John Tyler, Ebenezer Cowell and Sixteen Unknown Workmen (cont’d).


    It has been long assumed that Neihart served at the Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) based upon the information given within the Proceedings of the Lehigh County Historical Society for 1934 in a speech by Charles Rhoads Roberts regarding, amongst many other things, members of the Egypt congregation who served in the militia.  Roberts states:  "Captain John Moritz was in command of the fourth company of the second battalion of Northampton County Militia in 1778, under Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Balliet.  This Battalion participated in the battle of Brandywine.
  Peter Newhard, also a gunsmith, was a private in this company."  (Roberts)  However, this has never been proven and is in fact a doubtful statement:  true, the first class of the 2nd Battalion of Northampton County Militia (Balliet being one of the field officers of this Battalion) were called in early June 1777 and given orders to muster at Bethlehem and thence to Bristol, but a few weeks later the following order was read before the Supreme Executive Council (June 25, 1777):


    "...and the extreme inconveniency arising from the march of the Militia in the time of Harvest, Agreed, That the Lieut's of the Counties of Lancaster, Berks & Northampton, be informed that the Council think it unneccessary for the 1st Class of Militia respectively, to march, but that they should hold the first class in the most perfect readiness to march at the shortest warning."

(Colonial Records XI, 232)


The shortfall evidenced above was replenished by calling the entirety of the 1st and 2nd classes of militia of the counties of Philadelphia and Chester into the field.  It was not until the second week of August that the first class was called up for service, and then heeding General Gates' call for an additional seven hundred fifty men, the council on August 15, 1777, "Ordered, That the second Class of the Militia of Bucks County, & the second Class of the Militia of Northampton, repair immediately to Peckskiln, & there wait the orders of Gen'l Gates."  (Colonial Records XI, 269)  Again, on August 23:  "Ordered, That the first & Second Class of the Militia of Northampton be ordered to Lancaster, & there wait the orders of Gen'l Washington, any orders to the contrary thereof heretofore given notwithstanding."  (Colonial Records XI, 275)  While additional classes of the militias of Philadelphia, Chester, York, Cumberland and Northumberland were called up on September 6 (Colonial Records XI, 293), no other classes of Northampton County militia were called up prior to September 11, 1777, and there is no evidence that anything other than the first and second classes of all Battalions of Northampton County were called to serve at Brandywine.  It was not until September 12, in fact, that the third and fourth classes of Northampton County were called into the field (Colonial Records XI, 302) and October 23 that the fifth and sixth classes were called-up (1 PA Archives V, 693).

    The first notation regarding Neihart's class (8th) during this period is to be found on January 9, 1778:


    "Ordered, That the seventh & Eighth Classes of the Militia of the County of Northampton be called into the field."  (Colonial Records XI, 398)


It is not recorded exactly why the militia was thence called up, however barring any release [and there is no evidence to be found of such an order] the standard time of service was approximately two months.  It is possible, and this is only speculation, that the three hundred men chosen from the militia of Northampton County who were ordered to guard the stores at Bethlehem and Easton were being rotated every one to two months.  These stores of importance - most evacuated from Philadelphia in September of 1777 - would have been present at least through June of 1778.  Possibly at one point Neihart was called to serve among them - at the least, it can be shown for certain that his class of militia was called up in January for something.  Whether or not any of the men thus called actually mustered is an entirely separate - and unanswerable - question.

    The next notation regarding Neihart can be found in a general muster roll for May 14, 1778.  The 2nd Battalion Field Officers are given as Col. George Breinig, Lt. Col. Stephen Balliet and Maj. Frederick Limbach; 4th Company Officers are Capt. John Morritz, 1st Lt. Philip Knapingberger, 2nd Lt. Abraham Wotring Sr. and Ensign Abraham Wotring Jr.; Class 8th Privates are George Flickinger, Andrew Heck, Christopher Kern, Adam Martin, Peter Neihart, Jacob Schreiber, Henry Steckel and Jacob Steckel.  (5 PA Archives XIII, 110)  This represents only a general muster and does not necessarily indicate an actual call for field service, and there is no evidence found within the Minutes of the Council that the militia was actually called to active service at this point.  In light of all of the aforementioned information, at present it is impossible to determine whether or not Neihart spent any amount of time working at the armory/armories in Allentown.

    Finally, we come to George Leyendecher.  There is absolutely no evidence extant indicating his origins or familial background.  As is the case with nearly all of the unknown men who were employed at the armory while it was in operation in Allentown, there is absolutely no mention of him within any of the surviving records pertaining to the operation.  Yet, Heller alludes to his employment at that place and states that he was a resident of Allentown.  (Heller 156)  Can their be any basis to this inference?  A solid examination of all information pertaining to this man is clearly in order.

