George King, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

1809: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" was written by James. B. Whisker and Vaughn E. Whisker. It identifies George King's lifetime as 1809 to 1870. The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", which was written by the same authors, identifies George King's lifetime as 1809 to possibly 1876 or 1877.

1809-1835: The 1983 booklet indicates that George was born in St. Clair Township and lived in St. Clair Township through 1835. The booklet speculates that George King may have apprenticed with George Slonaker.

An illustrated article by T. W. Pike and James B. Whisker titled "The King Family Gunsmiths" appears in the January, 1993 issue of the "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. The article speculates that George King might have been a gunsmithing apprentice of George Slonaker or Thomas Oldham, based on where and when those two gunsmiths worked.

1829: According to the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties", the September 4, 1829 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper has a notice of the death of George King's 22-year-old wife Susan.

1829-1836: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" identifies George King, who lived in Bedford County during the 1829 to 1836 timeframe, as a gunsmith.

In the following composite image, the tabular information is from the St. Clair Township section of the 1830 census records of Bedford County, and the table header is from a different section. This is the only listing for a George King household that I saw in the St. Clair Township section, but I'm not 100% sure it is a listing of the gunsmith's household. There was also a listing for a Christian King household in the St. Clair Township section of the 1830 census records.

1831-1835: The January, 1993 article indicates that George King is listed in the St. Clair Township tax records in the 1831 to 1835, and was identified as a gunsmith two times during that period.

1834: The 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" states, "Union township was formed from portions of St. Clair and Greenfield in 1834. In 1876 King township was taken from Union."

1834-1836: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" puts George King in St. Clair Township from 1834 to 1836.

1835: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" reports that in 1835 George King is listed in the tax records of St. Clair Township as a gunsmith.

1835: Page 223 of the book "A History of the old Greenfield Township Historical Society" indicates that George King and Peter Donmire were identified as gunsmiths on the 1835 Septennial (every seven years) enumeration of the then recently formed Union Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

1838: According to the following death certificate, George King had a son named Chambers King who was born in Armstrong County in 1838. This is compatible with the listing for the gunsmith George King in the 1850 census (see below). Chambers King was also a gunsmith. In a June 9, 2020 biography of Chambers King, James B. Whisker described Chambers' father as George B. King. The middle initial may be useful to know, since there was more than one George King.

1840: The January, 1993 article indicates that George King appears in the 1840 census records of Sugar Creek Township in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. I looked through the Sugar Creek Township portion of the 1840 census records of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania twice, and did not find a listing for George King.

1844: The 1850 census (see below) suggests that the gunsmith George King had a son named William who was born circa 1844.

1850-1857: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", George King appears on the 1850, 1851, and 1857 tax lists of Sugar Creek Township, Armstrong County. That appears to be the basis for 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" locating George King in Sugar Township of Armstrong County from 1850 to 1857.

1850: The following excerpt is from the 1850 census records of Sugar Creek Township in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.

1851: I wonder if there were two individuals named George King in Bedford County for a while, because the 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" references the gunsmith Andris Saupp in connection with a May 5, 1851 executor's bond at the Register and Recorder's Office for an individual named George King. This is after the gunsmith George King has already moved to Armstrong County. It would be interesting to read the bond to see if it references George King of Armstrong County.

1855: The William King who died in August of 1927 and who is buried in the Oakland Cemetery in Indiana County, Pennsylvania is said to be a gunsmith son of the gunsmith George King in the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania". I suspect that is incorrect. The death certificate of that William King indicates he was born in 1855, which is incompatible with the listing for George King's 6-year-old son William in the 1850 census (see above). The obituary of the William King who died in August of 1927 references surviving brothers Cyrus, Henry, and John King.

1858: Page 547 of the 1883 book "History of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania" indicates that Washington Township was created from a portion of Sugar Creek Township in 1858.

1860: George King and his son Chambers King are listed as gunsmiths in the following excerpt from the 1860 census records of Washington Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.

1861: The residence of "G. King" is identified with an arrow on the following excerpt from the Washington Township portion of the 1861 Pomaroy map of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.

