Author Topic: Peter Neuhardt by Bob Smalser (part 1)  (Read 10241 times)

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Peter Neuhardt by Bob Smalser (part 1)
« on: December 14, 2010, 01:19:24 AM »
Gunmaker Peter Newhard (Newhardt) (Neihardt) (1743-1813)
The Moll-Newhard-Kuntz Triangle of Old Northampton County Gunmaking, including some Rupp-Schreckengost Family Relationships

Factors in the evolution of a regional craft style once had faces and names.  Here are a few of them from the point of view of a family member.

N.C. Wyeth, The Capture of Alice

It was December, 1755 on the Pennsylvania frontier, early in the French and Indian War, and Delaware Indians prodded by the Iroquois and the French were attacking and burning outlying farms and settlements.  In a scene reminiscent of James Fenimore Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans, 32-year-old German immigrant Johannes Sensinger and his 14-year-old brother Nicholas were killed on their Lehigh Township homestead when they stood and fought to cover the successful escape of eight family members to safety with distant neighbors.  The group included Johannes’ wife Magdalena and four children under five years old, one a newborn.  Others on the frontier didn’t fare as well.  Eleven Moravian missionaries to the Delaware were slain at Lehighton 20 miles to the north, with an additional Moravian woman dying in captivity.  Up and down the Appalachians, from two to five thousand settlers were killed or captured by Native American allies to France or (later) Britain between 1755 and 1780, and twice that number made refugees.  The last major incident in the Susquehanna-Lehigh area of Pennsylvania was the destruction of Wilkes Barre by Seneca Indians allied to the British in 1778, with a reported 227 scalps taken.  One of the last incidents in the Allentown area was in October, 1763.  Twenty three people were murdered and scalped, thirteen of them young children, after local friendly Lenape Delaware’s went on a ten-mile rampage after being robbed while staying at a local tavern.   The terror of these conflicts would impact family members for a generation and more, including gunmakers Andreas Albrecht, Peter Newhard, John Moll, David Kuntz, Jacob Kuntz, Herman Rupp and their immediate descendants.  Were the origins of Jacob Kuntz’s use of Indian head decorations on rifles the whimsical depictions currently described in contemporary references?  Or were the emotions darker?  The Sensingers had been members of his wife’s family. (Kastens Vol IV pp158-60, Klein pp25-28, the LDS Genealogical Library, Mickley, Stroh pp11-12, Fischer pp419-425, PAGCA)

Twenty years later when danger again threatened, a nephew of the slain Sensinger men, 16-year-old Philip Newhard (1759-1827) would be one of the first to enlist in Captain Smith’s Company of Colonel William Thompson’s Rifle Battalion.  Philip’s parents and six older siblings, ages three through eleven had been made refugees by the massacres of 1755, and their farm had been completely destroyed.  Philip walked over 90 miles to Harrisburg to enlist.  These frontiersmen weren’t militia, but one of the first regular units in George Washington’s new Continental Army, answering the call for “six companies of expert riflemen to be raised in Pennsylvania” after the Battles of Lexington and Concord.   As men were eager to join, Pennsylvania soon formed nine companies instead of the six requested, and the unit quickly grew into a regiment.  Philip’s company would serve as advance scouts and hunters for Colonel Benedict Arnold’s invasion force while attached to Captain Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen during the Quebec Campaign.  Morgan would go on to become the teamster-turned-Brigadier who made Tarleton and Cornwallis look like amateurs at The Battle of Cowpens. (Note 1)   Philip would survive the war to become a prosperous farmer in Allen Township near Kreidersville.  He and his wife Maria Rockel produced nine children and 43 grandchildren.  (Kastens Vol IV pp162-76, Henry JJ, and PA Archives Series 5 Vol II)

