Johann Peter Wisser (4/2/1807- 10/23/1852)

Latest Edit: Aug 2014
This particular branch of the Wisser family can trace their history to Peter , a miner who immigrated to Mexico from Herdorf, Prussia sometime after the birth of his daughter Pauline in 1838, before coming to America in 1848.  He was  born Johann Peter Wisser in Herdorf, Prussia on April 2, 1807 to Peter and Elisabeth (Alof) Wisser.  There are records of the birth and christening of Peter, and his marriage to Maria Margaretha Wickel in Herdorf on February 20, 1838 as well.  Both records reveal the names of Peter’s aforementioned parents.  The marriage record also states the names of Maria Margaretha’s parents.   And so we actually trace this branch to Peter and Elisabeth, as well as  Joannis and Maria Wickel, but as of this edit we have no further information about them.  We do however have plenty of  information about their son known in America as Peter Wisser.


Record of baptism of Peter at St. Aloysius, Herdorf, Prussia (middle)

On page 1417 of the book entitled History of Lehigh County Pennsylvania and a Genealogical and Biographical Record of its Families, vol. 3, published in 1914, the author states Peter “settled in Mexico and there followed contract work in the silver mines until a revolution broke out, and on account of it, he returned to his native country.  He had intended to return to Mexico, but upon learning that the difficulties had not yet quieted down, he came to this country.”

To date we have found no record of the Wisser’s journey to, or stay in Mexico.

Before 1855, there were no immigrant processing centers in America.  The shipping company would present a passenger list to the Collector of Customs, and the immigrants then made whatever Customs declaration was necessary and were then allowed to go on their way.  We are fortunate that the manifest of the ship carrying Peter and his family was preserved.  They departed Europe bound for America, on the family’s second journey to North America aboard the Belgian Bark Stad Antwerpen arriving in New York on January 21, 1848.


Bark Stadt Antwerpen #2

Belg Bark Stadt Antwerpen #2

Passenger list of the Belgian Bark: Stadt Antwerpen

Passenger list of the Belgian Bark:
Stad Antwerpen

       Stad Antwerpen in a painting by the Belgian artist Egidius Linnig (Belgian, 1821 - 1860)

Stad Antwerpen
in a painting by the Belgian artist Egidius Linnig (Belgian, 1821 – 1860)

The Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, September 11, 1849

The Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer, September 11, 1849

One year, nine months after the Wissers sailed to New York on the Stad Antwerpen, the ad above appeared in the New York newspaper in the caption. It is reasonable to assume they would have seen something similar in Europe.  The captain in the ad is the same man who was captain at the time of the family’s passage as well.


It appears that Lower Macungie Township in Lehigh County was the family’s first home in Pennsylvania as the United States census of 1850 shows they were residents there.  Peter is shown as a labourer, and his family living on an annual income of $4,400.

*Note: Click on any image to enlarge

1850 Census-Peter Wisser appears on the last line of the page.

1850 Census-Peter Wisser appears on the last line of the page.


!850 Census-The rest of the Wisser family appears at the top of the next page.

!850 Census-The rest of the Wisser family appears at the top of the next page.

The above census of 1850 is an interesting and important document.  This is the first documentation we have found of Peter and his family in Lehigh County.  There is little doubt that Peter started his U.S. mining career in Lower Macungie Township.  The following excerpt is from the web site of the Lower Macungie Township Historical Society:

For most of its history, the township was rural and agricultural, with villages at several crossroads. Pockets of iron ore were mined during the Lehigh Valley’s iron boom of the mid- to late nineteenth century, and limestone was quarried to use as flux in local furnaces. Clusters of trees and water-filled holes still mark the landscape where ore and limestone were extracted.”

It is important in that it documents correctly, the birthplace of each member of the family. And it is important in that it shows names do not always appear the same on all documents-(i.e. Maria sometimes appears as Margaretha, Pauline as Caroline, Boniface as Fassio.  The surname Wisser here looks like Wifert. The letter that looks like an f is an archaic way of writing ss in German script, as we will see in other documents.)  The census also contains first documentation of Peter and and Maria’s daughter, Lovina.

The Wissers eventually settled in the village of Guth’s Station in Lehigh County, where there were iron ore mining  operations tied to the developing industries in the Lehigh Valley.