1863-1866: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", George King appears on the 1863 and 1866 tax lists of Washington Township, Armstrong County.

1863-1872: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Chambers King appears on the 1863 to 1867, 1870, and 1872 tax lists of Washington Township, Armstrong County.

1864: The following composite image shows that Chambers King was 26 years old when he was mustered into service with Company M, 59th Regiment (2nd) Cavalry at Allegheny City, Pennsylvania on February 27, 1864 for a three year term of service, and had joined for duty on February 26, 1864.

In a June 9, 2020 biography of Chambers King, James B. Whisker wrote that Chambers King was a Regimental Armorer with Company M, and his service records indicate that:

  • He had brown hair
  • He had brown eyes
  • He had a complexion that was ruddy, and
  • He was 5-feet-seven-inches tall.

    1864-1865: The following composite image shows that Chambers King was mustered into service as a private on February 24, 1864 and was in Company C of the First Regiment, Provisional Cavalry when he mustered out on July 13, 1865. According to the National Park Service, the First Regiment, Provisional Cavalry was "Organized at Cloud's Mills, Va., June 17, 1865, by consolidation of 2nd and 20th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Duty at Cloud's Mills till July. Mustered out July 13, 1865."

    1865-1868: In the June 9, 2020 biography of Chambers King, James B. Whisker wrote that from late in the year 1865 until 1868 Chambers King lived at Adrian, in Armstrong County, and then moved to Rochester Mills Rural Delivery Route 3 in Canoe Township of Indiana County, where he lived the rest of his life. Mr. Whisker also wrote that eventually, after Chambers moved to Indiana County, his father George B. King came there to live as well.

    Volume 38 (1967) of the "Pennsylvania Game News" reports that the gunsmith Chambers King lived in Adrian, Armstrong County, which was called Gumtown by some. The article says that the beautiful rifles made by Chambers King were known as Gumtown Rifles when the article was written.

    1867-1873: The January, 1993 article indicates that George King's son William appears in the 1867 to 1873 tax records of Washington Township, Armstrong County, Pennsylvania.

    1870: In the following extracts from the 1870 census records of Armstrong County, Pennsylvania George and William King are enumerated as gunsmiths.

    1871: The marriage of Chambers King to M. E. Hawk was announced in the May 25, 1871 issue of the" Indiana Democrat" newspaper (Indiana, Pennsylvania) and states, "On Thursday, the 11th inst., by James A. Minish, Esq., at his residence, in Punxsutawney, Mr. Chambers King to Miss Mary E. Hawk, both of this county.

    1871: The following excerpt from the 1922 book "The Bowser Family History" also references the marriage of Elizabeth Hawk and Chambers King.

    1873: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" states that George King moved to Canoe Township in Indiana County, Pennsylvania around the year 1873. The January, 1993 article indicates that 1873 was the first year George King was listed on the Canoe Township tax records. The January, 1993 article also indicates that George's gunsmith son William moved to Canoe Township in 1873 but before five years had passed, William's property was sold at a sherriff's sale.

    Circa 1876-1877: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" states that although tax records are confusing they suggest that George King's death occurred in either 1876 or 1877. The January, 1993 article indicates that George King's name was crossed off of the 1875 and 1877 tax lists, and was absent from the 1876 list.

    1878: The following notice from the August 15, 1878 issue of the "Indiana Progress" newspaper identifies Chambers King as one of the administrators of his father-in-law's estate.

    1879: J. Eshton Willis died on August 9, 1879 and is buried at the Kittanning Cemetery in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania. James B. Whisker's 1992 book "The Gunsmith's Trade" indicates that the estate of the Armstrong County gunsmith James Eshton Willis includes gunsmithing invoices from William King. The January, 1993 article indicates that the Willis estate was insolvent, and William King was never paid the amount he was owed.

    1906: The following article from the October 16, 1906 issue of the "Punxsutawney Spirit" newspaper is about Chambers King of Canoe Ridge.

    1906: The following excerpt from a 1906 topographic map shows the location of Canoe Ridge relative to Rossiter.

