John & Mathias Dempsey, Somerset County, Pennsylvania gunsmiths

Introduction: Somerset and Cambria county gunsmiths John and Mathias Dempsey are described as father and son in several collector type publications. The limited available information makes it seem more likely to me that they were both sons of Patrick Dempsey.

1790: I did not find a Patrick Dempsey in the 1790 census of Maryland or Pennsylvania.

Circa 1794: Hugh McGough's web page "McGoughs Who Moved from Harford County, Maryland, to Cambria County, Pennsylvania" indicates that John Dempsey was the son of Patrick William Dempsey and Elizabeth (McGough) Dempsey, and was born circa 1794 in Maryland.

1800-1810: I found no Dempsey households in transcripts of the 1800 or 1810 censuses of Somerset County, Pennsylvania. A Patrick Dempsey household appears in the 1800 census of Harford county, Maryland with two males and 3 females under age 10, one male in the 10 to 15 age group, one female in the 16 to 25 age group, one male in the 25 to 44 age group, and one female in the 45 and over age group.

1820: In the 1820 census of Shade Township, the Patrick Dempsey household consists of one male and one female in the up to 10 age group, 1 female in the 10 to 16 age group, three males and two females in the 16 to 26 age group, and one male and one female in the 45 and up age group. Four individuals were engaged in agriculture.

1800-1828: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that John Dempsey was born in 1800. Here's what Vaughn E. Whisker wrote in the November 1982 "Laurel Messenger":

1827-1830: The 1983 booklet indicates that John Dempsey's son Mathias was a gunsmith in Shade Township of Somerset County from 1827 to 1830. It is difficult for me to believe that an individual born in 1794 or 1800 could have a son who was already working as a gunsmith in 1827. I suspect but cannot prove that both John and Mathias Dempsey were sons of Patrick Dempsey.

1828: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker and Yantz indicates that John Dempsey was living in Shade Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania in 1828, and identifies him as a gunsmith. The basis for identifying him as a gunsmith is not clear.

1830: The only Dempsey I could find in the 1830 census of Somerset County is Patrick Dempsey of Shade Township. The Patrick Dempsey household consisted of one male and one female in the 15 to 20 age group, one female in the 20 to 30 age group, and one male and one female in the 60 to 70 age group.

1830: The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" reports that John Dempsey appears on Cambria County documents beginning in 1830. I did not find any Dempsey households in a transcript of the 1830 Cambria County census.

1830-1845: The 1983 booklet indicates that John Dempsey's son Mathias was a gunsmith in Conemaugh Township, Cambria County from 1830 to 1845. It is difficult for me to believe that an individual born in 1800 could have a son who was already working as a gunsmith in 1830.

1830-1844: The 1983 booklet puts John Dempsey in Conemaugh Township, Cambria County from 1830 to 1844.

1834: Hugh McGough's web page "McGoughs Who Moved from Harford County, Maryland, to Cambria County, Pennsylvania" indicates that John Dempsey and Ann Branniff were married at St. Michael's Church in Loretto, Cambria County on October 12, 1834 by Father Gallitzin, and were the parents of six children, all of whom were born in Cambria County.

1840: In the 1840 census of the Borough of Johnstown, the John Dempsey household has two males and one female under five years old, one male in the 40 to 50 age group, and one female in the 30 to 40 age group.Based on this census, John Dempsey would have been born circa 1790 to 1800. I did not find any Dempsey households in a transcript of the 1840 census of Somerset County.

1845: The 1983 booklet puts John Dempsey in the city of Johnstown in Cambria County in 1845.

1846-1850: The 1983 booklet puts John Dempsey in Conemaugh Township of Cambria County from 1846 to 1850.

1850: In the 1850 census of the borough of Conemaugh in Cambria County, John Dempsy is enumerated as a 50-year-old Maryland-born gunsmith with a value of $200.00. Also living in his household are 42-year old Ann Dempsy, 15-year old Patrick Dempsy, 14-year old Margaret Dempsy, 12-year old William J. Dempsy, 10-year old Elizabeth Dempsy, 8-year old Mary Dempsy, 6-year old Ann Dempsy, and 1-year old John Dempsy, all born in Pennsylvania. Based on this census record, John Dempsey would have been born circa 1800. The only Dempsey household that I found in a transcript of the 1850 census of Somerset County is that of a 25-year-old Pennsylvania-born blacksmith named William Dempsey.

1850-1852: The 1983 booklet puts John Dempsey in the borough of Conemaugh from 1850 to 1852. The 1867 Pomeroy map of Cambria County shows that the borough of Conemaugh is part of the Johnstown metropolitan area.

1851: The following excerpt is from the 1851 book "Journal of the Sixty First House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania":

1852: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", John Demsey appears on the 1852 tax list of Conemaugh Township, Cambria County.

1852: The following announcement is from the August 12,1852 issue of the "Mountain Sentinel" newspaper:

The December 1, 1858 issue of the "Democrat and Sentinel" (Ebensburg, Pennsylvania) states, "...in Prosserville, now Conemaugh borough, Cambria county..."

1853-54: According to Kauffman's 1960 book, John Demsey appears on the 1853 and 1854 tax lists of Summerhill Township, Cambria County.

1854: The 1983 booklet indicates that John Dempsey died in 1854.

1855: Whisker's 2017 book indicates that John Dempsey is reported dead on the 1855 tax roll. The same book indicates that there is a John D. Dempsey with an undated tombstone in the Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery in Cambria County. This cemetery is located at 40.3400002, -78.9056015 in Taylor Township. The tombstone appears relatively modern, and the name on it is actually John B. Dempsey.

Before 1860: Hugh McGough's web page "McGoughs Who Moved from Harford County, Maryland, to Cambria County, Pennsylvania" indicates that John Dempsey was deceased prior to 1860.

1860: The Dempsey household listed in the 1860 census of Summerhill Township of Cambria County is missing John Dempsey, Sr. The household consists of 22-year-old Margaret Dempsey, 53-year-old Ann Dempsey, mute, with a personal estate of $350.00, 24-year-old Patrick Dempsey who was a farm laborer, 21-year-old William Dempsey, 18-year-old Elizabeth Dempsey, 16-year-old Mary Dempsey, 14-year-old Ann Dempsey, and 11-year-old John Dempsey.

The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania" mentions two Dempsey signed rifles. The workmanship is described as average and the rifles are described as plain. Both rifles reportedly had poorly engraved patch boxes with Q-shaped finials. The patch box was reported as having the regular four visible pieces.

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