William Border, Bedford County gunsmith

Introduction: William Border, was a significant long rifle gun maker in Bedford County, Pennsylvania, and one of only a handful of Bedford County gunsmiths who made rifles in the flintlock era that have survived.

1800: Evelyn Gibson's 1978 book "Blackburn and Allied Descendants of John Blackburn., Sr. ..." indicates that William Border was born on June 30, 1800 in Maryland and was a son of John Border and Mary M. (Black) Border. According to his memorial on findagrave.com (103897733), the middle name of William Border's mother was Magdalene. The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" describes William's father as Johannes Border, a son of of the blacksmith Gebalt Border.

The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" says William Border was the son of Gebald Border and the father of John Border and Daniel Border, and was producing rifles earlier than 1800. I agree that William Border was the father of John and Daniel border, and disagree with the rest. I believe William border was the grandson, rather than the son, of Gebald Border. I don't believe William Border was born early enough to be producing rifles before 1800.

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" includes John Border, Sr. (1775-1856) in its list of Bedford County gunsmiths, indicates that John Border, Sr. was the father of William, indicates that John Border, Sr.'s wife was Mary Magdalena Black, and puts John Border, Sr. in Naper Township up until 1825, in Providence Township in 1825, and back in Napier Township from 1826 to 1856. The Whiskers did not include John Border, Sr. as a gunsmith in their 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties".

The Whiskers' 1983 booklet includes Gebald Border in a list of Bedford County gunsmiths, but the authors of that booklet do not include Gebald Border in their 1991 book.

1804: Gibson's 1978 book indicates that William Border's wife Lydia Blackburn was a daughter of Thomas Blackburn's son John and was born on April 9, 1804.

1815: According to the Whiskers' 2017 book, William Border's mother Mary Magdalene (Black) Border died in 1815.

1825: According to his memorial on findagrave.com, William Border married Lydia Blackburn in Schellsburg on April 16, 1825. Gibson's 1978 book indicates that Lydia Blackburn married the gunsmith William Border circa 1824 to 1825.

1826-1870: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts William Border in Napier Township from 1826 to 1870, as does the 2001 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington, & Somerset Counties" by Whisker & Yantz. The 2001 book reports him as consistently appearing on the tax rolls as a farmer.

1826: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that William Border's tax was $6.00 in 1826 while living in Napier Township.

1826: Gibson's 1978 book indicates that Daniel B. Border, son of William and Lydia Border, was born on April 29, 1826. This agrees with the tombstone of Daniel Border at the Bedford Cemetery.

1827-1847: Pages 26 and 27 of Calvin Hetrick's book "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers" are a transcript of information found in William Border's account book. The book documents the types of work he did in the 1827 to 1847 timeframe, the charges for the work, and the names of the customers.

1828: According to her memorial on findagrave.com, William Border's daughter Margaret was born on January 14, 1828.

1829: According to her memorial on findagrave.com, William Border's daughter Sarah Mary (Border) Oldham was born on December 30, 1829.

1830: I did not find a William Border household in transcripts of the 1830 censuses of Bedford or Somerset County.

1831: According to the Whiskers' 2017 book, William Border's son John who died in 1864 was born in 1831 and was married to Catherine Ott. Based on the year of death, this son would be the talented gunsmith John Border.

1835: According to her memorial on findagrave.com, William Border's daughter Anna (Border) Cuppett was born on January 14, 1835. Her tombstone includes the statement "Anna Border wife of W.H. Cuppett". The following excerpt is from the extensive obituary of Mrs. Anna Cuppett in the March 15, 1901 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper, "She was the youngest of three sons and three daughters of Mr. and Mrs. William Border. George Border, of Spring Hope and Mrs. Margaret Onstead, of Johnstown, are the only surviving members of that family. She was a granddaughter of John Blackburn, who erected the first grist mill in this vicinity prior to 1800; a great granddaughter of Thomas Blackburn, who erected a grist mill at Spring Hope about the year 1770; a great great granddaughter of John Blackburn, who emigrated to America about 1735 and settled in Adams County, PA."

