Simon Leidacre of the Town of Northampton, Locksmith.


    Information concerning Simon Leidacre [one spelling variant] is somewhat sparse and has been extremely difficult to uncover.  The earliest record referring to this man refers to this arrival in Philadelphia on August 15, 1750 aboard the Royal Union (Strassburger 149C) at which point he took the Oath of Allegiance to the Province of Pennsylvania as "Simon Leytecker." 
Where he went immediately after arriving in Philadelphia is unknown, but the Berks County tax lists for 1758, 1759 and 1760 list Simon Laydecker in Long Swamp [a sub-district of Rockland township, this district being properly established as Longswamp township in 1761] as a married man.  (HSP MFilmXCt Pa.Be.4)  [According to Montgomery's History of Berks County of 1886, a "Valentine Leydecker" was also noted as a married man in Long Swamp for 1759 only, however no additional mention of this man has been found in any extant records and the HSP microfilmed tax list does not evidence this name.  Most likely, Montgomery was utilizing a different list which may not have survived to be subsequently placed on microfilm.  Who was Valentine?]  Following this, "Simon Leidacker" again materializes February 13, 1761 whereby Simon Leidacker and Francis Cooper, both of the town of Northampton, were announced as principal creditors of one Nicholas Schrick [Schreck], deceased.  (Eyerman file 389)  A little over one year later, a petition was read before the Justices of the Court of General Quarter Sessions of the Peace held at Easton on September 21, 1762:  Rudolph Smidt of Salisbury township (which lies immediately adjacent to Allentown to the south and east) wanted a license for an inn and tavern at the intersection of the road which ran from Allentown ["...a new town on Great Lehigh..."] to Philadelphia with the road which ran west from Bethlehem into Berks County.  This petition was signed by seventy-three men of the vicinity including "Simon Layendecker."  The following year, 1763, Simon again signed a letter or petition to James Hamilton, Lieutenant-Governor of Pennsylvania [see below], and in 1764 "Simon Leitdecker" was noted upon the earliest surviving tax list for Northampton Town proper [previous assessment records do not effectively distinguish residents of the slowly-growing town from the larger "Allen" Township or "Allen's Town" Township as a whole].  He was again listed upon the assessment for 1765; for this year, he was noted as owning one lot with one house upon it and one cow but no horse. (HSP MFilmXR 701)  It was also during this year that a deed was recorded on June 1, a summary of which is as follows: 


    Grantor:  William Allen Esquire of Philadelphia to Grantee:  Simon Leidacre of the town of Northampton, locksmith.  Date:  1 June 1765.  Amount:  "...for the consideration of the charges and expenses which Simon Leidacre has already expended in building upon and improving the lot of ground and for the rent, conditions and covenants agreed upon as well as the sum of 5 shillings..."  Description:  A lot of ground on the west side of James St. in the town of Northampton bounded on the north by vacant lot no. 494, east by James St., south by vacant lot no. 492 and west by a public alley.  Containing in front 60 feet and in depth 230 feet being lot no. 493 in the plan.  A yearly rent of 9 shillings to be paid to William Allen.  If rent is not paid, William Allen reserves the right to enter the property and seize sufficient items to be auctioned in order to secure sufficient payment.  If such items can not be found, the entire lot may be repossessed and sold.  Witnesses:   Lewis Gordon and Alexander Stuart.

(Northampton Co. Deed Book C1, p. 249-252)


    In 1766 he was curiously absent from the assessment list which has been placed on microfilm at HSP, but he reappears in 1767 as Simon Lagundecker [or Layundecker].  (HSP MFilmXR 701)  Following this, he permanently disappears from the Northampton County tax lists [which are partially missing and partially incomplete for certain years] and by the time the extremely thorough 1772 Proprietary Supply tax was recorded (3 PA Archives XIX), he is no longer listed as being present anywhere within Northampton County.