Uniforms of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment

A few months later Thompson’s Battalion evolved into the First Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and Philip’s cousin Christopher Neuhart (1729-1776) enlisted as a Private in Captain Henry Shade’s Company raised from men living in Northampton and Lehigh Counties.  He was killed in action during the Battle of Long Island that same year, probably while covering the withdrawal of General John Sullivan’s 1500-man Division from the high ground north of the village of Flatbush.  This was a delaying action which devolved into desperate hand-to-hand fighting between Sullivan’s small delaying force against 5000 Hessians under Lieutenant General Philip von Heister of Kassel.  Sullivan’s Division reached Brooklyn Heights as planned, but Sullivan himself was captured along with Christopher’s regimental commander, Colonel Samuel Miles, commander of the delaying force.  When word reached Christopher’s family that he had been killed, all four of his younger brothers enlisted en masse in the Northampton County Militia.  Courage breeds. (Adams, Kastens, Vol IV pp14-16, Klein pp18-25, and PA Archives 5 Vol II, Vol VIII)

A Delaying Force Makes a Stand

What Philip and Christopher had in common besides kinship is they were probably using rifles made by their cousin Peter Newhard (1743-1813) during those battles.  Rifle Regiment soldiers were required to own their own rifle and accoutrements, the rifle had to be well made to meet the required marksmanship standard, and the relationship between the three families was close.  Specifically recruited from frontier communities, riflemen served as scouts, snipers, couriers, hunters and skirmishers rather than line infantry, had to pass a skill test to enlist, and the regiment’s published marksmanship standard was consistent shot placement inside of seven inches at 250 yards, a feat impossible with smooth-bore military muskets and the common trade guns of the period.  Enlistments were for a one-year term of service.  (Kastens Vol IV pp111-195, Stroh pp13-21, and Valuska)

Morgan’s Riflemen, the detachment Philip’s company served under during the Quebec Campaign

Within only three weeks of forming, Thompson’s Battalion marched by company from Pennsylvania to Boston to join General Washington’s siege there, arriving between July 25th and August 18th, 1775.  The Lexington and Concord battles had occurred the previous April, and Bunker Hill in June.

“Rumor reached Boston about a peculiar kind of a musket called a ‘rifle’ which was carried by these new Continental soldiers from the South.   In August, Washington held a review of his troops on the Cambridge Common….  There were over a thousand riflemen there…spare, rangy men with the independent manner of the western wilderness. Uncouth they were in their fringed hunting shirts; their breech-clouts and snug-fitting buckskin leggings; wearing moccasins instead of shoes. There they stood, their gunstocks resting on the ground, one hand around the longest barrel anyone in Cambridge had ever seen.”

“A sergeant, far out in the Common, was just finishing supervising the setting of a row of poles, each averaging seven inches in diameter, into holes previously dug for this purpose. He then paced away from the poles….The sergeant stopped at two hundred and fifty paces and the men with the hunting shirts walked out to where he stood. Then they moved out into a rough line of companies…  The crowd watched them uproarious, it was an amusing game….No gun ever dreamed of could carry two hundred and fifty paces. The riflemen aimed, and… the shots hit the poles; they were destroyed before the firing stopped.”

“If there is a record of what the generals in Boston said when the British spies got back, it has not been found.  We know that Howe wrote home later about the ‘terrible guns of the rebels.’ We are told that Howe presently offered a reward for the capture of a rifleman with gun.” (Bolton, Klein pp7-15, Sawyer, Stroh pp19-20)

