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


    Another letter relating to the armory was written to the Council from "Allen Town" on March 24, 1778, this time from Cowell, but once more indicating difficulties and mentioning David Deshler:

    "SIR:  The matter in Dispute Between me and Col'l Dishler is this:  When I arrived at this place in the Beginning of Oct'r Last, being order'd to provide a shop as soon as possible for Armorers to work in, Col'l David Dishler, Sub-Lef't of ye County, offered me the Timber of an old Saw mill for a Frame of a shop, which I got fram'd, Rais'd and finish'd Compleat for sixteen Armorers to work in:  and also, he allow'd me to fitt up and use a whele to Turn a grind Stone to Bore Bayonets by water, and Gave me Room in his house for my Family; But being Crowded he offered me a house he had in Town to Rent.  It being Large, Doctor William Smith & my self Rented it for six months, and Leases Dated ye 5th Jan'y last were passed between us.  The house was then used for a Labatory, but Expected soon to be Clear; But before it was Cleared, Col'l Dishler was appointed one of the Commissioners of this County to Purchase Provisions for the army, upon which s'd house being Cleared of the Labatory Stores, he immediately moved his family into it without our Consent, under a pretense he had a Right to seize for a store house, and sent another family into the house where I was and Insisted on my moving out.  I Try'd all I could to procure another house but han't yet been able.  the Col'l has threatened me with the militia to Turn me out Doors and take away the shop to Store Flower in, and has already forbid me to grind anymore Bayonets, altho' I have a Stone of my own Ready, fitted & hung, and a Large Number of good musketts with New Bayonets fitted to them, and every way fitt for service, except Grinding the Bayonets.  He never Complain'd, nor Don't now, as I know of, any Injury the Grinding Does him.  I have ground a great many, wore out several stones of my own already & I have had no Disagreement with him on any other acc't but the above, and Beg you will present the Case to a proper place for a Remedy.  I am, Sir, Your most Hum'le Ser't.  EBENEZER COWELL."

(2 PA Archives III, 159)

Now here can be found an interesting point:  Cowell specifically states that he too arrived at Allentown in October of 1777 and that he obtained the materials and built the shop for sixteen employees, not John Tyler.  This would seem to cast some confusion on exactly who was in the position of authority.  Based upon the aforementioned documentation and the fact that Tyler was typically dealing with repairs on a small scale while Cowell was dealing with much larger contracts, it is a safe bet that Cowell was in a general position of authority over the entire operation while Tyler would appear to the be 'shop manager,' overseeing the day-to-day work as well as the sixteen employees; Tyler was probably working in the shop himself.  This hypothesis is largely reinforced by an order of the Council, issued in June of 1778, for compensation to Cowell:  "An order was drawn on the Treasurer in favor of Mr. Ebenezer Cowell, for the Sum of One hundred Pounds, for the use of the Gun Factory under his direction, for which Sum he is to account."  (Colonial Records XI, 519)  The key phrase to focus upon here, in the words of the Council themselves, is "...under his direction..."  One fact which can be ascertained for certain is that both Tyler and Cowell arrived jointly at Allentown in October of 1777.

    A final noteworthy letter has survived which dates to May 11,1778.  This letter was written by Lieutenant Frederick Hagner of Northampton County - previously mentioned in Tyler's letter of October 1777 - to President Wharton and the Council and apparently is a response to a request for a return of the number of arms present at Allentown as well as the number that will be fit for service as of May 20, 1778.  It reads:


    "May it please Your Excellency,  According to Your Excellency and Council last Request, dated the 28th April, I have diligently examined and inquired into, but have not been able untill This Day, to give a true and Exact Account what Arms, &c., are now in my possession, & how many shall & can be properly Repaired by the 20th of this month:  Which is as follows:

In my possession in Store.

800 Muskets and Bayonets, Scabbords.

550 Bayonet Belts.

750 Cartouch Boxes.

45 Shott Pouches & 18 Powder Horns.

400 Knap & Havre Sacks, new.

75 Blankets.

25 Tent Cloths.

140 Camp Kettles

In John Tyler's possession, in good Repair.