    A brief diversion should be made to better explain and understand the term "locksmith" within the context of the period.  Colonial American locksmiths were metalworking artisans with a high degree of skill and generally worked upon a wide range of products - not simply locks - of much more intricate aspect than the general blacksmith.  Of course locks and keys were produced, the manufacture of which mandated training in welding and brazing, riveting, careful filing and polishing, screw-making and lathe work, creation and tempering of springs etc.  Additionally, locksmiths worked in a variety of metals including iron and steel, brass, copper and tin plate.  While there is very little extant literature to better define the parameters of the trade within the Colonies, it would seem that here - where a rigid guild system was not exercising the role of trade overseer - the lines between the various smithing occupations were quite blurred. 

    The relation between locksmiths and gunsmiths and/or gunstockers has not been thoroughly explored and is subject to a great deal of speculation.  The study of antique tinder lighters is an excellent example of this confusion:  some function flawlessly, are of wonderful quality and bear witness to strong familiarity with the requisites of a perfectly-functioning flintlock.  Were such fine examples made by gunsmiths?  Others appear much simpler, do not seem to possess the same level of familiarity, evidence a high constructive reliance upon brazing and are often viewed as being the products of locksmiths/whitesmiths.  Amongst German-speaking people there would seem to have been a relatively clear division of labor as the terms Schlosser, Buchsenschmidt, Buchsenmacher and Buchsenschafter [Locksmith, Gunsmith, Gunmaker and Gunstocker] are variously found throughout period records both in Germany and in America.  Were locksmiths involved in the manufacture of gun locks?  The segment entitled "The Gunmaker and the Gunstocker" within Sprengel's Handwerke und Kunste in Tabellen of 1771 ["Handwork and Artifice Summarized"] states that it was the "Buchsenmacher," or gunmaker, who forged and assembled the flintlock mechanism (Nicolai/Bivins 59-80)  There does seem to exist, however, a recurring popular notion that locksmiths may have at times also been involved in such gun-related production.
  Wallace Gusler's March, 2005 article within Muzzle Blasts magazine ["An Eighteenth-Century North Carolina Moravian Rifle Gun"] blatantly flirts with the notion of locksmithing influence or involvement in the development of various early box release mechanisms (Gusler 53-57), and it certainly is difficult to view the accompanying photos of such mechanisms without consideration of similar technology employed in the creation of contemporary locks.  Amongst the Moravians in Bethlehem, Andreas Betz was a journeyman locksmith and one-time master of the locksmith shop (MAB) before traveling to Bethabara on the Wachovia tract [North Carolina] in 1754, where he initially worked in the smithy with blacksmith George Schmidt (Fries v1, 148), and as early as 1756 was executing repair work upon guns despite continuing to work in a single generalized smith-shop:  "A bear hunter brought his gun to our gun-smith..."  (Fries v1, 173)  Jacob Loesch Jr., who briefly supervised the gunshop at Christian's Spring ca. 1779-1781 [exact dating has not been perfectly clarified as yet; Lienemann/MAB] was noted as a "lock-smith" upon his arrival in Salem, NC, in 1781, and was specifically requested not to work upon guns at that time.  (Fries v4, 1738)  By 1783, however, Loesch was given permission to commence gunsmithing and in 1784 took Christopher Vogler as apprentice.  (Fries v5, 2036).  These are merely two well-documented examples of men, both noted locksmiths, who probably were possessive of high levels of mechanical skill and thus were able to exercise much latitude in their craft.     
    Moravian records concerning the shop of the 'Locksmith and Gunstock Maker' in nearby Bethlehem ca. 1755-1762 indicate a huge variety of work.  Locks and keys, hinges, screws, saddle mountings, center bits, coffee roasters, mold work and graving work, much gun lock repair and assorted arms repair, a wide range of tools being sold and repaired, pipe heads:  the range of projects and list of items mentioned is enormous.  (Lienemann/Moravian Archives Bethlehem)  This may or may not have been typical of many American locksmith shops, and of course it is possible that the heavy involvement in gun work was due to the presence, even if only intermittent,  of a 'Buchsenschafter.'  It is also not clear whether some/all of the gun locks being sold were purchased items destined for resale, or flintlocks made within the shop; this lack of clarity actually can be equally applied to a number of the iron and brass items mentioned - made or purchased [Philadelphia and/or more local merchants]?  Possibly, as the records would seem to indicate, a little of both.
 

