Jonathan Dormayer ("Dunmeyer"), Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: As shown by the following diagram, Jonathan Dormayer was a son of the gunsmith Peter Dormayer, a brother of the gunsmith David Dunmyer, a brother-in-law of the gunsmith Elias Knupp, and an uncle of the gunsmith Charles Monroe Knupp.

Although various surname spellings appear in 1800s documents and in more recent gun collecting publications, Robert Duppstadt's booklet "The Rifles made by Peter and Jonathan Dormayer..." convincingly reports that Jonathan used the spelling "Dormayer". This spelling preference is confirmed by the spelling used on Jonathan's tombstone, and the spelling used on various documents that are included on this web page.

Jonathan Dormayer is known for a distinctive style of percussion rifle that continued to be manufactured by his nephew Charles Monroe Knupp after Jonathan died. Whether signed or unsigned, these rifles are easily identifiable by the unique shape of their patchboxes, locks, and lock bolt plates, and by their engraving and carving. The locks are often engraved with the initials "JD" or "CMK". Since Peter Dormayer remained a gunsmith all his life, but few rifles are attributed specifically to him, it is reasonable to suspect that he helped one or more relatives manufacture rifles.

Jonathan lost a leg to gunshot injury during the Civil War. His younger brother David was even more severely wounded, but is said to have done some stockmaking after the war.

The 1953 edition of the book "American Gun Makers" puts Jonathan "Dunmeyer" in Sipesville, describes a halfstock lightweight boys rifle with a brass patch box and inlays of silver, and states that he also produced some plain rather crude rifles.

Jonathan and his brother David were both serving in Sheridan's army in the fall of 1864, in different regiments. David received permanently disabling wounds on September 19, 1864 near Winchester and Jonathan received permanently disabling wounds on October 19, 1864 at Cedar Creek. This would have been very difficult for Jonathan and David and their families.

1823-1876: David Harrold prepared an excellent writeup about the Ritter Cemetery in Donegal Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania for the Westmoreland County Pennsylvania Genealogy Project. In that writeup, Mr. Harrold reports that his GGG-grandparents Jacob and Catherine (Brallier) Knupp were married in 1823 and reports that Jacob died on June 2, 1872 and Catherine died on April 14, 1876. Mr. Harrold reports that these GGG-grandparents owned property on the border between Westmoreland and Somerset counties that was partly in Jefferson Township, Somerset County, and partially in Cook and Donegal townships of Westmoreland County, but the home was in Cook Township near the western end of what became the Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel. In his writeup, Mr. Harrold provides a list of Jacob and Catherine Knupp's children that includes Barbara Knupp who married Jonathan Dormyer and includes the gunsmith Elias Knupp who married Harriet Ankney.

1826: The information on Jonathan Dormayer's tombstone indicates he was born in 1826.

1827: The following excerpt is from Volume 2 of the 1975 book "The Jacob Knupp and Catherine Brawlier Clan". It indicates that Barbara Knupp, wife of Jonathan "Dunmyer", was born on December 30, 1827.

1838: The tombstone of The tombstone of Jonathan Dormayer's apprentice brother-in-law Elias L. Knupp indicates that Elias was born in 1838.

1850: In the 1850 federal census of Somerset Township, Peter Dunmire is enumerated as a 55-year-old Pennsylvania-born gunsmith. Also living in his household are 55-year-old Barbara Dunmire, 26-year-old Elisabeth Dunmire, 22-year-old gunsmith Jonathan Dunmire, and 18-year-old laborer David Dunmire, all Pennsylvania born. A 5-year-old Daniel Whalin is also listed in the household.

1850-1885: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts Jonathan Dunmeyer in Sipesville from 1850 to 1885.

Circa 1851?: Donna Knupp reports that Barbara Knupp (1827-1883), sister of Levi Knupp (1837-1885), married Jonathan Dunmeyer (1826-1885). The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" indicates that Elias, Levi, and Isaac Knupp were brothers of Jonathan's wife Barbara.

1852-1872: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Jonathan Dunmeyer is identified as a gunsmith on the Somerset Township tax rolls for the years 1852, 1853, 1856, 1861, and 1872, and in his estate appraisal some gun tools and other items were appraised at $9.00.

