Author Topic: Neihardt, P. (Attributed) 091202-3  (Read 13429 times)

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Neihardt, P. (Attributed) 091202-3
« on: December 07, 2009, 04:28:07 PM »

Gunmaker Peter Newhard (Newhardt) (Neihardt) (1743-1813)

Uniforms of the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment

Peter Newhard (1743-1813) was a noted rifle maker in Northampton County, Pennsylvania from the 1760’s until his death.  He was also a cousin of my great granduncle, Christopher Neuhart (1729-1776), a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Pennsylvania Rifles who was killed in action at the Battle of Long Island against British forces on 27 Aug 1776.   Christopher may have been using one of Peter’s rifles in the battle, as Rifle Regiment soldiers were required to own their own rifle and accoutrements, and the two families were close.  Specifically recruited from frontier communities, riflemen served as snipers and skirmishers rather than line infantry, and the regiment’s published marksmanship standard was consistent shot placement inside a seven-inch circle at 250 yards, a feat impossible with smooth-bore military muskets and the common trade guns of the period.

The Grave of Peter Newhard’s Father

The fathers of Peter and Christopher 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 disease outbreaks that followed, soils were overworked, the population was crowding with refugees from war and religious persecution, and paying annual tributes and providing sons for military service to the local noble landowners was an irritant.  The most eager to leave were those possessing ambition combined with poor prospects in a society hidebound by feudalism and guilds….often the youngest sons of youngest sons. 

Lenape Women

The fathers of Peter and Christopher were sufficiently close that passenger lists and court records describe them as brothers, when they were really second cousins.   Traveling with their families, the journey began in May, 1737 with a boat trip 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 England and the Azores to North America in crowded, often miserable conditions.  At least two of their children died during the voyage.  Arriving in late September, they swore allegiance to the King of England to acquire settlement rights on the frontier the following spring.   This was land “on the forks of the Delaware” 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 and productivity .  The two cousins became neighbors in North Whitehall Township in Northampton County, cleared and farmed homesteads, raised their families, attended the same church, and withstood Iroquois Confederacy incursions during the French and Indian War, including two in-laws who were killed when they stood, fought and died covering the withdrawal of their families to safety, just a few miles to the north.  By the time of the Battle of Long Island, Peter, who was born on the new homestead in Whitehall, was 33 years old and probably well established in his trade.

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.  Like their pioneer forbearers, 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 often 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 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.

A Flintlock Rifle Marked P. Newhardt

I can only speculate where Peter apprenticed as a gunmaker in the late 1750’s, but between the demands of subsistence farming and child mortality on the frontier as high as three in ten, there were several in and around the Northampton area who probably needed apprentices.  Most German immigrants had a second trade other than farming, and Peter’s father was a weaver.  However he was only 24 when he received a grant of 84 acres of wilderness to homestead, which soon grew to 200 acres, and I suspect between land clearing and farming, Peter’s father was kept busy year-round.  By 1768 he had 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 help but a lot of mouths to feed, 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.

The Moravian Community at Christian Springs

Andreas Albrecht (1718-1802) is a possible master for Peter, as the Moravian community at Christian Springs was only 11 miles from the Newhard’s farm, and began a formal program of teaching riflemaking to local boys in 1757.  Peter’s father had traveled to America with some Albrechts, 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.  Perhaps he would have also met John Moll (1746-1794) who may have apprenticed there, although John Moll’s father William Moll (1712-1780) was also apparently a rifle maker and could have taught John and Peter together.  Later in life Peter became a relation of the Molls though marriage, and I suspect they collaborated on the many government weapons contracts during the war.  The relationship between the families was probably close and longstanding. 

Lockplate marked Peter Newhard

Nor can I speak to Peter’s career, but I do know 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.  He must have had several apprentices, including his nephew Conrad who we know of, and their duties likely included more than just gunmaking.  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.  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 Peter’s 63-year-old father served as a Private in the 1st Battalion of the Pennsylvania Militia, as did all four of his cousin Christopher’s younger brothers, who enlisted en masse after Christopher was killed covering General Washington’s withdrawal from Long Island.  Courage breeds.

A Later Moll Percussion Rifle

Nor does the story end with Peter.  His nephew and apprentice Conrad Newhard (1783-1853) became a gunsmith in nearby Lehigh Township, and niece Elizabeth Newhard married Allentown gunmaker John Moll II (1773-1834).  Together with the senior John Moll, Elizabeth and John II founded a line of 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. 
There are also Pennsylvania gunmakers Jacob Newhardt and I. Moll I haven’t yet found in genealogical records….

Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment Colors


Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary War Patriots
Ancestry Family Trees,, 193 S. Mountain Way, Oren, Utah 64058.
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (1896), Report of the Commission to Locate the Site of the Frontier Forts of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg: Clarence M. Busch, State Printer of Pennsylvania, Page 175.
Dillin, Captain G.W., The Kentucky Rifle 6th Edition, George Shumway Publisher, York, Penna, 1975.
Gabel, Ronald G., Peter Neihart (1743-1813) Gunsmith of Whitehall Township, Lehigh County Pennsylvania,  The Hearstone, 1971.
Gensey, Karen L. (2004). Whitehall, Pennsylvania: The Golden Strip of the Lehigh Valley. Kutztown Publishing Company.
Heffner, Earl S. Junior, The Moll Gunsmiths, School of the Ozarks Press, Missouri.
Henry, Michael S. (1860), History of the Lehigh Valley, Easton, Pennsylvania: Bixler & Company.
History of Lehigh County Vol III, 1914.
History of Northampton County Pennsylvania, Illustrated, Philadelphia and Reading: Peter Fritts, 1877
Kastens, Dennis Allen, Neuhart Chronicle Series Volumes I-IV and the volume titled Neuhart Nobility, Published 1980-1997, Kastens Publications, St Louis Missouri.
Moll, Brent Wade, The Moll Family in Pennsylvania,
PA Archives 35 Egypt Reformed Church, Lehigh County Pennsylvania , P7.
Roberts, Charles Rhoads; Rev. John Baer Stoudt, Rev. Thomas H. Krick, William J. Dietrich (1914).    History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Records of its Families, Lehigh Valley Publishing Company, Page 111.
St Andrews Galley Passenger List 26 Sep 1737.
US Federal Census 1790, 1810.
Valuska, David L., German-Americans in the War for Independence, The Continental Line Newsletter, Spring 2006,

                                                                                   By :
                                                                                         Bob Smalser
                                                                                     ( A relative of Neihart)

« Last Edit: January 02, 2020, 11:52:41 PM by Dennis Glazener »
In Memory of Lt. Catherine Hauptman Miller 6/1/21 - 10/1/00 & Capt. Raymond A. Miller 12/26/13 - 5/15/03...  They served proudly.