John Berger

According to the 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900", John Berger established the first blacksmith shop at (what is now) Meyersdale (Somerset County, Pennsylvania), and repaired guns but did not make them. The authors of the 1983 booklet did not include John Berger in their 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties".

There are many pre-1815 Somerset County names in the 1983 booklet that do not appear in the 1991 book. It seems clear that the selection criterion of the authors changed in the intervening years. A historian matures as mistakes are experienced, and becomes more critical of information and less prone to make inferences.

I don't know how John Berger came to be included in the 1983 book and omitted from the 1991 book. If an inference got him in the 1983 book it may have been a reasonable inference. The people in what is now Somerset County had their lives interrupted by the fear of Indian depredations that were occurring nearby during the Revolutionary War, and many fled. The year of 1784 was different - the war was over. The local settlers had a massive amount of surveys made that year and the next, and many put down the roots of families that are still in the area. So soon after the war and its horrors, I would guess that firearms were a factor in their safety planning. Somebody had to perform repairs on those firearms, and it only makes sense that a local pioneer blacksmith like John Berger would have done what he could. John Berger's survey at Meyersdale was performed in 1785, and if he was like many men he was on that land for years before having enough money to perform the survey. I expect that he was performing blacksmithing long before the circa-1800 date given in the 1884 county history (see below).

1782: The following pages about the first settlers at what is now Meyersdale is from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" take the position that John Berger was already in the area of present day Meyersdale by 1782. As you read the pages, consider the coincidence that when we lived in Houston, Texas our neighbors from Kansas were descendants of Andrew Bontrager, and were related to me through another local settler in that region (Jacob Hochstetler).

1783: The following tax record from the 1898 book "Provincial Papers: Returns of Taxables for the Counties of Bedford (1773 to 1784)..." shows that John Berger was already a resident of Brothersvalley Township in 1783.

1783: The following item relating to John Berger is from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania":

1784: The following tax record from the 1898 book "Provincial Papers: Returns of Taxables for the Counties of Bedford (1773 to 1784)..." shows that John Berger had a house in Brothersvalley Township by 1784.

Circa 1785: The following excerpt from the W.P.A. warrant survey map of Summit township shows the location of John Burger's land, and the date it was warranted and the date it was surveyed. The Jacob Sailor survey is not for the Bedford County gunsmith. Rather, it is for another Jacob Saylor who is well known as an early settler in what is now Somerset County.

1797: The following item relating to John Berger is from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania":

Circa 1800: Here is what the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" says about John Berger.

The following reference to a John Berger is from the South Woodberry section of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". I am not sure if it is a reference to the same John Berger. In the story, Benjamin Lyons would have been born circa 1779 and would have turned 28 years old circa 1807.

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