    1914: Chambers King is referred to as an old gunsmith in the following excerpt from Volume 1 of the 1914 book "Armstrong County, Pennsylvania: Her People Past and Present ..." In the article, his wife Elizabeth is described as having one son and two daughters. The January, 1993 article indicates that the son was a gunsmith named Elmer Hawk King and the daughters were named Laura and Belle.

    1920: Chambers King died on June 1, 1920, and is buried in the Union Church Cemetery that is located in Indiana County at Rossiter, Pennsylvania. According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", the June 1, 1920 issue of the "Punxsutawney Spirit" newspaper and the June 9, 1920 issue of the "Indiana Democrat" newspaper published notices about the death of the 82-year-old Civil War Veteran and gunsmith Chambers King.

    1959: The January, 1993 article indicates that Elmer King's wife was Ida (Neville) King, who died on January 23, 1959.

    1959: The January, 1993 article indicates that Elmer King's obituary, which identifies him as having been a gunsmith, appears in the September 3, 1959 issue of the "Indiana Democrat" newspaper.

    More about Elmer King:
    The January, 1967 issue of the "Muzzle Blasts" magazine includes an article by Walter C. Snyder titled "Hobbyists Seek Out Early Gunsmith at Dayton Home" that is about Chambers King's gunsmith son Elmer King. The magazine article includes an article about Elmer King from the July 9, 1959 issue of the "Leader-Times" newspaper of Kittanning, Pennsylvania. The newspaper article indicates that:

  • Elmer's father and grandfather were gunsmiths, but the article mis-spells Elmer's father's name as "Chalmers" King.
  • Elmer's career as a muzzleloader gunsmith was largely destroyed by the widespread adoption of mass-produced cartridge firearms around the year 1900. After that, he was employed in core drilling, as a mine power house engineer, and as a school janitor.
  • At the time of the 1967 article, Elmer was still performing occassional repairs of muzzleloaders using the gunsmithing tools his father and grandfather had made.
  • Filing was an important skill for muzzleloader gunsmiths, and Elmer learned to file when, as a child, he was still too short to use the workbench without standing on a box.

    The 1967 magazine article indicates that George Bowers, the grandfather of Walter C. Snyder's wife, had a rifle that was made for George's father Simon by Chambers King. George Bowers had been a friend of Elmer King, and took Mr. Snyder to visit Elmer. The article indicates that:

  • Elmer had his father's shop, and kept it mostly like his father had it.
  • Patterns for stocks were hung on the wall of Elmer's shop.
  • Drawers and cigar boxes were full of home-made gunsmithing tools and various kinds of gun parts.
  • Elmer King was 78 years old when he died on September 1, 1959.
  • The 1967 magazine article includes a photo of Chambers King in uniform. The caption to the photograph indicates that "Chalmers" King was involved with ordinance in the second regiment of Pennsylvania Cavalry. The caption also indicates that "Chalmers" lived in Adrian until the Civil War, and was born there. It isn't clear if the photo and caption were originially part of the newspaper article.

    The 1967 magazine article also includes a photo of Elmer King seated in his shop. Also shown in the photo are a muzzle loading rifle made by Chambers King and a musket Chambers King brought back from his wartime service.

    George King work product:

  • Photos of a percussion rifle that was made by George King are included in the January, 1993 issue of the "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. The rifle has a pierced four-piece patch box with a Q-shaped finial, a Bedford County-style buttstock, a double set trigger arrangement, and an attractive metal wrist repair. The bow of the trigger guard has a spur, and the cheekpiece has an eight-point star inlay. The same rifle, and another by George King, are pictured on page 96 of the 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties".

    Chambers King work product:

  • A full stock 1887-dated percussion rifle by Chambers King is illustrated in the January, 1993 issue of the "Muzzle Blasts" magazine. It is profusely decorated with inlays and has a pierced and engraved four-piece patchbox with a keyhole-style finial. The bow of the trigger guard is spurred, and houses a double-set trigger arrangement. The cheekpiece has an elliptical inlay that is engraved with a spread-wing eagle and shield. The buttstock has a substantially straight comb and belly and resembles a typical Bedford County buttstock.
  • Click here to see photos of another rifle that was made by Chambers King.

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