1852: The 1860 and 1870 censuses suggest that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Sarah who was born circa 1852-1853. The following excerpt is from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania". I suspect that the referenced Sarah A. Dunmire, born September 5, 1852, is one of the children of Jonathan and Barbara (Knupp) Dormayer. The Stonycreek Township tombstone for a Sarah Mosholder that I could find is at the Walker Cemetery at Shanksville, and the tombstone states, "Sarah A. wife of J.B. Mosholder died Apr. 26, 1897 aged 44 ys. 7 ms. 14 ds." I can't explain the discrepancy between the date of death on the tombstone and the date of death given in the excerpt below. John B. Mosholder and his second wife Catherine are buried in the same cemetery. The marriage license application of John B. Mosholder and his second wife Catherine Miller also indicates that his first wife died on April 26, 1897.

Circa 1856: The 1860 and 1870 censuses suggest that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Adaline who was born circa 1856.

Circa 1858: The 1860 and 1870 censuses suggest that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Delilah who was born circa 1858. Delilah E. Dietz, wife of Jacob C. Dietz, is buried at the Pleasant Hill Methodist Cemetery in Somerset County, where her tombstone (shared with her husband) lists her lifetime as "1858--1890".

1860: The following excerpt from the 1860 census shows Eli Knupp apprenticing with his brother-in-law Jonathan Dormayer:

1860: The following excerpt is from the 1860 Walker map of Somerset County. A red arrow identifies one of two houses labeled "S. Dunnmeyer". Jonathan Dormayer was living in or near that house by 1876 (see below). I suspect that Jonathan Dormayer was also living there in 1860 because "A. Landis" appears next to him on the map, and Absolom Landis appears next to him in the 1860 census (see above). Jeremiah Snyder and Ephriam Snyder are also near Jonathan Dormayer in the 1860 census. They may be the Jerie Snyder and E.D. Snyder who are near the house identified with the red arrow on the 1860 map. In the typical cursive used in the mid-1800s, the capital "S" and "J" were very similar and hard to distinguish from one another. It seems very likely that the cartographer misinterpreted someone else's cursive J for a cursive S when preparing the map.

Circa 1860: The 1870 census suggests that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Barbara who was born circa 1860.

Circa 1863: The 1870 census suggests that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Theresa who was born circa 1863.

1863: According to his tombstone, Charles Monroe Knupp was born in 1863. Charles Monroe Knupp made clones of the typical small muzzle loading rifle his uncle Jonathan Dormayer made. This suggests some kind of working relationship with Jonathan Dormayer. Donna Knupp told me that Charles Monroe Knupp was one of Jonathan's last apprentices.

1864: Jonathan Dormayer was mustered into Company G of the 93rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteers on September 17, 1864 and was wounded at Cedar Creek, Virginia on October 19, 1864, as shown by the following excerpt from a roster published in Volume III of Bates' five volume book set "History of Pennsylvania volunteers, 1861-5". The roster uses the "Dormayer" spelling.

Volume II of the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" speculates that Company G was recruited in northern Somerset County, uses the 'Dunmeyer" spelling for Jonathan's surname, and indicates that Cedar Creek was the first battle Company G was engaged in:

The following excerpt is from the 1886 book "History of Berks County in Pennsylvania". It uses the "Dormayer" spelling for Jonathan's surname and indicates that Company G was recruited at Reading.

1864-1865: On October 19, 1864, while serving under General Sheridan at Cedar Creek, Virginia, Jonathan Dormayer was shot in both thighs. After two amputation operations that removed most of his left leg, Jonathan was discharged at Baltimore on April 1, 1865. On September 19, 1864, one month prior to Jonathan's wounding, his brother David was severely wounded in the same military campaign. Click here to read the military history of that fateful one month period that dramatically changed the lives of both brothers, as reported in Volume III of the 1877 book "Pictorial History of the Civil War in the United States of America".

The October 19, 1864 battle where Jonathan was wounded ended with Sheridan's famous ride to rally the troops and save the day. The following article about the ultimate Union victory at Cedar Creek is from the October 22, 1864 issue of the Washington "Daily Morning Chronicle".

1865: The following discharge document shows that Jonathan Dormayer was discharged from the Union Army on April 1, 1865 as a result of gunshot wounds to both thighs and amputation of his left leg. It describes him as five feet nine inches tall, with a dark complexion, blue eyes, and light hair who was a farmer at the time he enlisted.

1865: The following May 30, 1865 pension application indicates that Jonathan Dormayer went through two separate amputation operations on his left leg (.

The following image is a copy of Jonathan Dormayer's pension certificate. Click here to see a copy of the associated pension voucher instructions.

1867: The 1870 and 1880 censuses suggest that Jonathan Dormayer had a daughter named Minerva who was born circa 1867. Jonathan and Barbara Dormayer's daughter Minnie is buried in the Union Cemetery at Somerset, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Her tombstone states "Minnie M. Bingner June 13, 1867 Aug. 8, 1934".