  31 Riffles.

Will be ready the 20th May.

150 Musketts & Bayonets, from J. Tyler.

150 ditto.         ditto.        E. Cowell

    This number of Arms, &c., may be depended upon, all in good Repair, and shall endeavour, if possible, to exceed the above number, as both Mr. Tyler & Cowell have promised to deliver more muskets, as I have mentioned, because it is difficultt to gett the Scabbords for the Bayonets finished.  I have Three Saddlers now Employ'd and will not leave a Stone unturned, to serve my Country and Your Excellency & Council.  I am with the utmost esteem, Your Excellency most obedient and most Humble Serv't.  FRIEDERICK HAGNER, Sub. Lieut.

Directed.  To Thomas Wharton, junr., Esqr., President of the Executive Council, at Lancaster."

(1 PA Archives V, 486-487)

    This, quite frankly, seems to throw even more confusion on the subject as Hagner is referring to Tyler and Cowell separately.  It is therefore very likely that, at some point following the return of 1777, Cowell and Tyler had established two separate repair shops - possibly to accommodate an even larger number of employees than the original sixteen, or possibly to increase efficiency by separating the workmen employed upon accouterments from those working upon the firearms, or possibly for other reasons altogether.  This question can not currently be answered, but it is clear from all of the aforementioned letters that Allentown in late 1777 and into 1778 became an extremely busy, crowded and industrious place with a suddenly much-increased population (which probably fluctuated on an almost daily basis) of armorers, saddlers, militia etc.  In the Colonial Records series of the Pennsylvania Archives, records still exist of repetitive - and fairly large - payments by order of the Council to both Ebenezer Cowell and John Tyler throughout the entirety of 1778.  In May, John Tyler was paid the large sum of seven hundred seventy-one pounds (Colonial Records XI, 488-489) and in September, Cowell drew payment of eight hundred pounds, an even larger amount.  (Colonial Records XI, 567)  It would therefore seem apparent that the armory, or armories, were moving at a very rapid clip throughout that year.

    A moment must be taken to make a curious observation regarding John Tyler:  it is always he alone that is associated with "Riffles."  In Hagner's accounting to the Council of May 1778 (above), he specifically states that the thirty-one rifles present are in the care of John Tyler.  Investigating this issue a bit further, an order can be found dating a few months previous - December 18, 1777 to be exact - in which:

    "An order was drawn on Dav'd Rittenhouse, Esq., Treasurer of the State, in favor of John Tyler, (Gunsmith,) for the Sum of Two Hundred Pounds, & ordered to be charged to Jacob S. Howell, to whom the said John Tyler (Gunsmith) is to be accountable.  Ordered, That Mr. John Tyler send what Rifles he has by him in sarvice, immediately forward to this Borough, to the Council."

(Colonial Records XI, 384-385)

As the Council was sitting in Lancaster by that point in time, the "Borough" to which Tyler was to send the thirty-six rifles [enumerated in the return of December 4, above] was the town of Lancaster.

    Next, jumping forward again to May 1778 and Hagner's mention on the 11th of thirty-one additional rifles in Tyler's possession, the Council issued a second order on May 16th regarding rifles at the Allentown armory:

    "From the situation of the Western frontiers, it appears to be necessary to suppy the County of Northumberland with Arms, and there being Thirty-One Riffles in the hands of John Butler, one of the Armourers, Ordered, That John Tyler, Armourer, do send a Waggon load of Arms in repair, to Col. Jacob Morgan, Lieutenant of the County of Berks, among which the Thirty-one Riffles are to be a part, & packed separate from the rest, & to be by Col. Morgan forwarded to Sam'l Hunter, Esq., Lieu. of the County of Norrthumberland, for the use of the Militia."

