Added December 2020
Points of interest: George Leibert was among several Moravians jailed in Easton, Pa., for refusing to join the county militia during the Revolutionary War, citing their pacifist religious beliefs. Almost all of them later relented under the advice of their leaders and joined the militia.
See Daniel Ernst
MICHAEL and BARBARA LEIBERT
Michael Leibert was born around 1700, probably in what is now the state of Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany. (1)
Married a woman named Barbara about 1726. She was born March 28, 1709, in the Rheinland-Pfalz. (2)
Peter Leibert, born Oct. 27, 1727.
George Leibert, born Dec. 26, 1735.
Catharine Leibert, born 1737.
Martin Leibert, born March 25, 1740.
Mary Leibert. Married Lorentz Bagge.
Elisabeth Leibert. Marraied Jeppe Nilsen.
Little is known about Michael aside from what we learn in the obituaries written for his wife and sons. Our sources indicate that Michael was Catholic and married a Lutheran woman named Barbara, who was from somewhere in the Palatinate – much of which falls in today’s Rheinland-Pfalz. In 1727, he immigrated with three family members, arriving in Philadelphia and settled nearby. In 1742, he moved to Philadelphia, where he died several months later.
The major source of this information is the biography his wife Barbara that at appears in records of the Moravian church in Bethlehem, Pa. Barbara dictated the first portion of the account, which was completed after her death. While generally reliable, it appears that a few errors crept into the portion that concerns her life in Germany – possibly because of poor memory or transcription problems. The passages from Barbara’s biography appear in “Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Related Lives, 1750-1820,” by Katherine M. Faull.
“Our departed sister Anna Barbara Fenstermacher had the following written down about her way through this life. … I was born on March 28, 1709, in Erstett in the Palatinate, where my father, Martin Rente was a burgher and blacksmith. My parents raised me as a good Lutheran, and it was also my great pleasure to go to church. In my twelfth year, I went to Holy Communion for the first time and, soon thereafter, I went into service. In my eighteenth year, I took my first husband, Michael Leibert, and bore him ten children, six sons and four daughters. I had my first son while still living in my father’s house and, during this birth, I was awakened. As I cried to the Saviour in my soul’s troubled state, he forgave my sins, and then I really felt my salvation. When I had recovered, I was crying a great deal, and my mother asked me, ‘Why are you crying so much? You have a son!’ I answered, ‘Because I did not die, and I am so blessed, and now I have to go back into the world.’ And from that time forth I was always concerned as to how I would maintain grace.”
From this we learn that Barbara’s family would have been part of Germany’s small middle class. Her father was a blacksmith and a burgher – or a citizen with full rights in the village.
However, there are some problems with Barbara’s account. The first is with the name of Barbara’s hometown. Erstett doesn’t appear to be a town in the Palatinate. An abbreviated translation of the biography says the town was called Erstadt. However, that doesn’t appear to be a town in the Palatinate either. As a result, we don’t really know where Barbara and Michael came from. (4) The next problem concerns her maiden name. This translation says Barbara’s father was Martin Rente. However, the obituaries of her sons George and Martin appear in the records of the Moravian church in Emmaus, Pa., and they list a different maiden name. They say in very clear and precise handwriting that their mother’s maiden name was Römlin. In old German records, “in” was added to the surnames of women, so Barbara’s father would have been named something like Martin Röml, if the Emmaus records are correct. I have been unable to check the original handwritten version of Barbara’s biography so I cannot comment knowledgably on the penmanship. However, a scrawled “Röml” could look like “Rente” if it is scrawled.
Next, Barbara describes advice that her mother offered before her departure for America.
“In 1727, we moved to this country and, when we had already said our farewells and I was leaving, my mother followed me and said she had something else to say to me, and we sat down, and she began: ‘When you arrive in the land, don’t think about gaining great wealth, but rather first take care of your children, and see that they come to no harm and don’t get bitten by snakes or the like. Second, I have heard for a long time that a congregation of God is to be founded over the ocean, just as it was in the Apostles’ time, and when you hear about it, don’t think about the fact that you were brought up in such and such a religion (her husband was Catholic) but rather join with them. They think much of the sufferings of Christ; they move from place to place, but when only three are gathered together, remain with them, for it must be again as it was in the beginning.’ And so on. That made an such an impression on me that I always thought about it.”
The Leiberts’ arrival is recorded in the lists of immigrants who disembarked in Philadelphia on Sept. 27, 1727. Michael Lybert and three unnamed family members are mentioned on “A List of Palatyns, Imported In ye Ship James Goodwill.” The hips was commanded by David Crockatt, master, and sailed from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the port usually used by German immigrants to Pennsylvania. A second list includes Michael Leiberth among the “Names of the Palatines who subscribed the Declaration” – or took the oath to become a British citizen. The introduction to the second list notes that the James Goodwill made a stop in Falmouth, England, where customs officials asked about its passengers. “[I]t appeared upon Enquiry that the Master had no particular License for their Transportation.” But this infraction appears to have been rectified in some manner and the ship continued its journey. (5)
The Leiberts first settled near Philadelphia. George’s obituary mentions that he was born in the “neighborhood of Philadelphia” in 1735 and Martin’s says he was born in Philadelphia in 1740.
During the early years in Pennsylvania, Barbara fell ill, which gave her a chance to reflect on her mother’s advice.
