Elias Crissey, Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction
The blacksmith Elias Crissey is known as a Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmith from tax and census records, and an award at the 1875 State Fair.

Information about the other Somerset County Civil War Veteran named Elias Crissey
The Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmith Elias Crissey isn't easy to research, because there were two Civil War veterans in Somerset County named Elias Crissey. The Somerset County Civil War veteran and gunsmith Elias Crissey was born on February 25, 1835, worked in Hooversville, Somerset County, died on July 18, 1925, and is buried at the Hooversville Reformed Cemetery in Shade Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The other Somerset County Civil War veteran named Elias Crissey was born on June 13, 1846, served in Company G of the 54th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (according to his tombstone), died on January 20, 1921, and is buried at the Hill Grove Cemetery, Connellsville, Fayette County, Pennsylvania.

I'm going to start with the obituary of the OTHER Somerset County Civil War Veteran named Elias Crissey, to help you distinguish between the two gentlemen. The obituary is from the January 27, 1921 issue of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania "Republican" newspaper, and indicates that the father of the OTHER Elias Crissey was named Jacob Crissey. The parents of this other Elias Crissey are the Jacob Crissey and Mary (Grove) Crissey who are buried at the Friedens Lutheran Church Cemetery. A secondary source indicates that Jacob Crissey was born on November 4, 1811 and died on May 4, 1904. Mary (according to her tombstone) was born on April 30, 1818 and died on July 2, 1898.

obituary of the other Civil War veteran Elias Crissey

The following excerpt from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" indicates that an individual named Elias Crissey joined Company G of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in 1864. This is harmonious with the "Co. G. 54, R. P. V. I" marking on the tombstone of the OTHER Elias Crissey.

Adding to the confusion, the following excerpt from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" indicates that an individual named Elias Crissey joined Company H of the 54th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in 1864.

The confusion is resolved by the following two excerpts is from Volume 2 of Bates' 1869 book "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5", which show that the OTHER Elias Crissey transferred from Company H to Company G. (Thanks to Duffy Floyd for identifying these records.)

Information about the Somerset County, PA gunsmith Elias Crissey
1822: The following article "Early Marriages by Rev. Crigle" in the May 1975 issue of the "Laurel Messenger" documents the marriage of the gunsmith Elias Crissey's father David Crissey to David's first wife Polly (Mary) Frank.

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" incorrectly states that the father of the gunsmith Elias Crissey is a Jacob Crissey who came from Franklin County in the year 1804. Based on the following excerpt from the Hooversville portion of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania", it was David's father Jacob who came from Franklin County about 1804, and that Jacob had a son Elias who was David's brother. (In the following excerpt, I believe the year of David's death is off by one year.)

It seems clear that that the gunsmith Elias Crissey's grandfather Jacob Crissey who was the father of Elias, Jacob, David (b. 1792), and Rebecca is a different individual than the Jacob Crissey (1782-1873) who was the father of Aaron (b. circa 1815), Thomas, Samuel, Eliza, and Mary (b. 1829). I wonder if David Crissey's brother Jacob Crissey might be the so-called Jacob Crissey III who is father of Aaron Crissey and grandfather of John C. Crissey.

1830: In the 1830 federal census of Somerset Borough the Jacob Crissy, Sr. household is enumerated with one male and one female in the 70 to 80 age group.

1830: In the 1830 federal census of Somerset Borough the Jacob Crissy, Jr. household is enumerated with two males and two females in the 0-5 age group, 3 males in the 5-10 age group, one female in the 15-20 age group, one female in the 30-40 age group, and one male in the 40-50 age group.

1830: In the 1830 federal census of Somerset Borough the David Crissy household is enumerated with one female and two males under 5-years-old, one female in the 5-10 age group, one female in the 15-20 age group, and one male in the 30-40 age group. Apparently David's first wife is already deceased.

