Lepley Antique Rifle Parts & Gunsmith Tools (Index)

My uncle Alvin Korns purchased an old bucket full of antique gunsmithing hardware for muzzle loading rifles, and gave the hardware to me shortly before he died. The artifacts (overview photos above) were found in one of the buildings of the Alonza "Lonz" Lepley farm in Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA. The hardware was purchased circa 1974 at the Alonza Lepley estate auction. Photographs of the individual items are indexed below; they were updated on December 26, 2019 to improve photo quality. The Lepley family was one of two families that I know of that made muzzle loaders in Southampton Township; the other family was the Troutmans. Both families sired multiple generations of gunsmiths.

Alonza Lepley's farm was adjacent to the farm that until recently was the site of the large old Lepley stone house; i.e. adjacent to the farm that is associated with the Lepley gunsmiths in local tradition. Since the old Lepley family cemetery is located on what was Alonza's farm, I have long-suspected that his farm and the farm with the stone house were originally part of a single, larger farm. Volume one, page 87 of the 2005 book "A Look At Southampton Township Pennsylvania The Way It Used To Be!" indicates that Adam Lepley III divided the farm among three children: Simon who eventually gave his portion (across the road from the stone house) to his son Elmer, Samuel who eventually gave his portion to his son Alonza, and Effie who owned the portion with the stone house, married William Kennell, and had eleven children. The Pennsylvania long rifle gunsmithing hardware that was found on Alonza Lepley's farm is quite naturally attributed to the several generations of Lepley gunsmiths of Southampton township. The approximate site of the most recent Lepley gunsmith shop (now gone), which was in front of the stone house, is Latitude 39.75758100737703, Longitude -78.81904810667038. The approximate site of the Lepley stone house (now gone) is Latitude 39.75765317620321, Longitude -78.81904810667038. The approximate site of Alonza Lepleys house (now gone) is Latitude 39.75312495137337, Longitude -78.82282197475433. The location of the Lepley cemetery is Latitude 39.75433539399369, Longitude -78.82348716259002.

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

The story of the Lepley gunsmiths apparently begins with Adam Lepley II, but the story of the Lepley family in America begins with Adam Lepley I. What we know of Adam Lepley I comes primarily from family information collected in old county history books.

Page 546a of the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" states: "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 (sic), 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 account is obviously slightly garbled, because the first Adam didn't come from Germany with his son Adam, if the second Adam was born at Willard's gap.

The Larimer Township portion of the 1884 book (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."

Adam and 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. If the birth dates given above are substantially correct, then the "first Adam" would be the individual who appears in the 1789 militia roll of Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.

Adam Lepley II

The 1805 list of the taxable inhabitants of Southampton township lists Adam Lepley with a still. As quoted above, the 1884 book "History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, Pennsylvania" lists Adam Lepley as a Justice of the Peace of Southampton Township in 1809 (page 409), and says that he was born near Willard's gap it what is now Larimer Township, became a prominent man in the community, was appointed Justice of the Peace by the Governor and served in that capacity for about 25 years, and was one of the first settlers in Southampton Township.

The 1800 Londonderry Township taxable list shows that Adam Lepley was then living in the area. The book "Bedford, Somerset and Fulton County Gunsmiths" by Wisker and Wisker 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, and is buried in the Lepley Cemetery. That cemetery is on the farm where the gunsmithing hardware featured on this website was found in the 1970's. The book says that according to records in the Somerset County Courthouse, Adam died on March 7, 1853. For a photo of Adam Lepley's tombstone, click here. According to page 192 of John C. Cassady's 1932 book "Somerset County Outline", Adam Lepley was one of the first settlers in Southampton Township. In 1809 the Pennsylvania Legislature designated Adam Lepley's house as the Southampton Township voting location. 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 ageā€¦" The 1817 triennial assessment of Southampton Township lists Adam Lepley as a Justice of the Peace and owner of a still.