“Once, when I was very ill, I felt my salvation again, and it was always in my heart as though those people would come, about whom my mother had spoken, and when the Brethren came into the land, I believed that they were those people even before I saw them. I heard Count von Zinzendorf himself preaching first of all; but I was also persecuted enough.”
The Brethren mentioned here were the Moravians and Count von Zinzendorf was their leader. The refence to being “persecuted enough” is interesting. George’s obituary notes that he originally was “in the Catholic Religion baptized.” It seems possible that tension between Michael’s Catholicism and Barbara’s Lutheranism and her developing piety caused some friction.
Barbara next describes the family’s move to Philadelphia and its aftermath. “Thereupon in March 1742, we moved in to the city where my husband lived for only six months. There I was, a widow with nine children, until I had four of them with the Congregation.” When a Moravian scribe took up the pen to complete Barbara’s biography, the following was added. “With thanks she often testified how the dear Saviour had granted her a childlike care and steadfast trust in Him through all her troubles. One of these times had remained with her quite clearly, when she once had had nothing to give her children to eat and had been most worried about this in the night. Early in the morning, a neighbor came as she was in great despair and said ‘Barbara, during the night I was wondering whether you had anything to eat for yourself and the children.’ Whereupon she wept and said to him that she had nothing, and if he could lend her a couple of bushels of fruit so she would be very grateful to him. Whereupon he said to her, ‘I want to give you flour and fruit without expecting payment.’ ”
It was also during this time that Barbara joined the Moravian church. Her biography notes: “In 1744, she was received into the Congregation in Philadelphia and admitted to Holy Communion in 1746.”
Soon afterward, Barbara started sending her children to Moravian schools. Mary Leibert – listed as the daughter of widow Barbara Leibert of Philadelphia – appears among the pupils attending the boarding school for girls in Nazareth in 1746 and 1747. (6) Apparently, three other children eventually attended Moravian schools since Barbara refers to herself as “a widow with nine children, until I had four of them with the Congregation.” Despite her poverty, she strongly supported Moravian educational efforts. She is mentioned in connection with the creation of a school in Germantown. “One of the most faithful and valuable Germantown supporters of that undertaking was the widow of Michael Leibert, Barbara Leibert, whose daughter was among the school girls at Nazareth,” according to “A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania,” from 1902. (7)
In addition, Barbara Leibert is listed among the Germans in Philadelphia attached to or in communion with the Moravian in June 1747. And in May 1749, she is listed among those who met “for Social Worship in ‘The Moravian House’ in Philadelphia.” (8)
The second list must have been compiled on May 1 or 2 because on May 3, 1749, Barbara married her second husband, Christian Fenstermacher, who appears on the same list. (9) According to Christian’s obituary, he was born April 14, 1697, in Meiseenhiem, in the Rheinland. He immigrated with his family in 1741 but his wife died as sea, leaving him with three children. “Arrived in Philadelphia, mentally, physically and financially depressed, he was soon comforted by Court Zinzendorf and others of the Brethren, who he joined in 1748.” (10)
Barbara doesn’t say much about her second husband in her personal account. After mentioning the death of Michael, she wraps up her story in two sentences. “Thereafter, I was married to my late husband, Christian Fenstermacher. In September 1764, we moved to Lititz, which was hard for me to do because I had children in Philadelphia, and was still attached to the world.”
Christian’s obituary provides more detail, saying that he “Came to Lititz Sept. 1, 1764, to take charge of the congregation store, on his own account for a few years, when it was returned to the church.” Lititz was a town established by Moravians in Lancaster County, Pa.
Christian died on Dec. 8, 1767. “After a short illness of three days durations, he died, ‘a happy child of grace,’ aged seventy years,” according to his death record.
Barbara didn’t remain in Lititz long after her second husband’s death, according to her biography. “In 1768, in Lititz she became a widow for the second time and, in answer to her dearest wish, she received permission to move to Bethlehem and was one of the first inhabitants of the Widow’s Choirhouse, where she was quite contented and happy. She often gave witness to the fact that she was now living the most peaceful and contented part of her life and was content with everything. The beautiful services in the congregation were of immeasurable value to her and, for as long as she could, she did not miss a single Opportunity.”
When Barbara was about 73, she wrote her will. She describes herself as a “Widow being at this present time Weak & Infirm in Body, but of sound & well disposing Mind and memory, blessed be God my Saviour Jesus Christ for the same and all other his Mercies and Favors conferred upon me.” The will distributes her possessions and money “my sons Peter, George, Henry, Martin, my before named Daughter Mary and my Grand-Daughter Charlotte, the Daughter of my late deceased son Andrew.” However, she notes that Henry received 50 pounds “in his Distress,” and that sum should be deducted from his inheritance. The will was written Nov. 1, 1782, but was updated on April 24, 1785, to note the passing of her daughter Mary. (11)
Barbara’s biography ends by describing a stroke she suffered about 1784, and a sad decline that followed a second stroke in 1786. “As long as six years ago she had a stroke and, although she recovered straightaway, from that time on we noticed a paralysis on her right side and a weakening of her senses. She often prayed to the Saviour with many tears to help her. Four years ago, she had a heavier stroke and from then on was robbed of most of her senses, could not talk coherently anymore, and from then on had to be cared for like a small child. Her nurse, Christina Segner, did this with great love and loyalty day and night. For the last year she was in an especially wretched state, that one could hardly look upon or hear her whimpering without heartfelt sympathy. One could understand nothing other than, ‘Oh, Lord Jesus, oh my Saviour have pity and help me.’
