Author Topic: Peter Neuhart by Bob Smalser (Part 2)  (Read 13985 times)

Offline nord

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Peter Neuhart by Bob Smalser (Part 2)
« on: November 20, 2010, 06:23:18 PM »
Gunmaker Peter Newhard (Newhardt) (Neihardt) (1743-1813), Part II

An Early German Jaeger Rifle

The shorter, heavier-caliber rifles from which Pennsylvania rifles evolved.  This Gottschaulk rifle was converted from the original flintlock to percussion ignition later in its life.  Photo courtesy of Dr Fred Garner.

The austere and occasionally deadly conditions on the frontier required accuracy, light weight, ease of repair, and most of all, economy of use.  Gunpowder and lead were commodities to be carefully conserved.  Rifled barrels with cloth-patched balls were more efficient than smooth-bored guns because in addition to the increased accuracy of the spinning ball, they provided higher velocities per unit of powder because of the better gas seal, which in turn allowed for smaller bores that conserved both lead and powder.  Barrel length added velocity and precision by providing the powder more time to burn and by increasing the distance between the front and rear sights, thus lessening the impact of minor errors in sight alignment.  Accuracy was also aided by triggers having two positions, one with a normal-weight pull for short-range use under normal conditions, and one with a light or “hair” set for the best possible accuracy in making long-range shots under quiet conditions.  Barrels hammer-welded from soft iron bars wrapped around rod-shaped mandrels were relatively easy to ream and rifle using the minimum number of scarce hardened steel cutters, and when the rifling wore out could be reamed to a larger caliber and rifled a second or even a third time.  The tradeoffs were that each rifle required its own bullet mold that precluded the sharing of rifle balls, they were slower to load than smooth-bores by a factor of three, but in turn had three times the economy and six times the effective range.  That rifles originating in a small area of Germany as shorter, larger-bored weapons evolved as uniformly as they did into more specialized and efficient weapons up and down a thousand miles of primitive Appalachian frontier, remains a tribute to hundreds of unknown gunmakers capable of seeing a need, and meeting it with efficiency and economy.

A Flintlock Long Rifle Marked P. Newhardt

Moravians immigrated to Northampton County in 1740 and 1741 in groups sufficiently large they would have required some initial help to successfully overwinter on the frontier.  They still considered themselves part of the Lutheran denomination, and German Protestant churches generally cooperated well with each other in frontier communities, the different denominations even sharing buildings.  Moravians were evangelicals who later opened their schools to non-Moravian children on a cash tuition basis, and their boarding school at Nazareth would become well known for that practice.  Peter’s father by 1740 had log buildings up and a small crop in, and his land was on the route from Philadelphia to the Moravian holdings, so a connection was likely.  At Christian Springs Peter would have also come in contact with gunmaker Christian Oerter (1747-1777),who later took over as master there.  Working strongly against the possibility of non-Moravian boys studying under Albrecht or Oerter in the late 1750’s is that Moravian activities were generally well-documented, yet no such apprenticeship records exist.  Moravian “pay schools” open to outsiders didn’t come into being until almost three decades later, and during the period Peter was learning a trade, Moravian society remained relatively insular.  Further, the Moravians needed cash more than labor, and in the late 1750’s cash was scarce among subsistence farmers like the Newhards.  (Moravian Historical Society, Kettenburg)

Rifling Machine
The reamed barrel blank was clamped to its cradle, and a single cutter mounted on the far end of the rod was pulled through the barrel, guided by the spirals hand-carved into the wooden rifling guide.  Grooves in the bore were cut one at a time.

Another candidate for Peter’s master is William, the father of John (Johannes) Moll (1746-1794).  William Moll (1712-1780) was also a rifle maker and could have taught his son John and Peter together. 

“The father of John Moll I, whose name was William, was also a gunsmith, and plied his trade as early as 1747.  His great grandson William, has an heirloom descended from him, a device for cutting threads on screws, neatly made of iron, and bearing in plainly legible characters the inscription ‘April 10, 1747 – W.M.’  “ (Mathews and Hungerford p123-4, from what was probably a live interview of gunmaker William Henry Moll, 1829-1889.)

