James Clark I, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: A James Clark is identified as a gunsmith on the 1821 tax roll of Hopewell Township, Bedford County. I refer to him as James Clark I because a James Clark also appears in an 1877 directory as a Bedford County gunsmith. In my opinion, it seems unlikely that one man could be a gunsmith in 1821 and 1877 and yet escape detection as a gunsmith in the intervening years.

James Clark I has been mistakenly (in my opinion) described as a Revolutionary War Soldier who is buried in Williamsburg, Blair County. The pension affidavit of that James Clark proves that he never lived in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

The name "James Clark" was a common name in early Pennsylvania. Because of this, I am not sure how well the life of the Bedford County gunsmith James Clark can ever be traced. I have included the James Clark-related information I found, without pretending I know that all of it pertains to the same individual. In this sense, this web page merely presents potential clues for future research, in case anyone is so inclined.

The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz indicates that the Bedford County gunsmith James Clark is the Revolutionary War soldier who is buried in the Presbyterian Cemetery (40.45802592, -78.20081277) at Williamsburg in what is now (since February 26, 1846) Blair County, Pennsylvania. At the time of the burial, Williamsburg was part of Huntingdon County. A modern tombstone states "James Clark Pvt Pa Militia June 18, 1756 Jul 1, 1841". The original tombstone still exists, but only the name is readily legible. Click here to read the pension file of that James Clark. In his pension application affidavit, he records the places he lived after the Revolutionary War. His list does not include Bedford County. In my opinion, the military pension file positively eliminates that James Clark out as a candidate to be the Bedford County gunsmith James Clark. Click here to see the information I found on the Huntingdon County James Clark. The relevant portion of that James Clark's pension affidavit follows:

1776: A James Clark appears on the following transcript of the October 25, 1776 roll of Captain Richard Brown's Company that is published In the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". This may not mean much, because there were many Revolutionary War soldiers named James Clark. To understand the seeming hopelessness of the situation, page 244 of Larry D. Smith's 199 book " Mother Bedford and the American Revolutionary War" contains nearly a whole page of individuals named James Clark who served in Pennsylvania military organizations during the Revolutionary War.

1778: According to page 183 of Larry D. Smith's 199 book " Mother Bedford and the American Revolutionary War", an individual named James Clark signed the Oath of Allegiance for David Epsy at Bedford on December 22, 1778.

1787: Huntingdon County was formed on September 20, 1787.

1790: There is no James Clark listed in the 1790 census of Bedford County. The following excerpt from the index to the 1790 Pennsylvania census shows that there was more than one individual named James Clark living in the state:

1798-1813: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts James Clark in Ayr Township from 1798 to 1813.

1808: The September 14, 1808 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper contains a notice that states, "Died Monday the 5th, James Clark, son of William Clark Esq., of St. Clair twp, Bedford County."

1817: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that a James Clark was living in Hopewell Township of Bedford County in 1817, and failed to pay his tax.

Circa 1818: The following excerpt from the St. Clair Township portion of the undated circa 1818 (my date estimate) Melish manuscript map of Bedford County shows the location of the James Clark mill at the point of Chestnut Ridge that is referenced below. I don't have any idea if this information is related to the gunsmith James Clark enumerated in Hopewell Township in 1821.

From the best I can tell, the mill was located about where the red dot is drawn on the following excerpt from a 1908 topographical map.

1819: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book reports that an individual named James Clark was convicted of a misdemeanor in Bedford County in 1819 and received a fine of $10.00.

1820: I couldn't find James Clark in transcripts of the 1820 federal census of Hopewell township, Bedford County. I did find two men named James Clark in the 1820 federal census of St. Clair Township. Both households had one individual engaged in agriculture and one individual engaged in manufacturing. One household had two males under ten years old and one male in the 26-44 age bracket, along with four females under ten and one in the 16 to 25 age bracket. The other household had one male in the 26-44 age bracket and one in the 45 or older age bracket, along with two females in the 36-44 age bracket and one in the 45 or older age bracket. This household has a male who was in the correct age bracket to be the Revolutionary War Soldier, who would have been about 64 years old. I could find no burial in Bedford County that appears to be that of the older of these two Jacob Clark individuals. I don't have any idea if either of these individuals is the gunsmith James Clark enumerated in Hopewell Township in 1821.

1820: The following excerpt from the St. Clair Township of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" indicates that one of the men named James Clark in St. Clair Township had a sawmill in 1820. I don't have any idea if this information pertains to the gunsmith James Clark enumerated in Hopewell Township in 1821.

1821-1822: The 1953 edition of the book "American Gun Makers" puts James Clark in Hopewell Township of Bedford County in 1821. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", James Clark is identified as a gunsmith on the 1821 tax roll of Hopewell Township. The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts James Clark in Hopewell Township in 1821, and indicates he left in 1822 without paying a tax of 12-1/2 cents. The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book reports that James Clark appeared on the tax roll of Hopewell Township in 1822, but he was delinquent on his taxes that year and could not be found.

After 1822: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that after 1822 a blacksmith named James Clark appears intermittently on the tax rolls of Morris Township, in Huntingdon County. This seems to be the basis for (incorrectly, in my opinion) thinking that the Revolutionary War soldier James Clark who is buried in the Williamsburg Presbyterian Cemetery is the Bedford County gunsmith.

1829: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts James Clark in Hopewell Township in 1829. The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that a James Clark appears on the 1829 tax roll of Hopewell Township, Bedford County.

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