William Sweger, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmithing apprentice

Introduction: A gun collecting-related book indicates that William Sweger apprenticed with a Bedford County Defibaugh gunsmith in 1829. There were Sweger families in Bedford County, but I don't know which (if any) the apprentice William Sweger was related to or part of. I did find a major gunsmith named William Sweger In Perry County who was about the right age to be the apprentice. I suspect he was the 1829 apprentice, but I don't have definitive proof.

1773: The following excerpt from the 1884 book indicates there was a Swaggard living near the present-day bounds of Bedford County in 1773:

1790: In a transcript of the 1790 census of Bedford County, there are four Swaggers households: Hendrey, John, Leonard, and William.

1796: The following excerpt from the 1884 book indicates there were Swagers in Bedford Township in 1796.

1800: Jacob Swager, Leonard Swigert, and John Swager households are listed in a transcript of the 1800 federal census of Bedford and St. Clair townships.

1810: In a transcript of the 1810 census of Bedford County, a William Swager household is listed in Bedford township and an Abraham Swagert household is listed in Hopewell Township.

1815-1892: The findagrave.com memorial (43082258) for the Perry County gunsmith William Sweger says he was born February 3, 1815 in Perry County, died June 24, 1892, and is buried at the Messiah Lutheran Church Cemetery (40.3904991, -77.2886963) in Elliottsburg, Perry County. The memorial indicates that he made a gun as early as 1838 and appears on the 1840 and 1870 censuses as a gunsmith. More importantly, the author of the extensive memorial biography did not know who William Sweger apprenticed with. I suspect that he is the individual who apprenticed with a Defibaugh in 1829. If William Sweger was born February 3, 1829, then he would have turned age 14 in 1829.

1820: In a transcript of the 1820 census of Bedford Township and the Borough of Bedford, an Isaac Swager household and a William Swagger household are listed.

1820: The findagrave.com memorial for the Perry County Gunmith William Sweger indicates that William's father was Johanas Schweiger. In a transcript of the 1820 census of Saville Township, Perry County, Pennsylvania the John Sweager household has one male and one female in the 26 to 45 age group, two males and one female in the 10 to 16 age group, and three males and three females in the up to ten age group. One individual in the household was engaged in agriculture. there were also Henry and George Sweager households in Saville Township, and a Jacob Sweger household in Rye Township.

1829: The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" states that William Sweger, at 12 years of age, commenced an apprenticeship with William Defibaugh in 1829. The book also indicates that William Defibaugh was born November 15, 1814. Together, these statements seem either implausible or remarkable, considering that William Defibaugh wouldn't have turned age 15 until November 15, 1829. I wish the source of the apprenticeship information had been described in the 2017 book, so it could be scrutinized.

1830: In a transcript of the 1820 census of Bedford Township and the Borough of Bedford, a John Swager household and a William Swagger household are listed.

1840: I did not find any Sweger households in the 1840 census of Bedford County.

1850-1861: Sellers' 2008 compendium "American Gunsmiths" lists a gunsmith named William Sweigert, puts him in Elliotsburg, Pennsylvania, and indicates he was active in the 1850 to 1861 timeframe based on an 1850 census record and an 1861 directory. Elliotsburg is 69 miles east-northeast from Bedford in a straight line (88 road miles) in Perry County, and ten miles west-northwest of Harrisburg in a straight line. I don't know if this is the William Swegert who apprenticed in Bedford County.

1851: The 1897 book "Commemorative Biographical Encyclopedia of the Juniata Valley, Comprising the Counties of Huntingdon, Mifflin, Juniata, and Perry, Pennsylvania" contains the following biography: "John C. Sweger, Marysville, Perry County, Pa., was born in Saville Township, Perry County, May 12, 1851. He is a son of the late William and Mary (Bousman) Sweger. Both parents were natives of Perry County, and were of Pennsylvania German ancestry. William Sweger was a gunsmith, which occupation he followed, and also cultivated a small farm in Saville Township. On this farm John Sweger was born; and here, amidst the surroundings incidental to farm life, his boyhood was passed. During the winter months, he attended the common schools of the township, receiving such limited education, as could be obtained in this way. At about seventeen years of age, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker. This business, which has been his occupation through life, he has followed in several States of the Union. Mr. Sweger is a member of the council of the borough of Marysville. In his politics he is a Republican."

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