    Matthew Henry, in his History of the Lehigh Valley, states:


    "In 1764, the following were the inhabitants, viz:  Leonhard Able, laborer; Simon Brenner, carpenter; David Deshler, shopkeeper and beershop; Martin Derr,     wheelwright; Martin Froelich; George Leyendecker, locksmith; George Lauer; Dan'l Nunnemacher; Abraham Rinker; Peter Schwab; Peter Miller, tailor; George Wolf, tavernkeeper."

(Henry 265)


Where did Henry come up with this list?  At first glance it appears to be derivative of a tax assessment list, however this would then contradict the 1764 tax list cited by Roberts in his 1914 History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania which enumerates twenty-eight men.  Returning to the transcriptions of the original lists, the answer can be had albeit only with some difficulty and a great deal of confusion.  For many of the earliest years of the assessments, there appear to have been [for an unexplained reason] multiple lists taken; it is not clear whether they are all tax lists, as some do not manifest an actual assessment and while some define many individuals' trades, others do not.  [For example:  there exists one complete list of taxables for Northampton County- for the year 1773 - which is possibly not an actual assessment list but appears rather to be an index of sorts.  See HSP MFilmXR 701.]  Furthermore, some of these listings were written in English and others were written in old German, or some bastardized combination thereof.  What has complicated matters is that upon many of the lists [the oldest of which are now housed within the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia] the microfilmed transcriptions contain many black marks - the result of cellulose tape, which appears black when photographed for the film readers - and some very poor translations (transcriptions) of original documents.  At HSP, there are multiples of certain lists ca. 1761-1789 contained upon different microfilm rolls:  MFilmXR 701, 702 and 703 in particular.  MFilmXR 699 and 700 also contain duplicates, albeit different transcriptions, of the years 1767-1781 (700) and 1762-1773 (699).  It would appear that for many of the early years of the 1760s, taxes of various types were collected in September and again in December, which does go some small way towards explaining the multiple copies of what at first examination appear to be the same list.  Given this confusion, it clearly explains why there can be found a minimum of two and sometimes three conflicting lists of residents of various townships.  It is very tempting to put forth the hypothesis that certain of the German-speaking residents of the area may not have chosen to make themselves known to any English-speaking assessor, this theory possibly explaining why some men are found upon the German lists yet absent from the English lists for what occasionally appears to be the same year.  I believe that Henry was quoting an earlier German list (MFilmXR 701) which contains a notation for "Northampton Town" within what was Allen township and lists the same small group of men somewhat delineated from the remainder of the township residents as a whole; this was an eight-monthly tax which appears to actually be 1763, not 1764, and if Henry was relying upon only the German lists then it would explain why he made the assumption that the same group of twelve men were present at the "official" Northampton Town assessment of 1764 [which is on a different roll and may have been in an unknown location at the time Henry was writing].  There are thirteen men listed upon one English assessment dated 1764, which is a prepared transcription (roll 699) although I am not certain if this list was copied exactly or translated.  The earlier German list notes a "Geo. Leyendeher schloser" which indicates (as Henry stated) a locksmith.  However, there are no assessments to be found for this group of men - it would appear to be an index.  Possibly, these non-assessment lists which appear to be some form of index are just that:  indexes to long-lost property maps.  The manner in which Henry writes of the early residents would lead me to believe that he was in fact privy to maps indicating various properties and houses:  "...it appears that some of the earliest inhabitants had removed, as other names are found in three places."  (Henry 265)  At least one map has survived in the collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, this map being entitled "Northampton Town Surveyed by Order of William Allen, Esq. 1762."  This would appear to be the original planning map which illustrated a planned layout of streets and numbered lots; unfortunately, there is no accompanying transcript as to whether or not particular individuals may have already leased specific lots at the time.  

    Roberts, meanwhile, apparently relied upon a much more extensive list given upon XR 702 for the pre-1767 period and apparently derived the 1767 list from the source stored upon MFilmXR 700, which covers the 1767-1781 period.  It would appear that Roberts in 1914 was working from prepared transcriptions, or possibly transcribing them himself, and George Leyendecker does not appear upon any of them.  Simon Leidacre/Lagundecker, however, does, and besides sharing essentially the same surname [the letter 'g' within the surname 'Lagundecker' in the original complex script can very easily be viewed as either a 'g' or a 'y' and I do in fact believe it as a 'y' which was misinterpreted] he also shares the same trade.  Why George does not appear upon any of the later lists is something of a compelling mystery:  was he actively avoiding the assessor?  Was he of a transient nature?  Was he living with Simon as a dependent or a renter?  I currently suspect that George was either a brother or son of Simon - he would not have been included within the Philadelphia naturalizations upon the Royal Union's arrival in 1750 unless he had been of seventeen or eighteen years of age, and currently there is no way to determine whether Simon Leyteker traveled to American with wife and/or children, a younger brother or alone.  For the current time, the relation [which surely must be more than mere coincidence] will unfortunately remain a mystery.