“Recently, she often got open sores on her body, for which the doctors remained loyal in the attempt to dull her pain, for her bodily suffering was very great. On December 15th, the daily watchword for the congregation was “though I walk in the midst of hostility, though dost stretch forth thy hand [Psalm 138:7]. I can be comforted with you when my distress is greatest of all. You care for me you child is more than fatherly.” One could see that she was nearing her release from all sorrow, and the blessing of the Congregation and her Choir was given to her with the feeling of the nearness of Jesus, with which she passed away on the morning of the 16th quite gently and blessedly in the 82nd year of her life. Now, in harmony, she will sing above, as we do here, ‘One thing has brough my through, little lamb, that slaughtered were you!’ ”
Notes in the margins of her biography indicate that only three of her children were still alive when she died in 1790 – Peter, George and Martin. She also had 35 grandchildren and 20 greatgrandchildren.
(1) Michael’s birth date and place can only be guessed at. We have an unusual amount of information concerning his wife, Barbara, but many of the details don’t hold up under scrutiny, as will be explained below. A birth year near 1700 can be surmised from the fact that he was married and had children before he arrived in Philadelphia in 1727. A brief biography written when Barbara died says the family came from the Palatinate – or Rheinland-Pfalz, in German – but the specific town listed as her birthplace cannot be found on modern maps. (2) Barbara’s approximate year of marriage and her birth date come from her biography, which is translated in “Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Related Lives, 1750-1820,” by Katherine M. Faull, Syracuse University Press, 1997, page 87. The marriage year presents a small problem. In the autobiographical portion of her account, Barbara says she was married “In my eighteenth year,” which probably means when she was 17 years old. This would put the marriage date around 1726. However, when Michael Leibert arrived in Philadelphia in September 1727, records say he traveled with three family members – presumably Barbara and two children. In addition, Barbara was then pregnant with Peter, who was born only a month later. Counting the months backward reveals that either something’s amiss with the chronology, the Leibert’s first child was born very, very soon after their marriage (or even before) or Michael had a child by a previous wife. (3) Barbara’s biography mentions that she had 10 children with Michael Leibert, but only three sons were still alive at the time of her death in 1790 – George, Martin and Peter. Unfortunately, the Leiberts are not mentioned in records of the Philadelphia County orphans court so some of the names are unknown. Most of Michael and Barbara’s children are mentioned in Barbara’s will, which is in Northampton County Will Book 2, page 99; available at “Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records,” at Ancestry.com. The will mentions Peter, George, Henry, Martin, Mary and Andrew. It also mentioned Mary’s husband. Elisabeth is listed as the youngest daughter of Barbara Fenstermacher in her marriage record, which is available in the 1780 marriage records of Bethlehem’s Moravian congregation at Bethlehem Digital History Project – http://bdhp.moravian.edu. Readily available records don’t mention a link to Catharine, but the Leibert name is rare in Moravian records and the circumstances of her life are a perfect match for a child of Michael and Barbara. A summary of her obituary says: “Catharine Leibert, 1737-60, born in Philadelphia. After her father’s death her mother brought her here [Bethlehem], and later she superintended the “Older Girls” in the Sisters’ house.” This appears in “The Old Moravian Cemetery of Bethlehem, Pa, 1742-1897,” by Augustus Schultze, “Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society,” vol. 5, Bethlehem, 1895, page 153. Peter’s birth date comes from “A History of the German Baptist Brethren in Europe and America,” by Martin G. Brumbaugh, Brethren Publishing House, Elgin, Ill., 1910, page 519. George and Martin’s birth dates appear in “The Old Moravian Cemetery at Emmaus, Pennsylvania,” Emmaus, Pa., 1936, in “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records,” at Ancestry.com. (4) The abbreviated version of the biography appears in “The Old Moravian Cemetery of Bethlehem, Pa, 1742-1897,” by Augustus Schultze, “Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society,” vol. 5, Bethlehem, 1895, page 160. (5) The family’s arrival appears in “Pennsylvania German Pioneers,” vol. 1 by Ralph B. Strassburger, Pennsylvania German Society, 1934, pages 10-12. (6) The school roster appears in “A Register of Members of the Moravian Church,” by Abraham Reincke, Nazareth, Pa., 1873, page 65. (7) The reference to Barbara’s support of schools appears in “A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892,” by Joseph M. Levering, 1902, page 207. On page 568 a list of people of interest includes, “Barbara Fenstermacher, who as the widow of Michael Leibert had been a zealous patroness of the second Moravian school in Germantown.” (8) The membership lists appear in “A Register of Members of the Moravian Church,” pages 96-99. (9) The marriage to Christian appears in “Marriage Register of The Moravian Church, Philadelphia, 1743-1800,” in “Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 2, vol. 9, page 150. It should be noted that an entry on page 99 of “A Register of Members of the Moravian Church” makes it appear that “Christmann” and Barbara Fenstermacher were already married on Jan. 8, 1749, which would disagree with another entry on page the previous two pages as well as the marriage record cited here. (10) Christian’s obituary appears in “The Moravian Graveyards of Lititz, Pa., 1744-1905,” by Abraham R. Beck; “Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society,” vol. 7, 1905, Moravian Historical Society, page 230. (11) As mentioned above, the will appears in Northampton County Will Book 2, page 99; available at “Pennsylvania, Wills and Probate Records,” at Ancestry.com.