1830: In the 1830 federal census of Somerset Borough the Elias Crissy household (presumably David's brother) is enumerated with two females in the 5-10 age group, one male in the 15-20 age group, one female in the 20-30 age group, and 1 male and one female in the 40-50 age group.

1835: According to his death certificate (included below), Elias Crissey was born in Pennsylvania on February 25, 1835 and was the son of David Crissey and Sarah Hart.

1850: In the 1850 federal census of Shade Township, David Crissey is enumerated as a 54-year-old Pennsylvania-born farmer. Living in his household are 36-year-old Sarah, 26-year-old Rufus, 15-year-old Elias, 13-year-old Jonathan, 11-year-old Margaret,9-year-old Mary, and 4-month-old Cornelius, all Pennsylvania-born.

1854-1874: The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" puts Elias Crissey in Hooversville, indicates that in 1854 he served an apprenticeship with Samuel Border, and says he made flintlock-type lightweight squirrel rifles. The flintlock reference seems puzzling. The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts the gunsmith Elias Crissey in the Somerset County village of Hooversville in the 1854 to 1874 timeframe.

1859: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Elias Crissey/Crissy is identified as a gunsmith on the 1859 tax roll of Quemahoning Township, Somerset County.

Circa 1858-1859: The 1860 and 1870 censuses suggest that Elias and Margaret Crissey had a son named Nathaniel who was born circa 1858-1859.

1860: In the 1860 federal census of Quemahoning Township (taken June 13, 1860), Elias Crissey is enumerated as a 25-year-old Master Gunsmith with a value of $275. Living in his household are 26-year-old Margaret and 1-year-old Nathaniel, both Pennsylvania-born.

1861: The 1870 census suggests that Elias and Margaret Crissey had a daughter named Jane who was born circa 1860. Her tombstone indicates she was born in 1861.

Circa 1862: The 1870 census suggests that Elias and Margaret Crissey had a son named George who was born circa 1862.

1862-1863 The following excerpt from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" indicates that an individual named Elias Crissey was a member of Company E of the 171st Regiment. The obituary of the Hooversville gunsmith Elias Crissey (below) confirms that he was indeed a member of the 171st Regiment.

The following excerpt is from Volume 4 of Bates' 1869 book "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5". It confirms that an individual named Elias Crissey joined served in Company E of the 171st Regiment, and indicates that he joined the Regiment on November 2, 1862 and was discharged on February 23, 1863.

1863: The following document (courtesy of Duffy Floyd) is a June, 1863 list of individuals in the sixteenth congressional district who were liable for military service. Elias Crissey is listed as a 28-year-old Pennsylvania-born white gunsmith living in Quemahoning Township. Since the gunsmith Elias Crissey served in the 171st from November 2, 1862 to February 23, 1863, Elias was once again a civilian when the June, 1863 list of individuals subject to military duty was compiled.

Circa 1864: The 1870 census suggests that Elias and Margaret Crissey had a daughter named Maggie who was born circa 1864.

1867: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Elias Crissey/Crissy is identified as a gunsmith on the 1867 tax roll of Quemahoning Township, Somerset County.

Circa 1868: The 1870 census suggests that Elias and Margaret Crissey had a daughter named Catherina who was born circa 1868.

1870: In the following July 26, 1870 census record from Quemahoning Township, Elias Crissey is enumerated as a 36-year-old Pennsylvania-born white male blacksmith with real estate valued at $1,200.00 and personal property valued at $200.00. Enumerated with him is a 36-year-old Pennsylvania born white female wife named Margarette or Margareth Crissey, Nathaniel Crissey age 12, Jane Crissey age 10, George Crissey age 8, Maggie Crissey age 6, and Catherina Crissey age 2. The following excerpt is from the 1870 census:

1870: The 1976 book "The Studebaker Family in America" indicates that Elias Crissey and Margaret Zimmerman had a son named Robert Crissey who was born July 30, 1870, married Amanda Penrod, and died on July 20, 1937, and is buried at the Patriotic Order Sons of America cemetery in Hooversville, Pennsylvania. Robert was born just a few days after his family was enumerated in the 1870 census. The top of his tombstone states "Robert P. Crissey 1870 1937".

