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Spotlight: Tamaqua’s first home Historical society aims to restore 220-year-old Moser log cabin

In Washington, D.C., the U.S. president was Thomas Jefferson.

Philadelphia, which had enjoyed dual status as capital of the country and state, had just relinquished half of that role to the newly designed District of Columbia.

And in what early documents call the Panther Valley, Burkhardt Moser Jr. was busy building a simple, post-Revolutionary War log cabin.

Moser wanted to establish a home near the sawmill he’d built two years earlier at the junction of Panther Creek and the Little Schuylkill River.

The legend is fascinating, even if undocumented.

According to the story handed down, Moser was the son of a participant in the Boston Tea Party. His father had received a 6,000-acre tract of land as a reward for acts of courage.

He supposedly gave a parcel to each of his children.

It is said the younger Moser took 400 acres, some references say 300, in a water gap area north of the Blue Mountain. There he found rich soil for farming, trees for logging and plenty of running water. So Moser built a sawmill in 1799 and a log home two years later.

Moser placed his two-story cabin on a solid rise high above the Panther Creek, overlooking marshes and swamps.

He used a ground cellar to store fresh vegetables and meats. On the first floor, Moser lived in two large rooms separated by a large stone fireplace.

An open loft on the second floor was divided into two bedrooms. One room featured a high trap door that was used to load suitcases from stagecoaches that pulled up along what was a primitive road or path adjacent to the structure. That door is still visible today.

With that simple cabin, Moser founded what was to become Tamaqua, a town named for Chief Tah-Nah-Mochk-Hanne.

Cabin life

Pioneer life in Tamaqua would’ve been simple and hard.

Moser would’ve used candles for light, along with whale oil lamps or coal oil lamps. Washing was done by hand, either at the streams or using water hauled from them.

Moser’s wife, Catherine, and daughter, Barbara, probably tended to a garden where they grew corn, beans and other basic vegetables.

The women also canned foods, baked, sewed, cleaned and ran the house.

The men hunted and fished. They also sold lumber and later coal.

All of the activity centered on the cabin, which served as not only the first home, but also the town’s first church, hotel, chapel and funeral parlor.

The first church services took place when traveling preachers stopped regularly as part of circuit rider routes.

The first birth took place in 1809 when Mary Kershner was born. She was the daughter of John Kershner, an employee of Moser’s sawmill.

The first wedding was held on Christmas Day, 1820, when Barbara wed John Whetstone, another early settler.

The first death occurred on Feb. 15, 1822, when Moser’s wife, Catherine, passed away.

It is even said that part of the home was used as a tavern in 1807 when John Kershner’s widow and her son-in-law, Isaac Bennett, sold spirits.

For sure, the cabin saw lots of use. In later years, a sink was added and other refinements such as wallpaper provided a “modern” touch.

Sadly, half the structure, the western portion, was torn down in the 1800s as land was subdivided and houses rose along East Broad Street.

However, the place was rented throughout the years and remained occupied until the 1960s.


The Tamaqua Historical Society purchased the mostly hidden cabin and another building fronting on Broad Street in 1995 for $33,500.

As for the cabin, the society invested an additional $16,000 and countless volunteer hours to restore it to the early, rustic appearance, according to society President Dale Freudenberger.

Today, the cabin portrays the town’s founding in a manner rarely seen.

“In addition to the purchase price, the society spent another $14,000 repairing the log home to return it to its original appearance,” Freudenberger said.

“Work done by a contractor, volunteers restored much of the interior to what it likely looked like in its early days. The society had the home open and staffed with costumed guides for visitors about 15 years during community events, festivals, parades, house tours and the Christmas season.”

“Several years ago, the society was forced to close the log home to visitors due to safety concerns with the deteriorating large wood deck and stairs added to the front of the house years earlier. Rather than spend thousands of dollars to remove the deteriorating deck and stairs, the society formulated a long-term vision for the Moser Log Home which called for demolition of the blighted single house in front of it facing East Broad Street which sits vacant, removal of the deteriorating deck and steps in front of the log home, and filling and grading the vacant lot from street level right up to the front door of the log home as it was originally. There would be no need for the deck and stairway replacement on the front of the log house which were never there when the house was constructed.

“The graded lot would become a landscaped park in front of the log home, and most importantly, allow an unobstructed view of the log home from East Broad Street. Additional restoration work is also needed to the log home including replacing all of the chinking between the logs in an appropriate manner, repairs to windows, and replacement of concrete sidewalk on the side of the house.

“The society would like to seek grant funding or help to landscape the park, create a winding walkway up to the front door of the Moser Home, replace all of the chinking between the logs, and repair windows, replace sidewalks, etc. This is an important community project that the society hopes everyone will support to make this project a reality. When completed, the Moser Home will be able to be reopened for visitors. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to the Tamaqua Historical Society, 118 W. Broad St., Tamaqua, PA 18252.

Tamaqua's Burkhardt Moser log home, in its 220th year. DONALD R. SERFASS/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
The cabin is built using hewed lumber, corners interlocked with a V-design. Riven lath boards were installed and plastered with a mix of clay, sand and lime, a process called chinking.
Dale Freudenberger, president of the Tamaqua Historical Society, says the Moser log home illustrates challenges of pioneer life.
The Moser log home has been captured on canvas many times over the past 220 years, including this 1976 oil painting by late Tamaqua artist Louise Carter Keich.
The cabin had no running water, so the Moser family hauled it from nearby streams.
An old Moser family oil lamp with the Moser name acid-etched on the glass has been handed down through generations. Today, it's owned by a Moser descendant in the Lehighton area.
There aren't many 222-year-old towns that still have their first home, but Tamaqua's original home has withstood the ages.