    Many of the products of the locksmith were easily available as import items via shopkeepers and merchants in Philadelphia:  "To be sold by Thomas Maule, At the sign of the Cross cut saw, in Second street, near the English church, The best and newest fashioned brass handles for drawers or desks, brass knobs for desks, sets of brass locks and hinges for desks or doors, brass nobs for ditto, brass kettles, brass padlocks, iron ditto, chest locks and hinges, cupboard locks..."  (PA Gazette, May 3, 1750)  Later that same year Maule also advertised "...most sorts of locks for drawers, desks and doors, HL hinges... pepper mills, box irons and stands, brass candlesticks with screws, iron candlesticks... snuffers... chafing dishes, warming pans... mouse traps..."  (PA Gazette, Dec. 25, 1750)  One of Maule's competitors, Samuel Burge, on September 6, 1750, advertised much of the same including "...best bridle gun locks..."  (PA Gazette)  The availability of such items - apparently common to the urban center of Philadelphia - in the 'frontier' of Northampton County is unknown, however by 1763 at least one "Stage Waggon" was running a circuit from Philadelphia to Bethlehem every Thursday morning and returning each following Monday "...with Passengers and Goods."  (PA Gazette, Sept. 15, 1763)        

    Returning to a focus upon Simon Leytecker in nearby Allen's Town, two additional notations worth mentioning can be found in the pre-1770 period, both drawn from the Goshenhoppen Register.  Within the records pertaining to St. Paul's Mission, Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament, there are two references to Simon:


    -   Bisschof, Simon, of Peter Bisschof and his wife Mary Charlotte, born 5 March 1766, baptized 17 March in Kuhn's house.  Sponsors Simon Legdekker and his         wife.


    -   Jutz [possibly Butz], John Anthony, of Anthony J[B]utz and his wife Catherine, born 1 January 1769, baptized 5 January in Simon Leydecker's house.  Sponsors John Faller and Mary Bischoff.


    Goshenhoppen was a loose American Indian-based name given to the area where the eastern corner of Berks County, extreme southern Lehigh County [Northampton County until 1812], upper Montgomery County and the western corner of Bucks County all come together.  St. Paul's Chapel was located near what is now Bally but which, prior to 1883, was referred to as Churchville; built in 1743, it was the first Catholic church in Berks County.  Many of the records kept by Father Theodore Schneider are unfortunately missing for 1747 through 1758, at which point they are largely resumed and from whence the aforementioned two notations regarding Simon Legdekker/Leydecker are drawn.  During this period - prior to and during the French and Indian War -  Catholics were not trusted by the majority Lutheran population as is evidenced by a letter addressed to Deputy Governor Robert Hunter Morris dating to 1755.  This letter was authored by five Berks County Justices of the Peace (Henry Harry, James Reid, William Bird, Jonas Seely and Conrad Weiser) and a portion of it reads as follows:


    "...As all our Protestant inhabitants are very uneasy at the behavior of some of the Roman Catholics, who are very numerous in this county, some of who show great joy at the bad news lately come from the army, we have thought it our duty to inform Your Honor of our dangerous situation, and beg Your Honor to enable us, by some legal authority, to disarm, or otherwise disable, the Papists from doing injury to other people who are not of their vile principles.

    We know that the people of the Roman Catholic Church are bounded by their principles to be the worst subjects, and worst neighbors; and we have reason to fear just now that the Roman Catholics in Goshenhoppen, where they have a magnificent chapel, and lately had large processions, have bad designs; for in the neighborhood of that chapel; it is reported, and generally believed, that thirty Indians are now lurking, armed, with guns and swords, or cutlasses.

    The priest at Reading, as well as Goshenhoppen, last Sunday, gave notice to their people that they could not come to them again in less than nine weeks; whereas they constantly preach once in four weeks to their congregations: whereupon some imagine they've gone to consult with our enemies at DuQuesne.

    It is a great unhappiness at this time to the other people of this Province that the Papists should keep arms in their houses, against which the Protestants are not prepared; who, therefore, are subject to a massacre whenever the Papists are ready.

    We beg Your Honor would direct us in this important business by return of the bearer, whom we have sent express to Your Honor..."

(4 PA Archives II, 392)


Fortunately for the Berks County Catholics, nothing ever came of this letter.