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Chauncey Brockway
Fox Township


Two western Pennsylvania communities in the valley of Little Toby Creek owe much of their beginnings to the same family. Brockway in Jefferson County, and Brockport, in Elk County bear names in honor of the Brockway family, whose arrival in this country from England predated the American Revoutionary War by over a hundred years. The patriarch of the group, Consider Brockway, was a veteran of the New York Militia in the Revolutionary War. His son Chauncey served in the War of 1812, and his grandson Chauncey, Jr. fought for the Union cause in the War of the Rebellion. Chauncey Brockway, Sr., his wife, (the former Rhoda Nichols) and an infant daughter departed their residence in Albany County, New York in December 1817 and relocated in what is now Jay Twp., Elk County, Pennsylvania. iI was reported that they spent their first winter on "tea and underground corn" and the accounts of their hardships that first year are incredible. On 16 March 1823 Chauencey Brockway, Jr. was born near the present site of Brandy Camp, Horton Twp., Elk County. He was the first son and fourth child of eleven children. Young Chauncey had very little formal schooling. At the age of 12 he went to work in the woods and helped to clear the family homestead for agricultural use. He would spend the rest of his long life with a keen interest both in farming and lumbering and while still a young man he gained considerable experience as a rafting pilot. On 9 October 1844, at age 21, he married Miss Margaret Taylor at Brandy Camp and they would have two children, Gilbert, born in 1847, and his sister Wilhelmina, born two years later. In later years in his correspondence, Chauncey would refer to his daughter as Wilmina one time, and in another instance as Wilmena or Wilmeina. Two years after his marriage, Chauncey, Jr. appeared in Fox Twp. tax records as the owner of one cow. The following year he had 20 acres improved and a cow. Two years later he had added 30 acres, owned 3 cows, and a yoke of oxen. He apparently continued to acquire property, for in January 1851 he and his wife sold 95 1/4 acres to Samuel Jenkins for $450. His first occupational listing as a gunsmith came in the tax assessment of 1855; the same year he appeared in a list of male inhabitants of Fox Twp. between the ages of 21 and 45 who were "for military purposes subject to tax." In the federal census of 1850 Chauncey, Jr was listed as a carpenter, but in the census of 1860 his occupation was gunsmith. It is doubtful that he ever relied completely on income from gun work to support his family, but it was evident that firearms would occupy a major part of his time for as long as he lived. On 24 October 1862 Chauncey enlisted in Company E, 172nd Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, one of five Elk County gunsmiths to serve in the Civil War. He was mustered out 1 August 1863 at Harrisburg, PA. The tax records of Horton Twp. show that in 1869 Chauncey had 123 acres of land, 3 horses, and 2 cows. Beginning in 1871, he and his son Gilbert apparently teamed up in the lumbering and sawmill business, and from a tax assessment standpoint, this arrangement continued until about 1883. In that year the sawmill notation was crossed out of the record and the entry was made, "not much used." There also was an earlier entry in the tax records that the minerals under Chauncey’s 132 acres were owned by the Northwest Mining and Exchange Company. Some time about 1885 D.C. Oyster purchased the 132 acre farm from Brockway, and he spent the balance of his life at his last residence on Whetstone Creek, Keystone area, with his Post Office at Brockport. In 1886, after leaving the farm, Chauncey filed for a pension. He listed his age as 62, and his address as the town of Brockport. His personal description consisted of being 5 ft. 10 in. in height, of fair complexion, with fair hair and gray eyes. He stated that prior to his service he had been a gunsmith, but since discharge he had been a laborer and that he was greatly disabled from obtaining his subsitence by manuel labor due to medical reasons. In his line of duty at Yorktown, VA., in May 1863, he had contracted chronic diarrhea from which he still suffered, and about the same time he had contracted a lung disease and was now bothered by rheumatism. He had received treatment at the Newton University Building, Baltimore, MD, in July of that year. Chauncey’s initial application was not approved, so he applied again under a diferent act. He had also obtained an affidavit from W.W. Wilbur, who was aware of his medical problems while on active duty. This new application was dated 26 July 189-. The last digit of the year was omitted, however Chauncey gave his age as 67, so it must have been 1890. His address still was Brockport, Elk County, and in addition to the problems outlined in the inital application, he added that he was "crippled in both hands and left ankle and partially deaf in both ears." He agreed to pay J.W. Flenner, Washington, D.C., the sum of $10 to prosecute his claim. The affidavit from Wilbur was made in Warren County on 26 January 1887. Wilbur indentified himself as a 2nd Lt. in Company E, 172nd Regt., P.V.I., who knew Brockway. He stated that the regiment had been stationed at Fort Yorktown, Virginia, in May 1863, and that it remained there until some time in July. It then went north by transports and rail to Frederick City, and marched from there to Frankstown near Hagerstown, Maryland, and was placed in from facing the enemy then occupying lines near Hagerstown. He confirmed that while in Yorktown, Brockway had contracted diarrhea and was under treatment for the same. He further stated:

