The Dormayer ("Dunmeyer") family of gunsmiths

The Dormayer family was a prolific group of Somerset County gun makers. Although the family is commonly referred to as "Dunmeyer", ample evidence exists to confirm that the gunsmiths Peter and Jonathan used the surname "Dormayer".

Peter, the patriarch of the family, appears in the 1820 census of Conemaugh township, Cambria County as Peter Dunmire, Jr., as young married manufacturer. He appears on the 1834-35 tax roll of Union Township, Bedford County as Peter Donmire. In 1839 he appears as a gunsmith in the tax roll of Somerset Township, Somerset County. In the 1850 census of Somerset Township, he is enumerated as a 55 year-old gunsmith living with his 55-year-old wife Barbara, his 22-year-old gunsmith son Jonathan, and his 18-year-old son David, a laborer.

Jonathan was enumerated as a 33-year-old individual in the 1860 census of Somerset Township, living with his 33-year-old-wife Barbara and a 21-year-old apprentice Eli Knupp. Eli was Jonathan's brother-in-law. Jonathan was listed as a 36-year-old gunsmith when he entered the Union Army in 1864. That same year, David was identified as a gunsmith serving as a Private in Company D of the 102nd Regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers. Jonathan lost his left leg due to a gunshot wound received in battle. David was also severely wounded during the war and received an invalid pension but is said to have assisted the family gunsmithing operation after the war. David's tombstone at the Christ Casebeer Lutheran Church Cemetery, Sipesville, Somerset County gives his surname as Dunmyer, and indicates he was born in 1825 and died in 1913. Jonathan's tombstone at the Pleasant Hill Methodist Cemetery in Somerset Township gives is surname as Dormayer, and indicates he died in 1885 at age 58. Jonathan had no sons to carry on the surname Dormayer.

Only a small number of rifles are attributed specifically to Peter Dormayer. Since he remained a gunsmith all his life, it seems reasonable to believe he worked in the trade with other family members. The family developed a distinctively styled rifle that continued to be made by Jonathan's nephew Charles Monroe Knupp after the deaths of Peter and Jonathan. These rifles are easily identified whether signed or unsigned, due to their unique patchbox, lock, lock bolt plate, engraving, carving, and relatively short length. The locks often carry the initials "JD" or "CMK". Some Dormayer rifles have hooked barrel lugs that allow the barrel to be slid forward and removed once the tang screw is removed.

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