Was John Berger a Somerset County gunsmith?

Introduction: 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 in 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" or in their 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania". The 1884 county history states that John Berger worked as a blacksmith at what is now Meyersdale as early as 1800. I assume he engaged in his trade as soon as he could after coming to the area -- and he was already in the area by 1777.

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 and 2017 books. 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. Some of the ones who remained would have needed someone to repair their firearms. I believe that a local blacksmith like John Berger would have done what he could.

The year of 1784 was different -- the war was over. 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 Somerset County. So soon after the war and its horrors, I believe firearms would have still been a factor in their safety planning. Gunsmiths and blacksmiths were few and far between, and it is hard to imagine that John Berger did not perform some degree of gun repair, such as spring replacement.

Click here to read a very old newspaper article by a grandson of one of the Meyersdale-area pioneers that briefly mentions John Berger, and describes what pioneer life was like where John Berger settled.

1777: The business journal of my Salisbury, Pennsylvania area ancestor Peter Livengood has a June 11, 1777 entry that references the wife of Tschann Burger (John Berger). The entry indicates that she was indebted to Peter Livengood for weaving. They had a conversation about the debt on June 11, 1777. This entry puts John Berger in what is now Somerset County at a very early date.

1779: The following excerpt from a 1779 Brothersvalley tax record is from the 1898 book "Provincial Papers: Returns of Taxables for the Counties of Bedford (1773 to 1784)..." Since Peter Livengood's journal puts John Berger in the environs of present-day Salisbury in 1777, I think it is safe to interpret the name "Booger" to be "Berger" in this 1779 tax record.

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 John Berger's next-door neighbor 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 excerpt is from the 1901 book "Holsinger's History of the Tunkers and the Brethren Church...":

1783: The following excerpt 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.

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.

1785: Here is an official copy of John Burger's survey (Survey Book C Page 33):

1789: The following list is from Volume III of the "Pennsylvania Archives", Sixth Series:

1790: I could not find John Berger or John Burger in the 1790 census of Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

1796: On the 1796 tax list of Elk Lick Township, John Burger has 179 acres of property with 50 acres cleared, one house, one horse, four cows, and a value of $560.50.

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

1798: The following excerpt is from the August 1972 issue of the "Laurel Messenger".

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

1804: The following excerpt is from the August 1975 issue of the "Laurel Messenger".

The monument shown in the picture below celebrates the original settlers at the site of Meyersdale, Pennsylvania:

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