GEORGE and ELISABETH LEIBERT
George Leibert was born Dec. 26, 1735, near Philadelphia, Pa., to George and Barbara Leibert. (1)
Married Elisabeth Ehrenhardt on Nov. 16, 1760. She was born Dec. 27, 1744, to Jacob and Maria Barbara (Andres) Ehrenhardt in Salisbury Township in what is now Lehigh County. (2)
Catharina Leibert, born Dec. 25, 1761. Married Frederick Beutel, often spelled Beitel.
Jacob Leibert, born Oct. 26, 1763. Died before 1768.
Johannes Leibert, born July 4, 1766. Died Nov. 23, 1766.
Elisabeth Leibert, born Oct. 18, 1768. Married Abraham Schuler.
Georg Leibert, born the Dec. 31, 1770.
Anna Maria Leibert, born Jan. 14, 1773. Died Feb. 27, 1773.
Christina Leibert, born Sept. 25, 1774. Married James Hall.
Anna Maria Leibert, born April 27, 1777. Married Henry Keim.
Johannes Leibert, born March 28, 1779.
Maria Magdalena Leibert, born Dec. 19, 1783. Married Daniel Ernst.
Susanna Leibert, born Dec. 12, 1785. Died Feb. 19, 1786.
Anna Barbara Leibert, born June 27, 1787. Died Aug. 18, 1800.
George’s parents immigrated from Germany in 1727 and settled near Philadelphia. George’s obituary says he was born in the “neighborhood of Philadelphia and baptized in the Catholic Religion.” When George was a little more than 6 years old, his family moved into the city of Philadelphia. Unfortunately, his father died only six months after the move, leaving the family in poverty, according Barbara’s obituary. (4)
During this time, Barbara became acquainted with members of the Moravian congregation in Philadelphia and decided to join their church. In 1744, she was accepted into the congregation and started sending some of her children to Moravian schools soon afterward. In 1749, she married Christian Fenstermacher, who was also a member of the church.
In addition to supporting education, Moravians also developed networks for training young men in different trades. At some point in the 1750s, George moved from Philadelphia to the budding Moravian town of Emmaus to learn to be a blacksmith under the tutelage of Jacob Ehrenhardt. (5) Jacob was one of the two men who donated property on which to build Emmaus.
In February 1760, Jacob Erhenhardt died. Nine months later, George married his tutor’s 15-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. The Leiberts settled in the Emmaus community and lived there for the rest of their lives. At the time, Emmaus was part of Salisbury Township in Northampton County. When Lehigh County was formed in 1812, it became part of the new county.
On Oct. 20, 1761, the executors of Jacob’s estate sold 160 acres of his land to George. The land was on “Little Lehi Creek” in Salisbury Township. (6) George Leibert appears tax assessment list for Salisbury Township, which was made on the Sept. 1. His assessment of 22 pounds was among the top five in the township, and probably indicates that he already controlled his late father-in-law’s property more than a month before the actual purchase. (7)
The township’s 1772 tax list provides details about the farm and George’s farm. The property included 100 acres of cultivated land and 60 acres of uncultivated land. George is identified as a farmer who owned three horses and three horned cattle. Although the tax list says George was a farmer, later records indicated that he continued to work as a blacksmith. (8)
In 1772, George’s younger brother Martin moved to Emmaus. In 1774, Martin married Christina Ehrenhardt, sister of George’s wife. (9)
Emmaus was originally a strictly Moravian town. It was governed by a committee of church members. Most residents rented their homes from the church. Some church members – like the Leiberts – lived just outside the town and owned their own property. And strict rules of personal conduct where enforced.
George and Elisabeth join the Emmaus church in 1762. George quickly became influential in the community. A Sept. 5, 1762, entry from Emmaus’s community diary seems to indicate that “Br. Leibert” was among council members who met that day. (10)
The Moravian congregation kept diaries recording daily events as well as decisions made by its officials. The history “They Came to Emmaus” contains many entries from these diaries, which frequently mention “Brother Leibert.”
In the early years, most of the entries are very routine. On Sept. 10, 1762, George join several others “mutually to repair the gable end of the church.” On Dec. 17, the diary said, “Br. Leibert asks whether he may give a lovefeast on his birthday on Dec. 26. It was granted.” On Dec. 26: “Br. and Sister Leibert gave a lovefeast for the entire congregation.” On Jan. 13, 1763: “George Leibert and wife and Sophia Andres rode to Bethlehem and returned again toward evening.” And on Feb. 11, 1764, town officials “Paid George Leibert for a lock, a pail and a packet of ink powder.” (11)
Much changed with the advent of the Revolutionary War. Although no battles were fought in the area, the towns in southern Northampton County were close enough to the action around Philadelphia to provide hospitals and housing for the Continental Army. “They Came to Emmaus” notes that “the little village became hospital quarters together with Allentown and Bethlehem, for the sick and wounded of the Continental Army. At a time when there were less than a hundred inhabitants in the village, with only 36 adult men, they took care of as many as 132 sick and wounded soldiers.” (12)
The Emmaus diary shows that George was closely associated with the hospital. On Nov. 12, 1777, the diary notes, “The Brethren Giering and Leibert have been to Bethlehem to see Dr. Shippen on hospital business. They returned with the news that the hospital will soon be removed from here.” (13)
The war also brought persecution for the Moravians. “They Came to Emmaus” describes their circumstances. “The acts of mercy performed by the Brethren during these difficult war years had won both the gratitude of the wounded soldiers and the respect of the military officers and high officials as well. But in the Spring of 1778 the old problems of military service and the oath of allegiance rose once more to harass the Brethren.” (14) During the war, the Pennsylvania government required citizens to take an oath of allegiance – often called the test oath – and mandated that all able-bodied men to enroll in militia companies. Those who refused were fined and occasionally some were jailed. Since Moravians were pacifists, they refused to participate and were dubbed non-associators and faced these penalties.
