Along the Susquehanna

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Good afternoon!

I’ve lately been reading through the forum and a recent discussion regarding the term “haversack” in the 18th century solidified my belief that this is my kind of place. So… hello!

I like to write and tend to be long winded, so the very abridged version of what I’ve poured out below is this: What would be the most historically accurate/period correct firearm for an enterprising colonial on the Susquehanna frontier c.1755? And… what kit(s) may match up with the history in the best possible way?

The long version:

I’m writing what will probably be a lengthy note asking for some guidance about building a smoothbore appropriate for the Pennsylvania frontier during the 1750s. My sincere thanks in advance if you take time to read this missive and choose to reply. I know you all are busy!

I grew up in Northumberland County a few miles from the former site of Shamokin and Fort Augusta. I’ve spent my life in the towns and mountains of central Pennsylvania and now live with my young family just west of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The site of the first attack of the Penns Creek Massacre (LeRoy family) is less than a mile from my front porch and the entire country here is littered with sites and events from the French and Indian War through the Revolution. I spend a great deal of time hunting (including with a production CVA Mountain Rifle I bought with confirmation money when I was 12…), fishing, camping and wandering through a large district, and I’m interested in going deeper than books or touristing can take me. Period hunts and overnight scouts are my intent. Maybe eventually living history. (Did highly authentic ACW once upon a time…)

I’m 43 with a young family and have been thinking on a flintlock appropriate for experiencing the 1750s-1760s in this area for going on 20 years. I’m finally in a position to build a gun… I have the skill set to do good work (I build bamboo fly rods, haft historic axes, etc.) but with my young family and demanding career, I don’t think I’m up for the time commitment of building from a slab of maple. Nor are my experience and skill quite ready for a scratch build.

Yet.

So, a kit then.


Just to state: Historical Correctness is important to me. Or as historically correct as can reasonably be achieved in these times. I have a running list of relic guns from this time period that I would love to build a bench copy of… I’m just not there yet.

So then… which kit as a basis for a civilian-owned smoothbore along the Susquehanna River during the French and Indian War? I’ve done a lot of research, and as I’m sure you all know, the historic record can get fuzzy when you try to get specific as to time and place. Especially for the 1750s-1760s. I believe I have a good understanding of the generalities of frontier guns of the period, I can make some educated assumptions, but could use some assistance in narrowing things down to what an enterprising colonial on the Pennsylvania frontier - one that placed appropriate importance on the acquisition of his firearm - would have equipped himself with to provide for and defend his family. Hunting, home defense, and off a’ranging when called upon.

My interests really are centered on American “assembled” guns, rather than imported European arms… though I would certainly embrace the right arm imported to Pennsylvania for sale to colonists. But the documented ingenuity of early gunmakers and smiths to create firearms and keep them in service for frontier work is damn fascinating to me. An early American “composite” gun seems appropriate - domestically stocked with imported or reclaimed lock and barrel and reclaimed, imported or self-made furniture. Surviving historic examples seem to run from ‘cobbled’ to very fine, though all carry a sense of purpose. Something like this may need to wait for a scratch build or starting with a non-inlet stock… but maybe one of the English trade kits would be an appropriate jumping off point for a colonial-made gun? I’m not sure this is achievable working from a pre-carved and pre-inlet parts set.

Arms imported to Philadelphia for the colonial trade would also likely be appropriate. An English fouling piece or fusee of the quality above those meant for the Indian trade but not to the level of a “fine” gun seems like an achievable build to produce a correct arm for the time and place.

I’m also much drawn to the Tulle Fusil de Chasse and other French trade guns - particularly the stock architecture - but cannot seem to historically justify those guns or ones domestically stocked in that manner being present on the Susquehanna frontier in the 1750s. Ditto use of the French hardware and locks. Maybe I’m mistaken in that regard. I’m hoping to avoid any sort of elaborate ‘backstory’ of how such a gun ended up in the Susquehanna Valley. I prefer to represent the common rather than the exceptional. Again… maybe my research and understanding is incomplete on the spread of the French types and they would have been present. All that said, if historical correctness for the time and place wasn’t paramount for me, I’d likely build a French gun.

