Valentine Feltus Clouse, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: Felty Clouse is known as a Bedford County gunsmith from a census record, a first-hand account, oral tradition, and surviving guns he made.

According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Valentine Clouse (initials "V. F. C. "), son of the gunsmith George Clouse, worked as a gunsmith in South Woodbury Township, Bedford County in the 1900s, and made excellent small-sized rifles that usually did not have patch boxes and sold for $15.00.

Being a son of George Clouse means that Valentine Feltus Clouse was a nephew of the gunsmith Henry Valentine Clouse.

1850: A secondary source indicates that Valentine F. Clouse was born on September 4, 1850 and indicates that his parents were George Clouse and Mary Christina (Friend) Clouse. Felty Clouse's tombstone in the New Enterprise Cemetery indicates he was born in 1850. The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that George Clouse's son Valentine Feltus Clouse was born in 1852 and died in 1936, was a gunsmith, carpenter, and laborer, and lived his entire life in Lafayetteville, Woodbury Township. The stated year of birth in the 1983 booklet is incorrect. The reference to Lafayetteville must be a reference to being on a rural postal route because as far as I can tell, Feltus Clouse lived approximately 2.7 miles south of Lafayetteville.

1861: As shown below, the "G. Clouse" residence appears on the 1861 Walker map of Bedford County. I think this residence is where Felty lived out his life, approximately at 40.16909, -78.4676.

1875: The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" puts Valentine "Felty" Clouse in South Woodbury Township of Bedford County in 1875, and states that he died circa 1927. The estimated year of death is wrong by nearly a decade.

1878: The following item from the 1878-1879 edition of "Farquhar's Official Directory of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" identifies Valentine Clouse as a laborer in New Enterprise, South Woodbury Township. On modern roads, New Enterprise is 3.7 miles east of the George Clouse residence (where I believe Felty lived out his life).

1879: Felty's father George Clouse is buried in the New Enterprise Cemetery in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. His tombstone indicates that he died on November 24, 1879, and was 71 years old at the time of his death.

1880: In the 1880 federal census, Christiann Clouse is enumerated as a 52-year-old German-born individual. Living in her household are 28-year-old Pennsylvania-born gunsmith Valentine Clouse, along with 18-year-old George, 16-year-old Harmon, and 12-year-old Lydia.

1899: The December 12, 1899 issue of the "Altoona Tribune" newspaper includes the statement "Valentine Clouse is the champion hunter of Morrison Cove. He has succeeded in capturing two fine deer."

1900: The following entry is from the 1900 directory of Bedford County:

1902: The following image from a 1902 topographical map shows the location of Brumbaugh, where the distillery was located. The mountain north of Brumbaugh is readily identifiable as Dunning Mountain.

Now I can tell you from long personal experience that the compass-based directions people in these mountains give are "unique". While Dunning Mountain is indeed kind of "north" of Brumbaugh, most folks from any other region would (I think) describe it as being west of Brumbaugh. This leads me to the next point. As described in the excerpts above, Felty Clouse lived on his father George's place. I strongly suspect that is the "G. Clouse" residence that is illustrated along Dunning Mountain and south of Brumbaugh on the following map, which is from the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford, Pennsylvania". In other words, I think Felty lived south of Brumbaugh, along the mountain that is located west of Brumbaugh.

Circa 1933: The following article by the Reverend C.W. Karns was originally printed in the "Altoona Mirror" newspaper. In 1933 it was published as part of a compilation titled "Historical Sketches of Morrisons Cove":

1936: Felty Clouse is buried in the New Enterprise Cemetery (40.17416524 , -78.41325338) in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. His tombstone states, "Valentine F. Clouse 1850 -- 1936". The following obituary is from the January 17, 1936 issue of the "Everett Press" newspaper:

Misc: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker and Yantz includes various oral traditions about Felty, such as deciding God was opposed to him marrying because he nearly drowned fording Yellow Creek when going home after courting a woman who lived in Hopewell. Another story, which conflicts with the obituary provided above, is that Felty died due to smoke inhalation from a fire originating from his pot-bellied stove, and his body was found in his favorite chair in a basement area, his pipe still clenched in his mouth. The book reports that he had a significant gun collection that included an 1850-dated rifle by Daniel Border. A photo in the book shows Felty posing with 17 firearms.

The following excerpt is from Van Horn's 1986 book "Bible, Axe, and Plow":

Work Product

  • The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" reports that the Baker Mansion History Museum in Altoona, Pennsylvania has in its possession a signed double gun (one barrel rifled, one smoothbore) that was produced by Valentine Feltus Clouse.
  • A Felty Clouse rifle signed with the name Clouse in script along with a heart and an arrow was auctioned on September 9, 2017 at Martinsburg in Blair County, Pennsylvania. Two utensil sets said to be made by Felty Clouse were sold at auction on April 18, 2015 at Martinsburg in Blair County, Pennsylvania.
  • A full stock percussion rifle by Felty Clouse is pictured in the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania". The patch box has a Q-shaped finial. The lock has a rat tail and a Bedford County-style hammer. The long barrel is signed with the name Clouse in script along with a heart pierced by a broadhead-tipped arrow. The buttstock has no carving. The same gun, and a photo portrait of Felty, are also shown on page 68 of the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book.
  • A full stock percussion rifle by Felty Clouse is shown on page 70 of the Whisker & Yantz book. It has an engraved five-piercing patch with a traditional Q-shaped finial, and also has four wrist inlays. The forearm has escutcheons that seem inspired by birds in flight. The lock has an engraved round-tailed lock plate and a Bedford County-style hammer. The three screw lock bolt plate is also engraved.

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