William Defibaugh, Bedford County, Pennsylvania gunsmith

Introduction: William Defibaugh was a significant Bedford County, Pennsylvania gun maker. He is known as a gunsmith from a newspaper advertisement, census records, business directories, at least one tax record, a map in the 1877 book "County Atlas of Bedford Pennsylvania", and surviving examples of his work product.

1772: According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, Caspar Defibaugh was William Defibaugh's great-grandfather, and Caspar and his son Gottleib built the Defibaugh tavern that is pictured farther below. The following composite image is from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset, and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". It shows Caspar Defebaugh in a 1772 list of Colerain township taxables.

1773: Here, Casper appears in an undated Colerain Township tax list that (since John Doddridge is on the list) is probably 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.

The following graphic shows how I currently understand the relationships among the Defibaugh gunsmiths. Red text is used to identify individuals who are known to have been gunsmiths or have been said to be gunsmiths.

1820: According to Mary Lou Cook's August 3, 2013 Defibaugh working file, William Defibaugh's father Daniel Defibaugh, Sr. died on February 18, 1820 and is buried at the Defibaugh Farm Family Cemetery in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The Whiskers' 2017 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford County, Pennsylvania" lists the same 1820 year of death. I wish I knew the original source for the 1820 date, to scrutinize its validity.

1829: The Whiskers' 2017 book 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. Click here to see a September 20, 2021 photo of the Defibaugh tavern.

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 Whiskers' 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: Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" includes a transcript of a Defibaugh family Bible and states that William Defibaugh was born on November 15, 1814, and married Elizabeth Smouse in 1838.

1838-1844: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet puts William Defibaugh at the Widow Defibaugh's residence on the Bedford to Everett Turnpike from 1838 to 1844.

1840: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies David as being born on March 19, 1840. A note after the transcript indicates that William taught gunsmithing to David.

1840: The following excerpt from the 1840 census of Bedford County shows the households of the William Defibaugh and his mother, the widow Mary Defibaugh:

1841: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Lawrence as being born on December 5, 1841. A note after the transcript indicates that William taught gunsmithing to Lawrence.

1843: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that William Defibaugh was a Petit Juror in January of 1843.

1843: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies "Westley" as being born on November 25, 1843. A note after the transcript indicates that William taught gunsmithing to Wesley.

1844-1949: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet locates William Defibaugh in West Providence Township from 1844 to 1849.

1845: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Mary as being born on May 22, 1845 and marrying Joseph P. Mortimore.

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 Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that the property of William Defibaugh was valued at $252.00 in 1846.

1847: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Sophia as being born on August 5, 1847 and marrying Nelson Akers.

1848: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Milton as being born on December 6, 1848. A note after the transcript indicates that William taught gunsmithing to "Mailton". Milton Defibaugh's death certificate indicates he was the son of William and Elizabeth (Smouse) Defibaugh and was born on December 6, 1848.

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. The next family on the census form is that of Daniel and Sophia Border, which suggests the William and Daniel Border famlies lived near one-another.

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

1850-1852: 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.

1851: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Lucinda Bell as being born on January 9, 1851 and marrying John Patterson.

1851-1891: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet 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: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies William S. as being born on November 9, 1852 and being in Texas.

1852: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet indicates that Conrad Smith was an apprentice of William Defibaugh in 1852.

1854: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Eliza Jane as being born on December 15, 1854 and marrying a second cousin. A note identifies the second cousin as William Defibaugh, who was a jeweler and watch maker.

1856: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Catherine Ellen as being born on November 6, 1856 and marrying Bert Devore. She was the owner of the Bible in 1936.

1859: A list of the children of William Defibaugh from a 1936 transcript of a family Bible in Volume 2 of the "Bedford County Archives" identifies Clara as being born September 23, 1859.

1860: The following excerpt is from the 1860 census. William's 20-year-old son David is listed as a gunsmith.

1861: The Whiskers' 1983 booklet 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 residence and adjacent gun shop near Robisonville:

The following excerpt from a 1931 topographic map is included to show the terrain in the vicinity of the William Defibaugh residence. I used a red circle to identify the house I think was William Defibaugh's former residence.

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 simply 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 Whiskers' 1983 booklet 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 (39.92488421, -78.29187591) 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.

Children: 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.

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

    Work Product:
    Click here to see the rifling bench attributed to William Defibaugh, Sr.

    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.

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