If you’ve read all that, sincerely… thank you. I look forward learning here and to eventually getting a kit in hand and enjoying the making of something that will bring years of enjoyment and learning. Any and all advice - including any additional research suggestions! - is greatly appreciated.

With gratitude,

Ryan
Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania
 
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Welcome from Texas.
You like to write, we like to read. And we LOVE photos. Keep us posted of what you get.
I started researching the makers of the Lehigh Valley, since I was born in Tamaqua. Quite a few makers worked in the Lehigh Valley, which is about 75 miles from the Susquehanna, but there were also makers in Philly, so any of those styles of rifles could have been carried north without much effort.
Personally, I like the curve and offset of the Lehigh Valley rifles. More elegant than the straight-stocks, IMO. Most everything that I know about them was from this forum or the internet.
Good luck and have fun with your research, and keep us posted!
 
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Thanks for the welcome, John. Small world. My family is from the (new) Shamokin and I’ve been to Tamaqua numerous times. Guess we both have anthracite in our blood. AND… my company is headquartered in The Woodlands. I likely will be there occasionally if my career ziggs in the right way.

Stay tuned. I’m hoping this will be a great topic.
 
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I’m also much drawn to the Tulle Fusil de Chasse and other French trade guns - particularly the stock architecture - but cannot seem to historically justify those guns or ones domestically stocked in that manner being present on the Susquehanna frontier in the 1750s. Ditto use of the French hardware and locks. Maybe I’m mistaken in that regard. I’m hoping to avoid any sort of elaborate ‘backstory’ of how such a gun ended up in the Susquehanna Valley.
I grew up almost literally on the banks of the Susquehanna, in Oneonta NY, and spent a lot of time in or near that river. I think you're rather doomed to find a straightforward "justification" for the sort of French gun you're interested in, but I'll hazard one in a moment.

There just weren't a lot of French influences along the Susquehanna through NY (where its source is at the southern end of Otsego Lake) and continuing through Pennsylvania. That was mostly Dutch (or in PA, German) from the 17th (or even 16th) century onward. We've traveled through there again recently and my wife (a Chicago girl) is astonished at how I can not only pronounce, but spell, the Dutch names and terms that abound. I don't recall a thing about the French in my early NY State history in school -- except for their enlistment of various tribes to be their proxies against the Dutch and British. But therein may lie a story for you ...

I'd try looking into the tribes supported (and often armed) by the French in those times, and in those areas. Perhaps a bit further north (or west?) towards Canada. Possibly such a gun provided by the French could have made its way to your vicinity in one way or another (possibly by being taken in battle). Just a thought. :)
 
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Oh I could justify just about anything if I really wanted to!

“After our adventure against Louisbourg in ‘45, the officers saw fit to allow us each a stand of arms liberated from the French magazine there…”

You know… to justify this here 1728 musket. Or Buccaneer. 😉

The French and their Indian allies were in this territory from time to time. And people certainly were farther ranging that we often give them credit for, so anything is possible. But… is it probable?

I think a British import civilian gun or a colonial “composite” are likely more probable.

But… I’m still learning.
 
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Guess we both have anthracite in our blood.
And a chunk on the mantle with the Old Company sticker.
The Story of the Old Company · 30. Coal and Canals: Pennsylvania Fuels the Industrial Revolution · Lehigh University Omeka
My Mom's Dad (she was a coal miner's daughter), Walter Magee, was a miner from the age of 9 around Summit Hill. My Dad and his Dad owned the Roxy Hotel in Tamaqua (now the St Francis Animal Hospital), and brought me home to it. It has an interesting history.

If you come to The Woodlands, you have to look me up. If the timing is good, we can take my MLs to the range. Or just have a drink to wash the coal dust down!
 
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The French and their Indian allies were in this territory from time to time. And people certainly were farther ranging that we often give them credit for, so anything is possible. But… is it probable?
Hard to say -- or to say how probable, or how probable it would need to be (for you). People seem to play this "authenticity" game with different sets of rules, different places where the lines are drawn, shifting lines, and different deviations they're willing to tolerate for different reasons. It's all pretend anyway, and so how far you want to carry the pretense is up to you. In the end, I guess it always comes down to a matter of (individual) decision, rather than discovery. It has to, if whatever you need in the way of "justification" is self-imposed. 😂 So questions like "Is it probable?" can't be answered by anyone else, since they're not objective.
 