(Colonial Records XI, 490)

There can be found no definitive reason why it is Tyler who is associated with the rifles, while no mention of rifles is ever made in correspondence concerning Ebenezer Cowell.  This would tend to help reinforce the notion, however, that Tyler was a working armorer/gunsmith given to oversight of the laborers [the rifles requiring a more individual and higher degree of care than the muskets], while Cowell is more appropriately compared to a general contractor and manager.  We are given one additional tantalizing glimpse into the operation of the Allentown gun factory, as here at long last we find the name of a single man there employed:  John Butler.  

    The British removed from Philadelphia in June of 1778, and the headquarters of the Council was very rapidly moved back to that place [from Lancaster, where it had been meeting since Congress had fled Philadelphia the preceding September].  There does not seem to have been, however, any immediate desire to shut down the armory at Allentown and draw Cowell, Tyler and/or any of the employees back to the city.  On June 30, 1778, "An order was drawn on the Treasurer in favor of Mr. Ebenezer Cowell or his order, for the sum of six hundred Pounds, for the Gun Factory, for which sum he is to account."  (Colonial Records XI, 525)  However, at some point during the second half of 1778 the subject must have been broached as to removing the "Gun Factory" from the backwater Pennsylvania German village and re-establishing it in Philadelphia.  Yet, a notation within a "Circular of Councils at Philadelphia" seemed to hint at a smooth and satisfactory operation at Allentown, as one council member noted that "There is at the Town of Northampton a sufficient number of Arms to supply any deficiency..." (1 PA Archives VI, 640) and then as late as October 16, a deed was recorded in Northampton County deed book C1 which states that John Miller of Whitehall township, joiner, sold to John Tyler, Town of Northampton, gunsmith, lot number 404 in the Town of Northampton for two hundred eighty-five pounds.  (NH County deed book C1, 491-493)  It is curious that Tyler purchased the lot a full year after he had arrived in Northampton County and at a time when - it might be assumed - there must have been some rumor of the armory's return to Philadelphia.  Indeed, on December 17, 1778, the Executive Council met and passed a resolution regarding the dissolution of the Hummelstown arsenal [“Ordered, That Mr. George Henry dispose, by Auction, of the Tools, Implements & Stock of the Gun Factory, belonging to this State, preserving the finished & unfinished Arms and all such Articles as, upon conference with Mr. David Rittenhouse, may be thought necessary for the use of the State.  (Colonial Records XI, 644)].  Soon after, on January 16, 1779, John Tyler drew from the Council five hundred pounds (Colonial Records XI, 668), and during that same council session the following order was read:

    "Ordered, That Frederick Hagner, Esq'r., be appointed to go to Northampton & receive from John Tyler all the public property in his hands, & transmit such of them as may properly be moved, to Capt. Joseph Stiles, Commissary of Military Stores in this City, And to sell such buildings and other property in that Town which may belong to the State."

(Colonial Records XI, 669)

And thus ended the state factory at Allentown.  Both Tyler and Cowell returned to Philadelphia and both were present upon the Philadelphia city tax assessment of 1780.  According to the order of the Council of January 16, 1779, John Tyler's work in Allentown was finished as of that date, and soon after he began drawing payments for the repair of state arms in Philadelphia.  [What became of his Allentown lot is currently unknown, as I have not yet found a record of its sale.]  Cowell, however, continued submitting bills for payment from an undisclosed location.  He was paid six hundred thirty-eight pounds on April 14, 1779, after he "...exhibited an account of work done in repairing of Arms..." (Colonial Records XI, 749) and then on May 7 received the relatively small - for Cowell - amount of one hundred seventy-three pounds for the same.  (Colonial Records XI, 769)  These two payments, being as they were made following Cowell's accounting of work completed (at some previous time, it can be assumed), might possibly represent the last of the work accomplished at Allentown:  this can not be stated with certainty, however.  A notation of the Council meeting of June 17, 1779, states that "The Petition of Ebenezer Cowell, setting forth that He hath Resumed the Business of a Gun-smith, and praying to be permitted to take charge of and to repair all such of the State Arms as may require repairing, was read."  (Colonial Records XII, 24)  This would seem to indicate that he had arrived back in Philadelphia only recently - sometime between May 7 and June 17 - and had equipped a new shop for the repair of arms.  By the next Council meeting of June 22, Cowell was once more back in business and received six hundred pounds for gun repair.  (Colonial Records XII, 30)

