Presented is original family research. An Ohio gunsmith , originally from Union County. PA who moved to Ohio but continued to make guns in the Upper Susquehanna School style.
The Story of William Earnheart, Gunsmith
October 4, 1784 Ė January 16, 1843
By: N. Fay Earnhart
My childhood took place in Noble County, Indiana. I always knew that our farm was just a couple of miles from my Great Great Grandfather, John Earnheartís old farm. He purchased 250 acres from Isaac Spencer. 2 The Noble County, Indiana History book details how John and Mary migrated to Indiana from Circleville, Ohio on most likely what is now Highway 33. They traveled here in September of 1843, the same year that Johnís father, William Earnheart died. Two or three other families from Circleville settled near John and Mary Earnheart in Noble County, Indiana. Johnís brother Robert and two brother in-laws along with their families settled in the same community. These Circleville, Ohio natives all became prominent citizens in their community.
I just realized that my father who passed away in 2003, was totally unaware of the Earnhart history beyond the settling of the original family farm in 1843. His only recollection was that John came from Circleville. So he spent his whole life not knowing that his G. G, Grandfather William was a famous Gunmaker/Gunsmith from Circleville, Ohio. He also was unaware of the ancestry leading back to the 1630ís in Germany.
The Historical Use of Sir Names:
- Johannne, Johane or Johan was the Sir Name used by the early Earnhartís.
- With the use of the Sir Name or First Name for at least one male in each family, it is often confusing as to which person one is referring to.
- The names Johanne, Johanne or Johan translate to John.
I assisted two family genealogists assemble a book called The Earnhart Family Lineage. Clarence and C. Reid Earnhart compiled the detailed 315 page book. I supplied family information from the Circleville Genealogy Library and the Noble County, Indiana Library. I donated an early edition of this book to the Circleville Genealogy Library that illustrates the family tree to the earliest known relatives. The family history goes back to Hammon Ehrenhart who was born in 1630 in Southwest Germany. The Ehrenhardts came from small villages in Pfals, Bayern or Bravaria. The area is also called the Palatinate. The village of origin was Ilbesheim. Family records were gathered from a Lutheran Church in Ilbesheim. Hammon was John Williamís Great Great Great Grandfather. John Williamís Great, Great Grandfather was Hans Counrath Ehrenhardt, he lived and died in Ilbesheim, GY.
I would like to start with John Williamís Great Great Grandfather and transition up to the life of his life in Pickaway County, Ohio. The Earnhart Family Lineage Book chronicles family data from 1630 up to the 1900ís. 1
Changes in the Spelling of the Name Earnhart
Some of the spellings were Ehrenhardt, Ehrenhard, Arnheart, Arynheart, Earnhardt, Earnheart, and Earnhart. Sometime after the Civil War during the 1860ís, the spelling ended up with Earnhart. 1 Both John and William signed their muzzleloader barrels Earnheart. William signed his muzzleloaders; W-m- Earnheart.
John Williamís, who I will refer to from hereon as William in the rest of the article, Great Grandfather was Johannes Ehrenhardt. Johannes first wife, Anna Margertha Funckin died in Germany. Johannes remarried and settled in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania. Johannes obtained a land warrant of 100 acres in Lowhill Twp., Bucks County PA. Johan Jacob, Williamís Grandfather came from the first marriage. 1
Johan Jacob Ehrenhardt was born in 12 March 1716 in Moerstadt, Reinhessen, Germany. Johan Jacob came to the colonies on the ship Glasgow out of Rotterdam, Holland, 9 September 1738, when he was 22 years old. He married Maria Barbara Andreas in Bucks County, PA. Incidentally this area was a haven of gunsmiths producing flintlock muzzleloaders in the 1700ís. This area had the Northampton/Lehigh gun making school. A school is referred to as a location where a gunsmith learned his trade. There were numerous gun making schools in Pennsylvania. Bucks County later became Northampton and later Lehigh County.
Johan Jacob and Maria were early members of the Moravian Church. Their lives were dialoged in the book, ďThey Came To EmmausĒ by Preston A. Barba. They had 10 children, from which came Johannes Ehrenhart, Williamís father. Johan Jacob had 500 acres of land, some of which he gave land to the site of the present city of Emmaus, PA. Johan Jacob was a blacksmith in Emmaus. Johan Jacob and Maria Barbara are buried in the Moravian Cemetery ďGodís AcreĒ.8 Johannesís youngest brother, Johanne Jacob Jrís Federal Style House is on the National Register in Emmaus, PA. It is known as the 1803 House. (An internet Google search of 1803 House will yield much information.)
