John Furney, Bedford County gunsmith

Introduction: John Furney is known as a Bedford County gunsmith from the 1983 Whisker & Whisker booklet, the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book, and the 2017 Whisker & Whisker book. A statement in the 2001 book that Furney was usually identified as a farmer in tax lists leads to the assumption that in some years he must have been identified as a gunsmith. The 2017 book attempts to provide additional information, but tracing the gunsmith John Furney is difficult to do with confidence because there was more than one individual with the same name. The best I can do at present is document how complicated the subject is.

Circa 1800: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that John W. Furney was born in Maryland circa 1800, and indicates that his parents were Catherine Wymer and Philip Furney. I suspect this is based on Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post on genealogy.com that is titled "John Furney/Forney son of Philip Furney of Bedford County PA".

1820: The Phillip Furney household appears in the 1820 census of Woodberry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania with three males under age 10, one male in the 16 to 25 age bracket, one male in the 45 and upwards age bracket, one female under age 10, two females in the 10 to 15 age bracket, one female in the 16 to 25 age bracket, and one female in the 26 to 44 age bracket. Two individuals from the household were engaged in agriculture.

1822: According to the 2017 book, John W. Furney entered into wedlock with an individual named Mary circa 1822. I suspect this is based on Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post.

1826: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" locates John Furney in Belfast Township (now a part of Fulton County) in 1826.

The 2001 book indicates that John Furney was a farmer and a gunsmith, but the authors think that John Furney probably only repaired guns because they never heard of a gun made by Furney.

1828: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" references an April 1, 1828 legal matter as the "Commonwealth v. John Furney". This legal matter is not mentioned in the 1991 Whisker & Whisker book, or the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book, or the 2017 Whisker & Whisker book.

1829: Sellers' 2008 book "American Gunsmiths" lists John Furney as a gunsmith in Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1829 based on a tax record, reports that he used the initials "J.F.", and made full-stocked percussion and flintlock rifles. Sellers identifies "Whisker" as his source of information.

1829-1848: The 1983 booklet locates John Furney in Woodbury Township from 1829 to 1848.

1830: In a transcript of the 1830 census of Woodberry Township, Bedford County, the household of Philip Fordney has one male in the 50 to 60 age group, one female in the 40 to 60 age group, one male in the 20 to 30 age group, one male in the 15 to 20 age group, one male and one female in the 10 to 15 age group, and two males and two females in the 5 to 10 age group.

In a transcript of the 1830 census of Woodberry Township, Bedford County, the household of a John Fordney has one male in the 30 to 40 age group, one female in the 20 to 30 age group, one female in the 5 to 10 age group, and one female in the up to five age group.

In a transcript of the 1830 census of Woodberry Township, Bedford County, a John Forrney household has one male and one female in the 50 to 60 age group, three males and two females in the 20 to 30 age group, one female in the 10 to 15 age group, and two males and one female in the up to five age group.

1838: According to the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties...", South Woodberry Township of Bedford County was formed in 1838 in the southern end of Morrison's Cove. The 1792 Reading Howell map helps one understand that South Woodberry Township was formed from Woodberry Township. This is potentially relevant because of a John Furney who is identified (see below) as a property owner in 1959, and the property may have been in Woodberry Township before 1838.

1840: In a transcript of the 1840 census of East Providence Township, Bedford County, the household of John Forney has one free white male in the 60 to 70 age group and one free black male in the 10 to 24 age group.

1843: The 1983 booklet references a property transaction from Jacob Farhner to John Furney for a piece of land in Providence Township that is recorded in an 1843 mortgage entry book. This transaction is not mentioned in the 1991 Whisker & Whisker book or the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book.

1849: A John Furney is eventually located in Thompson Township. The following excerpt from the 1936 book "The History of Fulton County Pennsylvania" indicates that Thompson Township was formed in 1849, which is before Fulton County was formed.

1850: The following excerpt from the 1936 book "The History of Fulton County Pennsylvania" indicates that Fulton County was formed in 1850:

1852: The 1983 booklet locates John Furney in Thompson Township of Fulton County in 1852. This may be based on the following reference to a John Furney in the Thomson (sic) Township section of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania":

1854-1857: According to the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties...", "In 1854, Providence was divided into two election districts, East and West Providence. In 1857 Snake Spring township was organized from West Providence and Colerain." In another place, the book states, "Snake Spring township was organized in 1857. Previous to that date its territory had been included in Colerain and West Providence." This is potentially relevant because an 1868 advertisement (included below) references a property in Snake Spring Township belonging to John Furney's heirs.

