Lepley Gunsmiths of Somerset County, Pennsylvania

Introduction
The Lepley family made and repaired muzzle loading firearms in Southampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania. There were at least three Lepley gunsmiths in Southampton Township, and possibly more. A reliable Lepley family tradition tells of a Southampton Township Lepley gunsmith who was still in business in the early twentieth century; see below. The family also produced at least two Ohio-born gunsmiths.

Adam Lepley I (1748 to 1831) and his brothers Jacob and Michael
The story of the Lepley family in America begins with three pioneer brothers: Adam Lepley I, Jacob Lepley, and Michael Lepley.

The following information is from page 546a of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania". I have converted the information to bullet points, to make it easier to understand:

"The first representative of the Lepley family in America came from Germany, accompanied by three sons, Michael, Jacob and Adam, and settled in Eastern Pennsylvania.

  • Michael was killed by the Indians at Bloody Run, now Everett, in Bedford county. He had three sons.
  • Jacob, who had seven sons and four daughters, moved to Ohio.
  • Adam, who was born in Germany in 1753, settled in Somerset county. He married Barbara Bugher, who was born May 6, 1755, in Pennsylvania. They became the parents of six sons and two daughters. One of their sons, also named Adam, was born August 5, 1776, near Willard's Gap, in Larimer township, Somerset county, where the turnpike crosses the Allegheny mountains. He became quite a prominent man in the community, and was appointed justice of the peace by the governor and served in this capacity about twenty-five years. April 8, 1798, he was married to Elizabeth Hover, who was born July 26, 1780. Their children were as follows: Daniel, born August 12, 1799; Jacob, born June 7, 1801; Valentine, born April 23, 1803; Johannah, born February 2, 1805; Catharine, born September 18, 1807; Susanah, born June 3, 1810; Joseph, born November 26, 1812; Barbara, born December 28, 1824; Adam, born March 5, 1821; and Harmon, born December 28, 1824."

    This 1884 account is slightly garbled, as sometimes happens with stories passed down from one generation of a family to another. Michael Lepley was not killed at Bloody Run. Instead, he was killed near Fort Freeland in what is now Snyder County. The Jacob Lepley who moved to Ohio may be a descendant of Adam Lepley I, rather than his brother.

    The Larimer Township portion of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" (page 590) states: "Some years before the revolutionary war, Adam Lepley emigrated from Germany to Bedford county, and afterward to the present territory of Somerset county. He moved to Ohio about 1810, and there died at an advanced age. He was the father of four sons: Adam, Joseph, Jacob and George. Adam settled in Southampton township prior to 1800. He followed blacksmithing, and died at the age of seventy six. He married Elizabeth Horn, and was the father of Daniel, Valentine, Adam and Catharine, living; Jacob, Joseph, George and Barbara, deceased. Daniel Lepley was born in 1799, and is the oldest man now living in Larimer township."

    In the biography of Eli Manuel Lepley, the 1911 book "Past and Present of Hardin County Iowa" tells the story of Adam Lepley I as follows, "Adam Lepley, grandfather of the subject, was a native of Germany, and with two brothers came to the United States in 1770 and settled in Somerset county, Pennsylvania. The two brothers were killed by Indians. Adam married and became the father of eight sons and two daughters. At an early day he walked through to Knox county, Ohio, leading a pack horse, and took up wild land. This he improved and was a farmer until his death."

    1773: The Lutheran Church of Frederick, Maryland has a record that states, "Adam Lebele, the late Michael Lebele's legitimate son, to Barbara Bugherin, Peter Bucher's legitimate single daughter, both of Frederick Co., Maryland, Proc. 3rd , 7th and 14th of March, married March 14th 1773, Oculi Sunday."

    1778-1815: The following excerpt from the 1938 book "The Snyder County Pioneers" describes Michael and Jacob Lepley as pioneers in what is now Snyder County, Pennsylvania, and indicates that Jacob Lepley lived out the remainder of his life there. This conflicts with the information about Jacob Lepley in the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" (see above) that says Michael's brother Jacob moved to Ohio. I believe this account over the account in the 1884 book because this account references records that indicate continuing Pennsylvania residency.

    1779: The following affidavit transcript concerning the death of Michael Lepley is from the 1891 book "History of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania...":

    1779: Volume IV of the "Pennsylvania Archives", fifth series, contains the following about the death of Michael Lepley:

    1779: The following description of the Fort Freeland affair is from the 1877 book "Annals of Buffalo Valley, Pennsylvania 1755--1855."

