Jeremiah Johnson's Knife

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Notchy Bob

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From The Plains Rifle, by Charles E. Hanson (p. 103):

"Some popular gun-writings to the contrary, the "needle-gun" so often mentioned by writers of the 1866-1875 period was not the celebrated German variety. It was the familiar Springfield tip-up [trapdoor] single-shot patented by E.S. Allin, Master Armorer at Springfield armory in 1865. The sobriquet derived from the long pointed firing pin necessary to traverse the elongated breech-block."

The first ones were altered muzzle-loaders, in caliber .50-70. The caliber was reduced to .45-70 in 1873. Hanson believed one reason for their great popularity was that "...they looked like muzzle-loaders and kept the muzzle-loading style alive in the days of brass cartridges" (p. 104). These rifles had side-locks and actually had a cleaning rod under the barrel, in the same way that a muzzle-loading rifle carries a ramrod. They made an easy transition to breech-loaders for those who were more accustomed to muzzle-loading rifles.

I recall when I was a child, Turner Kirkland of Dixie Gun Works was buying all of these he could get his hands on. He was paying "top dollar," up to $15 for Trapdoor Springfields in fine condition. Numrich Arms was also marketing a conversion kit, including an original Springfield percussion hammer and a "drop-in" replacement muzzle-loading barrel, so you could convert your old Trapdoor to a muzzle-loader. E.S. Allin was probably rolling over in his grave...

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 
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RC61

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John Jeremiah Garrison was born and raised in Pattenburg, Hunterdon county NJ
 

Packrat

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This is my take on movies. Why does Hollwierd think it has to change the story line. I just finished reading , for the third time, Lord Grizzly, and recently watched The Revenant, for about the fourth time. The story about Hugh Glass is so interesting there is no reason to change any of it. There is no mention of a Pawnee son in the book, Major Henry is not killed by Fitzpatrick, and HUgh does not kill him.
Is it that they have to pay Royalties if they copy the whole story? Or do they just think they can make a great story better?

If you get your information from the movies, you will be disappointed
 

fastburn

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I'm pretty sure the term "needle gun" referred specifically to the various "Trapdoor" Springfield rifles. They were called that because of the very long, skinny firing pin.

I'll need to check my references, but I seem to recall Mr. Johnston acquired his Spencer by murdering the native man who originally owned it. He was not a nice guy. The Spencer was a step down from the Hawken in power, but had a tremendous advantage in that it fired fixed ammunition and was a repeater. Spencers were very popular on the frontier, when they became available.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
Or he was attacked by the Native American and in the process of protecting his own life took his. MURDER, harsh statement without the proof. More like survival. Enough said!!
 

cornstalk

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...Is it that they have to pay Royalties if they copy the whole story?...
That's probably a big reason. A few weeks ago I went to a Rendezvous in Talkeetna AK at Ed Wick's place. I'd long known that Talkeetna was the inspiration for the TV Series "Northern Exposure". I learned at the Rondy that Ed Wick was the inspiration for the show's character Ed Chigliak. Wick is missing a front tooth (actually all the mountain men at this Rondy were missing at least one tooth, I then realized I was no different, also missing a tooth) that he had a silver replacement for. The producer of the show cast Chigliak's character without the silver front tooth so he wouldn't have to pay royalties to Wick. Probably also why Chigliak was cast as a Native American when Wick is not. Same story with the other characters in the show that were modeled after actual folks in Talkeetna and Homer AK.
 

Notchy Bob

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I'll need to check my references, but I seem to recall Mr. Johnston acquired his Spencer by murdering the native man who originally owned it. He was not a nice guy. The Spencer was a step down from the Hawken in power, but had a tremendous advantage in that it fired fixed ammunition and was a repeater. Spencers were very popular on the frontier, when they became available.
Or he was attacked by the Native American and in the process of protecting his own life took his. MURDER, harsh statement without the proof. More like survival. Enough said!!
Oops... Looks like I offended somebody, which is regrettable. While that's the way I remember the story, I'll be the first to admit my memory is not perfect. I don't take notes on everything I read, and despite a pretty good home reference library, I don't find a lot about John Garrison/Liver Eatin' Johnson or his Spencer. The man is mentioned frequently, but without much detail.

Regarding the Spencer acquisition, I found this online:

"Tradition holds that some anonymous pilgrim purchased one of the first such arms [a modified Spencer] fabricated by Gemmer in his Denver [?] shop and carried it westward into the Rockies, where a Crow Indian brave claimed it as booty after slaying the wasicu for allegedly assaulting his sister. Soon thereafter the noted plainsman John “Liver-Eating” Johnson (Johnston) killed the warrior and took the rifle for his own. If such was the case, Johnson had acquired a weapon whose heft and balance were familiar, and whose heavy barrel could effectively absorb the heat generated by sustained rapid fire by its magazine-fed repeating action. The new hybrid lacked the range and hitting power of a big-bore muzzle-loading Hawken stoked with a heavy measure of powder as opposed to the modest 48-grain charge carried by the thin-walled .50-caliber Spencer rimfire round, but at medium ranges it was still potent medicine against man or beast. (Of six surviving Hawken-Spencers known today, several are also chambered for the Spencer .56-46-rimfire sporting round while another accepts only the earlier and less potent .44-rimfire cartridge.)"