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Hard to say -- or to say how probable, or how probable it would need to be (for you). People seem to play this "authenticity" game with different sets of rules, different places where the lines are drawn, shifting lines, and different deviations they're willing to tolerate for different reasons. It's all pretend anyway, and so how far you want to carry the pretense is up to you. In the end, I guess it always comes down to a matter of (individual) decision, rather than discovery. It has to, if whatever you need in the way of "justification" is self-imposed. 😂 So questions like "Is it probable?" can't be answered by anyone else, since they're not objective.
That’s a great post! I once did an ACW event in your neck of the woods that was about as authenticity-driven as it gets. I was in the ‘campaigner’ unit for Bentonville in 2000… where living historians applied for a spot over a year in advance for a 3-day immersive experience. That was an experience of discover, partly because of the rigidly imposed “authenticity”. But that’s an era better documented as to material culture and the unit portrayed was extensively photographed and had surviving memoirs. So…

I learned a ton from that experience, mostly because of the “rules” that were imposed by the organizers. But as you say, now the only rules imposed are my own. I’d like to get as “correct” as possible if only for my own enjoyment, but I do realize that’s a gray target in a gray forest. And it’s a new journey with lots to learn and variations on a theme to explore.

Cheers!
 

Brokennock

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Good afternoon!

I’ve lately been reading through the forum and a recent discussion regarding the term “haversack” in the 18th century solidified my belief that this is my kind of place. So… hello!

I like to write and tend to be long winded, so the very abridged version of what I’ve poured out below is this: What would be the most historically accurate/period correct firearm for an enterprising colonial on the Susquehanna frontier c.1755? And… what kit(s) may match up with the history in the best possible way?

The long version:

I’m writing what will probably be a lengthy note asking for some guidance about building a smoothbore appropriate for the Pennsylvania frontier during the 1750s. My sincere thanks in advance if you take time to read this missive and choose to reply. I know you all are busy!

I grew up in Northumberland County a few miles from the former site of Shamokin and Fort Augusta. I’ve spent my life in the towns and mountains of central Pennsylvania and now live with my young family just west of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River. The site of the first attack of the Penns Creek Massacre (LeRoy family) is less than a mile from my front porch and the entire country here is littered with sites and events from the French and Indian War through the Revolution. I spend a great deal of time hunting (including with a production CVA Mountain Rifle I bought with confirmation money when I was 12…), fishing, camping and wandering through a large district, and I’m interested in going deeper than books or touristing can take me. Period hunts and overnight scouts are my intent. Maybe eventually living history. (Did highly authentic ACW once upon a time…)

I’m 43 with a young family and have been thinking on a flintlock appropriate for experiencing the 1750s-1760s in this area for going on 20 years. I’m finally in a position to build a gun… I have the skill set to do good work (I build bamboo fly rods, haft historic axes, etc.) but with my young family and demanding career, I don’t think I’m up for the time commitment of building from a slab of maple. Nor are my experience and skill quite ready for a scratch build.

Yet.

So, a kit then.


Just to state: Historical Correctness is important to me. Or as historically correct as can reasonably be achieved in these times. I have a running list of relic guns from this time period that I would love to build a bench copy of… I’m just not there yet.

So then… which kit as a basis for a civilian-owned smoothbore along the Susquehanna River during the French and Indian War? I’ve done a lot of research, and as I’m sure you all know, the historic record can get fuzzy when you try to get specific as to time and place. Especially for the 1750s-1760s. I believe I have a good understanding of the generalities of frontier guns of the period, I can make some educated assumptions, but could use some assistance in narrowing things down to what an enterprising colonial on the Pennsylvania frontier - one that placed appropriate importance on the acquisition of his firearm - would have equipped himself with to provide for and defend his family. Hunting, home defense, and off a’ranging when called upon.

