William Henry, the earliest-known gunsmith in what would become Bedford County

Collector publications, such as Calvin Hetrick's 1983 booklet "The Bedford County Rifle and Its Makers" cite John Fraser as the earliest known gunsmith in what is now Bedford County, Pennsylvania. I propose that the honor belongs to William Henry, who accompanied Forbes' expedition against Fort Duquesne as an Armorer during the French and Indian War. Forbes was at Fort Bedford from September 16, 1758 to October 22, 1758, and perhaps longer. For however long William Henry was at Fort Bedford, it was in the official capacity of a military Armorer. To learn more about William Henry, read his 1910 biography "The Life of William Henry of Lancaster Pennsylvania 1729-1786" (4078KB PDF) and the brief biography in Kauffman's 1960 book "The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle".

A November 13, 1759 letter Ourry wrote to Bouquet from Fort Bedford states, "In a little time we may discharge the Blacksmiths also, as I have set up a Smith, who is now at Work for himself in the Gunsmiths new House. And Frazer has built himself a Shop, intending to Work at his Trade. ..." This means there was an unknown gunsmith at Fort Bedford after Forbes' expedition and before John Fraser went to work in his new shop. In my opinion, this makes John Fraser the third gunsmith known to be working within the area defined by the present extent of Bedford County.

Various publications indicate that William Henry was also an armorer on Braddock's disastrous 1755 expedition against Fort Duquesne. The course of that expedition took him across the southwest corner of what is now Somerset County, Pennsylvania, making him one of the earliest gunsmiths in what is now Somerset County.

In his 1953 book "American Firearms Makers", A. Merwyn Carey indicates that William Henry, born on May 9, 1729, produced pistols and Kentucky rifles at his Lancaster, Pennsylvania gunsmithery from 1745 to 1786, and served as an armorer for the Pennsylvania Regiment during the 1755 expedition of General Braddock. That expedition passed through a corner of what is now Somerset County, Pennsylvania. Carey indicates that William Henry's gunsmithing business in Lancaster was on Center Square.

The following excerpt is from the 1924 edition of Dillin's book "The Kentucky Rifle". It provides information on William Henry, and a son and grandsons who were also in the gun making business.

William Henry description in the 1924 edition of Dillin's book The Kentucky Rifle.

The following excerpt is from the 1896 book "Merion in the Welsh Tract". It provides a brief biography of William Henry, and names his children.

 182 1896 biography of William Henry

183 1896 biography of William Henry

184 1896 biography of William Henry

The following composite image is a footnote in Volume IX of the book "Historical Papers and Addresses of the Lancaster County Historical Society" (1905) that provides a brief biography of William Henry.

1905 biography of William Henry

The following excerpt is from Volume LXXI of the book "Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers" (1911). As part of a memorial biography, it was probably written by a family member. The subject of the biography was born in 1833, and his grandfather was William Henry.

A reference to William Henry by a descendant of his.

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