That he was unable to do all duty, but done what he could, as he was a man who was bound to do his part if possible, and when he could not drill or do guard duty he would cook and police the camp. He went with the Regiment to Frankstown, the day the army advanced on Lee’s rear guard (Lee having crossed the Potomac) deponent was in command of the provost guard in the rear of the brigade. Brockway undertook to march with the company in its place in the brigade. He marched from Frankstown to Williamsport that day without a halt. Brockway being weak from his complaint fell out with many others. Many fell out who were able to go on. In the excitement, I drove all ahead as I came along with my guard. Brockway left the rest. Some nine times I found him by the roadside complaining he could not go on but drove him on with the others until he finally appealed to me, said I knew his complaint; that he was so weak from it that he could go no further. From what I knew of his previous troubles, as above stated, and his exhausted appearance then, I knew he stated the truth; and I left him by the roadside between Hagerstown and Williamsport. We the next day marched back to near Middletown then west to Berlin on the Potomac. Brockway came to us, there, we marched from there to near Warrington Junction. I saw no more of Brockway after we left Berlin, until the Regiment was mustered out of service near Harrisburg.

This pension bid was successful, and Brockway became a pensioner, with Certificate No. 546771. It appears that there were two distinct periods when Brockway did extensive gunsmithing. The first was from about 1855 unti his work was interrupted by military service in 1862. On his returnform the war, his promary concern was farming and lumbering, but following the sale of his farm in 1885 and the establishment of his shop on Whetstone Creek, Chauncey again turned his major efforts toward the making and repairing of firearms, and he stayed with it until his death. This last fact is rather interesting in light of his pension application, which contained the statement that prior to military service he was a gunsmith, but after his return he had been a laborer. On the surface, this seems to conflict with the truth, for he did little else but gunsmithing from 1885 until his death. However, he made out his application in 1886 and was referring to the period from 1863 until the time of his application in 1886, the years that he did lumbering and farming. There was no place on the application to indicate future plans, and Chauncey’s future plans were to return to gunsmithing. It is impossible to come up with an estimate of Brockway’s output in the arms field, for he did not number his rifles. He did date them on occasion, for one of them is dated 1857. Most of his work is identified by two lines of stamping,but sometimes he added his county as a third and intermediate line:




Another barrel mark noted on one of his rifles is "C. BROCKWAY, JR. ELK CO. 1857." This is the only one known so marked, a pre-war piece made on the farm prior to his move to Brockport. Chauncey Brockway made rifles with both rifled and smooth-bored barrels, in half-stock form and as over-and-under doubles. The calibers were small, and in those examined, the twist was fast, one .36 caliber piece having a 1-in-25 inches gain twist. His locks usually were from Pittsburgh hardware sources, aand he probably bought most of his barrels from Pittsburgh, too. However, one of his rifles is known to have a barrel made by John Shuler of Perry Co. Brockway’s cartridge rifles were also in small bores, with one known single shot piece in .32 caliber. Another product of his shop is a breechloader with a patchbox on the stock, an over-and-under piece, with a .22 center fire barrel over a shotgun barrel, with side-swing ejection and set triggers, both top barrel and locks stamped with his name. Still another Brockway breechloader is a three barrel piece, with a 32/20 rifle over 12 and 20 gauge shotgun barrels, with two triggers, one of which alternately fired the rifle and one shotgun barrel. He made at least two of these. In spite of his reported health problems, Chauncey continued working on firearms until reaching an advanced age. He did most of his machinee work in the shop of his neighbor and friend, F.E. Leck. Following his death, Leck wrote a letter to Brockway’s nephew in Illinois accounting for the items he had shipped from the shop that belonged to Brockway, and also discussing the disposition of a lathe and other tools. In another letter to the same nephew, but written by Brockway in the fall of 1907, it was apparent that he was very actively working on breechloaders, and some comments were made about the gunsmith Valentine Mohney who lived nearby on the Ridgway Road. Brockway’s opinion of Mohney was not high and he felt that Mohney’s undoing was the high prices he charged for poor work. At the time, Mohney was in the county home, and "the day they took him away he hadn’t anything to eat for 4 days." Chauncey’s letter also discussed several projects he was working on. Brockway’s wife, Margaret, passed away on 24 October 1905, and was buried at Brandy Camp. Chauncey’s daughter, Wilhelmina, had never married, and was living with him at the time of his death on 12 April 1910. He was buried next to his wife. With his passing went the last of the old black powder gunsmiths of Elk County. Although John Salter of St. Mary’s outlived Brockway by about 13 years, Salter, was no longer engaged in the gunsmith business, and he had moved out of Elk County prior to his death in 1923.

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