George Slonaker, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" indicates that George Slonaker probably lived near New Paris in Bedford County. The book says he reportedly made superposed rifles, and definitely made a heavy percussion type rifle. Whether this is a reference to one particular rifle, or his general style, is unclear. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", George Slonaker produced guns that were somewhat heavier than typical Bedford County rifles, and a lot of his rifles having handsome patch boxes. Several of the rifles George Slonaker built can be viewed in the archives of auction websites.

1797: Calculating based on the information on his tombstone, George Slonaker was born on February 8, 1797.

Circa 1797-1798: Based on the censuses of 1850, 1860, and 1870 George Slonaker's wife Nancy was born circa 1797-1798. This is harmonious with the age and date of death inscribed on her tombstone.

1819: Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Margaret who was born in 1819.

1820: The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" puts George Slonaker in Frankstown Township of Huntingdon County, Pennsylvania in 1820.

1824: A web page about George A. Slonaker indicates he had a daughter named Elizabeth who was born in 1824 and died in 1833.

1826: Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a son named Jacob who was born in 1826.

1827: Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Susanna who was born in 1827.

1827: The clipping below is from the 1880 book "1745-1880 History of Indiana County, Penn'a" (Caldwell). It states that the first house in Smicksburg, Pennsylvania was built as a gunshop for George Slonaker in 1827, but he never occupied the structure.

1829: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that George Slonaker was recorded as a gunsmith in 1829 with a value of $26.00.

1829-1832: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet states that George Slonaker was in what is now Greenfield Township, Blair County from 1929 to 1832.

1830: The 1850 census suggests that George had a son named George who was born circa 1830. The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz indicates that George Slonaker had a son John George Slonaker who was also a gunsmith. Calculating from information on his tombstone, John George Slonaker was born in 1830.

1831: Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Nancy Mary who was born in 1831.

1833: Page 31 of the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that George Slonaker was in what is now Greenfield Township, Blair County in 1833.

1833: The 1850, 1860, and 1870 censuses suggest that George Slonaker had a daughter named Rebecca who was born circa 1833-1834. Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Rebecca who was born in 1833.

1835-1843: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts George Slonaker in St. Clair Township from 1835 to 1843.

1836: The 1850 census suggests that George had a daughter named Leah who was born circa 1840. Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Leah who was born in 1836.

1838: The 1850 census suggests that George had a daughter named Maria who was born circa 1840. Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Anna Maria who was born in 1838.

1840: The 1850 and 1860 censuses suggest that George Slonaker had a daughter named Sarah who was born circa 1841-1842. Two web pages about George A. Slonaker indicate he had a daughter named Sarah Harriet who was born in 1840.

1844-1870: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book puts George Slonaker in in Union Township from 1844 to 1870.

Circa 1845: According to A. Merwyn Carey's 1953 book "American Firearms Makers" George Slonaker was a gunsmith in Union Township of Bedford County circa 1845.

1849: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", George Slonaker is identified as a gunsmith in the 1849 tax list of Union Township, Bedford County.

1850: The following excerpt is from the 1850 census of Union Township:

1850: The following composite images from the agricultural schedule of the 1850 census show the size and productivity of George Slonaker's farm:

1856: The following story about the lost Cox boys is from the 1884 book, "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". The boys were grandsons of the Gunsmith George Slonaker.

1856: The following story of the lost children is from Volume I of the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania".

1856: The newspaper clipping below is from the May 23, 1856 issue of the "Bedford Inquirer and Chronicle". It tells part of the story of George Slonaker's lost grandchildren, and identifies George Slonaker as a resident of Union Township.

1860: The following excerpt from the 1860 census of Union Township includes the households of the gunsmith George Slonaker and his son John George Slonaker, suggesting they lived near one-another.

1861: The following image from the 1861 Walker map of Bedford County shows the "Lost Children" area.

1861: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that George Slonaker is recorded as a blacksmith in 1861 with a value of $180.00.

1870: The following excerpt is from the 1870 census of Union Township:

1873: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that George Slonaker is recorded as a gunsmith at Spruce Hollow in 1873 with a value of $328.00.

1875: George Slonaker is buried in the Mount Union Cemetery, which is near Lovely, Bedford County, Pennsylvania at 40.22484923, -78.61180745. His tombstone states: "George Slonaker, died Feb. 28, 1875 Age 78 years 20 d". The Whiskers' 2017 book mistakenly reports that the date of death on the tombstone of George Slonaker is January 18, 1880. That is actually the date of death on the tombstone of George Slonaker's wife.

1880: Nancy Slonaker is buried in the Mount Union Cemetery, where her tombstone inscription states, "Nancy Slonaker died Jan. 18, 1880 aged 83 years."

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that Thomas Oldham learned gunsmithing from George Slonaker. The Whiskers' 2017 book provides a more nuanced statement, indicating that George Slonaker and Thomas Oldham were in Greenfield township at the same time, George Slonaker was older than Thomas Oldham by approximately 10 years, and Thomas Oldham may have learned gunsmithing from George Slonaker.

Work product

  • A full stock percussion rifle by George Slonaker is shown in the Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania".

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