William Defibaugh, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, Caspar Defibaugh was William Defibaugh's great-grandfather, and built the Defibaugh tavern that is shown farther below. Here, Casper appears in an undated Colerain Township tax list that (since John Doddridge is on the list) could be no later than early 1773:

1814: Calculating from the information on his tombstone, William Defibaugh was born in 1814. According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, William Defibaugh, son of Daniel Defibaugh and Mary Lysinger, was born on November 15, 1814 in Pennsylvania.

1820: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" indicates that William Defibaugh's father Daniel Defibaugh died in 1820.

1829: The 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" states that William Defibaugh was born November 15, 1814 and also says that William Sweger, at 12 years of age, commenced an apprenticeship with William Defibaugh in 1829. That seems either implausible or remarkable, if William Defibaugh didn't turn age 15 until November 15, 1829.

1833: An advertisement in the February 16, 1833 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" states: "The Subscriber respectfully informs the public that he has commenced the Gunsmithing Business in all the various branches at the residence of the Widow DEFIBAUGH on the Turnpike Road between Bedford and Bloody Run, where all orders in this line will be executed in the best manner and on the most reasonable terms. WILLIAM DEFIBAUGH" William would have been about 18 years old. The widow Defibaugh was William's mother, and her residence was the Defibaugh tavern. The original part of this log and frame tavern is said to have been built circa 1785, and stands at 40.026096, -78.452249. The following image of the Defibaugh tavern was taken by Jerrye & Roy Klotz, MD and is included here under the following license: Creative Commons Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The Defibaugh Tavern is identified on the following excerpt from the 1861 Walker map of Bedford County. In 1861 the tavern was being run by William's brother Daniel L. Defibaugh. Daniel L. Defibaugh's obituary indicates that he sold the tavern circa 1862. I've read that after the sale, the tavern became known as the Willow Grove.

1834: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" references a February 1834 legal case as Commonwealth v. William Defibaugh.

1838-1844: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" puts William Defibaugh at the Widow Defibaugh's residence on the Bedford to Everett Turnpike from 1838 to 1844.

1843: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that William Defibaugh was a Petit Juror in January of 1843.

1844-1949: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" locates William Defibaugh in West Providence Township from 1844 to 1849.

Circa 1845: According to A. Merwyn Carey's 1953 book "American Firearms Makers" Daniel Defibaugh and William Defibaugh were brothers and were makers of percussion rifles in Providence Township of Bedford County circa 1845.

1846: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that the property of William Defibaugh was valued at $252.00 in 1846.

1850: In the 1850 census of West Providence Township, Bedford County, 35-year-old gunsmith William Defibaugh and 34-year-old Elizabeth Defibaugh (both Pennsylvania-born) are enumerated with 10-year-old David, 8-year-old Laurence, 7-year-old Wesley, 5-year-old Mary, 3-year-old Sophia A, and 1-year-old Milton. William Defibaugh's property was valued at $500.00.

1850: The 1953 edition of Gluckman's "American Gun Makers" puts William Defibaugh in Monroe Township of Bedford County in 1850.

1851-1891: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" locates William Defibaugh at Robinsonville in Monroe Township from 1851 to 1891. This can, I believe, be interpreted as meaning he had a Robinsonville address; i.e. he was served by the Robinsonville Post Office.

1852: In his 1960 book "The Pennsylvania - Kentucky Rifle", Kauffman lauds the craftsmanship and proportions of William Defibaugh's work, and reports that William is identified as a gunsmith in the tax roll of Monroe Township, Bedford County in the year 1852, and in the 1850 federal census.

1852: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that Conrad Smith was an apprentice of William Defibaugh in 1852.

1861: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that the property of William Defibaugh was valued at $460.00 in 1861.

1870: According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, in the 1870 federal census of Robinsonville, Monroe Township, Bedford County, 55-year-old William Defibaugh and 53-year-old Elizabeth Defibaugh are enumerated with 23-year-old Sophia, 21-year-old Milton, 17-year-old William, 15-year-old Eliza Jane, 14-year-old Catherine, and 10-year-old Clara. William was enumerated as a farmer with real estate valued at $2500.00 and personal property valued at $1,000.00.

