John Doddridge, frontier gunsmith

John Doddridge was an 18th century pioneer farmer who performed gun repair work such as straightening and freshing gun barrels. He lived in Friend's Cove in the 1768-to-1773 timeframe. Bedford County was formed from a portion of Cumberland County on March 9, 1771, and Friend's Cove is in Colerain Township of Bedford County.

Most of what is known about John Doddridge is from his son Joseph's personal memoir, "Notes on the Settlement and Indian Wars of the Western Parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania, from 1763 to 1783, inclusive" (8656KB PDF), which was first printed in 1824. The book describes John Doddridge repairing the rifles of his frontiersmen neighbors, stating: "...his duty was that of repairing the rifles of his neighbors, when they needed it. In this business he manifested a high degree of ingenuity. A small depression on the surface of a stump or log and a wooden mallet, were his instruments for straightening the gun barrel when crooked. Without the aid of a bow string he could discover the smallest bend in a barrel. With a bit of steel, he could make a saw for deepening the furrows, when requisite. A few shots determined whether the gun might be trusted." The phrase "deepening the furrows" is a reference to refurbishing cut rifling.

Following are copies of the most relevant parts of the Doddridge book:

The described gunsmithing work for other early settlers may be in reference to living in western Washington County, Pennsylvania after moving there from Bedford County in the spring of 1773. Nevertheless, if John Doddridge performed such gunsmithing work in Washington County, then he probably performed such work when living in Bedford County a few years earlier. The following excerpt from the circa 1817 Melish-Whiteside map of Bedford County shows the location of Friend's Cove relative to the town of Bedford.

The following excerpt from page 825 of the 1882 book "History of Washington County, Pennsylvania" mentions Doddridge Fort:

The following excerpt from the Independence Township portion of the 1876 atlas of Washington County, Pennsylvania identifies the location of John Doddridge's Extravagance tract, and identifies the location of the residences of David Huston and Colonel Asa Manchester.

The following excerpt from the W.P.A. warrant survey map of Washington County shows the shape of the Extravagance tract (Book C-44, Page 50), and locates it on Doddridge Run.

I made the following map by combining 1904 (top) and 1907 (bottom) topographical maps to show the terrain of and near the Extravagance tract, which is marked with a red star.

Joseph Doddridge's daughter Narcissa added an appendix to the 1912 edition of his book that includes the following description of her pioneer grandfather John Doddridge:

John Doddridge is not included in the incomplete list of 1771 Colerain Township taxables that is published in "Farquhar's official directory of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, 1878-79". I could not find John Doddridge in the transcript of the 1772 Bedford County tax list that is included in the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". I did not find John Doddridge in the Colerain Township portion of the "Bedford County Transcript--1773" section of the 1898 book 'Provincial Papers Return of Taxables..."

Here (below) is John Doddridge on an undated Colerain Township tax list. Casper Davibough is an ancestor of the Defibaugh family of Bedford County gunsmiths. Also note Robert Calender; I wonder if that is the Indian trader?

Here (below) is an excerpt from the Washington County portion of the book "Heads of Families First Census of the United States: 1790 State of Pennsylvania" that includes John and Phillip Doddridge:

John Doddridge is buried in the Brooke Cemetery (40.28751603, -80.60549835) in Wellsburg, Brooke County, West Virginia. The modern military brass plaque type of tombstone for John Doddridge states "John Doddridge PA Militia VA Militia Revolutionary War Mar 30 1745 Apr 20 1791".

A historical marker titled "Doddridge's Fort" (40.24850837, -80.47207247) was erected in 1947 by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, and states, "To the north were located the stockaded cabins of John Doddridge. Built about 1773, they served as a refuge for settlers of this region in Revolutionary days. Also boyhood home of Dr. Joseph Doddridge."

Here (below) is a 1911 photo of John Doddridge's house, from the 1912 version of Joseph Doddridge's book. As this picture reveals, vertical furring strips were eventually added over the logs to support horizontal weatherboarding. Note how the joists for the second floor are retained by mortise and tenon joints, and the tenons project through the first full length log above the doorway. The logs in the cabin portion of the structure are hewn flat on two sides and use a quick and easy dovetail style that leaves significant gaps between the logs that require chinking. The logs in the house portion of the structure are hewn flat on four sides and use a corner dovetail style that substantially eliminates gaps between the logs.

The following composite image from the 1906 book "History of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania" describes the early history of Friend's Cove, which includes an old gunsmithing tradition that could relate to John Doddridge, Jacob Saylor, William Jones, or John Fraser.

The following genealogy of Mrs. John Doddridge, a daughter of Richard Wells, is from the May 1966 issue of the "Laurel Messenger".

Doddridge County, West Virginia is named for John Doddridge's son Philip. A historical marker at 39.09957374975445, -80.74908033225525 (at the county line) states "Doddridge County Formed in 1845 from Ritchie, Harrison, Tyler, and Lewis. Named for Philip Doddridge, lawyer-statesman of western Virginia. Many of the Indians who once came to this State got war and hunting weapons from flint quarries near by." W.T. Willey published a biography of Philip Doddridge in 1875 that is titled "The Life of Philip Doddridge." Click here to see a portrait of Philip Doddridge.

Green arrow for drawing atten. to link related to long rifle gunsmiths of Pennsylvania. Follow this link for an index of material about other western Pennsylvania gunsmiths, including photos of guns they created.

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