    The Fort Freeland historical marker is located at 41.099627, -76.805965.

    1789: The following excerpt from Volume III of the 1907 book "Pennsylvania Archives", Sixth Series identifies Adam Lepley I as living in Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania in 1789.

    1790: The following composite image is from the Bedford County section of the 1908 book "Heads of Families of the First Census of the United States: 1790". It is worth noting that in this census transcript, the name of Adam Lepley is next to the name of the gunsmith Jacob Gaumer, which suggests they lived near one another.

    1800: The following excerpt shows the Lepley entries in the 1800 federal census of Londonderry Township.

    1807: The biography of George Lepley in the 1881 book "History of Knox County, Ohio indicates that he came to Knox County, Ohio with his parents Adam and Barbara Lepley in 1807.


    1831: Adam Lepley I and his wife Barbara Lepley share a modern looking tombstone at the Bethel Cemetery in Knox County, Ohio. The tombstone lists Adam's lifetime as 1748 to 1831 and lists Barbara's lifetime as 1755 to 1842.

    A leftover puzzle: The following image is from the northern part of the WPA survey map of Southampton Township, and has been rotated so north is at the top. The Christian Sturtz property (C-201 Page 246, C-201 Page 247) was surveyed in 1802, and belonged to either the father or grandfather of the gunsmith Jacob Sturtz. The Adam Lepley property was part of the adjacent Joseph Rhoads property (C-168 page 206) that was surveyed in 1786, and belonged to either Adam Lepley I or II. Property of the gunsmith Benjamin Troutman adjoins the eastern boundary of the Adam Lepley property. (Adam Shirer's January 11, 1838 survey (Survey Book C-208 Page 136) identifies the adjacent Southampton Township property of Benjamin Troutman that was formerly owned by John & Christian Meese.) The juxtaposition of these three properties suggests that these gunsmithing families knew each other, regardless of which Adam Lepley (I or II) and which Christian Sturtz (Sr. or Jr.) owned two of the properties. Here are gps coordinates that correspond roughly to the three red dots:

  • 39.798665698, -78.80335690 roughly the center of the Christian Sturtz property.
  • 39.79296134, -78.79717709 roughly the center of the Adam Lepley property.
  • 39.78860856, -78.7905252 near and hopefully on the northwest end of the slender Benjamin Troutman property.

    Adam Lepley II
    The lineage of Adam Lepley II is provided above, in conjunction with the description of his father Adam Lepley I. As also quoted above, the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" indicates that Adam Lepley II was born on August 5, 1776 near Willard's gap in what is now Larimer Township, became a prominent man in the community, and was appointed Justice of the Peace of Southampton Township by the Governor and served in that capacity for about 25 years. Based on the turnpike-related description, I believe Willard's Gap is at 39.849511, -78.950048.

    1795: Somerset County was formed from part of Bedford County on April 17, 1795 but did not include what is now Southampton Township.

    The following excerpt from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" describes Adam Lepley II as one of the earliest settlers in what is now Southampton Township, Somerset County, Pennsylvania.

    The following excerpt is also from the 1884 book and refers to Adam Lepley II as a blacksmith:

    1800: "...that part of Bedford County in Londonderry township, lying westward of a line to begin on the top of the Little Allegheny mountain, where the Maryland line crosses the same, thence running along said mountain a northerly direction to where the mountain breaks, thence a straight line to the breast works..." was annexed to Somerset County by an act that passed on March 1, 1800.

    1800: A transcript of the 1800 census of Londonderry Township, Somerset County has two Adam Lapeley households. The Adam Lapeley, Sr. household as one male and one female over age 45, one male in the 10 to 16 age group, and two males and one female in the up to 10 age group. The other Adam Lapeley household has one male and one female in the 16 to 26 age group, and one male in the up to ten age group.

    1800: The 1800 Londonderry Township taxable list shows an Adam Lepley living in Londonderry Township, Bedford County. People sometimes associate the Adam Lepley family with Rockland Township because it is on the list described in the following article from the August 1973 "Laurel Messenger". Rockland Township seems to be a name the county toyed with using for what would soon be or include Southampton Township. Peter Troutman, father of the gunsmith Benjamin Troutman, is on the list. There are also a few other Lepley individuals.