1875-1876: According to Dillin's 1959 book "The Kentucky Rifle", a curly maple-stocked rifle that Elias Crissey built in 1875 won first place at the 1875 Pennsylvania State Fair, which is held in Harrisburg, and also won a prize at the 1876 Centennial Exposition that was held in Philadelphia, where it had been exhibited by a Stoystown resident named Captain John Hite. According to Wilson's 2015 book "Silk and Steel: Women at Arms", the rifle is 51 inches long, and is made in the Bedford County style. The rifle is pictured on page 83 of the Whisker's 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somereset and Fulton Counties", page 65 of the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties by Whisker & Yantz, and on page 60 of the Whisker's 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania". The rifle is also featured on page 24 (Plate 137) of Hetrick's booklet "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers", which gives the weight as five pounds, the overall length as 51-inches, the barrel length as 36-inches, and the caliber as 36 (i.e., 0.36-inches).

1876: The following image is from the Hooversville map in 1876 "County Atlas of Somerset, Pennsylvania". It identifies property of Elias Crissey.

1878: The following social item is from the March 29, 1878 "Somerset Daily American". It reveals a humorous event involving Elias Crissey and the Literary Society.

1881: Here is the obituary of Elias's father David Crissey, who (according to his tombstone and his obituary) was 88 years, 3 months, and 17 days old when he died on October 20, 1881. David Crissey is buried at the Hooversville Reformed Cemetery (40.14567653, -78.91425244) in Shade Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. This is the same cemetery where his gunsmith son Elias Crissey is buried.

1886: The following item is from the January 13, 1886 "Somerset Herald". According to the November 2, 1957 issue of the "Somerset Daily American", there were several hub shops in Hooversville in Elias's day, making hubs for wagon wheels.

1890: The 1890 Veteran's census of Quemahoning Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania lists Elias Crissey of Hooversville as having served in the 171st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry as a Private, enlisting on October 24, 1862 and being discharged on May 2, 1863.

1893: Service in the 171st Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers by the gunsmith Elias Crissey was celebrated with the "easel monument" document below, which was dedicated to him by his wife Margaret in 1893.

My ancestor Elijah Baer also served in the 171st Regiment. The following excerpt from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties, Pennsylvania..." gives the history of the 171st Regiment. Click here to read the history of the 171st regiment from Bates' book "History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5" (Harrisburg, PA: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1870).

1903: The following excerpt is from the January 1, 1903 "Individual and Business Directory of Somerset County, Pa."

1903-1905: Click here to see the November 16, 1905 combination marriage license application, marriage license, and duplicate certificate for Johnstown, Pennsylvania residents 42-year-old Winfield Jones and 43-year-old Jane Ott. The document indicates that Jane was the daughter of Elias and Margaret Crissey, Jane had married her most recent husband on March 19, 1903 and divorced him in September of 1905 for non-support, and her husband before that, Mr. Ott, was deceased at the time of the marriage application. Jane Ott and Winfield Jones were married on November 21, 1905 in Johnstown. Jane is buried at the Grandview Cemetery in Cambria County, Pennsylvania, where she shares a tombstone with Joseph Ott. Their tombstone states, "Joseph Ott Oct. __ 1854 Aug. 6, 1899 – Sarah Jane Ott Jones 1851 – 1949".

1909: The following death certificate of Margaret (Zimmerman) Crissey indicates she died on February 17, 1909.

1910: The following listing is from the Pennsylvania Machinists and Founders section of the 1910 edition of "Hendricks' Commercial Register of the United States".

1910: In the 1910 census, Elias Crissey is enumerated as a 75-year-old individual living with his 40-year-old daughter Margaret.