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 book "The Reiber Genealogy and Related Families" by John R. Reiber indicates that Adam Lepley was born near Willard's gap on August 5, 1776, married Elizabeth Horn on April 8, 1798, and died on March 7, 1853 and is buried in the Southampton Township Lepley cemetery along with his wife. It also indicates that he was a farmer and blacksmith, and was a Justice of the Peace for 25 years. Click here for a fine example of a blacksmith-made grubbing hoe that was found in 2007 on the former Alonza Lepley farm, and click here for an example of a blacksmith-made shovel plow that was found on the farm. 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. The last-known Lepley blacksmith shop was located approximately at Latitude 39.753495, Longitude -78.822638 near Alonza'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.

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 who was born in 1861 and died in 1947, and Samuel's father was Adam Lepley III who was born in 1821 and died in 1903, and is buried in the Lepley cemetery in Southampton Township. Click here for a photograph of his tombstone. James Lepley's story to his grandson David Rawlings establishes that Adam Lepley III performed gunsmithing services.

Which Joseph Lepley was a gunsmith in Southampton Township?
Chapter 8 of "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. A picture of Catherine Lepley's tombstone is included on this website; click here.

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.

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 Daniel and Elizabeth (Reiber) Korns of Southampton Township, who was born on April 20, 1817 and died March 14, 1835.

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."

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. I can only guess that the later Joseph Lepley gunsmith may have been the earlier Joseph Lepley's son--but this is only an unsubstantiated guess.

Valentine and William Lepley
Adam Lepley's son Jacob moved to Ohio, and Jacob's sons Valentine and William were gunsmiths. 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. 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 his father, Adam Lepley, Junior? Or did they learn from their uncle Joseph Lepley, who moved to Ohio circa 1842? These are good questions that presently have no answers. Click here for a biography of Jacob Lepley that was published in the 1912 book "Past and Present of Knox County Ohio", and meshes with Somerset County genealogy. Jacob Lepley is buried at the Campbell Cemetery in Knox County, Ohio. One can reasonably believe that his grandfather Adam Lepley's presence in Knox County had some influence on Jacob Lepley's decision to move there.

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. Valentine died in 1913, and is buried in the Sheppard Cemetery in Hardin County, Iowa. William Lepley, a veteran of the Civil War, died on June 14, 1903 and is buried in the same cemetery.

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 when 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 on this website and indexed below.

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 Alonza 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.) As best I can determine, Harvey was born in 1895. According to his tombstone, Alonza (who I knew) was born in 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 the 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 parts from the shop (see below) indicate that they were purchasing some commercially made rough castings of other components; a common practice in later muzzle-loading years.

Butch also told me of the tradition that a Lepley and a Korns took a horse and buggy to Marshaltown, 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.

Adam Lepley land transactions
The above-noted correspondent 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.

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.

Additional Lepley gunsmithing information 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

Photos of Lepley Gunsmithing Tools:
Overview photo of Lepley gunsmithing tools
Hand forged, spring-loaded sprue cutter
Carved deer antler-what was it for?
Vee-shaped wood chisel
Leather-working fork
Wooden-handled carving tool
Nose cap forming tool
Half of a small caliber, round ball bullet mold
Hand-forged wrench
A pair of leather punches
Large homemade tap and die
Small homemade tap and die
Brass sheet material

Photos of Lepley Rifle Parts:
Rifle parts overview photo
Patch box with round door
Patch boxes with oval door
Rifle inlay
Engraved rifle medallion
Muzzle-loader breech plug
Ramrod ferrule
Box of percussion nipples
Trigger guards
Misc. hammer cocks
Forearm nose caps
Lock springs
Rifle stock toe plate
Broken trigger guards
Musket flint
Take-off Flintlock hammer
Patchbox fragment?

Photos of other items found with gunsmithing tools:
A sugar water tap
Brace-driven tool, possibly not for gunsmithing

Return to Lepley stone house page
Return to Bedford & Somerset County Gunsmith Index
Return to the Korns family genealogy home page

[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".