1877: The following image from the Monroe Township portion of the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania" identifies the location of William Defibaugh's eventual residence and adjacent gun shop near Robisonville:

1878: The following 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 shows William Defibaugh as a gunsmith in Robisonville, Monroe Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. This may mean that he received his mail via the Robisonville Post Office.

1880: According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, in the 1880 federal census of Monroe Township, Bedford County, 65-year-old William Defibaugh was enumerated as a widower and gunsmith. Living in his household was 20-year-old daughter Clara.

circa 1880s: In his book "The Bedford County Rifle and its Makers", Calvin Hetrick notes that William Defibaugh was still making his popular rifles in the 1880s, which were graceful and slender and known for their accuracy, although the engraving was not as good as some of the Bedford County gunsmiths. Hetrick ranked William Defibaugh's rifles very high for aesthetic design, and reports that two of William's sons were gunsmiths. Two of Defebaugh's rifles in Hetrick's book are marked "W.D." on the lock plate and "W. Defibaugh" on the barrel.

1886: The 1983 booklet "Gunsmiths and Gunmakers of Bedford and Somerset Counties Pennsylvania 1770-1900" indicates that William Defibaugh appears as a Robinsonville gunsmith in the 1886 Farquar Directory (evidently a Bedford County directory).

1891: Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith William Defibaugh died June 17, 1891 at age 76, and is buried in the Mount Pleasant Cemetery (39.924891, -78.291957) near Mattie in Bedford County. His tombstone states: "William Defibaugh died June 17, 1891 Aged 76 ys. 7 ms. 2 ds." This makes the year of his birth 1814.

The following paragraph is from the 1908 book "The History of the Smouse Family of America". It identifies the wife and children of William Defibaugh.

According to the 1963 book "Some Nycum Descendants" Sophia (Nycum) Smouse's daughter Elizabeth Smouse married William Defibaugh and had the following children: David, Lawrence, Wesley, Milton, William, Sophia, Mary, Belle, Kate, Eliza, and Clara Defibaugh. The book also reports that Sophia (Nycum) Smouse's daughter Sophia Smouse was born circa 1822, married the blacksmith Daniel Defibaugh, and had the following children: Lucinda, Francis R., and Michael S. Defibaugh.

In March of 2006 Morphy Auctions sold a percussion rifle by William Defibaugh for $9,775.00. The 38 caliber octagon barrel is 43-inches long and marked with the name "* W * Defibaugh *". The lockplate is engraved with the initials "WD" with script characters, and the hammer is in the Bedford style with an exceptionally long and graceful spur. The full-length stock features an engraved four-piece patchbox of typical Bedford Q-finial style with four piercings, an oval silver cheekpiece inlay with an engraved eagle and shield motif, silver teardrop inlays rearward of the lock panel and lock plate panel, and a brass nose piece.

The 2015 book "Silk and Steel: Women at Arms" describes a December 26, 1855 dated silver-decorated rifle William Defibaugh made for his wife, and reports a local tradition that she tested and sighted in his rifles.

According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh genealogy file, William Defibaugh was a brother of Daniel L. Defibaugh, and they were sons of Daniel Defibaugh. Mary Lou Cook reports on the children of William Defibaugh from a photocopy of the family Bible as follows:

  • David Defibaugh, born March 19, 1840
  • Lawrence Defibaugh, born December 05, 1841
  • Wesley Defibaugh, born November 25, 1843.
  • Mary Elizabeth Defibaugh, born May 22, 1845
  • Sophia Ann Defibaugh, born August 05, 1847
  • Milton R. Defibaugh, born December 06, 1848
  • Lucinda Bell Defibaugh, born January 09, 1851
  • William S. Defibaugh, born November 09, 1852
  • Eliza Jane Defibaugh, born December 15, 1854
  • Catherine Ellen Defibaugh, born December 06, 1856
  • Clara Virginia Defibaugh, born September 23, 1859

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