Samuel Border, Pennsylvania and Iowa gunsmith

Introduction: Samuel Border is known as a gunsmith from tax and census records and surviving examples of his work.

1814: According to his tombstone, Samuel Border was born in 1814. Reportedly, his father was the individual I refer to as John Border I.

Here is an outline of how I currently understand the members of the Border family who were gunsmiths in Bedford County (including Rebecca Border's husband John Amos):

1825-1861: According to A. Merwyn Carey's 1953 book "American Firearms Makers" Samuel Border was working as a gunsmith in Somerset County in the 1825 to 1861 timeframe and made flintlock rifles early on, and then later made percussion rifles. The 1825 working date does not seem compatible with Samuel Border's 1814 birth date. Being in Somerset in the 1825 to 1861 timeframe conflicts with the 1841 Bedford County tax record referenced below.

1840-1842: In a transcript of the 1840 census of the Borough of Bedford, the Samuel Border household has one male in the 20 to 30 age group, one female in the 15 to 20 age group, and one male in the up to five age group. The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts Samuel Border in the borough of Bedford from 1840 to 1842, and indicates that his property was valued at $600.00 in 1841. The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz reports that Samuel Border was William Border's brother and puts Samuel Border in the borough of Bedford from 1840 to 1842.

1841-1853: The 1953 edition of the book "American Gun Makers" puts Samuel Border in Bedford County about 1841 and indicates that he later moved to Somerset County. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Samuel Border is identified as a gunsmith on the tax roll of Bedford Borough, Bedford County in 1841 and is identified as a gunsmith on the tax rolls of Conemaugh Township, Somerset County in the years 1843, 1845, 1850, and 1853. The following image shows what Vaughn E. Whisker wrote about Samuel Border in an article titled "Co. Had 30 Gunmakers-Gunsmiths" in the November 1971 issue of the "Laurel Messenger":

In his book "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers", Calvin Hetrick ranked Samuel Border as a gunsmith with superior capability and said that Samuel Border moved to Davidsonville in Somerset County after making rifles in Bedford County for awhile, and then eventually moved west.

1843: The 1850 and 1860 federal censuses and the 1856 Iowa census suggest that Samuel Border had a daughter named Mary J. who was born circa 1842-1843. Jane Lyman is buried at the Victor Memorial Cemetery in Iowa County, Iowa where gunsmith Samuel Border is buried. Her portion of the tombstone she shares with her husband states, "Jane Lyman born Feb. 21, 1843 died Dec. 31, 1929". A web page indicates that this individual is a daughter of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border.

1843-1856: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book puts Samuel Border in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County from 1843 to 1856, and then in Victor, Iowa. Based on an 1856 Iowa census record referenced below, I believe that Samuel Border and his entire family were in Iowa by 1854.

1845: The 1850 and 1860 federal censuses and the 1856 Iowa census suggest that Samuel Border had a son named William who was born circa 1845-1846. A William Border is buried at the Victor Memorial Cemetery in Iowa County, Iowa where gunsmith Samuel Border is buried. The tombstone he shares with his wife gives his name as William H. Border and indicates he was born in 1845 and died in 1931. A website indicates this individual was a son of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border, and was born May 20, 1845.

1847: The 1850 and 1860 federal censuses and the 1856 Iowa census suggest that Samuel Border had a son named George who was born circa 1847-1848. A George Border is buried at the Victor Memorial Cemetery in Iowa County, Iowa where gunsmith Samuel Border is buried. A website indicates this individual was a son of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border and was born July 4, 1847.

1849: The 1850 and 1860 federal censuses and the 1856 Iowa census suggest that Samuel Border had a daughter named Amanda who was born circa 1849-1850. Amanda Border is buried is buried at the Mount Vernon Cemetery in Linn County, Iowa with her husband George W. Border. Her part of their shared tombstone indicates she was born in 1949 and died in 1935. A website indicates this individual is a daughter of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border and was born on February 25, 1849.

