William Henry, of Nazareth

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William Henry, of Nazareth

Birthplace: Lancaster, PA, USA
Death: Died in Philadelphia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Col. William Henry and Anne Henry
Husband of Sabina Henry, of Nazareth
Father of Sabina Wolle; William Henry (of Wyoming) and Maria Benade
Brother of George Lafayette Henry; Judge John Joseph Henry; Abraham Henry; Elizabeth Molther; Benjamin West Henry and 6 others

Managed by: Adam Hyer Naff
Last Updated:

About William Henry, of Nazareth

The sequence of Henry gun factories in Northampton County is familiar: Nazareth, Jacobsburg, Boulton. William Henry of Nazareth (1757-1821), the eldest son of William Henry of Lancaster, owned the first two gun works; his sons, J. Joseph Henry (1786-1836) and William Henry III (1794-1878), built Boulton. But this elegant chronology – in which the Jacobsburg works replaces those in Naz- areth and is in turn replaced by Boulton—tends to obscure the actual life cycle of Henry’s factories. This article draws on the detailed records of Pennsylvania’s Moravian congregations, as well as materials in the Jacobsburg Historical Society archives, to attempt to fill out the picture of the Jacobsburg factory, its founding and its later fate, and of the varied activities of William Henry of Nazareth (WH)


Known as William Henry, Jr.; son of William Henry of Lancaster; started in the gun smith business in 1778, Nazareth, Northampton Co. PA. about 70 miles northeast of Lancaster.

In 1781 William Henry, Jr (1757-1821) married Sabrina Schropp (1759-1848) of Nazareth, Pa. She was the daughter of Mathew and Anna Maria Schropp and they had nine children. William, Jr., was an Assistant Judge for the Northampton County Courts between 1788 and 1814 and a presidential elector in 1792.

In 1781 he built his gun shop on South Main Street of Nazareth, test firing his rifles in the alley next to his shop. The residents, very devout Moravians, knew that the manufacture of guns was a necessary activity for hunting but often complained about the noise since Henry normally used a triple charge of powder for his tests. He built up a prosperous trade because of the quality of his weapons. In addition to being a gunsmith he was a carpenter and an architect but his gun trade grew so much he did not have time to dedicate to these other activities. In 1794 he requested to be relieved of those other duties but the town residents persuaded him to continue.

In 1798 he received an order from Governor Mifflin of Pennsylvania for 2,000 guns because the governor feared a war would break out with France. Henry requested permission to erect a two-story workshop in Nazareth but many opposed that expansion since they feared "outsiders" would be brought in to work in the factory and there was not adequate water pressure available at any of the possible sites. At that time Moravian communities were basically closed to outsiders and the population rejected any who might act in a manner contrary to their beliefs, such as those who might be needed as additional workers of this new factory. So, when the overseeing committee deferred the decision to a later meeting William left, relocating his factory to Jacobsburg, a place several miles north of Nazareth along side the Bushkill Creek, thus solving all of the problems of factory space, worker religious conduct, water pressure, and testing noise at the same time. In 1813 he moved his factory a short distance downstream to Boulton, where its ruins are part of the Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center.

The history of the Henry family and its guns are preserved by the Jacobsburg Historical Society.

The sons of William and Sabrina continued the gunsmith business, expanding to Philadelphia.

----------------------------------------- William carried on the gunsmithing tradition of his father. He opened the Bolton Arms Works in 1813.

Three of his sons -- John Joseph Henry (1786-1836), William Henry, III (1794-1878), and Matthew S. Henry (1790-1862) -- formed a partnership in 1821 called William Henry & Co., replacing the Bolton Arms Works. This continued for a short term only, for in little over a year John Joseph purchased the company from his partners and took sole possession.

Source: Spinning Wheel magazine, October 1958

Find A Grave Memorial# 71836794

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William Henry, of Nazareth's Timeline

March 12, 1757
Lancaster, PA, USA
November 22, 1781
Age 24
May 6, 1788
Age 31
Nazareth, Northampton, Pennsylvania, United States
August 4, 1792
Age 35
Age 36
April 21, 1821
Age 64
Philadelphia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States