    The only other mention of George Leyendecker is found upon microfilm roll MFilmXR 702 within a tax assessment list for Lehigh township.  This township is along the eastern side of the Lehigh River and is to the north of Allentown along the base of the Blue Mountain.  Prior to the Revolution, the 'upper townships' along the base of the Blue Mountain were the northern frontier farmland of the county.  Prior to approximately 1765, Lehigh township and neighboring Moore township [to the east, along the base of the mountain] were sometimes known as "Adjacents of Allen" as they touched upon the northern limits of Allen township.  Yet, there are indications within Northampton County deed books that the area that is now Lehigh township, or possibly both Lehigh and Moore, was regionally known as Lehi, Lehay, Lechay as well as other variants.  [Northampton County day books as early as 1754 and 1755 note cash received for the September assessments, and both "Allenton township" as well as "Lehigh township" are noted.  (HSP MFilmXR 698)  Unfortunately tax lists for these early years are no longer extant.]   Lehigh also bordered upon Whitehall township which lay to the south along the opposite side of the Lehigh River.  When Lehigh County was cut from Northampton County in 1812,  Whitehall township  was taken by Lehigh County (and eventually split into North and South Whitehall townships) while Lehigh township remained a part of Northampton County.  There is no mention of Leyendecker [or any reasonable variant thereof] anywhere in Northampton County between ca. 1763 and 1770, however upon a 1770 assessment list for "Lechay" Township can be found "Gorg Lyendecker."  [Note:  this my transcription, the original list being incredibly difficult and quite frankly of indeterminate language.  I am not definitively certain whether this list was taken in 1769 or 1770.]  He is listed (non-alphabetically) near George Leivengood, who had a grist mill ["g.m." noted after name].  This mill was located near Cherryville (Mulanax 37), which is appoximately 12 miles north (in direct line) from the old town of Northampton.  Because the list is not alphabetized, the compiler was most likely moving amongst the residents in a systematic pattern and so individuals  listed near each other can be safely assumed to have resided near each other.  This is the only other mention of this man upon any tax list or later census for Northampton County.  As with Simon Leidacre/Lagundecker of Allentown, George completely disappears ca. 1769-1770.  Almost.

    There is one last tantalizing mention of George Leyendecker which has been brought to light, but unfortunately, it is not a favorable mention:


    "The recommendation of the Justices of the County of Northampton of Peter Becktle, convicted of Felony in the said County of Northampton; and also the Justices' recommendation of George Lendeaker, Convicted of Felony, was read; On Consideration, Ordered, That the Execution of the Sentence of the Court of Quarter Sessions for the County of Northampton, against Peter Becktle & against George Lendeaker, be suspended for twenty-one days from this day, in order that a more full account of the Charge against them, & the punishment ordered, may be had."

December --, 1778 [exact date unreadable]

(HSP MFilmXWoPa.N3)


There are no further records to indicate, however, what the charges against these two men may have entailed nor what happened to them following the twenty-one day delay in fulfilling their sentences.  Many of the earliest records pertaining to the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas, Court of Quarter Sessions and Orphans Court are now missing, so it is not possible to follow this trail any further.  However, being as the two men were charged together, it is possible to gain a small amount of additional information regarding George and his whereabouts by proxy.

    "Peter Becktle" was Peter Bechtel of Whitehall township.  He is listed upon the 1772 Proprietary Supply assessment for Whitehall township as "Peter Bechtel, smith."  (3 PA Archives XIX, 15); he is listed again in 1776 as "Peter Bechtle" (HSP MFilm XR 702) and 1779 as "Peter Bechtel" (HSP MFilmXR 702), both times in Whitehall township; in 1780 he is listed as "Peter Bechtel" and possessive of 190 acres (3 PA Archives XIX, 125) and once more in 1781 "Peter Bechle" with 190 acres of improved land, two horses and four cows, given trade of smith.  (HSP MFilmXR 700)  Finally, in Whitehall township for  1786 "Peter Bechtel, b'smith" was taxed on 190 acres of land, 2 horses and three cows.  (3 PA Archives XIX, 219)  It can thus be stated that Peter Bechtel, blacksmith, was solidly planted in Whitehall township ca. 1772 through 1786.  He was present at the taking of the first Federal Census in 1790 wherein "Peter Bightle" is listed with three males and two females [all over the age of sixteen] in the household (M637 Roll 29, 491); "Peter Bachtel" [complete with umlaut over the 'a'] is also present upon the Federal Census for the year 1800 in Whitehall township, one male over the age of 45 years and one female over the age of 45 years.  (M32 Roll 37, 639)  He is not present upon the 1810 Federal Census nor is he listed in the very complete Schedule of Manufacturers for Northampton County which was taken in 1810, so I think it likely [although this can not be taken as a definitive statement] that he died sometime between the taking of the 1800 and 1810 Federal Censuses.  I can not find any other records relating to this man.  In the post-war period there are three men with the same surname to be found in various records relating to Whitehall and Allen townships which may be sons of Peter Bechtel, or they may be related to a much more extensive Bechtel family which was established in Berks County ca. 1740 [in which several other individuals named Peter can be found].  Peter's origins are currently a mystery and I was not able to find him in Northampton County prior to the 1772 Proprietary Supply assessment, so possibly his origins lie within the Bechtel family of Berks County.