    1801: According to the 1912 book "Past and Present of Knox County Ohio" Jacob Lepley, a son of Adam Lepley II, was born on June 7, 1801. The relevant excerpt from the book is included further below.

    1801: Southampton Township was formed from part of the newly annexed portion of Londonderry Township in 1801.

    1805: The following list of the taxable inhabitants of Southampton township, published in the aforementioned 1884 history book, lists Adam Lepley with a still.

    1809: Here is another reference from the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" describing Adam Lepley II as a Justice of the Peace:

    1809: In 1809 the Pennsylvania Legislature designated the home of Adam Lepley II as the Southampton Township voting location.

    1810: In a transcript of the 1810 census of Southampton Township, the household of Adam Lepley has one male and one female in the 26 to 44 age group,one male in the 16 to 26 age group, and three males and three females in the up to ten age group.

    1812: In 1812, Pennsylvania began sending Adam Lepley $40.00 per year to provide "clothing and diet" to Jacob Plumb, who "served in the year one thousand seven hundred and eighty-two, with the militia, against the Indians, and was wounded on the right shoulder by a ball, and tomahawked across his nose, which wounds, add to the infirmity of age..."

    1813: Here is a transcript of an 1813 receipt for a payment to Adam Lepley on behalf of Jacob Plumb that was published in Volume XXIV (1813) of the "Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania..."

    1817: The 1817 triennial assessment of Southampton Township lists Adam Lepley as a Justice of the Peace and owner of a still.

    1818-1820: The following article excerpt from the March 3, 1897 issue of the "Somerset Herald" indicates that Adam Lepley II had a newspaper subscription:

    1821: Adam Lepley III, who was a gunsmithing son of Adam Lepley II of Southampton Township, was born on March 5, 1821.

    1825: According to the 1912 book "Past and Present of Knox County Ohio" Jacob Lepley, a son of Adam Lepley II, left for Ohio in 1825. He would have been about 24 years old at the time. The relevant excerpt from the book is included further below. Jacob Lepley was the father of two Ohio gunsmiths, Valentine and William Lepley, who are discussed further below.

    1830: In a transcript of the 1830 census of Southampton Township, the household of Adam Lepley, Esquire has one male in the 50 to 60 age group,one female in the 40 to 50 age group, one male in the 30 to 40 age group, one female in the 20 to 30 age group, one male and one female in the 15 to 20 age group, two males in the five to ten age group, and one male in the up to five age group.

    1831: According to the August 1970 issue of the "Laurel Messenger" the August 23, 1831 issue of the "Somerset Herald" carried a notice regarding the marriage of one of the children of Adam Lepley:

    1840: In a transcript of the 1840 census of Southampton Township, the Adam Lepley household has one male in the 60 to 70 age group, one female in the 50 to 60 age group, one female in the 20 to 30 age group, two males in the 15 to 20 age group, three females in the 5 to 10 age group, and one male in the up to 5 age group.

    1842-1850: An article by Vaughn E. Whisker in the November 1982 "Laurel Messenger" mentions Adam Lepley 1776-1853 as being a Southampton Township gunsmith known for incorporating fine silver inlays in his rifles. The 1991 book "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties" by Whisker and Whisker says that according to tax and census records, Adam Lepley 1773-1850, was a gunsmith in Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA during the 1842 to 1850 time period. Since the gunsmith Adam Lepley III was 21 years old in 1842, I wish the Whiskers would have mentioned how they distinguished father from son in the records and determined that Adam Lepley II was a gunsmith.

    1850: In a transcript of the 1850 census of Southampton Township, Adam Lepley (II) is listed as a 76-year-old farmer valued at $2,000.00 who was living with 71-year-old Maryland-born Elizabeth Lepley. Also living in the same household are 30-year-old farmer Adam Lepley (III), 17-year-old Eliza A. Lepley, and 16-year-old Susan Lepley, all Pennsylvania-born.

    1853: Adam Lepley II died on March 7, 1853 and is buried in the Lepley Cemetery, which is on the farm where the gunsmithing hardware featured on this website was found in the 1970s. Here, below, is a photo of his tombstone.

    1853: The following item is from the August 1973 "Laurel Messenger".

