DISCOVERING THE FUTURE BY REVEALING THE PAST
Thunder roaring in the distance echoed with a dreadful call, following the defeat of Washington at Fort Necessity and then Braddock at Fort Duquesne. War Clouds stacked over western Pennsylvania began their fatal march eastward towards the Blue Mountain ridge near the Delaware River. Thunderheads rapidly collected and painted in charcoals and ash began dripping with electricity as they rolled fiercely across the Pennsylvania plains. With their arrival, they descended with a scream slamming into the Blue Mountain ridge and consuming the valley below! The French and Indian war had arrived, and the Lehigh Valley was on the front lines of this bloody invasion.
SEPTEMBER 17, 1757, Plainfield, Twp.
It took place in the afternoon. A band of Indians had attacked the Keller homestead and took captive mother Keller and two of her young sons, Joseph Jr. and John Jacob. The eldest son Christian, in his attempt to escape, was killed being brought down with the silence of an arrow. Father Keller was farming across the hills when the attack took place. Fearing their raid and retreat might be discovered the Indians avoided burning the house and only the crying baby left in the cradle greeted Joseph upon his return. The Indians had been there! With the day fading to dusk the region was searched and the body of Christian was found and then buried beneath a white oak tree not far from where he fell. Half of Joseph's family was gone in an instant and for the next three years, the falling tears ascended to the heavens with prayers for his family still missing.
The first night Mother Keller sat by the fire for warmth. This September evening was cool and a fire was kindled. As the flames licked the night sky, an Indian drew forth the scalp of Christian and dried it near the fire. Mother Keller recognized the blond hair of her son and a piercing stab dripped with grief from her aching heart! A night of terror was born to this family broken only by the flicker of the dawn, and thus began the long hurried path to captivity. Often during the march, Mother Keller begged exhaustion only to be answered by her captors with a point of a spear to urge her along. In time Canada was reached, the boys were taken from her and she was alone.
Soon the Canadian French forts were reached, Joseph, being almost 6 years old lived with an Indian family that had lost their son. Following 3 years of captivity, Marie Keller returned to her home in Plainfield. In the family, Bible Joseph wrote with a trembling hand: "My wife came back, anno 1760, on the 20th of October, but my boys I have as yet heard nothing." Joseph Jr. returned years after his capture. John Jacob was two years old when taken and was never heard from again.
Following 3 years of captivity, Marie Keller returned to her home in Plainfield. In the family Bible Joseph wrote with a trembling hand: "My wife came back, anno 1760, on the 20th of October, but my boys I have as yet heard nothing." Joseph Jr. was near six years old when taken and returned 8 years after his capture. The other boy John Jacob was never heard from again.
After Marie Keller's return from captivity, a 7th son, Philip, was born. Following Joseph's return, both he and his brother, Philip, served together during the American Revolutionary war. Records first show Joseph in May 1775, serving in the Plainfield Company Flying Camp, Northampton County, PA. By July 1776, the Plainfield Company was attached to Capt. John Arndt's Company, 1st Battalion, Continental Flying Camp and served in General Washington's, New York Campaign. The Plainfield Company, 1st Battalion, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Kichline, was attached to Lord Stirling's forces just prior to the battle of Long
Report filed by Joseph Keller Sr., to the Provincial Council - September 19, 1757
Island. It was the first major battle of the American Revolution. Henry Allshouse, a fifer in Captain Arndt’s company, records the following course the 1st Battalion took: "As soon as Captain Arndts company was organized it marched from Northampton County, Pennsylvania, where it was raised, first to Brunswick in New Jersey, from there to Amboy…in New Jersey, where it was joined by the rest of the Battalion—the whole Battalion then marched to New York, and encamped in sight of the North River about two miles above the city. We were ordered from there to Long Island, and encamped near East River."
Following the Long Island battle, Lord Stirling, in his correspondence to General George Washington, writes of the performance of Captain Arndt's rifle company on the battlefield: "Kichline’s Rifle Men arrived, part of them I placed along a hedge under the front of the Hill, and the rest in the front of the wood. The troops opposed to me were two Brigades of four Regiments Each under the Command of General Grant; who advanced their light Troops to within 150 yards of our Right front, and took possession of an Orchard there & some hedges which extended towards our left; this brought on an Exchange of fire between those troops and Our Rifle Men which Continued for about two hours and the[n] Ceased by those light troops retiring to their Main Body."
