Introduction: Four publications in the 1953 to 2001 timeframe claim John Johnson was a gunsmith in Listie, Somerset County, with most of them mentioning census and tax records. A 2017 publication by some of the same authors omits John Johnson. So far, I have not found any trace of a gunsmith named John Johnson in what is now Somerset County. This project includes individuals who may have been incorrectly identified as a gunsmith, to promote additional investigation.
1768: The 1953 book "American Gunmakers" indicates that John Johnson was born in 1768 in Straussburg, Germany, and originally settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania before moving to Listie in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. The book says he made plain flintlock rifles and muskets with walnut or maple stocks lacking butt plates, and sometimes engraved his name on the barrel.
1790: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900", the 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties", and the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" put John Johnston in Listie, Somerset County, Pennsylvania by 1790. The latter two publications still have John Johnson active in Listie 60 years later, in 1850. The basis given is census and tax records.
The only way the Listie reference potentially makes sense to me is if I assume that the authors meant the place now known as Listie in Somerset County, because Listie is a late 1800s mining town, and Somerset county was not created from part of Bedford County until April 17, 1795. Listie is in Somerset Township, 3.83 miles east-northeast of Somerset (in a straight line).
John Johnson is not included in the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania", and I didn't see any explanation for his absence. He is also not included in Sellers' 2008 compendium "American Gunsmiths".
1790: Neither a John Johnson nor a John Johnston appears in the 1790 census of Bedford County, Pennsylvania.
1800: I did not find a John Johnson or a John Johnston in a transcript of the 1800 census of Somerset County.
1810: I did not find a John Johnson or a John Johnston in a transcript of the 1810 census of Somerset County.
1830: In the 1830 census of Somerset County, there is a John Jonston household in the Borough of Berlin and there is a John Johnston household in Quemahoning Township. The heads of both households are too young to have been born in 1768, or to have been working in 1790.
1840: I did not find a John Johnson or a John Johnston in a transcript of the 1840 census of Somerset Township. There was a John Johnson household in the 1840 census of the Borough of Berlin, and a John Johnston household in the 1840 census of Jenner Township. The heads of both households are too young to have been born in 1768, or to have been working in 1790.
1850: Both the 1991 and the 2001 books rsport that John Johnson was still active at, or in the environs of, Listie in 1850. If born in 1768, John Johnson would have been about 82 in 1850. I did not find John Johnson in a transcript of the 1850 census of Somerset Township, where Listie is located.
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