    1860: The following image from the 1860 Walker map of Somerset County shows the location of the farm of Adam Lepley II and III:

    Adam Lepley land transactions
    A correspondent who owns a Lepley rifle also has the original deed to a farm of Adam Lepley. It does not state the original date of purchase, but the lien was completely satisfied on Nov. 4, 1816. The entire purchase price was $295.95. The land was first surveyed June 3, 1767 to satisfy application # 2698 dated Jan. 20, 1767. It was delivered to him "free and clear of all restrictions and reservations", except that "a fifth share of all gold and silver ore found was to be delivered to the pit's mouth for use of the commonwealth". It isn't yet clear which farm the deed is for, but the deed indicates that the property was bordered by a vacant farm, the farm of Hugh Simpson, the farm of Jacob Ehrenzellar and the farm of Alexander Edwards. The 1767 date indicates this property was part of the great survey, and in no way implies that Adam Lepley was involved in 1767.

    From reading the Hardy Land Deed Records web page, which mentions a number of Lepley land transactions, I suspect that Hugh Simpson and Jacob Ehrenzeller were early land speculators. In Somerset County Deed book 8 page 324, tract 2496 is mentioned as being surveyed for Hugh Simpson on Jan. 12, 1767. In Somerset County Deed book 9 page 152, a 330 acre Southampton tract 2496 goes back to Jan. 20, 1767 to Hugh Simpson. Also, in Bedford County Deed Book D, page 125 Hugh Simpson shows up as having property next to land that was sold in 1790.

    In Somerset County Book 11, page 462, deeds no. 11 & 12 mention 156 acres being sold that was patented in the name of Hugh Simpsons and others that was called the A and P Lepleys tract. Deeds 27 and 28 on the same page mention 293 acres called the Stuners and Guiness tract that was sold to a Lepley in the name of Hugh Simpson and Jacob Ehrenzeller and Alex Edwards. Deed 29 on the same page mentions 154 acres called Baughmans tract bordering A. Lepley esquire, that was sold to Adam Lepley in the names of Hugh Simpson, James Milligan and Jacob Ehrenzeller.

    Somerset County deed book 11 page 781 mentions Adam Lepley buying 196 acres from Joseph Hardy that was patented to Hardy in 1817. Page 461 deed 16 mentions a 136 acre sale of a tract called "Harden's tract" to Adam Lepley from Joseph Hardy and John Anderson. Page 462 deeds 27 and 28 are the sale of 293 acres called Stuners and Guinness tract to a Lepley. Page 462 also mentions deed 29 to Adam Lepley for 154 acres called "Baughmans tract" released in the name of Hugh Simpson, James Milligan and Jacob Ehrenzeller. The 1818 Great Survey Deed conveyed property to Adam Lepley, and this deed may be related to one or more of the transactions described above.

    Adam Lepley III
    In June of 2018, David Rawlings of Hagerstown informed me that his grandfather James Lepley (brother of Alonza), who died in 1984 at age 96, told him about watching his grandfather Adam make and fit percussion hammers. James Lepley's father was Samuel Lepley who was born in 1861 and died in 1947. Samuel's father was Adam Lepley III who was born in 1821 and died in 1903. James Lepley's story to his grandson David Rawlings establishes that Adam Lepley III performed gunsmithing services.

    1821: Adam Lepley III, son of Adam Lepley II, was born on March 5, 1821.

    1861: A son named Samuel was born to Adam Lepley III in 1861. Samuel's obituary, which was published in the November 13, 1947 issue of the "Bedford Gazette" newspaper, states, "Samuel Lepley, 86, died at his home in Wellersburg Monday. He was born Jan. 29, 1861, a son of Adam and Sarah Comp Lepley. His wife, the former Elizabeth Emerick, preceded him in death. He is survived by seven children: Earl, Mt. Savage; James, Wellersburg; Alonzo, Mrs. Ellen Korns, Mrs. Bertha Bittner, Hyndman; Harvey, Sand Patch; Mary, Cumberland; and one sister, Mrs. Effie Kennell, Hyndman. Funeral services will be held this Thursday afternoon at 2 o'clock at the Lepley home, the Rev. John Bucher, officiating. Interment will be in the Lepley cemetery, Wellersburg, under the direction of the Zeigler Funeral Home, Hyndman." Of these children, I knew Alonzo.