From additional reports describing the battle: "The enemy then advanced towards us, [Capt. Arndt's Company] upon which Lord Sterling, immediately drew us up in a line, and offered them battle in the true English taste. The British army then advanced within about three hundred yards of us, and began a very heavy fire from their cannon and mortars, for both the ball and shells flew very fast, now and then taking off a head. Our men stood it amazingly well."
In the days following, Northampton County received some of the first news of the Long Island battle. "In these days, parties of militia on their return from New York, passed, bringing the intelligence that a battalion from the county has suffered severely at the engagement with the British, on Long Island, on the 27th of August last, having left most of its men either dead or wounded." Many of Kitchline's Flying Camp companys were tore-up in the fight. Those from Captain Arndt's rifle company, that survived and escaped British capture, lived to fight another day. General Washington then orders those survivors of Arndt's, Flying Camp, to Kings Bridge, near Ft. Washington, on the Hudson River.
November 16, 1776. Across the Hudson River from Ft. Washington was Fort Lee. From there, General Nathanael Greene sent an additional 1500 troops across the river to reinforce the defenses at Fort Washington. Attached to Lt. Colonel Baxter's Battalion, Capt. Arndt's Company was set up on a ridge east of the fort when two British Battalions, Commanded by Lord Cornwallis, rowed across the Harlem River and landed in front of them. While protected by the British heavy artillery fire from across the river, Cornwallis sent his attackers up the slope! Baxter himself was killed early on in the fight. Baxter’s small force including Capt. Arndt's Company, being so decimated in numbers at Long Island, was overwhelmed by the enemy and was driven back to the fort. Across the river from Fort Lee, Gen. Washington watched his troops retreat back to the fort as 8,000 British Redcoats and German Hessian troops overwhelm the 3,000 American troops surrounding them and forced their surrender! Joseph Keller was taken prisoner and imprisoned until his release later in 1777. Two weeks prior to the battle, William Demont had deserted from the Fifth Pennsylvania Battalion and given British intelligence agents information about the Patriot defense of New York, including information about the location and defense of Fort Washington. Demont was the first traitor to the Patriot cause. Also at this battle with the 1st Pennsylvania Artillery, were John Corbin and his wife Margaret. While firing artillery, John, was killed. Margaret had been with her husband on the battlefield the entire time, and, after witnessing his death, she immediately took his place at the cannon, continuing to fire until her arm, chest, and jaw were hit by enemy fire and she was taken, prisoner. Margaret Corbin received a military pension following her service and was discharged from the Continental Army in 1783.
Pvt. John Heller describes the Ft. Washington battle in his testimony to receive pension (short version) : "I was together with the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment and the 5th Regiment and what was called the Flying Camp who were all taken [by the British] at the Battle of Fort Washington. We were in said Fort Washington, Colnl McGaw who was the Colnl of 5th Regiment commanded the Army in said Fort - in the year 1776. The said Colnl Surrendered the fort to the British. a British officer ordered US Out of the fort and ordered us to ground Arms, Then ordered us to the right face and we were marched to York as prisoners = When we got to York as prisoners = they imprisnd us in a meeting house - this was in the city of New York = There was 2200 of us in a meeting house and in a Sugar house at said place. We immediately went from fort Washington there = and in prisn from the said time we were taken until the last of February - I was imprisned in the said meetin house. we had water and not allowed any. they gave us some biskits made out of phlore (flour) Rye. Our Men in said Prison all Died in Prison all but thirty three out of which 33 - I have the Honr to be one of said men. I will Recollect that in the morning In said Prisn there would be rows of men lying Dead = Persons in York would come in and Cart the Dead Bodies off = when the British took us off they took us to Brunswick on the Jersey Shores. They however had but the 33 of us to take out of said Prisn- When we set on Jersey Shore = and across the Hudson River a British officer who had command of the men that took us said to us "go off you Damd Rebels never let me catch you again If I do I will hang you right up" = after we got off a piece we then wished we had our Rifles we would give him a Pop. that was in the Last of Feby or the beginning of March = I Recollect the name of some of the men that was with me composing the 33 = Henry Segal - Christian Road, Joseph Taylor - WIlliam Wardes and an Irishman by the name of James Mc Cluskey who when in Prison would sit out on or in the Pulpit of the meetin house in Prisn and would preach to the Hessians for the purpose of aggravating them= the Hessians were the guard of said Prison."
By 1778, following his release from New York, Lieut. Joseph Keller Jr. reenlisted along with his brother, Sgt. Philip Keller, in the Northampton County Army Rangers and served until 1786.