    There unfortunately is no documented evidence to be found as to how many men, total, may have worked at the factory while it was located in Allentown, nor is there evidence concerning what ratio of those employees may have originally traveled 'up the country' from Philadelphia with Cowell and Tyler compared to those who may have been native inhabitants of Allentown (or the surrounding area).  There is also no evidence to indicate whether some or all of the men followed Cowell and Tyler - and guaranteed work - down to Philadelphia where the two 'supervisors' continued to receive rather weighty stipends representing a large amount of work though 1779 and into 1780.  One notation found in the Minutes of the Supreme Executive Council for November 7, 1777 relates to the French Creek armory which was moved from Chester County and established at "Hummel's Town" (in what is now Dauphin County) during the summer of 1777.  The Hummelstown armory was directed by Peter DeHaven and it, too, experienced it's own minor uprising in the late autumn of 1777:

    "The petition of divers Workmen employed in the State Factory was Read; thereupon, Ordered, That the Removal of the Families of the said Workmen be a public expense, and that the prices of the under-mentioned Articles in the said Factory, be paid to the Workmen as mentioned opposite to each of them, agreeable to the recommendation of Mr. Benjamin Rittenhouse, Viz't:  Stocking a Musket, 15s; Splicing a Stock, 3s 9; Dressing Mounting, 3s 9; Sawing Stocks, 1s 3.  And that the said Workmen be allowed seven shillings and six pence per day, from the time they left off Working at Philadelphia."

(Colonial Records XI, 337) 

This record indicates that many - if not all - of the men who had been working at the French Creek armory outside of Philadelphia prior to it's move to Hummelstown were transplanted to that place to continue their work.  Can this shed any light on the origins of the men who were employed by Tyler and Cowell at Allentown?  Tyler and Cowell had been private contractors in Philadelphia [or in Cowell's case, Philadelphia and/or Trenton, NJ] whereas the French Creek armory had already been under the direction of the Council.  It would make some sense that any workmen who had initially been working in Philadelphia previous to September 1777 - probably already in Tyler and Cowell's employ - would have traveled to Allentown to work at the armory established there.

    In consideration of the rural nature of Northampton County in 1777, and the fact that Allen's Town was possessive of a mere fifty-four structures (Henry 265), it would have been completely lacking in foresight for Tyler and/or Cowell to travel to Northampton County to establish a crucial state armory without any guarantee of suitable employees; the somewhat pressing need to establish the armory quickly, as evidenced by previously-quoted letters of both men, would preclude the luxury of the requisite time to train unskilled local laborers.  The majority of the population of Northampton County were, upon review of the tax lists ca. 1761 though 1780, farmers or unskilled laborers.  However, within the Proprietary Supply list of 1772 (3 PA Archives XIX), there are thirty-four men listed as "smith" and nine men listed as "joyners" [who would have certainly possessed the skill to stock and repair muskets].  Furthermore, the Northampton County deed books which cover the period ca. 1772-1776 - and which usually indicate an individual's trade when a deed was recorded - evidence a great many additional 'smiths,' 'blacksmiths' and 'joyners' than the tax lists indicate.  However, these men were scattered all over the county and many were possessive of large tracts of farmland:  probably, they would not have let their farms lie fallow in order to relocate to Allentown for modest pay [especially given the fact that the sale of grains and other farm products to the "publick" was quite lucrative, judging by the absolutely enormous sums advanced for this purpose to David Deshler, John Arndt and others ca. 1778-1783] and most were too remotely removed from the town to make any sort of daily travel feasible.

