Tamaqua’s Log Cabin (birthplace of Coaldale Founder John Moser)
by Mike Havrischak
The Valley Gazette, May 1973
- Burkhard Moser’s third child, John (Founder of Coaldale), was born in the log cabin on May 24, 1805.
- In 1827, John Moser took over by right of settlement a tract of land in present day Coaldale. This was to be the Panther Valley’s second community founded by a Moser. He also built a large log cabin which has since disappeared. The present day Coaldale General Hospital is built on land called “Moser’s Fields.”
- Whatever became of Burkhard Moser remains a mystery. In making a trip to sell coal over the Blue Mountain he disappeared. He might have been robbed and murdered, attacked by a wild animal, or taken captive by the Indians. Nobody knows his exact fate.
It’s a rare town that can boast having a log cabin built by its founder still standing in this modern day and age. Tamaqua can, however. The log cabin of its founder, Burkhard Moser, remains within the borough today. If Burkhard Moser were alive, he would be able to view from the hilltop perch on which he built his log cabin Tamaqua’s new high-rise construction site. Trulythe past and future are reflected in today’s Tamaqua.
In this article all references are to Burkhard Moser Sr., since historical records indicate at a later date a Burkhard Moser Jr.
Burkhard Moser was born in 1748 in Germany, and was only three or four years old when his parents immigrated to America. His family settled in Lynn Township on the other side of the Blue Mountain.
Burkhard Moser at the age of about 15 had been present at the Boston Tea Party. He probably had joined a Berks County organization called the “Flying Camp” which numbered some 200 men who went to help the cause of American independence in the New England states. Later, during the American Revolution, Burkhard Moser had served as a drummer boy in the Continental Army and was wounded.
In the summer of 1799 Burkhard Moser left the Lehigh Valley area in search of rich fertile land in the north. His brother-in-law, John Kershner, accompanied him on his search. Traveling on foot, the pair reached the narrow valley formed by the Locust and Sharp Mountains. There, at the junction of the Little Schuylkill River and Panther Creek, he staked a claim. This area suited the needs of Moser with fertile soil for farming, while timber and water were plentiful for operating a saw mill.
In payment for his past service in the Continental Army, Burkhard Moser was allowed to stake out a claim on this tract of land. This tract was some 6000 acres and included Tamaqua’s East End, Dutch Hill, Middle Ward, and extended east toward Coaldale.
Moser and Kershner returned in September of 1799 to the then Tamaqua wilderness to build a saw mill. The nearby mountain provided virgin tress which were milled and sent down the Little Schuylkill River to markets in the southern part of the state. This saw mill venture proved very profitable.
In 1801 Moser decided to build a permanent home for his family which then included his wife Catherine, son Jacob, and daughter Barbara. The two-story cabin was constructed of heavy hewn logs from the nearby mountainside. The spaces between the logs were sealed with mortar as protection against the elements. The cabin standing today is only about half its original size, since as the town grew in later years it was cut in half to provide building space. The eastern portion is all that remains today. The original cabin did contain two large rooms downstairs and sleeping quarters on the second floor.
Moser’s third child, John, was born in the log cabin on May 24, 1805. The growth of Moser’s lumber and farming venture by 1817 necessitated the excavating for another building. On digging, however, Moser made an important discovery, that of black rocks or coal! Moser realized that these rocks were the same used by blacksmiths in their hearths. Moser thus added another business, that of selling coal he dug, bagged, and carried to sell over the Blue Mountain to blacksmiths in the Lehigh Valley area.
The log cabin was the site of early religious services in the community. About four times a year a traveling preacher would hold services in the log cabin and attend to such things as communion and baptisms. “The Little Church Book” was a handwritten record kept by Moser of such services. This book was started in 1810 and is still preserved today. The Moser family was later instrumental in founding St. John’s Lutheran and Reformed Union Church, built on Dutch Hill in 1837, which was torn down in 1895 and replaced by St. John’s Lutheran Church on the corner of East Mauch Chunk and Pine Streets. Many of the Moser family are buried in the Union Church Cemetary on Dutch Hill which is still in use today by St. John’s Lutheran Church.
Christmas Day of 1820 witnessed the first wedding in the area taking place in the log cabin. Barbara Moser was married to John Whetstone, another early settler in the area. Mrs. Eleanor Whetstone DeQuevado, who presently resides in Tamaqua, recalls a story told by one of her ancestors who stood guard over the bride because rumors existed that Indians in the area might try to kidnap the bride.
About a year after the wedding, Mrs. Burkhard Moser, the mother of eleven children, died, being the first white adult to die in the settlement. Her brother, John Kershner, soon followed her in death.
Whatever became of Burkhard Moser remains a mystery. In making a trip to sell coal over the Blue Mountain he disappeared. He might have been robbed and murdered, attacked by a wild animal, or taken captive by the Indians. Nobody knows his exact fate. It is interesting to note that after Moser’s disappearance he was declared a squatter on the land he had claimed legally. Ironically, this was done by a coal company which paid the taxes on the land for two years in Moser’s absence and then took over the ownership of the land tract. At the turn of the century a court case was undertaken to restore the tract to Moser’s rightful heirs, but was to no avail.
In 1827 John Moser tookover by right of settlement a tract of land in present day Coaldale. This was to be the Panther Valley’s second community founded by a Moser. He also built a large log cabin which has since disappeared. The present day Coaldale General Hospital is built on land called “Moser’s Fields.”
At one time the Burkhard Moser log cabin in Tamaqua supposedly also served as overnight lodging for stagecoach travelers in the Panther Valley. A small window above the kitchen door was supposed to be the opening through which the stage coach driver would toss a passenger’s luggage into the cabin’s second floor. Although the opening is still visible, it has been boarded.
The log cabin is presently (in 1973) owned by Miss Hazle Nahf (a descendant of Burkhard Moser), who resides at 307 East Broad Street in Tamaqua where she also runs a dress shop. The log cabin is behind her residence and can be seen from Route 209. Should anyone desire to take photos of the log cabin, it is a good idea to ask her permission. It is private property and that right should be respected.
NOTE: Photos and a January 2021 article about the log cabin may be found at https://www.tnonline.com/20210130/spotlight-tamaquas-first-home-historical-society-aims-to-restore-220-year/