While none of William Moll’s work survives, and some students of the period doubt he ever existed, he left what may have been a rifling machine to his gunsmith descendants, so there is little doubt about his trade.(Note 4)  Not much else is known about William Moll, except that he died in Northampton County leaving assets to be distributed, his son John sold Berks County land and  a “smith” shop in 1763 then appeared on Allentown tax rolls for the first time as a gunmaker in 1764 (Note 5), and Moll genealogists believe they came from the branch of the Moll family who had immigrated in 1731 and settled in Montgomery and later Berks  Counties.  Not known is when the Molls first met the Newhards, but Peter and John were about the same age (Note 6), and as both families were Calvinist, they were likely members of the same or adjacent Reformed congregations. (Note 7) In the next generation, John Moll’s son John Moll II (1773-1834) would marry Peter’s niece, so the family relationship was close and longstanding.  Further, John Moll I’s later Allentown gunshop was swamped with wartime work at a time when he, Peter and other local gunsmiths also had militia duties between 1775 and 1781.  As Philadelphia was about to fall to the British in September 1777, Congress moved federal armory operations to Lancaster, Harrisburg and Allentown.  The archived reports from the “Allentown Factory”  (Note 8 )  show it to be a large operation  – “300 muskets will be ready by”…“800 muskets on hand”… “12,000 stands of arms” - are impressive quantities even today, especially in a town with only 54 buildings and a population of  300, two-thirds of them children.  The factory undoubtedly used as many skilled workers and subcontractors as it could find, including militiamen Moll, Peter Newhard, and probably also the joinery shop just blocks away owned by a fellow militiaman, Peter Newhard’s younger brother George “Jacob” Neuhard (1752-1835).  That may be the explanation for the references in old gun collector’s handbooks to “Allentown gunsmith Jacob Newhardt producing rifles circa 1770-1779”, because besides the armory work, if he were provided with locks and barrels, Jacob could easily have built and signed several rifles in his lifetime.   (Kastens Vol IV Moll Family Section pp11-59, pp111, 113, 246, 248, PA Archives Series 5 Vol II, Vol VIII, Kettenburg, Sipple  and Brent Wade Moll)

Last, Peter could have been almost entirely self-taught, as some students of the period report that his work is sufficiently different from that of Andreas Albrecht, John Moll and others to be somewhat unique.  Having a rifle to copy, and with critical parts like the rifled barrel, matching bullet mold and lock available for purchase then in Philadelphia along with sheet and cast brass, it is entirely possible a talented youngster with common woodworking tools and files could assemble rifles, progressing in sophistication with each project, and eventually manufacturing many of his own parts from raw materials. Working against that possibility is cost.  In the late 1750’s there wasn’t much cash around for buying expensive rifle parts in Philadelphia  to train a boy of unknown potential.  A traditional apprenticeship agreement where the boy traded his labor for upkeep and training was much more likely.  (Kettenburg)

There are also no formal records of who Peter taught gunmaking to.  As he eventually farmed 345 acres of land at Laury’s Station in addition to his gunmaking trade and did it with only one son who survived to adulthood (Note 9), he had a need for considerable outside labor.  That Peter married relatively young and quickly amassed property speak to the prosperity and skills of both he and his father, making him an attractive choice for parents arranging apprenticeships for their sons, especially later in life when his prosperity increased along with the eligibility of his five daughters.  His first wife died in childbirth, and his second wife embraced the surviving daughter from Peter’s first marriage and had six children of her own.  Family notes tell us that during the Revolutionary War, Peter was kept busy making guns, but he also served in the militia.   Northampton County Militia rosters of May, 1778 show a Peter Neihart in Captain John Morritz’s 4th Company of the 2d Battalion, a company that fought at the Battle of Brandywine the previous September.  Brothers Peter and Jacob and John Moll probably spent their militia drill and active-duty days working on guns rather than serving as line infantry, regardless of the presence of a local armory.  Militiamen initially supplied their own firelocks, and it would be a foolish company commander indeed to have skilled gunsmiths performing bayonet drill when he also had 150 finicky, farmer-owned flintlocks of various makes, vintages and conditions to bet his men's lives on, not to mention all his government-owned equipment.  Patriotism and resolve weren’t in short supply among these early Pennsylvania Germans - Peter’s 63-year-old father also served as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia during the war. (Gabel p25, Kastens Vol IV p111, the LDS Genealogical Library and PA Archives Series 5 Vol II, Vol VIII p48)