According to “History Of Lehigh County“, Peter married Mary Wickel. The entry states their children were Pauline , married to Abraham Kuhns of Catasauqua, Bonifacius, Elizabeth, married to William Sacks, and Sarah, married to John Miller.

Record of the marriage of Peter and Maria Margaretha, St. Aloysius, Herdorf.

HOLC” states that Peter “was accidentally killed in a cave-in when his son Boniface was twelve years old.” ; and that Peter “is buried at the Bally Catholic church.”(now: Most Blessed Sacrament).  A search of records there revealed that the funeral for Peter was held on 23 Nov 1852. The search also yielded the sad fact that a funeral for Lovina,  was also held there on 30 April 1854, meaning her death occurred  at the age of 5.  These records also confirm the death of an infant son named Charles, who died only a month before Peter. It is difficult to verify burial of any of the three in Bally as we have not found a gravestone. (See the discussion that follows this entry).

Note: All ledger entries from Most Blessed Sacrament Church were written in Latin and translated with the help of Mike Miller and Rev. Edward B. Connolly. —————————————————————————————

Ledger entry for the funeral/burial of Charles (Carolus), infant son of Peter and Maria


Above: Ledger entry for Peter’s funeral/burial on file at the catholic  church in Bally.  It translates, ” Died on the 23rd, and on the 28th day of the month Peter Wisser and Peter Bell were buried, who died an unprovided death in a place called William Guth’s mine holes near Allentown. They were laborers working about sixty feet underground when the earth caved in, so that it took four days for them to exhume the bodies.”

Note on the expression “unprovided death”: This might also be translated “unattended death”. It is an expression commonly used in the Church to refer to a situation wherein a person dies without there being a priest around to confer the last rites. (Many thanks to Reverend Edward B. Connolly for his translation and insights.)


The horrendous accident in which Peter and two of his co-workers were killed was well covered by the local newspapers.   Some of them were German language newspapers, and we have done our best to translate them.  Below are scans of the articles with the translations following each of them.

Above: Account of the accident in which Peter died as it appeared in the weekly German language newspaper Allentown  FriedensBote (PUBLISHER: Blumer & Busch,  1847 1916),  on October 27,1852, {on file as microfilm at the Lehigh County Historical Society}.  In the account, Wisser is listed as Jacob. Census records show that there was a Jacob Wisser in the area at the time, but we can conclude the reporter got the name wrong based on the fact that Peter Wisser is listed along with Peter Bell in the death records at the church in Bally. (It is not hard to imagine that in the commotion surrounding the cave in, an onlooker identified Peter as Jacob).  We have taken the liberty of inserting the correct name.  Following is a rough translation made possible by an online translator.

                         Sad Misfortune 3 People Lost Their Lives

Over this past Saturday afternoon occurred in a pit a saddening misfortune, in working for the Crane Iron Company, on the land of Stephen Balliet, near Guthsville in South Whitehall, where the three employees therein almost certainty lost their lives. The pit had been held for some time in a dangerous state, and some employees have already for several weeks no longer dared to enter. Peter Wisser and Peter Bell, both German, and Barny McClarnen, an Irishman, were working on this past Saturday on the floor of the pit, which was about 70 feet deep, when the top layer of soil from the edge became detached, plunged into the pit and the workers were buried about 20 feet deep. At once 40 to 50 employees engaged to get the unfortunate out, but as of the writing of this article (Monday evening) it had not yet happened. But by the time you read this it should have, as they’re working as hard as they can, moving 300 to 400 tons dropped in the landslide. The sad thing is, it’s probable that because of the enormous weight all will have been found dead. Peter Wisser left behind a wife with 6 minor children, and Peter Bell was awaiting his wife and children every day from Germany; the Irishman was in the unmarried state. If the wife and children arrive here from Germany, far from home in a foreign land, what heart suffering is prepared for them! What a pain too, is to befall them if they find the spouse, the father, they built their hope on, dead. So sad! Their hope of joyful reunion will melt away in tears. And no less deep and heart-breaking, the pain of the wife and children of Peter Bell [surely they mean Wisser here!] to be. You have to put yourself in their place to get a grasp of the situation.