    1876: The following excerpt from the Southampton Township portion of the 1876 book "County Atlas of Somerset, Pennsylvania" identifies the residence of Adam Lepley III. The farm of Adam Lepley III was the farm of his father Adam Lepley II. A small mine at the coal vein that is illustrated south of the Adam Lepley residence was still visible along the road when I was a young man. The D. Korns residence to the northwest of the A. Lepley residence was on the farm of my GG-Grandfather Dan Korns, and is where my mother grew up, and where my earliest memories were formed. As a youngster I walked back and forth between the two farms a good many times. The Dan Korns farm is where Christian Sturtz, Jr., the father of the gunsmith Jacob Sturtz, once lived and is buried.

    1876: The following excerpt shows how Adam Lepley III advertised himself in the 1876 book "County Atlas of Somerset, Pennsylvania":

    1880: The following excerpt is from the 1880 census of Southampton Township, Somerset County:

    1903: The following excerpt is from the January 1, 1903 "Individual and Business Directory of Somerset County, Pa."

    1903: Adam Lepley III died at the age of 82 in 1903 is buried in the Lepley cemetery in Southampton Township. Here is a photograph of his tombstone:

    Joseph Lepley, Southampton Township gunsmith
    Chapter 8 of the 1960 book "The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle" by Henry Kauffman has an alphabetical list of Pennsylvania gunsmiths that mentions Joseph Lepley of Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA as being included in the 1863, 1867 and 1874 tax lists. An e-mail correspondent from a muzzle-loading website indicates that a muzzle-loading reference book by Stockel mentions a Joseph Lepley gunsmith in Southampton Township circa 1863 to 1874.

    The book "Bedford, Somerset and Fulton County Gunsmiths" says that according to tax and census records, Joseph Lepley was a gunsmith during the 1842 to 1867 time period. The book also mentions that there is a tombstone in the Lepley cemetery for Catherine, wife of Joseph Lepley, born March 20, 1813, and died March 11, 1835. The book says that they could not locate a will, an estate, or a tombstone for Joseph Lepley. I found that Joseph Lepley in Knox County, Ohio (see below) but found no evidence that he was a gunsmith.

    Joseph Lepley (1812-1878) of Knox County, Ohio
    The 1881 book "History of Knox County, Ohio " states that Joseph Lepley "was born in Somerset county, Pennsylvania, November 26, 1812, and emigrated to Ohio when a young man, locating in Butler township, where he resided until his death, January 10, 1878. He was married three times-to Catharine Korns, November 26, 1832; to Delilah Beal, May 29, 1836; and to Lydia Mossholder, February 28, 1846. He was the father of eleven children, viz; Joseph R., Elizabeth, Michael, Alonzo, Alpheus, Aaron, Hannah, Malona, Lloyd, Rhodinia, and Thaddeus, all of whom are living except Michael, who died at Chattanooga, Tennessee, April 23, 1864."

    The book "The Reiber Genealogy and Related Families" by John R. Reiber indicates that Joseph Lepley was the son of Adam and Elizabeth (Horn) Lepley, and was born on November 26, 1812 in Southampton Township, Somerset County, moved to Ohio before 1850, and died January 10, 1878. The Reiber book also says that Joseph's first wife was Catherine "Polly" Korns, the daughter of (my ancestors) Daniel and Elizabeth (Reiber) Korns of Southampton Township, who was born on April 20, 1817 and died March 14, 1835.

    The 1949 book "The Genealogy of Michael Korns, Sr. of Somerset County Pennsylvania" by Charles B. Korns indicates that Catherine Korns, daughter of Daniel and Elizabeth (Reiber) Korns of Southampton Township, married a Joseph Lepley. For a photo of the tombstone of (my distant cousin) Catherine Lepley, click here.

    I found a book on Knox County Obituaries in the Ohio section of the Clayton Library in Houston Texas that mentioned Joseph Lepley, but I forgot to write down the title. It said that Joseph Lepley was born in Somerset County, PA in 1812, resided in Butler Township [1], Knox County, was married and had children, came to Knox County in 1842, and died January 9, 1878. If this Joseph Lepley moved to Knox County in 1842 as this source states, or "when a young man", as the source above states, then he was not the same Joseph Lepley who later appeared in the Somerset County tax and census records as a gunsmith in the 1842 to 1874 timeframe.

    Valentine and William Lepley
    The following excerpt is from the 1912 book "Past and Present of Knox County Ohio". It reveals that Valentine and William Lepley are sons of Jacob Lepley, grandsons of Adam Lepley II of Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and great-grandsons of Adam Lepley I, who died in 1831 and is buried in Knox County, Ohio. Jacob Lepley is buried at the Campbell Cemetery in Knox County, Ohio. One can reasonably believe that the presence of his grandfather Adam Lepley I in Knox County had some influence on Jacob Lepley's decision to move there.