Peter must have had several apprentices before his nephew Conrad Newhard (1783-1853), and with so much acreage to farm, their duties likely included more than just gunmaking.  Conrad was raised near Peter in Whitehall Township, and later moved to Lehigh Township where records state he prospered as a farmer and gunsmith.  As his son Jonas (1805-1885) was exclusively a farmer and we don’t have any signed rifles to examine, it isn’t clear how large a role gunsmithing played in Conrad’s life.  There was also John George Kuntz (1734-1766), from a village in Alsace only twenty miles from Rumbach.  He married Peter’s older sister Elizabeth in the Newhard family church in 1755, and died at the young age of 32 after a long illness, leaving his 125-acre Berks County farm to Elizabeth.  With eight children, no husband, and the oldest son (of four sons) only age eight, Elizabeth needed help.  John George had at least three brothers farming small holdings, but they were further out in less developed areas that weren’t yet prosperous.  It’s likely that as soon as her younger children reached school age, Elizabeth sent them to live with her better-off relatives to ease the family’s burden.  Who else but her brother Peter could have taken in her third son David Kuntz (1764-1834) at such an early (and unproductive) age and later train him to a level where he would eventually become one of the best known gunmakers of the region?  David didn’t reach normal apprenticeship age until the war, and if Peter collaborated on wartime weapons work would have also come under the influence of Peter Newhard’s brother Jacob, John Moll, and perhaps Herman Rupp (1756-1831), who is thought to have apprenticed under Moll during the period. Also interesting is that there were family relationships between the Rupps and the later Schreckengost gunmakers of Western Pennsylvania.  (Kastens Vol IV pp111, 114, Kettenburg and the LDS Genealogical Library)

After the war, David’s younger cousin Jacob Kuntz (1780-1876) also grew up near Peter in Whitehall Township, and the families attended Egypt Reformed Church together.  Peter was 51 when Jacob reached apprentice age, and as by then David was working some distance away in Berks County at the time, Peter or John Moll I become logical choices for Jacob’s teacher.  Further, when Jacob moved to Philadelphia at age 30, he took Peter’s niece Mary with him as his wife.  Mary was the daughter of Allentown cabinetmaker and occasional gunmaker Jacob Neuhard mentioned in a previous paragraph, and marriage in Pietist culture means Kuntz was close to the family for a number of years, probably as either John Moll’s or Peter’s apprentice.  Kuntz could have even apprenticed under Jacob, making both furniture and guns, and changed to guns exclusively upon his move to Philadelphia.  Further, if Jacob apprenticed so successfully with Moll or the Newhards, where else would his younger brother Peter Kuntz (1782-unk) apprentice?  At the beginning of the Golden Age of Gunmaking from 1755 to 1820, Peter Newhard’s sister, daughter, and niece all married Kuntz men, and his younger cousin married John Moll II.  They shared identical German origins, an insular, Pietist culture, the hardships of building prosperous farms from primeval forests, danger from Indian attacks and war, and a love of craftsmanship.  The results were often exceptional.  This Jacob Kuntz flintlock in New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art was made between 1800 and 1815 and was donated by Wilfrid Wood in 1942.   (Kastens Vol IV pp111-114, Kettenburg, the LDS Genealogical Library and the MMA Collection Database)

The Jacob Kuntz Flintlock in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City

Nor does the story end with Peter Newhard.  His nephew and apprentice Conrad Newhard (1783-1853) prospered as a gunsmith in Lehigh Township, and younger cousin Elizabeth Newhard married Allentown gunmaker John Moll II (1773-1834). Together with the senior John Moll, Elizabeth and John II founded a line of noted gunsmiths that included…

…son John Moll III (1796-1883) of Allentown…
…sons Peter Moll (1799-1879) and David Moll (1807-1853) of Hellertown…
…son Nathan Moll (1814-1892) of Bucks County…
…grandsons William Henry Moll (1825-1889) and Josiah Daniel Moll  (1838-1873) of Allentown…
…grandsons Peter Moll II (1847-1883) and John Jacob Moll (1849-1909) of Hellertown…
…and grandson-in-law George Lee (1825-1880) of Hellertown.