1850: A sheet from the 1850 census of Conemaugh Township that was filled out on August 29, 1850 lists Samuel Border as a 35-year-old Pennsylvania-born gunsmith. Also living in his household were 28-year-old Elisabeth Border, 7-year-old Mary Border, 5-year-old William Border, 2-year old George Border, and 1-year-old Amanda Border, all born in Pennsylvania.

1851: The 1856 Iowa census and 1860 federal census suggest that Samuel Border had a daughter named Ann E. who was born circa 1851. Ann Eliza Border shares a tombstone at the Victor Memorial Cemetery in Iowa County, Iowa with her parents Samuel and Elizabeth Border. The tombstone indicates that she was born in 1851 and died in 1873.

Circa 1852: The 1856 Iowa census and 1860 federal census suggest that Samuel Border had a daughter named Julia who was born circa 1852-1853.

Circa 1853: The 1856 Iowa census and 1860 federal census suggest that Samuel Border had a daughter named Matilda who was born circa 1853-1855 in Pennsylvania.

Circa 1853: Volume II of the 1918 book "History of the Alleghany Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Pennsylvania" indicates that Samuel Border and (his carpenter brother) Daniel were on the building committee of the the Luthern Church of Davisville, PA. The cornerstone of the church was laid circa May 5, 1853 and the church was dedicated on August 13, 1854. Page 574 shows a picture of "Daniel border, Contractor and Builder of First Church at Davidsville". Click here to see the relevant excerpt from the 1918 book.

1854: The 1953 edition of the book "American Gun Makers" indicates that Elias Crissey of Hooversville was an apprentice of Samuel Border in 1854.

Circa 1854: Based on the 1856 Iowa census (see below), I believe that the Samuel Border family moved to Iowa circa 1854.

1856: In a transcript of the 1856 Iowa census of Hartford Township, Iowa County, Samuel Border is enumerated as a Pennsylvania-born gunsmith. In the same household are 34-year-old Elizabeth Border, 14-year-old Mary Border, 11-year-old William Border, 9-year-old George Border, 6-year-old Amanda Border, 5-year-old Ann E. Border, 4-year-old Julia S. Border, and 3-year-old Matilda Border, all Pennsylvania born. All members of the household were resident two years.

1859: The 1860 federal census suggests that Samuel Border had a son named Samuel who was born circa 1859. A Samuel Border is buried at the Pine Hill Cemetery in Scott County, Iowa. A website indicates this individual is a son of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border, and was born on February 24, 1859 and died on September 26, 1929.

1860: The following excerpt is from the 1860 census of Hartford Township, Iowa County, Iowa, and suggests that Samuel and Enos were living near one another.

1862-1922: The following obituary of John D. Border indicates he was a son of Samuel and Elizabeth Border, was born in 1862, and is buried at the Oak Hill Cemetery. That cemetery is in Linn County, Iowa.

1865: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet mistakenly (in my opinion) reports that Samuel Border died in 1865.

1865: The 1880 federal census suggests that Samuel Border had a son named Edward who was born circa 1865. An Edward H. Border is buried at the Elmwood Cemetery in Black Hawk County, Iowa, where his tombstone inscription indicates he was born in 1865 and died in 1952. A website indicates he was a son of Samuel Border and Elizabeth (Herring) Border, and was born on January 31, 1865.

1880: The following excerpt is from the 1880 census of Iowa County, Iowa.

1886: Samuel Border is buried in the Victor Memorial Cemetery (41.72732901 , -92.28954034) in Victor, Iowa County, Iowa, along with his wife Elizabeth and their daughter Ann Eliza. Their shared tombstone states "Samuel 1814-1886 Eliza 1822-1887 Ann Eliza 1851-1873 Border". This is the same Iowa cemetery where his brother the Bedford County gunsmith Enos Border is buried.

Work product

  • A Bedford County-style rifle by Samuel Border is shown on page 43 of the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania". The single-piercing patch box has a Q-shaped finial and the initialed rat tail lock has a graceful Bedford County-style hammer. The lock panel has a well-executed tapering tail that fades into the wrist. The stock has no relief carving.

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