1915-1917: Elias Crissey was celebrated as a maker of fine rifles in his own lifetime. Click here to read an article in the January 1915 issue of the "Recreation" magazine that mentions Elias Crissey. Also see the following excerpt from a 1917 issue of "The Philatelic West and Collectors World":

1920: Here's what Sawyer wrote about Elias Crissey in his 1920 book "Our Rifles: Firearms in America", not realizing both entries were about the same individual:

1921: The other Somerset County Civil War Veteran named Elias Crissey died on January 20, 1921.

1925: The following item is the 1925 death certificate of the Somerset County gunsmith Elias Crissey, and indicates he died on July 18, 1925. It also shows that Elias's son Robert P. Crissey had a Hooversville address in 1925.

1925: The following obituary (courtesy of Duffy Floyd) is from the July 19, 1925 issue of the Pittsburgh Press, and confirms Elias Crissey's service with the 171st regiment:

The "easel monument" document above indicates that Elias Crissey entered service with the 171st regiment on November 2, 1862 and was discharged by surgeon's certificate on February 23, 1863. The following burial record (courtesy of Duffy Floyd) indicates that Elias Crissey of Hooverville served with the 54th regiment from March 12, 1864 to July 15, 1865. This burial record appears to be a 1935 government mix-up, conflating the burial of one Elias Crissey with the service record of the other.

Elias Crissey is buried at the Hooversville Reformed Cemetery (40.14561177, -78.91422082) in Shade Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. His tombstone has "Elias" on the top. The front states, "E. Crissey Feb. 25, 1835 July 18, 1925" His wife Margaret is also buried there, and has a similar tombstone that states "Margaret" on the top. The front of her tombstone states, "Wife of E. Crissey Feb. 22 1835 Feb. 17, 1903".

An article titled "The Story of Hooversville" in the November 2, 1957 issue of the "Somerset Daily American" includes the statement, "Other enterprises born in this era were a gunsmith shop owned by Elias Crissey..." An article titled "Kentucky Rifles Made in Pa." in the 04 September 4, 1976 issue of the "Somerset Daily American" mentions "Elias Crissy" as a Hooverville gunsmith.

Here's what Vaughn E. Whisker wrote about Elias Crissey in an article titled "Co. Had 30 Gunmakers-Gunsmiths" in the November 1971 issue of the "Laurel Messenger". The basis for indicating that Elias Crissey apprenticed with Samuel Border in 1854 appears to be the 1953 book "American Gun Makers". That book is also the probable basis for Whisker's words "lightweight flintlock" and "squirrel rifles".

Page 13 of the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington & Somerset Counties" indicates that the Hooversville gunsmith Elias Crissey served in Company G of the 45th Pennsylvania Regiment. I could not find any individual named Crissey or Crissey on the Company rosters in Diehl's 1912 book "History of the Forty-fifth regiment Pennsylvania veteran volunteer infantry, 1861-1865". I suspect that the authors were referencing the military records of the wrong Elias Crissey, and accidentally transposed the numbers "5" and "4".

A 0.32 caliber, 48-inch-long boy's rifle by Elias Crissey with a Bedford County-style lock sold for $17,500.00 in 2015. The rifle has 27 silver inlays, and an engraved four-piece brass patchbox that has four piercings and a Dormayer style finial. The octagon barrel length is 33-5/8-inch. The rifle has an engraved brass forearm wear plate with three piercings (one filled with bone) A brass toe plate is also engraved and has four piercings that are filled with bone. An inlay depicting a running fox is incorporated on the cheek piece. The lock bolt plate has three piercings that are inlaid with bone. This is probably the finest boy's rifle ever attempted.

The following images are from the 1940 book "Pastors and People of Somerset Classis". They show that David Crissey, father of Elias Crissey, was instrumental in organizing the Lutheran congregation at Hooversville, and show that Elias Crissey served as a Deacon and Elder.

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