Was John White I of Turkeyfoot Township a gunsmith?

Introduction: This project includes individuals who may have been incorrectly identified as a gunsmith who worked within the present bounds of Somerset and Bedford counties, so that the attributions can be scrutinized. The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" includes John White of Turkey Foot Township as a gunsmith. The authors of the booklet do not include this individual in their 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" or their 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania". The omission is not explained, but may indicate the authors had second thoughts on the matter.

Since there is was more than one early American gunsmith named John White, I have referred to this individual as John White I in the title to this web page.

1776-1779: The 1983 booklet puts John White in Turkeyfoot Township from 1776 to 1779. An individual named John White does appear in the 1776 and 1779 tax assessment lists of Turkeyfoot Township, but I am not aware of any information identifying him as a gunsmith.

The following excerpt is from the 1776 list of Turkey Foot Township taxables from the 1898 book "Returns of Taxables for the counties of Bedford..."

The following excerpt is from the 1779 list of Turkey Foot Township taxables from the 1898 book "Returns of Taxables for the counties of Bedford..."

1780: The 1983 booklet indicates that an individual named John White received a payment from Virginia for repairing and cleaning guns in 1780. That payment is reported in the 1974 book "The Gunsmith in Colonial Virginia" as being recorded in Receipt Book 32 of the Virginia Treasurer's Office. Since White is a common surname, I don't know how this information can be connected to the John White of Turkeyfoot Township. For example, to the best of my knowledge, Turkeyfoot Township was not within the portion of Pennsylvania that Virginia also claimed as the District of West Augusta.

1790: The following composite image from the 1790 census indicates that an individual named John White was living in Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1790:

1790: The following excerpt from the index of the 1790 census of Pennsylvania shows that there were many Pennsylvania residents named John White in 1790.

1794: The 1983 booklet indicates that the gunsmith John White had a land warrant in Bedford County in 1794. As shown below, an individual named John White did have February 10, 1794 warrant, and the property was surveyed on March 11, 1846 in what is now Addison Township, Somerset County. I am not aware of any information indicating this John White was a gunsmith.

1795: Most of present-day Somerset County was formed from part of Bedford County on April 17, 1795.

1800: The 1884 book History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania states, "Addison township is rich in historic associations. It is a part of the region known to the Indians and the early white explorers and settlers as Turkey-Foot, embracing the scene of the earliest settlement in Somerset county." The 1884 book also states, "Addison township was originally embraced in Turkey-Foot. A new township was formed and given the name of Addison in 1800." This means that it may not have been necessary for John White to move in order to to appear in a Turkeyfoot Township, Bedford County record in 1779 and appear in a record for what is now Addison Township, Somerset County in 1794.

No individuals named John White appear in the 1800 census of Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

This Somerset & Bedford County gunsmith project is intended to be a collaborative effort with gun collectors, historians, genealogists, etc. who may have information or photos to share. Please forward items you think may be helpful.

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