    One has to be careful when researching the Knox County Lepley families. Pages 106 and 107 of the 1902 book "The Biographical Record of Knox County, Ohio" tell of another Jacob Lepley who immigrated to Knox County, Ohio and had a son named William. That William Lepley died in a sawmill accident in Knox County.

    1850: The 1850 Federal Census of Monroe Township, Coshocton County, Ohio lists Valentine as a 24-year-old gunsmith, and William as a 20-year-old gunsmith. Coshocton County is next to Knox County.

    1856: In the 1856 Iowa census of Union Township, Hardin County, Valentine is enumerated as a 30-year old gunsmith, born in Ohio, who had been residing in Iowa one year.

    In 2018, Larry Yantz sent photos of a Valentine Lepley rifle and a William Lepley rifle. The barrel on the rifle by Valentine Lepley, was engraved "V. L. No. 45. 1848", indicating that he made it when he was only 22-years old. It is a full-stocked rifle with a beautiful and highly distinctive BEDFORD COUNTY STYLE percussion hammer, and stock lines and a trigger guard that would look at home on a Bedford or Somerset County rifle. It also has a uniquely styled hand-forged lock plate which suggests that blacksmithing skills went west with the family. Valentine's rifle raises the question of how did a person who was born in Ohio come to make Bedford-style rifles, and who did he learn to make rifles from? Was his father, Jacob (born in 1801) a gunsmith/blacksmith too, like Jacob's father, Adam Lepley II? Or did they learn from their uncle Joseph Lepley, who moved to Knox County, Ohio? These are good questions that presently have no answers.

    The rifle by William Lepley has a shad-belly half-stock, and both his and Valentine's rifles have the same eagle and Bowie knife inlays inset into the cheek piece side of the butt stock. This, to me, seems to help establish the "V. L" rifle as being by a Lepley. Both rifles also have heart inlays, but the hearts vary in position and size from one rifle to the other.

    1903: William Lepley, a veteran of the Civil War, died on June 14, 1903 and is buried in the Sheppard Cemetery in Hardin County, Iowa.

    1913: Valentine died in 1913, and is also buried in the Sheppard Cemetery in Hardin County, Iowa.

    A Lepley family oral tradition about gunsmithing
    In September 2004 I received correspondence from a Lepley descendant, born and raised in Somerset County, who owns a Lepley .30 caliber flintlock rifle in excellent condition. He wrote "I can remember Great-grandfather telling the children how proud we should be of the family gunsmiths the night he handed it down to my grandfather, years later I remember he in turn passed it on to my father....I remember the night my father gave me the speech and passed on the gun. In the not to distant future I look forward to giving this speech to yet another in a long line of....Lepley's, my son." The wood on all the Lepley rifles he has seen was curly maple, and he indicates that the round patchbox on his rifle is a very good match to the unfinished parts that are shown elsewhere on this website.

    Another Lepley family oral tradition about gunsmithing
    In December 2007 I visited Somerset Countian Butch Lepley to show him the Lepley gunsmithing parts. His grandpap, Harvey Victor Lepley, told Butch that he (Harvey) and Alonzo (who I knew) were not allowed in the gun shop as children, but were allowed to sit in the window with their legs hanging inside. (Butch loved these stories, and asked to hear them many times so that he wouldn't forget them.) Harvey Victor Lepley was born August 28, 1895. Alonzo S. Lepley, a son of Samuel and Ida Lepley and a brother of Harvey Victor Lepley, was born April 30, 1899. From this, we can get a rough idea of how late the Lepley family was in the business of making long rifles--i.e., when Alonza would have been old enough to balance in a window. This indicates that a Lepley gun shop was still in operation in the early 1900's. It may be a little surprising to us now, but muzzle-loading rifles were still being used in Somerset County (and other remote areas of the country) long after the advent of cartridge firearms. For example, the 0.38 caliber rifle used by Ephriam Geiger (born 1859, died 1919) of nearby Larimer Township was a muzzle loader that was made in Pittsburgh.