The Grave of Peter Newhard’s Father

The fathers of Philip, Christopher and Peter had immigrated together to Philadelphia from what is now the Rhineland Palatinate area of Germany on the border with France, as part of a large exodus from that region.  The land was still ravaged from a century of intermittent warfare and the disorganization that followed.  The population was crowding with refugees from war in Germany and religious persecution in Switzerland.  Minor noble landowners driven off by warfare had returned, and were reimposing tithes, rents and forced labor on villagers who had become accustomed to managing their own affairs.  With population increases, agriculture practices intensified, soils were becoming overworked, and the regional tradition of partible inheritances meant landholdings were becoming too small to support a family.   The most eager to leave were those possessing ambition combined with poor prospects in a society still hidebound by feudalism and guilds….often the youngest sons of youngest sons.  North America wasn’t the only option.  Russia and Hungary offered free transportation and attractive subsidies to German settlers, where America did not. What drew German villagers to America was clear title to land in large parcels.  In America, individual farmers often owned more land than an entire village of farmers shared with noble landowners in the Palatinate.  Partible inheritances also meant that emigrants kept in close touch with their home villages to eventually recover those inheritances, and the paths and pitfalls to fulfilling dreams of land ownership in America quickly became well known.  As a consequence, the Newhard family’s organization for travel and actions upon arrival weren’t happenstance.  (Fischer pp419, Fogelman pp15-28 and Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179)

Common Regional Origin
1)  Sensinger Family: Rosenwiller, Alsace
2)  Newhard Family: Rumbach, Palatinate (Note 2)
3)  Kuntz Family:  Niederbronn, Alsace
4)  Schmalzhaf (author’s) Family:  Bonfeld, Kraichgau
5)  Moll Family:  Weisenheim am Sand, Palatinate
7)  Schreckengost Family: Bad Berleberg, Westphalia

The fathers of Philip, Christopher and Peter were sufficiently close that passenger lists and court records describe them as brothers, when they were not.   Christopher’s father was the oldest and at 38 years, would become the patriarch of the Lehigh Valley Newhards.  His family accompanied him, including young Christopher.  Peter’s father was 24, was a second cousin, and was also accompanied by his young family, including a toddler named Elizabeth who later in life would become the mother of gunmaker David Kuntz (1764-1834). Philip’s father was a half brother and at 21 years, was single.  There was also a hidden nephew traveling as a member of the oldest Newhard’s family.  The journey began in May, 1737 on a riverboat traveling down the Rhine River though over twenty customs checkpoints to Rotterdam, followed by a long wait at the port and a longer sea voyage through Cowes, England along the northern passage to North America in crowded, often miserable conditions.  At least two Newhard children died during the voyage.  (Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179,  Kuhns, Henry M and the LDS Genealogical Library)

Henry Mayer’s 1738 contract for three years of indentured servitude to pay for his transportation expenses, signed with an X.

Arriving in late September, the three oldest Newhards swore allegiance to the King of England to acquire settlement rights on the frontier the following spring.  All had avoided being sold by the ship’s captain into indentured servitude because they couldn’t pay their expenses.  Christopher’s father squatted on open land for a time so as to avoid the nominal purchase price and taxes, perhaps because redeeming the entire extended family upon arrival had cost more than planned.   Both indentured servitude and homesteading without permission were common, and were reasons why some individuals are so poorly documented in archived records.   The land they settled was “on the forks of the Delaware” that the sons of English Quaker William Penn had purchased from local Lenape tribes just a few years earlier, and had encouraged German Pietists to settle because of their reputation for hardiness, productivity, and resulting ability to pay.  Then it was called the Bucks County frontier, but in 1752 it would become part of Northampton County and in 1812 Lehigh County.  The Penns primarily sought profits, as the proceeds and taxes from land transactions went to their personal real estate enterprise.  Pennsylvania was a private colony with the Penns as proprietors.  Christopher and Peter’s fathers became neighbors in the Coplay Creek - Laurys area of North Whitehall Township along the Lehigh River, and Philip’s father homesteaded 15 miles deeper into the wilderness near the Jordan Valley, in Heidelberg Township.  The men cleared and farmed homesteads, raised their families, and were members of the Reformed congregations of Egypt and Heidelberg.  Philip’s father relocated his family to 200 acres in the Bethlehem area after the Indian attacks of 1755, and Christopher’s father later relocated to 250 acres of better land on Jordan’s Creek closer to Allentown.  By the time of the Quebec Campaign, Peter, who was born on the new homestead at Laurys, was 32 years old and probably well established in his trade. (Gabel p24, Kastens Vol IV pp1,13,111,156,179, Gensey, Henry M and the LDS Genealogical Library)

