Valentine Libeau, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: Valentine Libeau emigrated to the United States from Hesse Cassel in 1816 and was a gunsmith in Bedford County, Pennsylvania during the 1818 to 1820 timeframe. He is believed to be the Valentine Libeau who is listed as a gunsmith in Cincinnati, Ohio business directories in 1825 and 1829. He is also believed to be the Valentine Libeau who was a gunsmith in New Orleans, Louisiana in the 1830 to 1848 timeframe. During this period, evidence exists that he also served as an Agent who put his name on imported firearms. A Valentine Libeau is then listed as a gunsmith in a Cincinnati business directory in 1848. A Valentine Lebeau then appears in the 1855 to 1857 Cincinnati business directories with no occupation, suggesting he is retired. Based on his naturalization paperwork, he would have been about 67-years-old in 1857.

1782: Flatboats were in use to travel downriver from places like Redstone (Brownsville), Pennsylvania before Valentine Libeau was born. Volume 13 of the 1834 "Hazard's register of Pennsylvania" describes an iron tablet that had just been cast that stated "JACOB YODER, Was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, August 11th, 1738: And was a Soldier in the Revolutionary Army in 1777 and 1778. He emigrated to the West in 1780, and in May, 1782, from Fort Redstone, on the Monongahela River, in the FIRST FLAT BOAT that ever descended the Mississippi. He landed at New Orleans with a cargo of produce. He died April 7, 1832, at his Farm in Spencer County, Kentucky, and lies here interred beneath this tablet."

Circa 1790: Based on the age given in his naturalization papers, Valentine Libeau was born circa 1790.

1811-1826: The first steamboat on the western waters was in 1811. As described in this contemporaneous account, by 1826 there were about 143 steamboats on the western waters, with many being made in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1818: According to the 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania", Valentine Libeau placed an advertisement in a June, 1818 issue of the "True American" announcing the opening of a gun shop in Bedford where he plans to perform gun repairs and make all kinds of guns.

1819: The naturalization papers of Valentine Libeau state:

"To the honorable Court of Common Pleas of Bedford County in State of Pennsylvania.

Valentine Libeau gunsmith late a subject of William Landsgrave of Hesse Castle in the Empire of Germany being desirous to be naturalized and being of full age reports himself for registry to the Court of Common Pleas of the said County and states that he was born in Hesse Castle wither the territories of William Landsgrave of Castle Hesse in the German Empire and under the allegiance of said William Landsgrave as aforesaid and of Frances the First Emperor of Germany, that he is of the age of 29 years, that he migrated from Petersburg in the Empire of Russia, that he arrived at Bristol, in the state of Rhodesisland (sic), wither the territories of the United States on the 1st November 1816, that his intended place of settlement is in the County of Bedford in State of Pennsylvania.

Bedford, 9th January 1819"

1819: I did not find a Valentine Libeau in Farnsworth's 1819 "Cincinnati Directory".

1819-1820: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" identifies this individual as Valentine Libeau, and indicates that he appears on the tax rolls of the borough of Bedford as a single freeman in 1819, and in 1820.

1820: The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" puts Valentine Leban in the borough of Bedford in 1820.

1820: According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Valentine Leban is identified as a gunsmith in the 1820 tax roll of Bedford Borough.

1820: In the 1820 tax roll, Valentine Libeau's property was valued at $250.00, which was not an insignificant amount of money.

1820: I couldn't find a Valentine Libeau household in a transcript of the 1820 census of the borough of Bedford. That suggests he may have been living as a boarder in someone else's household, or had already left before the census was taken.

1825: The 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntingdon, & Somerset Counties" indicates that Valentine Libeau had a gun shop at 127 Main Street, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1825, and included the name Bedford on his lock plates even though no longer working in Bedford. The book also reports that a pistol with Libeau's name on it is at the Henry Ford Museum.

1825: Here is a reference to Valentine Libeau from "The Cincinnati Directory for 1825...":

We can reasonably speculate that Valentine Libeau probably made his way from Pennsylvania to Cincinnati via the Ohio River, either by some type of drift boat, or by steamboat.

1827: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that the 127 Main Street address is given in the March 17, 1827 issue of the "Cincinnati Advertiser" newspaper.

1825-1829: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts Valentine Libeau at 127 Main Street in Cincinnati, Ohio from 1825 to 1929.

1829: Here is a reference to Valentine Libeau from "The Cincinnati directory for the year 1829":

1830-1845: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" puts Valentine Libeau on Camp Street in New Orleans, Louisiana as a gunsmith in the 1830 to 1845 time frame, based on directories and one or more census records.

A Skinner auction brochure dated October 10, 2014 offered a small cased single shot pistol for sale that has a back action lock marked "Libeau", an octagon barrel marked "New Orleans", a walnut stock stamped with a serial number 2689 that has a checkered grip. The trigger guard and other fittings are made from silver. Other Libeau New Orleans marked pistols are known that have serial numbers.

In 2020 Damon Mills Fine Antique Guns offered a pistol for sale for $1,750.00 that they describe as an English dueling pistol. The 8.5" long barrel is about 60 caliber and is marked "London". The lock, which has a sliding lock, has been converted from flint to percussion and is marked "V. Libeau". The Damon Mills website describes this as an agent marking, which seems reasonable. The Damon Mills website reports the existence of other pistols marked "V. Libeau" on the lock and marked "New Orleans" on the barrel.

We can reasonably speculate that Valentine Libeau probably made his way from Cincinnati to New Orleans by some type of drift boat, or by steamboat.

1848: V. Libeau placed a recurring advertisement in the the "Daily Crescent" newspaper offering to sell various firearms and a set of gunsmithing tools, and indicating he is located at the Tremont House on St. Charles Street. This example is from the May 23, 1848 issue.

According to the 1849 New Orleans City Directory, Tremont House was at 102 St. Charles Street. The following markup of a portion of "Norman's plan of New Orleans & Environs, 1854" identifies 102 St. Charles Street with a red arrow. I doubt that Valentine Libeau was making guns from his hotel residence. I suspect he was only an importer at this time, and that is probably the reason he was trying to sell his gunsmithing tools.

1849-50: The following excerpt is from "Williams' Cincinnati Directory" for 1849-1850.

We can reasonably speculate that Valentine Libeau probably made his way back from New Orleans to Cincinnati by steamboat.

1855: The following excerpt is from the 1855 "Williams' Cincinnati Directory":

1856-1857: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts Valentine Libeau at 215 Cutter Street in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1856 and 1857. The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that this address is found in a directory.

1856: The following excerpt is from the 1856 "Williams' Cincinnati Directory":

1857: The following excerpt is from the 1857 "Williams' Cincinnati Directory":

Work product:

  • A full stock percussion rifle by Valentine Libeau is shown in the Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania". The lock plate incorporates the name "Bedford".

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