Charles Raker, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: This project includes gunsmiths who may have been mistakenly thought of as working within the present bounds of Somerset and Bedford counties, to promote additional study. Charles Raker may fit this category.

1827: According to his tombstone, Charles Raker was born in 1827.

1849: Kauffman's 1952 book "Early American Gunsmiths 1650-1850" indicates that Charles Raker is identified as a gunsmith in an 1849 Tod Township, Bedford County tax list. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Charles Raker is identified as a gunsmith in the 1849 tax roll of Bedford County.

1849-1850: Whisker's 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" has an entry for a Charles F. Raker who was born in Holland in 1823, and was a son of David Raker and Caroline Raker. Unlike Carey and Kauffman, Whisker reports that Charles Raker is identified as a gunsmith on the 1849 and 1850 tax rolls of Todd Township in Fulton County, Pennsylvania. The reported birth date and birth location appear to be wrong, based on the 1850 census record shown below.

Circa 1850: According to A. Merwyn Carey's 1953 book "American Firearms Makers" Charles Raker was a Bedford County gunsmith circa 1850.

1850: The probable reason for the discrepancies between the above references is that Fulton County was formed from a portion of Bedford County on April 19, 1850. The following excerpt is from the 1936 book "The History of Fulton County Pennsylvania". It appears that Charles Raker lived in the part of Bedford County that became Fulton County.

1850: The following excerpt is from the 1850 census records of Todd Township, Fulton County, Pennsylvania. It indicates that Charles was born in Germany. Calculating from the age in the 1850 census, Charles was born circa 1827.

1865: Whisker's 2017 book reports that starting in 1865 Charles Raker was working in Knox County, Illinois as a gunsmith.

1870: Charles Raker is listed as a gunsmith in the 1870 census records of Maquon Township, Knox County, Illinois:

1870: Charles Raker is listed as a laborer in the 1880 census records of the village of Maquon in Knox County, Illinois:

1907: Whisker's 2017 book reports the year of death for Charles Raker as 1907. In the Knoxville Cemetery in Knox County, Illinois there is a tombstone for C. F. Raker and Sarah A. Raker. Her birth and death dates are given, but only his birth date is given: May 27, 1827. This birth date is harmonious with the age given in the 1850 census.

A Bedford County-style .44 caliber smooth rifle, reportedly signed in cursive "C. F. Baker" was offered for sale by Heritage Auction in 2011. It has a 42-1/2" octagonal barrel. The G. Goulcher lock has an engraved Bedford County-style percussion hammer. The maple stock has a cheekpiece and incised carving that includes a bird, a fish, and some scroll work. The rifle has no patch box. I wonder if the signature was actually intended to be "C. F. Raker".

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