Johannes Ehrenhardt, Williamís father, was born 18 October 1750 and vanished from church records.
The assumed reason for Johannes leaving the Moravian Church was the strictness of church rules or he merely caught the fever to move West into the old Northwest Territory. Johannes was a blacksmith and gunsmith in Mifflinburg, Union County, PA in the early 1790ís. Sometime prior to 1810 Johannes moved his wife, 3 sons and a daughter to Circleville, OH. A fourth son stayed in Philadelphia where he worked as a gunsmith.1
I would like to discuss the land acquisitions and movement of Johanneís family, Williamís father. Johannes purchased lot number 162 in Circleville in 10 March 1815. Records show that Johannes had a Gunsmith Shop on High Street in Circleville.7 On 5 June 1820 he bought a 5 1/2 acre lot in Washington Twp. southeast of Circleville on Hwy 56. Then in 1824, Johannes and 2 sons, Henry and Jacob and daughter Elizabeth moved to Swan Twp. Vinton County, OH. Prior to moving, Johannes acquired 160 acres of land under the Act of Congress entitled ďAn Act of Providing for the Sale of the Lands of the United States in the Northwest Territory above the mouth of the Kentucky River in Vinton County, OH. On 20 June 1827 he sold his lot in Circleville. Johannes died in Swan Twp., Vinton County in 1828. William and his family remained in Pickaway County.1
William was born 4 October 1784 in Bucks County, (Northampton/Lehigh) PA. He married Jane Patterson on 2 June 1810 in Circleville. According to land deeds and the 1844 Wheeler Map of Pickaway County, William purchased 160 acres in section 34, Washington Twp. William bought this land in 1816. His farm adjoined Hwy 56 or the Circleville- Adelphi Road.12 William was known as a long time farmer and Master Gunsmith. I am not sure whether William continued gun making on High Street or in a shop on his farm. All that remains on the farm is the Earnhart Hill Water Tower and the house where Williamís eldest son James lived and cared for his family and mother. Williamís wife, Jane, died 18 November 1872 and was buried with William at the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery. Williamís youngest daughter that made it to adulthood was Catherine. She married Amos Pontius, an owner of a large acreage in Washington Township. A son, George H. Pontius went on to be an attorney and ultimately a famous judge in Circleville, OH. Catherine lived from 1828 to 1889.
Williamís name is listed in the book ďAmerican GunsmithsĒ by Frank M. Sellers.3 It lists him as a maker of flintlocks. His muzzleloader building style looks like the rifles made in Pennsylvania in the Northampton School. His rifles were made during the ďGolden AgeĒ of Muzzleloader making. Most of the rifles made during this era were flintlocks and the stocks were less bulky than the ones made in the early 1700ís. With the Revolutionary War and other conflicts being past history, gun makers had to do extra things to attract buyers. Patchboxes often had beautiful engravings chiseled into the brass. Patchboxes were cut with various shapes and had a hinge that opened the lid. This is where supplies were stored. Williamís patchboxes were so professionally shaped and engraved that they were featured in the book ďKentucky Rifle PatchboxesĒ by Chandler and Whisker. Williamís rifles had beautiful inlays made of German silver or brass placed on the stocks to increase the chance to get buyers thus beating out competetors. William also was an accomplished carver. Carvings appeared on his stocks at various locations. His rifles are identifiable by his trademark carvings on the side of the stock along with carvings around the tang, forestock, trigger guard and wrist. The pictures featured in this article will illustrate his works.
In 2014, the Kentucky Rifle Rifle Association put together a CD called Notable Gunsmiths of the Old Northwest Territory.4 One of Williamís Long Rifles was featured on this CD. The reason for his making list of Gunsmiths was because of the fine workmanship of his rifles of which includes his stock shape, inlays, patchboxes, engravings and his recognizable carvings. 6 James Whisker, a muzzleloader expert, said that of 1800 long rifles that he had photographed only a few show better workmanship or engraving. James Whisker said that Earnheart did not vary his engraving pattern very much and this aids in identification of his muzzleloaders. His guns certainly have pleasing lines and show a good sense of proportion. Most of his stocks are made of superior Curly Maple. Whisker also said that William Earnheart was one of Ohioís finest Gunsmiths.6 As Williamís career advanced he taught others the Gunsmith Trade. One important person that learned the gunsmithing trade was my Great Great Grandfather John. John made some fancy guns like his dad but in later years most of his guns were made for the Western frontier in Indiana for hunting and protection, so they were not as elaborate nor eye catching as Williamís. John was born in 1811 in Circleville and he worked near his father until 1843.