1840: The William Border household appears in a transcript of the 1840 census of Napier Township, Bedford County with one male in the 40 to 50 age range, one female in the 30 to 40 age range, one male and one female in the 10 to 15 age range, and two males and two females in the 5 to 10 age range. This census record is harmonious with the gunsmith William Border being born in 1800. I did not find any other William Border in the transcript of the 1840 Bedford County census. I did not find a William Border household in a transcript of the 1840 Somerset County census.

1841: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that William Border's tax was $41.00 as a farmer living in Napier Township in 1841.

1850: I did not find a William Border in a transcript of the 1850 census of Somerset County. According to Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", William Border, the father of Daniel Border and John Border, is identified as a gunsmith on the 1850 tax roll of East St. Clair Township, Bedford County.

1850: The following composite images from the 1850 census provide information about the size and productivity of William Border's farm:

1855: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that William Border's property was valued at $480.00 while living in Napier Township in 1855.

1856: According to the Whiskers' 2017 book, William Border's father John died in 1856.

1860: I did not find any individuals with the surname Border in a transcript of the 1860 census of Somerset county.

1861: The following image from the 1861 Walker map shows a "Wm. Border" residence in Napier Township. The 1953 edition of "American Gun Makers" puts William Border in New Paris in Bedford County, and says he made squirrel rifles with full stocks and marked his locks "W. B." I suspect the New Paris reference may just mean he had a New Paris post office address.

1861: The following notice is from the January 18, 1861 issue of the "Bedford Inquirer". It shows that William Border was a resident of Bedford County in 1861.

1862: The following notice was placed in the September 19, 1862 issue of the "Bedford Gazette". Information provided by William Border at the bottom of the notice identifies William Border as a gunsmith.

1864: The following notice is from the September 16, 1864 issue of the "Bedford Inquirer". It suggests that William Border owned real estate in Napier Township.

1868: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that William Border's property was valued at $420.00 while living in Napier Township in 1868.

1870: I did not find any individuals with the surname Border in a transcript of the 1870 census of Somerset county.

1873: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book reports that William Border's property was assessed at $1,445.00 in 1873.

1873-1881: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts William Border in East St. Clair Township from 1873 to 1881, as does the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book. The 2001 book reports him as consistently appearing on the tax rolls as a farmer.

1877: The following image from the East St. Clair Township portion of the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania" identifies the location of William Border's residence and gunshop. The general location of the gunshop is 40.096004, -78.584077.

1876: Gibson's 1978 book indicates that William Border's wife Lydia (Blackburn) Border died on August 14, 1876 and is buried at Fishertown. This date of death agrees with the date of death given on her memorial on findagrave.com. She is buried beside William Border, and although her tombstone is badly eroded I can make out the following, "Lydia wife of William Border died Aug. __, 187_".

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 William Border as a gunsmith in Spring Hope (East St. Clair Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania).

1880: In the 1880 census, George Border is enumerated as a 47-year-old farmer. Also living in his household are his 45-year-old wife Martha, 19-year-old Lottie, 17-year-old Lydia, and 79-year-old gunsmith William Border.

1880: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book indicates that William Hartley foreclosed on Daniel Border's $745.00 debt on September 10, 1880. The Whiskers' 2017 book indicates that William Border was a cosigner on a loan that his son Daniel B. Border had made, and both Daniel and William experienced foreclosure in connection with the debt when the business of Daniel B. Border failed. These may be references to the same event.

1881: According to the 2001 Whisker & Yantz book, William Border was residing with his son George when he died on July 12, 1881.

1881: According to his memorial on findagrave.com William Border was born June 30, 1800 and died July 11, 1881 at age 81. William Border is buried in the Fishertown Lutheran Cemetery in Fishertown, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The cemetery is located at Latitude 40.125362, Longitude -78.586293.

1881: The 2001 Whisker & Yantz book reports that the value of William Border's estate was $2,375.62 with debts of $163.33. The same book reports that the children listed in William Border's will were Daniel B. Border who resided in Bedford, Margaret Anstadt who resided in Cambria County, Sarah Oldham (deceased), John Border (deceased), George Border, and Annie Cuppett who resided in New Paris.

Misc.: Although various items appear to be incorrect, here's what Vaughn E. Whisker wrote in an article titled "Somerset County Gunmakers and Smiths" in the November 1982 issue of the "Laurel Messenger". I recommend giving more weight to later writings of any author, to give them an opportunity to correct mistakes.

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