Above: Article as it appeared in Der Unabhaengiger
(Allentown, first published July, 1810)  on Oct 28,1852, on file on microfilm at the Allentown Public Library. This time Peter’s name, as well as the number of children who survive his death are correct. A rough translation follows:

                                         Casualties in the County

This past Saturday, there were in the iron pits best known as Guth’s mine holes, in South Whitehall Township, three men buried. A 40 foot thick ledge broke over them. As we are writing this, they are not yet dug out. The casualties were a German named Peter Wisser who leaves behind a wife and four children, another German named Peter Bell, leaving behind a wife who is on her way to America, and an Irishman named Barney McClary, unmarried.



Article from the Allentown Democrat reprinted in The Post of Lebanon, KY

Article from the Allentown Democrat reprinted in The Post of Lebanon, KY

ABOVE: An article about the accident was written for the Allentown Democrat and was posted in The Times-Picayune,  New Orleans, Louisiana,Tuesday, November 9, 1852

The original article in the Allentown Democrat carried this additional text:

Their names are Peter Wiesser, a German, aged about forty – five years, who leaves a wife and four children : Peter Bell. also a German, who has been but a short time in be country, and whose wife and family are now said to be on the way from Germany to meet him here; and Barney McKllary, an Irishman, without family, aged about thirty – five years.



    Der Lecha Patriot      27 October 1952                Part 1

Der Lecha Patriot
27 October 1952
Part 1


  Der Lecha Patriot   27 October 1952            Part 2

Der Lecha Patriot
27 October 1952
Part 2

ABOVE: Article as it appeared in Der Lecha Patriot : (Allentown, Pa. 1848-1859).

Many thanks to Nancy Wisser who by sheer determination provided this rough translation of the above article using Google translate:

                Three Men Buried Alive in an Ore Mine

On Saturday morning about 11:00 o’clock, in the working ore mine of Mr. Thomas of Catasauqua, on the land of Misters Balliet and Koch in South Whitehall Township in this county, a very sad and tragic disaster took place.

Three men were busy digging, about 75 foot deep in the mine, when a tremendous mass of earth peeled off on one side and buried them deep in the mine. On the side where the earth pulled out, it was only with [alacrity] the other employees escaped it collapsing under their feet and sending them into the terrible abyss.The three unlucky workers were buried 10 to 20 feet deep.

One, a German named Peter Weiser, left a spouse and four children. The other, named Peter Bell, also a German, left behind a wife and one child who are currently located on the seas, to join him here; and the third is an Irishman without family, named Barney McAllery. Although since the incident 40 to 50 workers have dug persistently, until now (Tuesday evening) nothing more has been found than a hat, shirt, and vest.

The unfortunate family of Mr. Wieser, and the wife of Mr. Bell, who will perhaps arrive here soon, should be everywhere met with consolation and help.


The article in the FriedensBote states that they were working a mine connected with the Crane Iron Company.   The following passage from the Central Reporter, Vol. 2 ( The LAWYERS CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1886)  proves that Crane Iron was leasing the mine at the time of the accident.

Peter's mine part 1
Peter's mine Part 2


It is the opinion of the author, that since Crane Iron was leasing the mine where Peter worked, it is reasonable to assume that Peter Wisser was working for Crane Iron Company of Catasauqua.  Our research reveals that Crane Iron operated but one mine in Guth’s Station.

: Passage and accompanying map from “Lehigh County Pennsylvania, Geology and Geography“, published in 1941. Mine#43 pinpoints the exact mine in which the fatal accident occurred.

Above: The mine hole where Peter died as it is today, filled with water. It is on the left side of Scherer Rd. just off Huckleberry Rd. in Guth’s Station.

——————– Discussion Of Research—————————————

When were the Wissers in Mexico?

We know that Boniface (Bonifacius, Fasse, Fassio) was born in Mexico. His birth date on his grave stone is given as 5/14/1838.  However, the passenger list of the Stadt Antwerpen on 1/21/1848 lists Boniface as age 7.  This would make him age 8 on his birthday that year, indicating he was born in 1840.  We feel the passenger list must be correct as there is record of Paulina’s birth and baptism in Prussia on September 22 & 23,1838.  If  Bonifacius was two years younger than Paulina, then he was born in 1840 (the birthdate on the tombstone is off  by two years).  There is also record of Elisa’s birth in Prussia on 6/10/1846 in Prussia.  We know Paulina was born in Prussia in 1838.   We know Bonifcius was born in Mexico in 1840.  We know Elisa was born in Prussia in 1846.  Therefore, the family was in Mexico somewhere between 1838 and 1846. ———————————————————————————————–

Where in Mexico did the Wissers reside?  And why and when did they leave?