Written of his great-uncle, Lieutenant Joseph Keller, the Rev. Eli Keller, born in 1825, published in his book History of the Keller Family, the following: "According to the most reliable information handed down traditionally in his own family, Joseph became an expert marksman with both the bow and arrow and rifle. The Reverend Keller also wrote, "Once after his return, [back home to the Keller Farm] he called from a distance
Captain Joseph Keller Jr. was married to Maria Magdalene Andre. Both rest in graves on the north side of the Blue Mountain in the area where Joseph, his mother, and younger brother spent the first night as Indian captives.
to a friend, asking to be allowed to shoot an arrow at him. The one thus requested, thinking himself safe by reason of the great distance, granted the request. Scarcely was the word said, when the arrow from the bow whirred past him - terribly near. The man shot at always believed that the young Keller shot exactly where he kindly aimed."
Philip Keller, born following Marie Keller's return from captivity, married Susannah Niemeyer. Susannah, her father the Reverend Peter Frederick Niemeyer, and his wife Marie, all moved and lived on the Keller farm following Philip and Susanna's
Sgt. Philip Keller was married to Susanna Niemeyer, the daughter of pastor Frederich and Maria Niemeyer. Both Philip and Susanna rest in the churchyard at Three Church Hill Cemetery at Martins Creek, PA
union. From 1790 until 1800, the Reverend Niemeyer was the Pastor for the Plainfield Church. Following his retirement from pastoral duties in 1800, the Reverend became the schoolmaster at the Plainfield Church Parochial School House, where he and his wife eventually lived and where the reverend taught school.....The writings of the Reverend Eli Keller, a great-grandson of the Reverend Niemeyer and a grandson of Philip Keller, states within his writings that his "Grandfather Philip Keller gave to his Great Grandfather Niemeyer and Great Grandmother, a house at Plainfield, and that for some years Reverend Niemeyer taught school from that house."
In the photo at left, are the gravestones of Pastor Frederich Niemeyer and his wife Maria nee (Horn). Their original stone sits on each side of the granite stone erected by the Plainfield Lutheran Church in 1955. Directly across the street is the schoolmaster's stone house built in 1839. To the left of the schoolmaster's house, under the lap siding is the log church. The Hall/kitchen building sits behind the triangular-shaped tree just to the left of the log church. The building was disconnected from the schoolmaster's house in 1973 and was later removed from the property in disrepair.
In the photo at left, is the schoolhouse where the Reverend Niemeyer taught school, it is known as the Parochial Schoolhouse. The building to the right was known as a Hall and later a Summer Kitchen. It is part of the house given to the reverend and his wife by Philip Keller. The building held a 6 1/2 foot wide, 10 burner fire hearth chimney, and iron stoves. The log schoolhouse was built in 1737 and is where the Reverend David Brainerd preached during the Great Awakening. During the French and Indian War Benjamin Franklin quartered troops in the building. Joseph Keller and his brother Philip and others built the Summer Kitchen and the apartments in 1805.
Written in 1909 within the Plainfield Church history by one of its oldest members, William Heimer, he states the following regarding the school house and the hall/kitchen: "This old school house was school house and dwelling combined with a large hall and fire hearth chimney between the school room and the dwelling apartments. The dwelling part was torn down in 1838 and a new separate stone house was built for the teacher." In the photo above, following the removal of the apartments, the hall has been disconnected from the school house and turned and is connected to the school master's house built in 1838 (school master's house not visible in photo). The photo (below) shows how the two buildings display together when attached.
Sitting dormant since its removal from the school master's house in 1973, my inspection of the old hall/summer kitchen, provided a look into the part Joseph Keller had in the building of the hall and apartments with his brother. Found hanging on the wall was a large dovetailed, glass door cabinet. Being that this building was built as a kitchen, possibly the cabinet was original to the building? Upon inspection, it was found written on the back of the cabinet the initials ' I.K.' and the date 1806. Church records show the receipts for the 1800-05 renovation were closed out on Dec. 26, 1805, and it seems probable that the reverend and his wife Marie, were living in their new house by 1806 and that the cabinet was made for her by I.K. There were absolutely no first names found in the Keller family, as well as families in the surrounding area that began with the letter I, during that time. On a map made in 1797 of the Northampton County area by Karl Bohn, he uses the letter ' I ' in place of the letter ' J '. Example: On Bohn's map, New Jersey is written as New Iersey, and possibly this cabinet was made by Joseph Keller? From a recently discovered document, it was found that in 1811, Joseph Keller filed an application for a tract of land to be surveyed in an area of Mount Bethel. Records show that Joseph already lived on the Plainfield/Mount Bethel border and the land to be surveyed was known to be rich in game for hunting. Below, the photo on the top left shows the front side of the glass door cabinet. The photo on the right shows the backside of the cabinet with the maker's mark of I.K. 1806. The photo (below left) shows Joseph's application request in 1811 for the land in Mount Bethel that Joseph signed with his mark I.K., note the similarities of the letters in each of the photos.