1859: I don't know if it pertains to the right John Furney, but the following notice is from the October 7, 1859 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper and identifies a John Furney as a property owner in South Woodberry Township of Bedford County, Pennsylvania:

1868: I don't know if it pertains to the right John Furney, but the following notice is from the October 16, 1868 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper and references property in Snake Spring Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania that belonged to John Furney's heirs.

Examining the Ohio Story

1860: The 2017 book puts John W. Furney in Ohio in 1860. I suspect this is based on Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post.

1870: The 2017 book puts John W. Furney in Ohio in 1870. I suspect this is based on Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post.

1871: The 2017 book indicates that the death of John W. Furney occurred in Ohio in 1871. I suspect this is based on Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post.

An October 03, 2001 genealogy post by Barbara Brummett indicates that the gunsmith John Furney appears in the records of Bedford County, Pennsylvania, Muskingum County, Ohio circa 1860, and Stark County, Ohio. She also reports that a county history book reported that he was a Civil War soldier and died in Magnolia, Ohio. (Magnolia is mostly in Stark County.) To me, the John Furney who was reportedly married in 1822 and was documented as a Bedford County gunsmith in 1829 seems awfully old to have been a Civil War Soldier.

The following excerpt is from the 1895 book "Portrait and Biographical Record of Guernsey County, Ohio". It appears to be the county history that Barbara Brummett described. It reports that John Furney is a son of Phillip and Catherine Furney of Frederick County Maryland who lived in Bedford County, Pennsylvania before moving farther west. It also reports that John served "in the late war" and died in Magnolia, Ohio.

The findagrave.com memorial (187539316) for the John Forney who is buried in the Magnolia Cemetery in Magnolia, Stark County, Ohio states that he was born in 1831, joined Company F of the 46th Ohio Infantry on October 8, 1862, was discharged at Camp Mansfield, Mississippi on August 9, 1863, and died in 1871. The memorial makes no reference to gunsmithing, and has no tombstone photographs. If the John Forney who is buried in the Magnolia Cemetery was really the soldier who was born in 1831 like the findagrave.com memorial states, then he did not get married in 1822 and was not a Bedford County gunsmith in 1829. Conversely, if the individual who is buried in the Magnolia Cemetery is really the 1829 Bedford County gunsmith, then he wasn't a Civil War soldier who was born in 1831.

The following excerpt from the roster of Company F of the 46th Ohio Infantry shows that a Civil War Soldier John Forney who was born circa 1831 really did exist. It would be interesting to see his service records, which should be available from the National Archives. If he really died soon after the war, in 1871, there would be no pension records to examine unless there is a widow's pension. So far, I have not found any documentation that indicates the soldier in the 46th Ohio was a gunsmith.

John Andrew Forney's July 23, 2000 white paper titled "Descendants of Johann Nicholas Forney" reports that John Miller Forney:

  • Was born in Youngstown, Mahoning County, Ohio on December 6, 1831.
  • Spent nearly all of his life in Youngstown, Ohio.
  • Enlisted with Company F of the 46th Ohio Infantry on October 8, 1862 at age 31.
  • Mustered out of the 46th Ohio Infantry on August 9, 1863 at Camp Mansfield.
  • Enlisted in Company F of the 114th Illinois Infantry on September 15, 1864.
  • Was discharged from the 114th Illinois Infantry at Springfield, Illinois on July 14, 1865.
  • Appears in the censuses of Mahoning County Ohio in 1880, 1870, 1900, and 1910.
  • Died in Mahoning County, Ohio on November 17, 1918.

    Much of the white paper entry that is summarized above seems to be based on the following portion of the 1963 book "The Descendants of Johann Adam Forney 1557-1963":

    The reference to the 114th Infantry seems to be a typo; I believe the 144th Infantry was intended. The following excerpt from the transcript of Company F of the 144th Illinois Infantry is from the book "Report of the adjutant general of the state of Illinois..." It shows that a John Furney was a member of Company F of the 144th Illinois. It would be interesting to see his service and pension records, which should be available from the National Archives.

    A John Miller Forney is buried at the Brunstetter Cemetery in Mahoning County Ohio. His tombstone states, "John M. Forney Co. F. 144 Ill. Inf." The memorial for John Miller Forney on findagrave.com (30669578) indicates that he was born on December 6, 1831, mustered into the 144th on September 15, 1864, mustered out on July 14, 1865, appears in the 1900 census of Youngstown Ohio, and died on November 17, 1918.

    Conclusion

    I suspect that John Andrew Forney's July 23, 2000 white paper may conflate two different soldiers; one who is buried in Stark County, Ohio and one who is buried in Mahoning County, Ohio. I also suspect that either Sandra Hall's August 31, 2004 post may conflate the gunsmith John Furney with a soldier who was born in 1831, or the findagrave.com memorial for the Stark County burial may describe the wrong individual.

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