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Joel Ferree

"..... I am determined to use my endeavors to promote the business and to serve my country in the common cause ....." - Joel Ferree

Quick Facts
  • Born: February 19, 1730/1731
  • Died: June 19, 1801
  • Parents: Philip & Leah Dubois Ferree
  • Eighth of nine children
  • Married four times
  • Noted gunsmith & patriot
Born in Leacock Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, Joel Ferree was the son of Philip and Leah Dubois Ferree and a grandson of Madame. He was the first known of the family to actually practice gunsmithing as a trade. It is believed he may have been taught this trade by his cousin, Philip Lefevre.

In 1752, he received land from his father and set up a gunshop located on the west side of Paradise on the north side of Pequea Creek. At the present time (2007) remnants of the gunshop can be seen behind the antique store at 3044 Lincoln Highway East in Paradise.


During the Revolutionary War, Joel Ferree was requested by the Committee of Safety to manufacture rifles for use by the militia. At a meeting of the Committee of Safety on July 22, 1775, it was resolved that a messenger be sent to Joel Ferree, of Lancaster County, with a letter from the Committee requesting him immediately to complete the guns wrote for as patterns and to know how many he can furnish of the same kind and at what price. From the Pennsylvania Archives, 2nd Series, Vol. 1, p.543, this is his reply.

Letter from Joel Ferree to Benjamin Poultney

Leacock Township, August 7th, 1775

Friend Poultney: I take this opportunity of informing you that some time ago as I had a letter from George Ross, Esqr., by order of the Committee, Making enquiry what Qt. or number of Barrels I could supply em with, to which I return'd answer in the Particulars he demanded. I was of opinion then to have been able to provide 15 or perhaps 20 per week, but as I am determined to use my endeavors to promote Business and to serve my country in the common Cause, I am about to enlarge my works in so extensive a Manner as to turn Out between 30 & 40 weekly. My Diligence in the Affair shall be as quick as possible. It will not require much to complete my works in order for such Dispatch of Business; I hope a few days will do.

The Patterns were sent to Stewart's store the same day you was there. I intend you shou'd let the Committee what I am about doing to supply em as punctual as in my Power. You may let them see this, by which they judge whether or not it will tend greatly to further the Dispatch of the finishing off the Arms as needed.

This from your friend, Joel Ferree.

Joel Ferree married four times; 1st, Mary Copeland; 2nd, Jane Johnston; 3rd, Susan Green; 4th, Sarah (Sallie) Davis. His three children were from his marriage to Mary Copeland. Son, Isaac (1753-1820) married Mary Ferree; daughter, Rachael (1755-1783) married cousin Jacob Ferree; and daugher, Leah (1757-1841) married John Adam Lightner. After Rachael's death, Jacob married Alice Powell. There are two known Joel Ferree houses in the Paradise area.

3044 Lincoln Highway East
11 Sylvan Lane
Gunshop Was Located Behind
Designated Historic Site

On October 26, 1785, Joel Ferree acquired a land patent of about 300 acres on Peters Creek in Jefferson Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania. He called the land "Ferree's Purchase". (Allegheny County, PA Register of Deeds, Vol. (B) 2, p446: Grantor: Supreme Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Recorded: 4 January, 1792, Washington County, PA.) This land was later purchased by Jonathan Large who built a distillery that produced Monongahela rye whiskey nationally known for its excellence. Today, this area along Route 51 is still known as Large, Pennsylvania.

In the spring of 1801, during a visit to the home of his nephew and son-in-law, Jacob, in Moon Township, Allegheny County (now Coraopolis, Pennsylvania), Joel Ferree was killed by a party of Indians. As the story goes, he had come to the house to get his gun to shoot a deer he had seen in the woods. It was close enough to the house that two shots were heard. Some time later, when he had not returned, a search was made. Joel was found lying behind a log, dead and scalped. Footprints left behind showed the Indians had committed the crime after he had shot the deer.

He is buried in Carpenter's Cemetery. It is thought his body was transported back to Paradise by his brother-in-law, Peter Baker (husband of Joel's sister, Leah), who drove a Conestoga wagon between Pittsburgh and Lancaster at that time. His grave is marked with a stone but family tradition says the marker was not placed there until several years after his death.

In memory of Joel Ferree who died June 19, 1801 aged 70 years, 4 mo. & 6 days.

Sources: "Ferree Family Gunsmiths" by Major George Bennett Ferree; "The Longrifles of Western Pennsylvania" by Richard Rosenberger & Charles Kaufman; Website of the "West Jefferson Hills Historical Society"; Website of the "History of Jefferson Borough, PA". Photos courtesy of David Bamberger, Chris Ferree, Nancy Johnson and Linda Worstell.