    Turning back to the mention of Bechtel and Leyendecker, one must assume that the unknown crime with which they were charged was either not terribly serious, or they were otherwise found to be innocent upon further investigation.  Possibly the issue was dropped.  Otherwise, we would not expect to find Bechtel a free man upon the 1779 and 1780 assessments.  What is most curious - and surely no coincidence -  about the unexplained association of the two men is that both are proven to have been smiths.  It is possible - and this must remain a hypothesis only - that the link between smiths Bechtel and Leyendecker was the gun repair shop in Allentown and they were working there in 1778 when there was an 'incident.'  Perhaps they were called to muster and refused?  Perhaps they refused the new Oath of Allegiance as required under the Test Act of 1777?  Northampton County throughout the early years of the war - 1775 through 1779 - was home to a number of zealous officials who came down particularly hard on the Moravian and Mennonite communities (Fox 2), primarily due to the fact that most members of these sects refused to bear arms against Britain; many of the aforementioned church members also viewed the mandated repudiation of their Oath of Allegiance to Britain, which many had sworn before God at the time of their naturalizations, as blasphemy.

 

    This is a very interesting rifle which would seem to represent a solid, sturdy piece well-suited for hard frontier or martial service.  The stock is of cherry and holds a notable degree of relatively simple carved decoration.  One has to imagine that such embellishment was executed quickly; despite the wear, this rifle also displays ample evidence of relatively ‘hasty’ construction such as final shaping with small planes and no subsequent clean-up.  The brass hardware upon this rifle is particularly noteworthy in that it appears to have been constructed from scavenged components.  The buttplate was modified into a typical rifle form by reshaping a ‘Bess’ buttplate, the two rear screw holes being retained with no attachment added for the upper return.  The entry pipe also appears to be a common Bess or English martial pipe and likely the wrist escutcheon was lifted from the same broken [assumed] musket or group of scavenged musket components.  The cast-brass triggerplate, too, at first glance appears to be typical Bess item however there is some question as to whether it is in fact a scavenged part or was perhaps new-cast using an existing triggerplate as a pattern:  there appears to be some casting ‘shadow’ to support this theory, although it is a bit of a speculative leap to assume that this re-casting must necessarily represent American work.  While the guard, as Shumway noted in RCA Vol. II pgs. 470-473, bears much similarity to rifle guards assumed to have originating in the vicinity of Reading [Berks Co., PA], it could also represent a scavenged, re-cast or transported product and really should not be utilized by itself as some form of regional indicator.  The sideplate is rather generic in form and possibly represents a piece of hardware which was actually new-made for this rifle.

    As Shumway initially noted, this is a bold and study rifle with practically nothing evident to recommend any specific regional origin.  The box mortise [cut clear to inner surface of buttplate] and first barrel pin location have - in recent years - been put forth as representing characteristics of southern manufacture, however within this treatise will be found a number of examples to counter this hypothesis.  I have included this particular rifle within this segment for an entirely unrelated purpose: it would seem to be of the appropriate period and possessive of characteristics which possibly could be construed as representing a War-service piece.  There is certainly documentary evidence [some noted above pertaining to activities at Allentown] to prove that rifles were being repaired and constructed within the various armories serving the Revolutionary cause.  One has to speculate that such rifles, if new-stocked under the constraints of time, necessity and scarcity of components, would essentially be an amalgam of features and somewhat devoid of any regional form.  In other words, while it can not be said with any certainty where this rifle was made, nor for what purpose, it might be viewed as being representative of a type which possibly was a familiar one within any of the War-era armories and shops.    

“From the situation of the Frontiers, attacked by the Indians, Riffles are greatly wanted, & William Henry, Esq’r, having about One hundred & Twelve Riffles belonging to the Continent which he appears willing to supply this State...”
Lancaster, May 18, 1778.
(Colonial Records XI, p. 491)