    Additionally, Allentown in the autumn of 1777 was not the only town in Northampton County to see a dramatic increase in both people and activity:  on the other side of the county, Easton on the Delaware River (the county seat) also saw a rapid expansion in 1777 through 1780.  James Allen, son of William Allen who had been the driving force behind the organization and growth of "Allen's Town," noted on October 1, 1777:  "Since the battle of Brandywine many thousand wagons passed my door and are continually passing in great numbers.  All the baggage of our army is at Bethlehem and here [Allentown], and what with hospitals and artificers these little towns are filled.  Every day some of the inhabitants of Philadelphia are coming up to settle here.  The road from Easton to Reading, by my house, is now the most traveled in America."  (Sipple 80)   When the Supreme Executive Council, along with the Continental Congress, was forced to flee Philadelphia in September of 1777, they sent many items of importance to Easton for safekeeping:

    "Ordered, That Mr. Lowden & Mr. Hoge be appointed to have the Money & Papers belonging to the Public Loan Office removed to Easton, in the County of Northampton, and John Snyder & Henry Bartholomew was employed with a Waggon to convey it to the said place."

(Colonial Records XI, 306)

    "Ordered, That the Books in the Library belonging to the State be sent immediately to Easton in Northampton County, & committed to the care of Robert Levers, Esq'r, of the said county..."

(Colonial Records XI, 309)

    "Resolved, That the Government of the State of Pennsylvania be requested to Station...Two Hundred men at Easton, One Hundred at Bethlehem...for the defense of the Magazines of Military & other Stores & Provisions at these places...Resolved, That three hundred of the Militia of the County of Northampton be ordered for Guards at Bethlehem & Easton..."

(Colonial Records XI, 446)

Aside from the removal of the aforementioned items of importance to Easton along with two hundred of the local militia ordered to station at that place, Easton increasingly was viewed as an important strategic depot along the Delaware River, and in the Spring of 1779 became a staging ground for Sullivan's march against the Indian and Tory menace along the upper Susquehanna which was slated for the summer of 1779.  [see Fischer]  Bustling as Easton was at this point - roughly the same period of time in which the Allentown armory was in operation - it would have further siphoned-off many in the potential pool of county candidates who could have potentially sought transient employment.

    Bethlehem likewise can not be overlooked.  As a central point along the southern edge of the county, it became an embarkation point for practically every company of Northampton County militia which took to the field.  Furthermore, there is evidence to the effect that despite the Moravians' aversion to the war and most everything associated with it, there apparently were at least a few workshops laboring for the Revolutionary cause:

    "There were some time ago between two & three hundred old Arms in bad order left at Bethlehem by the Continental Troops passing thro' the Place, & Mr. Okely, who had the care of them, wrote about two months ago that he was putting them into the hands of Workmen to be repaired..."

Board of War to Timothy Matlack, October 18, 1777

(1 PA Archives V, 685)

    "Felix Malglasky was sent express to Bethlehem for the Arms belonging to the continent to be brought here and tried."

October 23, 1777

(1 PA Archives V, 693)

The Brethren's involvement in arms construction and repair for the Revolutionary cause has been further verified by the discovery of a document dating to 1776 which states that John Christian Oerter at Christiansbrunn was given a small contract for the construction of muskets.  A copy of this document was displayed at the KRA annual meeting in June of 2007.

