Newly Discovered Weiser Letter
Author Not Given
At this late date in American History it is infrequent that scholars find original documents relating to Berks County which impinge upon our national history. The recent discovery of a letter sent to Conrad Weiser in 1752 sheds new light upon the colonial struggle for the Ohio Valley when the two giants of their day, England and France, tried to checkmate each other in their aggressive pursuits.
The letter was first brought to the attention of local historians in mid-1967, when Dr. John E. German, a member of Council of the Historical Society of Berks County, visited the Chicago Historical Society. This document forms a part of that Society’s manuscript Collection (credited to the Gunther Collection). It was written by the Rev. Mr. Richard Peters (1704-1776) to Conrad Weiser and carried to Heidelberg in Berks by Conrad’s son, Peter. It is dated November 22, 1752. Peters was the chief secretary to the Penn heirs and to the many successive deputy governors of Pennsylvania Province. He was an Anglican clergyman, well educated, and frequently helped Conrad improve his English sentence structure and vocabulary.
Mrs. Robert Impink, also a member of the Council of the Historical Society, secured a photostatic copy of the Peters-Weiser letter. This was through the courtesy of the Chicago authorities.
Some portions of the Peters letter are illegible and some words are eroded at the folds of this two-century old paper. However there is enough internal evidence to make valid assumptions. Such assumptions are indicated by (?) in the text of the letter as it is reproduced here.
The newly discovered letter reveals some of the reasons for the suspicions which Pennsylvania authorities had of the activities of two former employees of the province, namely, Andrew Montour and George Croghan. They seemed to be defecting: Montour to the Virginians and Croghan to the French. Both of these neighboring colonies were hostile to Pennsylvania’s interests along the Ohio river.
Actually this struggle for dominance in the wild area to the west of Pennsylvania was the cause of the French and Indian War (1754-1763). Two years after the outbreak of the struggle in the “forks of the Ohio” almost all of Europe was plunged into the Seven Year’s War (War of Revenge) from 1756 to 1763.
Before we plunge more deeply into the charges against these men let us try to keep two things in mind, First: these were accusations, only, and never proven, and second: that Conrad Weiser did not bring the charges or join in the condemnation which the Peters letter levied. In his reply to Peter’s criticism of Montour, Weiser wrote in 1752, “Andrew’s pride will render him odious to the Onondago (Six Nations) Council.” Weiser kept his head when his superiors were losing theirs! Although Conrad had ‘had numerous experiences with both men, not all pleasant ones, he continued to deal with them in inter-colony diplomacy. In fact, he went far out of his way to assist Montour two years after this letter was written, helping the young man out of a dire mess in life.
Richard Peters to Conrad Weiser-Nov. 22, 17.52
To Conrad Weiser esquire by favor of his son Peter Weiser.
As you have received ye Patents you were so importunate for I need say nothing on that head. if you want any more or any of them be wrong pray say so & everything shall be done that is right. The Proprietor in his last letter expresses much satisfaction at the flourishing condition in Reading & as I have entirely given you the merit of it he is thankful to you. The man you mention for Ranger will not do the Governor thinking him not of consequence enough, so pray name another that will have more weight who may perhaps employ that man under him. The Proprietor will come over next Summer if in health, and recommends it to you to prepare the Indians for a Purchase of Lands on the West Susquehanna, from that River to ye Western Boundary of the Province or so as it . . . (Here three lines of the letter are torn away) . . . for such a Number of Miles from ye Blue Hills be contiguous and a large tract he leaves it to . . (you?) whether it shall go to the western extremity of ye Province (incomplete) but earnestly desires the thing may be done and particularly thinks so much should be bought as to settle (incomplete) . . . nay he says he will consent to make the Purchase tho he should not be present himself-But this I shall decline absolutely. I join with the Proprietor in desiring that no time be lost in taking the (?) previous steps, for unless a Purchase may be made, such large Importation of Germans and such a vile low wretch as Andrew Montour will soon give the Government enough of it-The Germans will truly say, why are we encouraged & when we come there is no land for us- The Indians will grow more & more into the Sweets of receiving Gratuities and puzzel a Purchase much. The Ferry house or Lot is not, that I can find, surveyed, nor returned wch (which) should have been done, so pray send me a Draught of it that it may be leased properly. Tell Jemmy Read that I am in daily expectation of receiving the Papers which my Brother gave him and that Mr. Crosby is sick. My Service to him with a Request that he hasten that matter. Pray give me an answer as to the Indian Purchase proposed and what Hope can be taken to incline the Indians to purchase so that the Proprietor on his Arrival may set about . . . (it?). Your son has been very good in calling yesterday & today & I believe he staid on my account.
I am, Sir
Your affectionate, humble Servant,
(Signed) Richard Peters
This article originally appeared in the Winter 1968-69 issue of the Historical Review of Berks County.