The problem loomed on the horizon in the fall of 1777. On Nov. 24, the Emmaus diary says, “After receiving the military summons our Brethren George Leibert and Henrich Knauss went to seek advice from Christopher Wagner about their not going to military drill and not joining the militia.” (15) Christopher Wagner served on Northampton County’s committee of correspondence and might have been seen as sympathetic to the Moravians.
The matter didn’t come to a head until April 1778, when a county lieutenant named John Wetzel decided to make an example of the Moravians in Emmaus. Wetzel had grown up as a Moravian but had turned away from the Brethren. “They Came to Emmaus” says the official “pursued the Moravian Brethren mercilessly and … made himself generally disliked by fair-minded people, even incurring the disapproval of the authorities.” (16)
On April 1, the Emmaus diary notes: “Early today a commando of 10 men came and seized our Brethren and young men in our village and our rural Brethren as well, excepting a few and marched them as prisoners to Allen(s)town. They went as docile as sheep among wolves. May the Saviour give them courage and wisdom and grace to show themselves as members of Christ.” (17)
In all, 19 were arrested, 12 from Emmaus and seven from other areas. Although the Emmaus diary names only one of the prisoners, other sources indicate George Leibert was among them. Moravian Bishop John Ettwein lists George and his brother Martin among the 12 prisoners from Emmaus. And John Wetzel’s ledger of fines and expenditures during the spring and summer of 1778 indicates that George Leibert was among “sundry suspected persons” who were fined, and also that guards were paid £570 to deal with “suspected persons and tories and other expenses, apprehending them, seizing their goods for fines &c.” (18)
Wetzel’s scheme is described in “A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892.” “County Lieutenant Wetzel put forth his boldest stroke early in April 1778, when he finally brought to pass the arrest of twelve Moravians, with some others, and their lodgement in prison at Easton, on trumped-up charges which the diarist of Bethlehem unhesitatingly pronounces ‘a tissue of falsehoods.’ The arrests were not made at Bethlehem nor even at Nazareth, but in Wetzel’s own neighborhood at Emmaus, where it could be done more easily and with less likelihood of immediate interference from higher quarters.” (19)
Bishop Ettwein describes the trial the following day. (19a) “On the 2nd, this Wetzel sat with some militia officers as a court of inquiry and had the prisoners brought before him. They were asked: whether they had paid their substitute money? Upon which each gave appropriate answer; some had paid. Others said: they had not yet been able to make an appeal! Still others: they would pay as soon as it would be legally required of them. Thereafter each was asked in turn: whether he would take the test? One replied: ‘Not now.’ Another: ‘No!’ Others said: ‘I want to consider about it further.’ Finally, all 19. were dispatched, under a strong guard, with the following warrant or committment to the jail in Easton: … We the Subscribers two of the Justices for the said County of Nh. being called on a Court of Enquiry held on the undermentioned Persons do find by the Proceedings of the said Court & other proper Information made to us, that Jacob Knaus, Abraham Knaus, Martin Leibert, Henry Knaus, George Leibert – Andrew Giering, Frederick Romig, Michael Knaus, Ludwig Andrews, Fred’k Wuensch, John Knaus, George Crist, – and guilty of several Transgressions against the Interest & Liberties of this State in particular in shooting at & wounding one of the Guard sent to secure them. …
“No complainant and no witness appeared before this so-called court against anyone. Wetzel himself said to George Leibert and others: ‘I have never heard any complaint against you; you have always been quiet and peaceful; I pity you, etc.’ Several members of the court, e.g. Deschler said: ‘We see no cause to send these people to prison.’ Th’s Hartmann, whom they had summoned from the vicinity, did not want to sign the Mittimus; but Mr. Jennings said to him: it was his duty, and he must do it! This he told Mr. Joseph Deane and Arndt, and testified that he knew nothing about their wrongdoings nor of any complainant against them.” [Another version of Ettwein’s manuscript notes: “There was not the slightest reason to assign guilt in the shooting to them; it had occurred in another district altogether, and had been done by other persons.”]
While the prisoners were held in Allentown, several groups of Moravians traveled the five miles from Emmaus to visit them. (20)
The day after the arrests, “Sisters Weiser and Andres went to Allen(s)town to take our captive brethren something for their entertainment and to bring them victuals. They found the prisoners contented and comforted in acting as one man with reference to taking the test oath and rather than so to do to have themselves imprisoned. They adhere to their resolution not to take the test oath and nothing would move them to do otherwise. May the Lord strengthen them and support them to His honour!”