1870: In the 1870 federal census of Somerset Township, Jonathan Dunmier is enumerated as a 43-year-old Pennsylvania-born gunsmith with real estate valued at $2,000.00 and personal property valued at $970.00. Living with him are 43-year-old Barbara Dunmier keeping house, 18-year-old Sarah Dunmier, 14-year-old Adaline Dunmier, 12-year-old Delila Dunmier, 10-year-old Barbara Dunmier, 7-year-old Theresa Dunmier, 3-year-old Minerva Dunmier, and 77-year-old gunsmith Peter Dunmier with real estate valued at $300.00, all Pennsylvania-born.

1870: The following November 29, 1870 document is Jonathan Dormayer's application for money to purchase an artificial leg.

1873: The signatures on this October 21, 1873 document use the spelling "Jonathan Dormayer":

1874: Here is a February 21, 1874 court document that lists Jonathan and David Dormayer as lineal descendants of Peter Dormayer:

1874: The following legal notice to Jonathan Dormayer, et. al is from the March 25, 1874 issue of the Somerset Herald, and concerns the estate of Jonathan's father, the gunsmith Peter Dormayer,.

1875: Here is a November 24, 1875 document related to the estate of Peter Dormayer that references Jonathan Dormayer as Peter's eldest son:

1876: The following excerpt from the Somerset Township map in the 1876 Beers atlas shows the residence of Jonathan Dormayer. I know it is his residence because of an affidavit by George Spangler and the 1880 census record that is included below that lists Isaac Wendle near Jonathan Dormayer. The approximate location of the house was in the area of about 40.0349174, -79.00644615 to 40.03577675, -79.00481356, and probably nearer the latter coordinates. Click here to see an excerpt from a 1915 topographic map that shows the terrain in the vicinity of Jonathan's house. Click here to see a 1939 aerial photo of the area. On modern roads it is about 7.4 miles from the home of Jonathan Dormayer to the home of his brother David Dunmyer or the home of his father Peter Dormayer.

1880: In the 1880 federal census of Somerset Township, Jonathan Dormayer is enumerated as a 53-year old gunsmith residing with his wife Barbary and 13-year-old Minnie M. Jonathan's household is listed near the household of Isaac Wendel.

1881: Here is a December 2, 1881 transmittal letter to Jonathan Dormayer for vouchers totaling $150.00 for obtaining a replacement artificial leg.

1883: The following September 11, 1883 document summarizes the hospitalization of Jonathan Dormayer during the Civil War, and indicates that the second amputation took the upper part of his left thigh.

1883: On the 1883 roll of Somerset County, Pennsylvania pensioners, Jonathan Dormayer, with a Friedens address, was receiving $24.00 per month on certificate no. 48,741. The following document shows that Jonathan's pension was increased to $30.00 on October 5, 1883 retroactive to March 3, 1883. Click here to read three affidavits that were attached to the application.

1883: The following excerpt from the "List of Pensioners on the Roll January 1, 1883" in Volume II of the 1883 book "Executive Documents" gives a Friedens address for Jonathan Dormayer.

1883-1885: The following photo shows the tombstone of Jonathan Dormayer. Jonathan is buried in the Pleasant Hill Methodist Cemetery in Somerset Township with his wife Barbara (Knupp) Dormayer. The cemetery is located approximately at 40.00988152, -79.02319082. Jonathan Dormayer's tombstone panel states: "Jonathan Dormayer died Jan. 11, 1885. Aged 58 yrs 5 mos 24 dys". Barbara's panel states, "Barbara Dormayer died Aug. 5, 1883, age 55 yrs 7 mos 6 dys".

1885: In the January 1, 1885 estate inventory of Jonathan Dormayer, his estate was valued at $3,151.79. The inventory included gunsmith tools and other items valued at $9.00, blacksmithing tools valued at $9.25, and a lot consisting of gun barrels and a coal stove that was valued at $9.00.

1885: The following Administrator's notice regarding the estate of Jonathan Dormayer is from the February 18, 1885 issue of the Somerset Herald.

Circa 1885: The following document, which is stamped July 3, 1885, references the January 11, 1885 death of Jonathan Dormayer, and requests the increase in pension the applicants believe he should have received. The Tracey Pugh who signed the document was Jonathan Dormayer's daughter.

Work product:

  • DORMAYER, Jonathan, percussion rifle
  • KNUPP, Charles Monroe, rifling guide from Jonathan Dormayer

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