Other members of Williamís family were involved in muzzleloader making in Circleville. Conrad King, his son-in-law, apprenticed with William a few years and made mostly half stocks. Conrad first married Harriet Earnheart, who died from child birth complications. Conrad then married Sarah Earnheart and the same fate fell upon her. They died in 1845 and 1849 not long after their father William had passed away. They are buried with Conrad at Forest Cemetery with Conrad and 2 more of his wives. William had another daughter, Margaret, 1817-1863, who was married to William Driesbach. Mr. Dreisbach apprenticed with William also. Some of Williamís later rifles and Dreisbachís rifles exhibited the Roman Nose Style. This is where the comb or top of the stock was made higher than the old style stocks. (See Photos) One of Williamís last rifles was a Roman Nose style and he had switched to a percussion firing style lock which was the way locks were mostly fired after 1830.7 Williamís eldest son, James also had a brief gunmaking career in Circleville.
The AOLRC, Association of Ohio Long Rifle collectors has a website that shows pictures of some of Williamís rifles. The Home Tab shows 3 picture views on one of Williamís rifles. James Whiskerís 1991 article under Publications, shows 4 of Williamís rifles. Warren Offenberger featured 2 of Williamís muzzleloaders in his 2009 article.9 The AOLRC has 3-4 members who exhibit Williamís rifles at the Spring Meeting in Marrietta, OH. The Circleville Historical Society Museum also may have a William Earheart muzzleloader on display.
Williamís will was written on 9 January 1843 and he passed away on 16 January 1843. The will was proved on 31 January 1843.10 It names his wife Jane and the following children: Harriet, John, James, Margaret, Sarah, Catherine, and Robert. He named his son John and his son-in-law William Dreisbach as executors. Will Book 3, page 73: Estates 0-793, Doc., 1-32). The appraisal showed $1,361.09 in outstanding debts that were owed to William. The personal items valued $345.73. The sale of Williamís estate was held on 5 March 1843. The estate showed principally farming tools, household furniture and farm animals. The venue sale showed the following items of the Gunsmith trade being sold:
Williamís wife Jane lived in the Earnheart residence with her son James and his family. James bought out the rest of his siblings and these deeds were proved by 24 January 1851.12 Jane died 18 November 1872, thus outliving her husband William by nearly 30 years. By the time Jane passed away, the spelling of the family name went to Earnhart. However, the South Carolina/Georgia branch uses the spelling Earnhardt.
I return to the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery at least once every 10 years to visit the family plot. Few other family members in Indiana even know that the Hitler-Ludwig cemetery exists let alone the Earnhart plot. Last Summer, I had the 10 family stones cleaned and refurbished by a company from Indiana called The Graveyard Groomers. Nine of the 10 stones are marble and cleaned up like new and the 1 sandstone grave stone remains eroded.
I feel very blessed to have learned about my familyís roots and connection to Circleville. As I walk through the Earnhart plot, I go back in time. As strange as it may sound, I feel like I personally know William. Today I am on a mission to find a William muzzleloader or two to purchase with hopes that I can pass them on to my grandsons. I would also welcome the chance of finding someone in the Circleville area that may also be related through William and Jane Earnheart. When I stroll near the family plot in the Hitler-Ludwig Cemetery, I feel a sense of pride being part of the William Earnheart Family!
Nery F. Earnhart 260-609-4175
1. The Earnhart Family Lineage by C. Reid Earnhart and Clarence Earnhart
2. Whitley and Noble County History by Weston A. Goodspeed
3. American Gunsmiths by Frank M. Sellers
4. The Kentucky Rifle Associationís CD Gunsmithís of the Old Northwest Territory
5. Kentucky Rifle Patchboxes #135 by Chandler and Whisker
6. Association of Ohio Long Rifle Collectors 1991 Newsletter on Wm. Earnheart, Dr. J. Whisker
7. Arms Makers of Ohio by Spiker and Whisker
8. They Came To Emmaus by Preston A. Barba
9. AOLRC 2009 Article on William Earnheart by Warren Offenburger
10. Pickaway County Ohio Will Book
11. Pictures of Tombstones, Earnheart House, Earnheart Water Tower by N.F. Earnhart
12. 1844 Wheeler Map and 1858 Kellogg Map, Circleville Genealogical Society