“HOLC” states that Peter “followed contract work in the silver mines until a revolution broke out, and on account of it, returned to his native country.”  It is our opinion that the word “revolution”, if taken literally, may be misleading.  The revolution which was the War for Texas Independence, occurred between October 21, 1835 and April 21, 1836. Bonifacius was not born until May 14, 1840.  The Mexican Revolution started in 1910, obviously not the right time line.  The Mexican-American War, essentially a boundary dispute which was brought to a head when the U. S. annexed Texas in 1845, was fought between 1846 and 1848.  It’s possible Peter and his family left Mexico because of the hostilities leading up to the war.  There is the curious case of The Republic Of The Rio Grande.  According to Wikipedia: “The Republic of the Rio Grande (Spanish: República del Río Grande) was an independent nation that insurgents against the Central Mexican Government sought to establish in northern Mexico.  The rebellion lasted from January 17 to November 6, 1840 and the Republic of the Rio Grande was never officially recognized.”  This is an interesting timeline, as Bonifacius was born in May of 1840.

The map above shows where some of the violence due to the rebellion was taking place.  And below is a map showing the location of  the historic Eastern Silver Belt in Nuevo Leon.

The following is from Wikipedia: “In the 19th century, Nuevo León was in a growth spurt and the bargain land deals attracted immigrants of German, Slavic, French, Italian, Jewish and Anglo-American origin.”

If one were to pursue the whereabouts of the Wissers in Mexico (and we have, thus far unsuccessfully), both the time line and geography suggest  Nuevo Leon would be a good starting point. ————————————————————————————————- Where are the graves of Peter and his children Charles and Lovina? According to “History of Lehigh County”, Peter “is buried at the Bally Catholic church.” Unfortunately, no gravestones for any of them exist. Though all three appear in the records for the church, it has been suggested by Michael Miller (a long time volunteer at the library and museum at the church and a man who has extensive knowledge of the records there), that the information we are dealing with may be funeral records rather than burial records. This could mean they were buried closer to home, but a search of the Guth’s Station area has proven fruitless. Another explanation could be that all three are buried in Bally (the only Catholic church in the area at that time).  As is the case with older cemeteries, many of the stones have been rendered unreadable with the passage of time.

That being said, until evidence to the contrary is obtained, we will assume that Peter, Charles and Lovina are all buried in unmarked graves in the cemetery of the parish of Most Blessed Sacrament in Bally, Pennsylvania.

6 thoughts on “Johann Peter Wisser (4/2/1807- 10/23/1852)

  1. Hello’
    on your site i saw that you saw the passengerslist of 1850 of the Stadt Antwerpen. I’m looking for the passengerslist from the same ship but then of 1846. Could you please inform me as to how did you find this list, so I can search for the 1846 list
    Thanks in advance

    • Hello Philippe,
      The Church Of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) has much of this information. We were able to go to the local church and find the passenger list on microfilm. I believe it’s called the family history center. Good luck.


    • Hi marie Rose, Thanks for asking. You get extra credit for helping me regain access to my blog, which I lost over a year ago through a series of unfathomable events. But because you asked your question, I was able to go through a series of steps and, well, here I am! To answer your question: I don’t believe our lines are related (I’ve never come across any evidence). All material, including documents from Germany have always spelled the name Wisser. It’s certainly possible there was another spelling prior to that, but I’ve not run across any evidence. I have to ask, do you know Gary Wisser out in California? He has a Wisser family blog about his research into different branches in America. In fact I believe it’s called The Wisser Family In America.

  3. Hello, I’ve just found what appears to be a separate Wisser family, in Lehigh County, that emigrated from Suthwest Germany in the mid 1700’s into Berk County Pennsylvania. My Wisser family emigrated from the Southwest Germany in mid 1800’s as farmers to Canada then Nebraska and up to Saskatchewan. I haven’t found anything that connects my family to the Prussian Wissers, but am curious if these other Lehigh Wissers may not be connected to your heritage

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