Dolphus Drake, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: Adolphus "Dolphus" Drake is known as a Bedford County gunsmith from a tax list and an eyewitness account.

1853: Dophus Drake's tombstone indicates that he was born on August 18, 1853. The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that Dolphus Drake was the son of the gunsmith Isaac Drake, and was born near Flintstone, Maryland. An obituary included below indicates that Dolphus Drake was a son of George Isaac Drake and Loretta (Haney) Drake.

The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" states that Adolphus Drake was born on August 18, 1852 in the vicinity of Cumberland, Maryland and moved into the Everett, Bedford County area in 1873, lived to celebrate his 100th birthday anniversary on August 18, 1952, performed gun repairs and made percussion rifles as a sideline, and had worked as a Carpenter, a tanner, and a miner.

1860: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz reports that Isaac Drake is enumerated in Flintstone, Maryland in the 1860 census. I don't doubt this is true, but I couldn't find an entry for Isaac or George Drake when I looked through the manuscript copies of the census I could find that had Flintstone post office addresses.

1870: The household of 45-year-old Isaac Drake and 50-year-old Loretta Drake is enumerated on page 7 of the Allegany County, Maryland District 9 census record (Flintstone post office address), along with 19-year-old Edward, 12-year-old Sanford, 8-year-old Daniel B., 5-year-old Isaac, and 3-year-old Loretta. Dolphus is not listed in the household.

1877: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that the shop of Adolphus Drake was on North Spring Street in Everett. The following image from the Everett section of the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania" shows the residence and shop of Dolphus Drake on North Spring Street:
A map showing the location of Dolphus Drake's shop.

The following photo was taken on September 20, 2021. The house with the Marines flag and two satellite dishes is situated approximately where the house of Dolphus Drake is illustrated on the above 1877 map.

The following photo of Dolphus Drake's gun shop was contributed by an individual from Everett who obtained it at a local estate auction. The writing on the back of the photo states, "gun shop, D Drake".
A photograph of Dolphus Drake's gun shop.

The following 1902 topo shows the terrain in the vicinity of Everett. This terrain can be matched up to the preceding photo of Dolphus Drake's gun shop.

1878: In the 1878-1879 edition of "Farquhar's Official Directory of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" Adolphus Drake is identified as a carpenter in Everett.

1880: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Dolfus Drake is identified as a gunsmith in the 1880 tax roll of Everett Borough in Bedford county, lived to the ripe old age of 103 years, and was the last of the original old-time Bedford County gunsmiths. The book describes him as being an accurate marksman, and states that once at a Turkey Shoot he won 19 turkeys of the 25 awarded that day.

1880: The following except is from the 1880 census of West Providence Township. It lists Dolphus as a tannery worker and identifies his wife Julia and his young sons Howard and Sebastian:

1888: The following advertisement is from the May 16, 1888 issue of the "Everett Press" newspaper:
Adolphus Drake advertisement for gunsmithing services and sewing machine repair.

1910: The following except is from the 1910 census of West Providence Township.

1920: The following except is from the 1920 census of West Providence Township.

1922: Dolphus Drake's wife is buried in the Everett Cemetery in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.. Her tombstone states, "Julia Pennell wife of Dolphus Drake born Aug. 1, 1847 died Dec. 27, 1922. Her death certificate follows:

1934: The following obituary from the February 16, 1934 issue of the "Everett Press" indicates that Dolphus Drake was a son of George Drake and a brother to Sandford, David, Richard, Isaac, and Marion Drake.

1940: The following obituary from the April 19, 1940 issue of the "Everett Press" indicates that Dolphus Drake had a brother named Isaac Drake.

1940: The following item from the book "Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Harrisburg Consistory, 32°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry 1865--1940" shows that Dolphus M. Drake was a member of the Everett chapter of the Freemasons:

Circa 1947: In the book "The Bedford County Rifle and Its Makers", Calvin Hetrick describes a visit to Dolph's shop in Everett, Pennsylvania sometime around 1947. At the time of the visit, Dolph was preparing nitric acid for use in darkening rifle stocks. The process involved applying the nitric acid to the stock and then holding the stock over a fire. Dolph said he was born in Alleghany County, Maryland in 1853, and was the son of the gunsmith Isaac Drake. He also said his rifling guide was made by Daniel Border, and was purchased and used by David Defibaugh after Daniel Border's death. Dolph used straw for shimming material to increase the depth of cut. Hetrick reported that Dolph was then selling his rifles in the $16.00 to $20.00 range, although decorated rifles were priced considerably more. Hetrick reported that Dolph was using conventional sand casting techniques to produce trigger guards. At the time of the visit, Dolph was 93 years old.

The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book states that Dolph eventually received a blindness-related pension. James' father Vaughn was Dolph's case worker, and knew Dolph well. James B. Whisker reports that Dolph was talented and kindly, and for a time had his property fenced with old musket and rifle stocks. James B. Whisker also reports that gun collector R. Armstrong Farber's father and Dolph performed carpentry work on the Airondale Hotel.

According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", Dolphus indicated that his father Isaac Drake was better as a gunsmith than Dolphus was.

1955: Dolphus Drake is buried in the Everett Cemetery in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. His tombstone states, "Dolphus Drake Aug, 18, 1853 Apr, 14, 1955".

1955: The following obituary is from The April 15, 1955 issue of the "Bedford Gazette":

1955: The following obituary is from The April 22, 1955 issue of the "Everett Press":

2017: Dolphus Drake's rifling guide was sold at auction as an antique in 2017 for $1,000.00.

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