    Harvey V. Lepley also told his grandson Butch that he recalled that rifle barrels were drilled there at the Lepley shop by spinning the drill with a piece of leather. This probably means that they were using some form of a bow drill, an early drilling technique briefly mentioned in the book "The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle" by Ned. H. Roberts. If they were drilling gun barrels, they would have also been rifling them. Click here to see how rifling guides for muzzle loading rifles were made and used. By the early 1900's, it is possible, indeed even probable, that commercial barrel blanks were being purchased, which were then drilled out and rifled at the shop (both drilled and undrilled barrel blanks were available commercially by that time). The left-over Lepley gun parts that I own indicate that some commercially made rough castings of other components were being used; a common practice in later muzzle-loading years.

    Butch's stories make me wonder if Harvey was talking about the gunshop that was on the former Adam Lepley II and III farm that was owned by William and Effie (Lepley) Kennell, or if he was talking about the blacksmith shop that I know of on the Alonzo Lepley farm that was formerly the farm of Alonzo and Harvey's father Samuel Lepley. After all, the old gun parts and gunsmithing tools that I own were found on the farm of Samuel and Alonzo Lepley. The last-known Lepley blacksmith shop was located approximately at Latitude 39.753495, Longitude -78.822638 near Samuel and Alonzo's barn. At the site of the shop, all that remains is some brick debris, scrap iron, and a tree growing up through the iron tyre of a wagon wheel. Blacksmithing skills would have been necessary for rifle making back in the days when backwoods gunsmiths still made their own barrels and other metal parts, and their gunsmithing tools. Click here for a fine example of a blacksmith-made grubbing hoe that was found in 2007 on the farm that Samuel and Alonzo Lepley once owned, and click here for an example of a blacksmith-made shovel plow that was found on the farm. Click here to see the Simon Lepley family in the 1900 census of Southampton Township, Somerset County.

    Butch's stories also make me wonder who was doing the gunsmithing that Harvey V. Lepley observed, and why the last-known gun shop is on William and Effie Kennell's farm that had been the farm of Adam Lepley III. Did Adam Lepley III live in the big stone farmhouse with William and Effie Kennell, or perhaps in the little stone house a few yards away, and is that why the last known Lepley gun shop was very near those two houses? Since Adam Lepley died at age 82 on June 9 1903, he would have been quite elderly to still be doing gunsmithing at a time when Alonzo, born on April 30, 1899, could have sat in a window of the gun shop and watched. Was someone else, and not Adam Lepley III, doing the gunsmithing that Harvey V. Lepley observed?

    Butch also told me of the tradition that a Lepley and a Korns took a horse and buggy to Marshalltown, Iowa to see the sister of the Lepley individual, and on the way home the horse couldn't pull the buggy by itself up the last hill, so the men had to help. The horse died died the next day. Butch told these stories in much more detail than my feeble notes allow me to relate. When I called Ken Korns in October 2013 to discuss a different topic, he volunteered the same story about the trip to Iowa, the horse failing as it neared home, the men having to help pull the buggy, and the horse dying the next day. A few days later I received a call from Warren Korns, and he said that Butch Lepley brought a distant relative to the Lepley Cemetery on Warren's farm, and that individual told Butch the same Iowa story. In other words, the identical story was passed down in three distant branches of the family.

    Lepley gun, tools, farms:
    A Lepley percussion long rifle
    The Adam Lepley II & III, where a gun shop was located near two stone houses
    The Lepley farm where the gunsmithing tools and left-over gun parts were found
    The Lepley gunsmithing tools and left-over gun parts

    Additional information on the Lepley gunsmiths is sought
    Please e-mail me if you have additional information on the Lepley gunsmiths and their rifles. I am particularly interested in obtaining photographs of actual positively identified Lepley rifles for this website. (I am also interested in obtaining photos of Troutman rifles.)

    For an interesting description of how the old gunsmiths made and repaired muzzle-loading long rifles, see the well-illustrated book "The Muzzle-Loading Cap Lock Rifle" by Ned. H. Roberts of .257 Roberts fame (The Granite State Press, Manchester, New Hampshire, 1940).

    L. Dietle
    Arnold, Maryland

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    Footnotes:
    [1] A third party website has Lepley tombstone photos from the Hoyman Cemetery in Butler Township, Knox County, Ohio that might potentially pertain to some of Joseph's descendents. At least one of the Hoymans in that cemetery appears to be a descendant of Christian Hoyman's brother Phillip from Berks County, PA, according to David L. Baldwin's 1993 book "Some Notes, Quotes and Quips of the Hoyman Clan and Related Lines".