This is an original 19th century flintlock “smooth rifle,” .45 caliber, which belonged to a family in Fincastle, Virginia. It was possibly made somewhere around there, around the lower valley of Virginia, next to the mountains – though probably not in the mountains. I posted pics of it a while back, with the information I knew, or thought I knew about it. And there were differing opinions on where it originated from. Some thought Virginia. Some thought Pennsylvania, or western Pennsylvania. When Jim Webb was here this weekend, he gravitated towards this gun, and provided some new leads….
The gun has some similar features to known rifles made in the Shenandoah Valley in the 1800s. It’s signed on the barrel (in my opinion) “H. Harlton.” Or it could be “Hamilton.” That needs more research. This could be the maker, or the owner. I can’t find any gunmakers of that name, so it may be the owner, which I also can’t find.
The gun has an extremely unusual octagon to round barrel, for this type of weapon. Overall it’s a beautifully balanced and artistic American flintlock. Our culture as a country and a people is exemplified by the hundreds, if not thousands, of types of guns made by a melting pot of Americans during the 18th and 19th centuries. Not only do we like guns, but we want the option of having personalized designs, and our exact specifications for caliber and so-forth. This gun shows that.
The barrel and foreshock is likely the key to figuring out the geography of where it was made. When we had Jim Webb, of Hillsville, Virginia, who is a lifelong student of Virginia antiquities, he immediately recognized the unusual style of barrel attachment, as well as the ramrod hardware. He said, “wow, this is a slip pin design.” This means that the barrel itself is not actually pinned to the wood forestock, but rather it’s held in solely by the decorative inlays, each themselves pinned to the stock.
In other words, if you unscrew the tang bolt, the barrel itself should just slide backwards, and out of the stock. Sometimes if you do that, you can read the name of a common Pennsylvania barrel maker on the underside of the barrel. Apparently most Virginia guns of the 19th century were made using barrels from Pennsylvania barrel makers.
The other identifying feature, according to Jim, who immediately latched onto this gun, is that it has double ramrod finials, as well as a double entry pipe, which itself further narrows the likely geography to the lower valley of Virginia, based on a couple of other guns which have been found there.
This one is the only one he’s seen so far though which has segmented molding or carving along the forestock, rather than being continuous. It’s great fun going down the rabbit hole of figuring out the mysteries behind these old guns….
To be continued, when I find more information and/or pull the barrel…..
Update October 26, 2019….
I showed these photos to Wallace Gussler yesterday – albeit on my iphone. He concurred that the gun had many Virginia features, and recalls seeing another one like it. He said he photographed it several decades ago, and thought he may have the photos still….
Rather than the Valley of Virginia, however, he opined that it was probably made somewhere in the Monongahela Valley of present day West Virginia, by craftsmen who migrated up there from the Valley of Virginia. Or possibly near Pittsburgh, up in that border area.
He also called the barrel attachment a “hook and pin” design, rather than “slip pin,” for future reference, since I’ll inevitably forget these terms if I don’t write them down.
The hunt continues…..