My interests really are centered on American “assembled” guns, rather than imported European arms… though I would certainly embrace the right arm imported to Pennsylvania for sale to colonists. But the documented ingenuity of early gunmakers and smiths to create firearms and keep them in service for frontier work is damn fascinating to me. An early American “composite” gun seems appropriate - domestically stocked with imported or reclaimed lock and barrel and reclaimed, imported or self-made furniture. Surviving historic examples seem to run from ‘cobbled’ to very fine, though all carry a sense of purpose. Something like this may need to wait for a scratch build or starting with a non-inlet stock… but maybe one of the English trade kits would be an appropriate jumping off point for a colonial-made gun? I’m not sure this is achievable working from a pre-carved and pre-inlet parts set.

Arms imported to Philadelphia for the colonial trade would also likely be appropriate. An English fouling piece or fusee of the quality above those meant for the Indian trade but not to the level of a “fine” gun seems like an achievable build to produce a correct arm for the time and place.

I’m also much drawn to the Tulle Fusil de Chasse and other French trade guns - particularly the stock architecture - but cannot seem to historically justify those guns or ones domestically stocked in that manner being present on the Susquehanna frontier in the 1750s. Ditto use of the French hardware and locks. Maybe I’m mistaken in that regard. I’m hoping to avoid any sort of elaborate ‘backstory’ of how such a gun ended up in the Susquehanna Valley. I prefer to represent the common rather than the exceptional. Again… maybe my research and understanding is incomplete on the spread of the French types and they would have been present. All that said, if historical correctness for the time and place wasn’t paramount for me, I’d likely build a French gun.

If you’ve read all that, sincerely… thank you. I look forward learning here and to eventually getting a kit in hand and enjoying the making of something that will bring years of enjoyment and learning. Any and all advice - including any additional research suggestions! - is greatly appreciated.

With gratitude,

Ryan
Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania
1st, welcome.
I really like this post and the thinking behind it.
Before I delve deeper and muddy the water, I want to post a link to an ad in our classifieds,


This should cover your needs quite well.
Described as "English," but this gun, stocked in maple, would be very appropriate as an American built or stocks fowling piece.
 
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Thanks for the welcome!

I did see that ad in the classifieds and agree that it’s likely a good candidate. English parts from the trade and stocked in Pennsylvania. I think the hardware aligns with 1750s. Makes complete sense and aligns with my current research.

But I’m a maker of things and want to have the experience of building a flintlock. As soon as I recover from my fall and clear my bench of a couple ax hangs and a crosscut saw that needs set and filed…

So by all means, delve deeper! The waters of the Susquehanna are already muddy!
 

Brokennock

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Guns for this early a time period can be tough.
A Type-G, or "Carolina Gun," trade gun would be suitable and appropriate for your time, area, and needs. There are only a couple builders producing kits for these though. Very, very, versatile gun that is correct for the time.

Unfortunately what we know as a Lehigh school or style rifle/smoothrifle would seem to be too late for your stated time. I love them, someday might get one, but, it is too late for my time interest too, and more than questionable for my area.

I think Mike Brooks makes a "PA Fowler," kit. If not him, it is one of the other prominent builders.

Maybe have a look at the kits offered by Sitting Fox. Not in the same class as a Mike Brooks gun, but I hear good things about their kits. Someone here recently completed one, might have been @Artificer or @tenngun
They do also offer guns "in the white." Not sure about this option as it seems their finished guns don't get the good reviews that their kits get.

As for the rest of your kit, we'll, there is a lot to get into. Too much for this post or this topic/thread.
I generally don't like blanket generalizations, but, here is one.
Bags seem to have tended to be on the small side compared to later and compared to what we see a lot of now,,, and,,,, horns seem to have been larger than later periods.
Of we think about it, the horn makes sense in a way. Average bore size seems to have decreased over time, thus powder consumption did too.
The shot pouch for a rifle was small as folks don't seem to have kept all the doodads in it that folks do now. If it wasn't needed to make the gun shoot and reload, it was in a different bag or a pocket. I would think shot pouches for fowling pieces may have been a little larger than for a rifle as wadding and such, and a container of shot (if kept in the pouch) is more bulky than a strip of patch material and some balls.
 