On April 3, “Some of the brethren visited our prisoners and Allen(s) town and we learned from them that they are all in good spirits. But because they would not do the test oath they are now sentenced to the prison in Easton. This really cheered them up for they were glad to get out of the ill-smelling quarters in which they had been confined in Allen(s)town. They were abused and had to listed to blasphemous insults, but Brother Giering, calm with it all, gave courage to the rest.”
And on April 4, “Sisters Liese Leibert, Betty Romig and Catharina Elisabeth Knauss went to Allen(s)town this morning to bring the prisoners a good breakfast before they are marched to Easton. Greeting the folks at home they leave for Easton in good spirits.” The April 4 visitors included family who undoubtedly wanted to see the prisoners one last time before they were taken to Easton.
“A History of Bethlehem” provides a vivid description of the prisoner’s trek from Allentown to Easton. “They were marched like criminals with much show of guard and restraints, through Bethlehem, as an object-lesson. Sick soldiers in the hospital looked out of the windows and jeered as they passed, until they learned that they were Moravians, and then this ceased. The procession was made long, in order that it might be more imposing. The guards, acting under instructions, tried at first to prevent all communication with them at Bethlehem, but had to give way in this particular and permit them to be served with dinner, which the guards, of course, shared, and doubtless esteemed more highly than Wetzel’s orders.”
After arriving in Easton, the prisoners spent the next three weeks awaiting trial.
At this point, Wetzel’s scheme fell apart, as Bishop Ettwein describes. “Several friends and members in Bethlehem immediately took what steps they could to free them. Br. Schweiniz conveyed a petition which had been signed by them to the President and his Council in Lancaster; it was turned over to the Chief Judges. They appointed certain Justices for the second hearing. On the 29th of April, when our watchword read: ‘That Thy beloved may be delivered, save with Thy right hand’ [Ps. 1808:6], these declared that court which had committed them to have been illegal, the prisoners innocent, and sent them home.”
Despite this reversal, Wetzel didn’t give up. The May 4 entry in the Emmaus daily describes the county lieutenant’s next step. “Our brethren were summoned to Allentown again where they appeared before Wetzel and his committee. He gave them rough treatment and quoted someone who would swear against them. Brother Giering told him there had been swearing enough and that someone had sworn that they were enemies of the country. Brother Giering stated that he could prove that they were friends of the country whereupon Wetzel flew into a rage, rushed up and down the room and stamped with his feet, when the truth was told him. He threatened to beat and shoot Giering but Giering replied that he had no ability to settled anything with violence. In the end the committee granted them a week in which to pay their fines which amounted to £53 and 15s.” (21)
In September, it became apparent that May’s fines didn’t bring an end to the trouble over the test oath. On Sept. 11, the Moravian pastor, Francis Boehler, and other men from the village were summoned to Bethlehem to be tried for failing to take the oath. George Leibert was among them. (22)
On Sept. 18, Boehler and the others appeared before the court. “After we appeared and were asked whether we would take the test oath, we declared that we could not do so without charging our conscience with guilt, and because of this we were sentenced to be imprisoned in Easton. But the constable made clear that the sentence was not to go into effect before next Tuesday and therefore we returned home that night.”
On Sept. 22, the Moravians arrived in Easton and awaited their fate. The dairy says, “Toward four this afternoon I and the rest followed and we all came together in the Easton prison. … During the following days while court was in session the prison keeper who is our true friend and does his utmost to help us, and so also the lawyers who we have engaged, make us hopeful that we may be liberated without taking the test oath, with which hope we also comfort our dear ones.”
However, the optimism was misplaced because the court was stacked against them. The diary entry for Sept. 24 describes the proceedings. “That same evening when the court stayed in session until midnight and the lawyers had done everything they could to get us freed, we heard that we were to remain in prison until next court session, because the two Justices who were on the Committee had gone home, which was a put-up job, so that the others in the court had an excuse not to liberate us.”
The following day, the Moravians made a critical decision. The diary entry from Sept. 25 says: “After my captive brethren considered the situation and the circumstances from every side and also had already endured so much they resolved to take the test and that same evening were freed and went home. I remained there alone and found comfort in the watchword for the day: Lord Sabaoth, well for him who trusts in Thee.”
Northampton County records list nine Moravian men who took oath of allegiance before William Craig, Esq., on Sept. 25. They were George Leibert, his brother Martin Leibert, Fredrich Winsch, Henry Knauss, Lodowich Andrew, Michael Knauss, Abraham Ziegler, Georg Christ and Jacob Knauss. (23)
At the end of the month, Boehler was released under bond. By the time his trial date arrived in December, the Pennsylvania assembly had passed an act reducing penalties related to the oath so he was able to walk free.