This doesn't tell us if it was a fair fight or not, so I guess the jury is still out on that. The quote came from a surprisingly good article on HistoryNet.com about The Hawken-Spencer Rifle. The same article had this, regarding Garrison/Johnson/Johnston's ghoulish nickname:

"Veteran mountain man Johnson returned to the West after service in the Civil War, already bearing his grisly sobriquet of “Liver-Eating.” Waging a longstanding personal feud with the Crow Indians, Johnson reputedly removed (and allegedly consumed) the liver from each warrior he killed, leaving the surgically altered body behind as his calling card. Given Johnson’s violent history in the region, it was not surprising that he would welcome acquisition of a weapon like the Hawken-Spencer fusion."

That is the legend that has been passed down through history. However, Frank Grouard, who was a contemporary and knew the liver-eater personally, had this to say:

2021-10-20.png


Grouard had more to say about Liver Eating Johnson in that chapter of his biography, "The Life and Adventures of Frank Grouard," writtenby Joe De Barthe based on interviews with the scout, and first published in 1894. Grouard also reported that he was once pretty severely abused by some Indians, and Johnson "...nursed him with all the care and solicitude of a mother," so Johnson was certainly not all bad. At least not to his friends.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
 

andy52

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Andy,
Now that is one Heck of a story! Thanks.
John
I was a member of the St. Charles corp of discovery for the bicentennial in the early 2000s
I had never heard of Lewis Wetzel until then. We started the journey in Elisabeth PA. on the Monongahela River and started south to the Ohio. When we reached Wheeling WV a group gave us small booklets about the story of Wetzel, I found it an astounding story and still have the booklet.
 

Celticstoneman

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I was a member of the St. Charles corp of discovery for the bicentennial in the early 2000s
I had never heard of Lewis Wetzel until then. We started the journey in Elisabeth PA. on the Monongahela River and started south to the Ohio. When we reached Wheeling WV a group gave us small booklets about the story of Wetzel, I found it an astounding story and still have the booklet.
Andy,
Congratulations, that must have Been
quite an adventure. I envy you and those who take advantage of opportunities as such. They improve yourselves and as you folks return to our more mundane realities you spread the stories and truth to us.
John
 

andy52

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Andy,
Congratulations, that must have Been
quite an adventure. I envy you and those who take advantage of opportunities as such. They improve yourselves and as you folks return to our more mundane realities you spread the stories and truth to us.
John
I don't want to highjack this thread but thank you and I also helped build camp DuBois in wood river in your state.
 

beardedhorse

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Many early, original and later Bowies were guardless. Check with Bowie Knife Collectors Association, Norman Flayderman's book and other references.
 

Dave Fox

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Couple things. It's "Johnson", not "Johnston". I'm not familiar with multiple western writers confusing a Springfield firearm with a German firearm when the term "needle gun" turns up in American western usage, but am prepared to be educated. The first of the "needle gun" Springfield family was .58 rimfire, not .50-70. Perhaps the most famous .50-70 Springfield was Buffalo Bill's "Lucrezia Borgia", with which he killed beau coup bison for railroad builders' consumption. And I believe Turner Kirkland was offering $100.00 per, not $15.00 when he purchased a raft of trapdoors. Here's my M.1866 .50-70 and what it can do at 100 yards.
 

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CaptainKirk

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Couple things. It's "Johnson", not "Johnston".
I've seen it both ways, primarily the latter (Johnston). Not sure how you can be certain of your statement, unless he's an ancestor?
As for the name in the movie, "Jeremiah" was Johnston's given middle name, so not hard to make the transition to "Jeremiah Johnson" for a "fictional" script writer
 

Zapadach

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The first rifle I ever held in my hands was an 1873 trapdoor Springfield 45/70 that had been in the cellar of my parents home. The first recollection I have of it, I must have been four or five years old. It was not until the middle 1970's that my older brother and I cleaned it up and started shooting it. It has been in the family well over 100 years, and I am pleased to say it is kept safe in my brother's home in PA, bayonet and all. I would never bring it here to california, you never know what is going to happen next.
 

Dave Fox

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I've seen it both ways, primarily the latter (Johnston). Not sure how you can be certain of your statement, unless he's an ancestor?
As for the name in the movie, "Jeremiah" was Johnston's given middle name, so not hard to make the transition to "Jeremiah Johnson" for a "fictional" script writer
Yep, you're correct on the name. He appears to have been born John Jeremiah Garrison Johnston with a "t". First error I've made this year....
 

CaptainKirk

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Yep, you're correct on the name. He appears to have been born John Jeremiah Garrison Johnston with a "t". First error I've made this year....
You got a pretty good run on, then! Almost made it to December! Any team I know would be glad to have you!:)
 

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Buffalo Bill spoke of needle guns, as stated, a Trapdoor Springfield. Hilts on knives are more common today. A lot of the older knives didn't have a hilt or guard.
 

BadDaditood

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Inaccurate, no doubt but it’s a great read!
There’s a photo of a grizzled grey haired Johnson holding a Sharps, which may have belonged to the photo studio… unless my memory fails me, which is entirely possible.
D263BC60-BA27-4F8E-AB3B-D9C84BE916E8.jpeg
found it!!
 
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I was a member of the St. Charles corp of discovery for the bicentennial in the early 2000s
I had never heard of Lewis Wetzel until then. We started the journey in Elisabeth PA. on the Monongahela River and started south to the Ohio. When we reached Wheeling WV a group gave us small booklets about the story of Wetzel, I found it an astounding story and still have the booklet.
Lewis Wetzel, if one and the same, is mentioned quite a bit in, "That Dark and Bloody River" by Allan Eckert. Wetzel was a character that leaves you scratching your head.
 
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