Brokennock

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But I’m a maker of things and want to have the experience of building a flintlock
And you should. But there are a couple things to keep in mind.
Folks seem to like to forget that even on the frontier Colonial America was very much a consumer or trade culture. They didn't make every last little thing, and most didn't make their own guns.

Second, getting your hands on a well built gun similar to what you want will help greatly in achieving your goal of building your own period correct gun.
I am sorry, but, no commercial/factory offering that I know of fits this bill.
Going to shows and handling originals and other well made contemporary reproductions will help even more. Luckily for you, you live in an area that this is very possible.
 
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Guns for this early a time period can be tough.
A Type-G, or "Carolina Gun," trade gun would be suitable and appropriate for your time, area, and needs. There are only a couple builders producing kits for these though. Very, very, versatile gun that is correct for the time.
This one is near the top of my list and I’ve had a nice chat with Clay Smith about his take on my question. My lingering questions regard “social/economic status” in 1755 and if some of these “trade” guns are appropriate for the European colonial merchant trade… or are the types more intended for the Indian Trade. I’m working on finding primary source material that would shed some light.
Unfortunately what we know as a Lehigh school or style rifle/smoothrifle would seem to be too late for your stated time. I love them, someday might get one, but, it is too late for my time interest too, and more than questionable for my area.
A rifle will come eventually. I have some thoughts on early rifles in the 1740s-1760s. Right now I want to learn about smoothbore guns.
I think Mike Brooks makes a "PA Fowler," kit. If not him, it is one of the other prominent builders.
I can’t tell what Mike Brooks offers as a kit on his website… Does he pop in here from time to time? He seems well versed in this stuff. Chambers has a “PA Fowler” that looks right and is described on the website as 1760, but Barbie said it’s actually based on a gun of the 1790s. So… I’d have to take a close look. Jim and Barbie seem like lovely people and suggested a NE Fowler (for a colonial-built gun) or English Fowler (imported to the trade) as solidly in F&IW era.
As for the rest of your kit, we'll, there is a lot to get into.
Oh I know! I actually feel pretty confident in my ability to lock down appropriate material culture aspects of a persona AND scenario. What I’ll likely need guidance with is where to source things.
And you should. But there are a couple things to keep in mind.
Folks seem to like to forget that even on the frontier Colonial America was very much a consumer or trade culture. They didn't make every last little thing, and most didn't make their own guns.
Love this point! Absolutely agree! The making of a flintlock is disconnected from the historic persona. Separate goals and desires. Completely a trade and commercial society. People really do seem to forget that European colonials on the frontier travelled between the wilderness and the settled areas.

I’ll also say that I believe that culture didn’t automatically melt away just because one was now on the frontier. I’ve seen too many times where an interpreter will use “on the frontier” as an excuse for shoddy quality and an unkempt appearance. But that’s a discussion for another time…
Second, getting your hands on a well built gun similar to what you want will help greatly in achieving your goal of building your own period correct gun.
I am sorry, but, no commercial/factory offering that I know of fits this bill.
Going to shows and handling originals and other well made contemporary reproductions will help even more. Luckily for you, you live in an area that this is very possible.
Oh, I know there isn’t a factory gun out there that will satisfy my wants. I’m not disillusioned there. I was at the Lewisburg show the past few years… but hopefully I can expand my local network a bit and see and experience more originals and good contemporary work. I did examine an original (though much later) 18th century fowling gun just last week. There’s nothing quite like the originals. (If anyone fishes bamboo fly rods… a contemporary copy of a Paul Young rod isn’t the same as fishing an original Driggs!)

This is fun, isn’t it?:cool:
 

Brokennock

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culture didn’t automatically melt away just because one was now on the frontier.
Very well put. Too many folks seem to think someone on the frontier had to look like a ragamuffin.
, I know there isn’t a factory gun out there that will satisfy my wants.
I know there isn't one that meets your criteria for your new gun. I meant they don't hold up as an example of how to build a good period gun.
 
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I know there isn't one that meets your criteria for your new gun. I meant they don't hold up as an example of how to build a good period gun.
Ah! Yeah. That too! They absolutely fill a need, but I’d never use them as source material. Copy of a copy of a copy… plus price point and manufacturing/assembly methods.
 

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