     Conversely, although of the armorers employed by Tyler and Cowell we only can be certain of the name of John Butler (Colonial Records XI, 490, above), it would make sense that any tradesmen of appropriate skill in the immediate neighborhood - Allentown and Allen Township - would have most likely been called into service.  This admittedly can not be proven, however there are ample extant records within both the Minutes of the Committee of Safety and Minutes of the Supreme Executive Council for the years 1776 - 1779 (Colonial Records XI, XII) testifying to the constant and pressing need for arms and the high esteem in which armorers of any kind were held.  Additionally, James Carter's letter of January, 1778 to Council President Wharton [see above] would seem to indicate that Cowell and Tyler brought only a very small, indeterminate number of gunsmiths with them from Philadelphia.Within the surviving tax records for Allentown and Allen Township for the years 1772 (3 PA Archives XIX) and 1776 (HSP MFilmXR 700/702), there can be found a very small number of men who should be considered potential candidates.  In Allen township [eastern side of the Lehigh River] were listed Samueal Brown, smith, and Michael Glass, smith; in Northampton Town were listed Martin Frelich [Froelich], smith, John Miller, joyner, Dewalt Miller, joyner, John Moll, gunsmith [as Moll was unmarried at the time the 1772 assessment was taken, he is listed with the single men upon the 1772 list and no trade is given; he was, however, noted as "John Mull, Town of Northampton, gunsmith" upon a March 19, 1773 deed poll (NH Co. deed book E1, 649) and listed as gunsmith upon the 1776 assessment], Jacob Nunemacher, joyner and [George] Jacob Newhart, joyner [Northampton Town 1776].  Neither Simon Leidecker/Lagundecker, who disappeared ca. 1769, nor George Lyendecker of Lehigh Township ca. 1769-1770, can be found.  Casting a slightly wider net into Whitehall township, which cradled Allentown to the west and north along the western side of the Lehigh River, the following men are found:  Peter Bechtel, smith; Peter Kern, smith; George Kehler, smith.  Peter Neihart is also conspicuously absent during this period.  His father and a number of his brothers and cousins are listed and it is possible that he was either living with one of them, missed by the tax assessor [either deliberately or accidentally], or was not present during those years.  Curiously, he can not found anywhere in Northampton County [via assessment lists], although he was noted upon a 1767 assessment in Whitehall township as a smith, and again in 1780 and 1781 [Peter Neihard], no trade listed.  He appears in a small number of Northampton County deed book entries only as "Peter Neuhart, yeoman," although it is difficult to distinguish which Peter Neuhart was being indicated as prior to 1776 a second Peter Neihart [a younger cousin] was also a resident and "yeoman" of Whitehall township before relocating to Upper Saucon.  Peter [the gunsmith] is found within the first Federal Census of 1790 in Whitehall Township as Peter Nyhard, and in the 1810 Schedule of Manufacturers as Peter Neuhardt, smith.  There is a baptismal record of 1772 concerning the birth of one of his daughters within the records of the Egypt Reformed Church, Whitehall township (Miller 1772) and a record of his sponsorship of a son of Henrich Muller in 1774 (Miller 1774) so he was certainly somewhere in the immediate area.

    Obviously, as no list of workmen is extant, we currently have no means of verifying whether any of these men actually worked at the armory ca. October 1777 through January 1779.  One has to wonder, then, where exactly Heller (writing in 1906) uncovered his information regarding Peter Newhardt, Jacob Newhardt, John Moll and George Layendecker. (Heller 156)  John Moll is one candidate who makes perfect sense:  he was a gunsmith and an established resident of Allentown.  He would not have been working upon civilian projects in 1777-1778 but would most certainly have been put to use by the state.  Whether he was working in a designated armory building itself or in his own shop is somewhat of a moot point; he most likely was on the state payroll.  Geroge Jacob Newhardt/Neihart, usually referred to simply as Jacob Newhart and Peter Neihart's youngest brother, is also a very strong possibility as his skills as a joiner would render him well-suited to the stocking and repairing of musket stocks.  He too has been proven to have been a resident of Allentown before, during and after the appropriate period via tax lists, census records and deed book entries.  [Later deed book entries of the late 1780s and 1790s no longer note George Jacob as a joiner but rather as a carpenter.  Possibly a more lucrative trade variation in a growing town?]  The additions of Peter Newhardt/Neihart and George Layendecker are a bit more mysterious.  Peter Neihart lived in the vicinity of what is now Laury's Station in Whitehall township [eventually North Whitehall township].  His farm, generally held to have been owned jointly with his older brother Frederick (Bishop 424), was approximately eight to nine miles from Northampton Town and it does not seem possible that he would have been able to travel back and forth twice a day, put in what surely must have been long days of work at the armory and maintain a farm concurrently.  Possibly he may have temporarily moved down to Allentown and either rented quarters or lodged with his brother Jacob, however there is absolutely no evidence now extant to this effect.  Furthermore, Neihart was - for a good portion of the time that the armory was in operation - constantly called to muster with the 2nd Battalion, 4th Company of the Northampton County militia.  Neihart was a member of the 8th class (5 PA Archives XIII).

Continued - click here.