A 4ft. wide, White Oak, cabinet, all hand carved flat and assembled using mortise and tenon dovetail joints and wooden pegs (photo, left). Six panes of the hand-made glass are period to 1805. The other 6 panes were replaced in 1955.. Both the exterior and interior were repainted in 1955. The inside lip of the cabinet shows the original paint. A spill of the original paint on one of the shelves was recovered from beneath the 1955 paint. All 4 of the hinges and the screws are hand cut. All the hardware and nails were made by Henry Houser. Both Joseph and Henry served together during the American Revolution. Henry's name is also found on the cabinet and his property bordered the Plainfield Church property.
Joseph Keller's mark I.K. upon application dated 1811 (above, blue circle). Note the similarities of the 2 letters I.K. with the letters upon the back of the cabinet (photo, right). Look carefully at the letter 'I' on the cabinet and see what appears to be a number 5, or an upside-down question mark. Joseph first attempted to write an uppercase, English letter J, but reverted back to using a lowercase German letter J which is shaped like the English letter I.
HENRY HOWSER (HOUSER) signature - The letters are written in old German print. The first letter H loops at the bottom and up and crosses back over. The loop and the tail are very light and not visible in the photo. The same for the second H with a period in-between. The letter S is an 18th-century elongated style S that is also washed out and is faintly visible in the photo.
The photo (right) shows 1 3/4" hand wrought nails that were recovered from the back of the cabinet. The rosehead nails were also made by Henry Houser.
A pane of Crown glass (photo, above) holds the maker's fingerprints from cutting during the cooling process.
In the recent restoration of the cabinet, the paint on the front of the doors was removed. The doors are pinned together at each of the corners as are the window rails. Turn of the 20th-century crown molding was wrapped around the top and a base with a 19th-century drawer was added. The tongue and groove backing
with Joseph and Henry's signatures were turned around and are visible now from the inside of the cabinet (faintly visible in the photo). Extras were added (wine rack, glass holder, cigar box) using reclaimed, red oak. The glazing from 1955, on the inside of the glass doors around the windows, was removed and rails were carved from white oak and fastened with wooden pegs. The c.1910, mint leaf wallpaper around the lower shelf was an attic find in an abandoned farmhouse in Northern Colorado. All of the turn of the 20th-century crown molding added to the cabinet was reclaimed from Heller's Decorating Store in Wind Gap, PA.
Portland Cement and wallpaper covered the interior walls by 1911 (above).
A winding box staircase with a pantry underneath fills the rear corner of the Plank House (right).
A 12"x16', 1 1/2 story Plank House that was first built in 1805 by Philip and Joseph Keller Jr., Henry Houser made the hardware. A few years back the building was saved from demolition and removed from the property. A 10 burner fire hearth chimney was removed in 1973 when the building was disconnected from the schoolmaster's house and stored on the property, The building was originally built as a Plank House. In 1905, the building was restored and rebuilt as it was originally in 1805. In 1905, the builders added studs in the walls to be able to hang siding. The 5"x 6" corner posts show pit-saw cut marks with still rounded log ends and it may have been from lumber reused from the original building. The lap siding is period to 1905. There are 3, 64" long windows which hold 15 panes of glass each, half of those panes are handmade glass panes known as cylinder and crown glass and may be original to the 1805 building. The window frames are made with a wooden peg that holds the window open at certain intervals. The redwood window frames were made in 1905 as a reproduction of the originally made window frames. A box staircase leads up to the second floor with a built-in pantry underneath the staircase, the 6' 5" wide fire hearth attached tothat and filled the back wall up to the ceiling. The upper and lower floor joists are notched at each end and fit over the wall boards like a Lincoln Log. The wall boards fit into channels at each corner of the building. A portico and screendoor were made using reclaimed materials and were recently added for protection of the 1830s front door. Some of the original Portland Cement and wallpaper were saved still intact. The only pieces replaced in the move and rebuilding were the 6"x6" foundation boards and a 30' of fascia board around the roof. Most of the slate roof was reused.
1805 Plank House
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