Peter’s Cousin Lydia Nyhart with Husband Philipp Schmalzhaf, the Author’s Great Grandparents

Note the laid, dry-stone wall and hand-split chestnut clapboards on their Wyoming County farmhouse.  Like their pioneer forbearers a century earlier, they were hard-working, self-reliant, and tough.  Lydia bore 13 children.

The spelling of the name was more erratic than most for a number of reasons.  In the Palatinate dialect of German the name is pronounced NYE’-HARDT, yet most often spelled “Neuhart” in Germany and “Newhart” here.   This is a large and well-documented family, today comprising over 50,000 members (including US entertainer Bob Newhart), and all spellings of the name are usually found to be related.  They were Pietists, pledging themselves to a traditional, Godly life, and named their children after a relatively few number of saints, a confusing practice in a large clan having a common surname.  Hence middle names often became the spoken name, which was also confusing when interchanging oral with written records, so changing the surname spelling became an additional device for differentiating individual families.  While historians prefer the spelling used by the individual, there are many instances of Newharts, including Peter, using two or more surname spellings during their lifetimes, especially if they relocated near other Newharts or vice versa, which was often the case.  Historian Dennis Kastens has authored a 5-volume history of the family stretching back through German burghers and Frankish nobility to antiquity through marriage to the Ostertag, von Windstein and Hohenstauffen families of Germany.  Peter Newhard was a tradesman and farmer, but was also a distant descendant of kings, saints and popes from throughout Europe. (Kastens Vol I and Newhart Nobility)

Lockplate Marked Peter Newhard
 Photo courtesy Bruce Miller

Peter Newhard (1743-1813) became a noted rifle maker in Northampton County, Pennsylvania from the 1760’s until his death.  Where he learned the trade isn’t recorded, but considering the language and cultural preferences of known local gunmakers, the most likely possibilities are Andreas Albrecht, William Moll or that he was self-taught.  Pietist culture was insular, German remained the only language spoken by the majority, and a German boy apprenticing in an “English” household would have been unlikely. (Note 3)  Most German immigrants had a second trade other than farming, and Peter’s father was a weaver.  However he was only 24 when he purchased 84 acres of wilderness to homestead, which soon grew to 200 acres, and between land clearing and farming, he was kept busy year-round during Peter’s apprenticeship years.  By 1768 he had only 70 acres in cultivation, the remainder still in woodlands, and Peter was the second son of six sons and five daughters who survived to adulthood.  Accordingly, Peter’s father had plenty of labor but a number of dependents to feed and clothe, and probably could afford to indulge a son who wanted to pursue goals other than growing crops and pulling tree stumps, in return for a source of scarce hard currency for the family. (Kastens Vol IV p111-112 and the LDS Genealogical Library)

The Moravian Community at Christian Springs

Moravian Andreas Albrecht (1718-1802) was possibly Peter’s master, as the Moravian community at Christian Springs was only 11 miles from the Newhard’s farm and in 1757 expanded their small gunmaking enterprise with a formal program of teaching riflemaking to youngsters.  This expansion after twelve Moravian missionaries were brutally slain by Indians only two years before was no coincidence.  The realities of external threats drove even the pacifist Moravians into preparations to defend themselves and their neighbors as well as to hunt game with those rifles.  Moreover, the rifles had to be tailored to match the needs of the users and efficient to manufacture as well as to use, areas where their ability to organize, document and pass on knowledge and skills made significant contributions.  (Moravian Historical Society)

Continued at Part II found at URL:
« Last Edit: November 25, 2019, 08:22:45 PM by Dennis Glazener »