During a lull in the legal battles over the test oath, George traveled to a Moravian settlement about 30 miles north of Emmaus and witnessed the fallout from the Battle of Wyoming, one of the few instances of fighting in Northampton County. On July 3, 1778, Tories and their Native American allies attacked patriot forts near what is now Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County. The defeat – often called the Wyoming Massacre – saw more than 300 patriot troops killed and sent refugees streaming south. On July 9, the Emmaus diary notes, “This afternoon I visited Brother and Sister George Leibert who had just returned home from Gnadenhuetten and saw on the way some 300 refugees from Wyoming, mostly women and children in a pitiful condition.” (24)
The following year, George was among those who served as stewards of the community. On Dec. 19, 1779, the Emmaus diary says, “The Brr. A. Giering, Hen. Knauss, Geo. Leibert will continue as stewards, and together with Br. Ludw. Andres for a committee to maintain good order and to see that the town regulations are carried out.” (25)
Although the matter of the oath appears to have been resolved by the end of 1778, questions about militia service continued to dog the Moravian community. In September 1780, Emmaus’ committee sent Henry Knauss to convince Jacob Ehrenhardt – George Leibert’s young brother-in-law – to refuse to enroll in Northampton County’s militia. However, Ehrenhardt said he feared a large fine or imprisonment. (26)
At some point after this, a number of Emmaus’ men decided to join Northampton County’s militia, including both Jacob Ehrenhardt and the man who was sent to convince him to refuse to serve. “They Came to Emmaus” notes that the Moravian cemetery in Emmaus contains the graves of 12 men who served during the Revolutionary War – George Leibert among them. Virtually all of the men appear on the rolls of militia units that mustered near the end of the war and were never called to active service. Interestingly, the dozen includes most of the men who had been imprisoned in 1778 or took the oath that fall. They are: Ludwig Andreas, Michael Bauer, George Christ. Joseph Clewell, Jacob Ehrenhardt, Andreas Giering, Henry Knauss, Carl Ludwig Kunkler, George Leibert, Martin Leibert, Jacob Frederick Wuensch and Abraham Ziegler. (27)
“George leibert” is listed as a private in the 1st Class of Capt. Felix Good’s 7th Company in Northampton County’s 4th Battalion of militia. The roster is dated April 29, 1782, about six months after the Battle of Yorktown ended fighting in the northeast. Again, the unit included several of the other men who had been arrested – Henry Knous, George Christ, Fried’ch Winsch and Jacob Knous. It also includes George’s brother-in-law Jacob Ehrenhard. (28)
With the end of the war, it appears that life in Emmaus returned to normal. The controversies over the oath and militia service don’t seem to have affected George’s standing in the community. In 1781, George Libert served as Northampton County’s tax collector in Salisbury Township. He collected a tax of 2 pounds from himself. (29) And in 1789, he and Henry Knauss served as executors for the estate of Philip Kratzer of Upper Milford Township. (30)
George’s property was tallied in Salisbury Township tax records from the late 1780s. From 1787 through 1789, George – listed as Libert, Leiberd and Leibert, respectively – was taxed as a blacksmith who owned 140 acres of land. His livestock consisted of a horse and two horned cattle in 1787 and two horses and four cattle in 1788 and 1789.
The 1790 Census indicates that the household of George Lybert in Salisbury Township contained a male under 16, two males 16 and over and five females. These would seem to be George and Elisabeth and their surviving children aside from one daughter.
In 1798, records of the U.S. direct tax say George’s property consisted of 159 acres, which contained one old log barn and was valued at $1,600. (31)
The 1800 Census shows George Leibert’s household in Salisbury Township contained one male age 16-25, one male 45 and over, one female 10-15, one female 16-25 and one female 45 and over.
On Sept. 13, 1801, Elisabeth died. (32)
George died almost three years later, on June 19, 1804. According to “They Came to Emmaus, “He suffered a mental derangement during the last months or his life.” (33)
The Leiberts are buried at the old Moravian cemetery in Emmaus. In addition to the tradition Moravian gravestone set into the ground, George has a second stone commemorating his militia service during the Revolutionary War that was added many years later.
Since George didn’t leave a will, his estate was settled by the Northampton County orphans court. On Jan. 19, 1805, the court heard a petition from Frederick Beutel – husband of Catharine – to partition George’s estate. His property consisted of 160 acres including a planation and tract, and another 20 acres of woodland. The heirs later decided to reject the partition of the property and opted to sell it. (34)
(1) George birth information and parents are listed in his obituary and in his 1801 family register in the records of the Moravian congregation of Emmaus, Pa., which are available in “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records,” at Ancestry.com. The original versions of these records say his mother’s maiden name was Roemlin. However, a translation of her obituary says her maiden name was Rente. This appears in “Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Related Lives, 1750-1820,” translated by Katherine M. Faull, Syracuse University Press, 1997, page 87. (2) The marriage record appears in the Moravian Roots Genealogical Database, which available at https://roots.moravianchurcharchives.org, as well as the Emmaus church records. The marriage date, as well as Elisabeth’s birth and parents are listed in the 1801 family register. It should be noted that some sources list her birth year as 1745 since she was baptized on Jan. 7 of that year. One such source is “The Old Moravian Cemetery at Emmaus, Pennsylvania,” Emmaus, Pa., 1936, which is available in “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records,” at Ancestry.com. (3) The dates of the births and deaths of the Leibert children are recorded in the 1801 family register of the Emmaus Moravian Church and also in the Moravian Roots Genealogical Database. The husbands