A Later Moll Percussion Long Rifle

Bob Smalser, Christmas 2010, for his grandchildren.
 - Third cousin to Peter and Jacob Newhard, five generations removed.
 - Second cousin to John III, Peter, David and Nathan Moll, four generations removed.
 - Third cousin to William Henry and John Jacob Moll, three generations removed.
 - Fourth cousin to David Kuntz and Conrad Newhard, four generations removed.
 - In-law to William Moll, John Moll, Jacob Kuntz, Peter Kuntz, and George Lee.

« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 08:24:15 PM by Dennis Glazener »
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Offline Eric Kettenburg

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Re: Peter Neuhart by Bob Smalser (Part 2)
« Reply #1 on: November 28, 2010, 06:04:01 PM »
Hey I've been referenced!!!  :D

I don't know where those cherrytreefamily people got that article but I suspect they lifted it off one of my old websites; it has to date back at least 6-8 years, possibly more.  I would look at that as a preliminary view of the Lehigh area guys and not very well referenced.  The much lengthier notes on Neihart, Moll etc. - and what may have been going on at Allentown during the War as well as other stuff - which I now have posted on my sadly-neglected site are much more detailed and most importantly *referenced to first-hand documentation.*

Very nice article on Neihart, Mr. Smalser!  I know I appreciate seeing it as I have been particularly interested in the NH County area.  

If I may stick my nose in for a moment, I would be very hesitant to promote the notion of there being a gunmaker named "William Moll" as there remains no hard evidence at all.  The rifling screw 'signature' is not particularly well-recieved anymore as a verifiable proof of such an individual's existence.  Furthermore, there are a few modern print references to a record of William Moll in the NH County archival records, however neither I nor a researcher with whom I was working were able to find anything.  It may exist, or it may have existed, or it may not; at the moment it seems to be absent, which casts further doubt on the matter.   Earl Heffner's little "Moll Gunmakers" pamphlet was interesting but relied too heavily on oral speculation, and surviving documents do not support much of what he wrote regarding the earliest period (pre-Revolution).  It has proven almost impossible to track down the eldest of the Moll gunmakers, John I/Johannes, prior to the early 1760s, and frankly, given extant first-hand accounts of the time, it is likely there was no gun work of any import occurring in the Allentown area [outside of the Moravian enclave, which is an entirely different matter] prior to the tail end of the 1760s or early 1770s.  Currently, two of the best two leads I have seen for the origins of Johannes Moll have been the Berks Co. area near to the Angstadts (Bruce Moyer has some interesting information on this) or possibly a runaway apprentice of the famous silversmith Christopher Heyne.  Again, though, no firm documentation, so much remains speculative.

"I Moll" *is* Johannes Moll/John I.  There are two surviving gun barrels (since restocked), and possibly a complete original arm, which are heavily engraved "Iohannes Moll" in large block letters.  He may have changed his signature in the 1780s to a script "John Moll," although currently it is questionable as to who made the small number of signed John Moll rifles which appear to be the earliest.  Some are definitely John II or John III, given the styling and/or date (such as the Kindig swivel gun), but there are a few which may be the old man.

I would have serious reservations about suggesting that any of the non-Moravian gunmakers were trained by Albrecht/Oerter/others of the Moravian economy.  The non-Moravians certainly would have been aware of what the Moravians were doing, and may have copied their work if possessive of requisite talent, but all period evidence that I have seen (the Moravians wrote down everything, so there is plenty of it...) points to a very firm prohibition against the Moravian craftsmen taking "outside" apprentices into the shops at Bethlehem.  School education and farm labor was one thing, the teaching of a profitable trade quite another.  They would have been cutting their own economic throats.  Bob Lienemann would be THE guy to discuss this issue as his research skills are impeccable, he's devoted huge amounts of time to the Moravians and has always been willing to share freely, and I don't believe I've ever met someone more resistant to the dark charms of speculation than he!

Neihart's work really stands alone when compared to the Moll/Rupp pieces.  There are obvious similarities, given the geographic proximity and thus the fact that they were catering to the same market, but Peter's arms - or at the least his decorative style - have always led me to the belief that he was largely self-taught.  His decorative embellishments are much more "American" than the earliest of the Moll rifles, which are more formal.  Now this is pure speculation on my part.
« Last Edit: November 29, 2010, 06:36:42 PM by Eric Kettenburg »
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