John Nicholas Mathesiee, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: John Nicholas Mathesiee is known as a Bedford County gunsmith from a census record, a tax list, a county directory listing, and surviving examples of his work.

1805: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" estimates that John Nicholas Matthesiee was born circa 1805 in Germany, and gives examples of other spellings of his name as Madasie, Medesie, and Mattesee.

1861-1880: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz indicates that Mathesiee immigrated to the United States rather late in his life, and puts him at Lewisville in the 1861 to 1880 timeframe. The following image from the 1861 Walker map of Bedford County puts "Mattathius" in the second house west of the crossroads in Lewisville (which is now the village of Queen). The approximate location of his residence would be 40.2593771, -78.5080486.

1876: The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" puts John Nicholas Matthesiee in Union Township of Bedford County in 1876, and mentions a fancy percussion rifle with inlays and relief carving that has the barrel marking "J. N. MATTHESIEE". The book also indicates that he used "Madesie" and "Medasia" as Anglicizations of his surname. Medasia is a surname that is still encountered in Bedford County. As I understand it, Union Township became Pavia Township in the 1990s. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", John Nicholas Medasia is identified as a gunsmith on the 1876 tax list of Union Township, Bedford County and made very decorated rifles with excellent carving.

1877: The following image from the King Township portion of the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania" shows the residence of Nicholas Mathesiee at Lewistown (which is now the village of Queen):

1878: The following image is from the 1878-1879 edition of "Farquhar's Official Directory of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", which was "Printed at the Inquirer Office, Bedford, Pa." It identifies Nicholas Mathesiee as a gunsmith in King Township. The Sarah reference probably means that he had a Sarah postal address.

1880: The 1880 federal census of King Township enumerates John N. Mathias as a 75-year-old Bavarian-born retired gunsmith living with his 42-year-old wife Catherine and an 11-year-old individual named John.

1880: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that Mathesiee died on October 30, 1880 and was interred in a private cemetery in what is now Kimmel Township that is located on Beaver Dam Road. Kimmel Township appears to have been formed from Union Township.

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that Samuel Wysong/Whysong apprenticed with John Nicholas Matthesiee, and made Matthesiee's coffin, charging $5.00.

1893: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that the name of Mathesiee's wife is Catherine, and she died on December 2, 1893.

Work product
Plate 140 in Calvin Hetrick's book "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers" shows a 38 caliber rifle by John Nicholas Matthesiee that is 57-inches long, with a 43-inch long octagonal barrel, and weighs 10-1/2 pounds. Hetrick describes the rifle as having the most extensive engraving of any Bedford County rifle he was aware of, stating that every component is engraved, along with 14 silver inlays. The rifle has a rat tail lock plate and a patchbox with four perforations. Hetrick gives an alternate spelling of Matthesiee as Medasia.

The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that some guns that look like they were made by Mathesiee have barrels with Jacob Briggle's signature.

The 1953 edition of the book "American Gun Makers" reports that John Nicholas Medasie used the initials "J. N. M." The 1953 book also describes a fancy relief carved percussion rifle that is marked "J. N. Matthesiee" on the barrel.

Click here to see a fine side-by-side double rifle by J. N. Matthesiee.

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