic site administrator of the Conrad Weiser Homestead, for reviewing this article prior to publication.


Philip E. Pendleton, born and raised in Berks County, resides in Baltimore, Maryland. He was educated at Washington and Lee University, and received his master of arts degree in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Employed as an architectural historian for a consulting firm, he has undertaken extensive surveys and intensive evaluations of individual properties in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and North Carolina, among others. His historical research addresses the social history of ante-bellum America. He is the author of Oley Valley Hermitage-The Colonial Years: 1700-1775, published by the Pennsylvania German Society in 1994.