of Christina, Elisabeth, Anna Maria and Catharine are mentioned in the records of George’s estate, which appears in “Genealogical Abstracts of Orphans Court records, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Volumes 6-8, 1795-1815,” by Candance E. Anderson, Closson Press, 1999, page 178. Magdalena’s link to her husband appears in the baptismal records of her children in the Moravian Roots database. (4) George’s obituary appears in the Moravian records of Emmaus. His mother’s obituary appears in “Moravian Women’s Memoirs: Related Lives, 1750-1820.” (5) The blacksmith training is mentioned in George’s obituary. (6) The 1761 sale is note listed in the index to Northampton County deeds. However, it is mentioned in a 1791 deed recording the sale of a small portion of George’s land for a church that served both Lutheran and Reformed congregations. It appears in Deed Book E-1, page 662, which is abstracted in “Abstracts of Deeds, Northampton County, Pennsylvania,” vol. 2, by Candance E. Anderson, Closson Press, Apollo, Pa., 2001, page 278. (7) The assessment appears in “Abstracts of Public Records, Northampton County, Pennsylvania (and surrounding counties), 1727-1779,” vol. 1, by Candance E. Anderson, Closson Press, 2001, page 124. (8) The 1772 tax list appears in “Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801,” at Ancestry.com. Tax lists from the 1780s, which are available at the same source, indicate the George was still a blacksmith. (9) Information on Martin can be found in his obituary in the records of Emmaus Moravian Church, available in in “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records,” at Ancestry.com. (10) George’s obituary mentions when he joined the church. The 1762 diary entry is included in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 92. (11) The diary entries appear in “They Came to Emmaus,” compiled by Preston A. Barba, Lehigh Litho, Inc. Bethlehem, Pa., 1960, pages 72, 73, 74 and 149. (12) The hospital is discussed in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 116. (13) The Nov. 12, 1777, entry appears in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 119. (14) “They Came to Emmaus,” page 119. (15) The Nov. 24, 1777, entry appears in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 119. (16) Wetzel is described in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 120. (17) Ettwein’s account appears in The April 1778 entry appears in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 122. (18) Ettwein’s list appears in “John Ettwein and the Moravian Church during the Revolutionary Period,” by Kenneth Gardiner Hamilton, Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. 12, No. 3/4 (1940), page 278. Wetzel’s accounts – listed under “Accounts of John Weitzel, esquire, lieutenant of Northampton County” – appear in “Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 3, vol. 6, pages 757 and 758. (19) “A History of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, 1741-1892,” by Joseph M. Levering, 1902, pages 498-499. (19a) The legal wrangling over the test act are described in “John Ettwein and the Moravian Church during the Revolutionary Period,” by Kenneth Gardiner Hamilton, Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. 12, No. 3/4 (1940), pages 276-278. (20) The visits to the prisoners appear in “They Came to Emmaus,” pages 122-123. (21) The Allentown hearing is described in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 124. (22) The September incident appears in “They Came to Emmaus,” pages 125-126. It should be noted that the Emmaus diary seems to provide different totals for the number of men who faced the court. The diary entry for Sept. 18 says, “This forenoon I and 19 others of our brethren and young men went to Bethlehem to appear.” The Sept. 11 entry says “I [Boehler] and ten of our people were ordered to appear in Allen(s)town.” The Sept. 16 entry says “11 additional brethren and young men were ordered to appear,” which would add up to 22. The Sept. 18 entry says “I can 19 others of our brethren and young men went to Bethlehem,” and notes that two old men had been left behind. However, the annual review of the community’s activities says that defendants were “Br. Boehler with nine other brethren and young men.” This matches the number of Moravian men who actually took the oath of allegiance on Sept. 25. (23) The oaths are recorded in “Miscellaneous Manuscript Records of Northampton County, Pennsylvania, 1727-1851,” at FamilySearch.org, image 804. Each of the men also appears in Moravian church records from Emmaus. (24) The Battle of Wyoming’s fallout is mentioned in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 124. (25) George’s service as steward is mentioned in “They Came to Emmaus,” page 134. (26) Jacob Ehrenhadt’s militia dilemma is mentioned in “The Came to Emmaus,” page 135. (27) The 12 who served during the revolution are discussed in “They Came to Emmaus,” starting on page 128. (28) The militia roster appears in “Pennsylvania Archives,” Series 5, vol. 8, page 337. A similar list, though undated, appears on page 363. George’s service is also mentioned in “Pennsylvania, Veterans Burial Cards,” which contains records of burial places of veterans in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs, and is available at Ancestry.com. This source seems to have been drawn from the “Pennsylvania Archives.” (29) The 1780s tax records are available at “Pennsylvania, Tax and Exoneration, 1768-1801,” at Ancestry.com. (30) The role as executor appears in “Abstracts of Deeds, Northampton County, Pennsylvania,” vol. 3, by Candance E. Anderson, Closson Press, 2002, page 209. (31) “Pennsylvania, U.S. Direct Tax Lists, 1798,” at Ancestry.com. (32) The obituaries of Elisabeth and George appear in the records of Emmaus Moravian Church and also “The Old Moravian Cemetery at Emmaus, Pennsylvania,” Emmaus, Pa., 1936. Both are available in “Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records,” at Ancestry.com (33) George’s death is also mentioned in “They Came to Emmaus,” which appears to have relied on his obituary. This is on page 132. (34) George’s estate is mentioned in “Genealogical Abstracts of Orphans Court records, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, Volumes 6-8, 1795-1815,” by Candance E. Anderson, Closson Press, 1999, pages 170, 172, 181 and 187.