Mountain Man rifles

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Dphar1950

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Cheekpiece.jpeg DSC_0093.jpg
Wow, I'm gone for a little under a week elk hunting and this thread comes back to life.



I agree with Dan's assessment of those three Hawken rifles--the Peterson, the one in the Montana Historical Society collection, and the Atchison. Those three are important early J&S Hawken rifles. All three have related characteristics as Dan mentions. The Atchison Hawken is the only undisputed dated Hawken with the "1836" date included in the inscription on the cheek inlay. Most students of the Hawken would consider the Peterson Hawken the earliest of the three. I think the MHS J&S Hawken may fall in between the Peterson and Atchison rifles.

Dan doesn't mention the Orville Dunham J&S Hawken which may also be another early rifle.

There is another rifle that has recently come to light that may be another early J&S Hawken rifle. It hasn't been published or vetted and inspected by experts yet, so I can't say it is an authentic Hawken. Time will tell. Don Stith has inspected it and thinks it's credible, so much so, that he has created a parts set for replicas of it. Roger Sells has posted pics of a rifle he built from Stith's parts on another forum. The most important aspect of this new rifle is that it appears to have been flint originally and converted to percussion.




Dan, I believe you may have Tom Tobin confused with someone else. Charles Autobees brought his younger half-brother, Tom Tobin, out to Taos from St. Louis in 1837. Tobin was only 14 years old at the time. Autobees had started working for Simeon Turley the previous year, and both Autobees and Tobin continued to work for Turley until the 1847 Taos Uprising when Turley's establishment was attacked. Tobin was present, but he and another person were able to escape. The rest were killed, including Turley.

After the Taos Uprising, Tobin farmed at times and at other times served as scout and guide on several military operations. Tobin was a friend of Kit Carson and served with Kit on some of these expeditions. One took Tom all the way to California in 1853. Tom Tobin is best known for ending the murder spree of the Espinosas by tracking them down and killing them with his Hawken rifle in 1863. The biography on Tom Tobin makes no mention of him hunting Apaches for scalps, though he did cut off the heads of the Espinosas as proof of their demise.

The mountain man that I am familiar with that hunted Apaches for their scalps and carried a Hawken rifle was James Kirker. Could this be the person you were thinking of?
I don't have the citation for Tobin as a scalp hunter. The information comes from a friend who is a better researcher than I and his take was that Tobin was not all that upright. But he gave not details it came up in a discussion of "My Confession" and the fictionalized "Blood Meridian" that used it as a basis. However, into the 1890s or even later there were people in the west that killed every native American they could. So getting paid for it would have been a plus for some.
There are other early J&S "plains" rifles both full and 1/2 stock that are early. At least they share the breech design of the Helena rifle. It is obvious that the Petersen rifle, the Atchinson rifle and this rifle were stocked by the same hand. but we will never really know if they are Jake or Sam rifles. But the stock ourlines seems to have died when same did. If not before. Also the rifle in Helena has intials on the cheekpiece inlay that match those of Edmund Christy. And the rifle has extensive engraving so it was not a run of the mill rifle. It's tantalizing but cannot be traced since Christy died without issue. But the rifle was, according to the Museum staff originally collected in or near St Louis in the 1930s or 40s IIRC. The one with the sliver and mother or pearl is the Atchinson rifle the other the rifle in Helena. The Atchinson has what we call a "patent breech" for the nipple seat. The other the nipple seat was formed on the barrel when it was forged. The accent line on the Helena rifle runs over the wrist and terminates on the lock side of the stock.
 

plmeek

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I don't have the citation for Tobin as a scalp hunter. The information comes from a friend who is a better researcher than I and his take was that Tobin was not all that upright. But he gave not details it came up in a discussion of "My Confession" and the fictionalized "Blood Meridian" that used it as a basis.
Ok, I looked up the book Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, who also wrote No Country For Old Men, and read a synopsis of the book. It does have a character in it named Tobin but he is supposed to be an ex-priest. Probably a fictional character and definitely not Tom Tobin, half-brother of Charles Autobees. I can't find anything related to "My Confession" except a song by Josh Groban and a short work by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.

If anyone is interested in reading more about Tom Tobin, I highly recommend the biography Tom Tobin: Frontiersman by James E Perkins, paperback – 1999.


There are other early J&S "plains" rifles both full and 1/2 stock that are early. At least they share the breech design of the Helena rifle. It is obvious that the Petersen rifle, the Atchinson rifle and this rifle were stocked by the same hand. but we will never really know if they are Jake or Sam rifles. But the stock ourlines seems to have died when same did. If not before. Also the rifle in Helena has intials on the cheekpiece inlay that match those of Edmund Christy. And the rifle has extensive engraving so it was not a run of the mill rifle. It's tantalizing but cannot be traced since Christy died without issue. But the rifle was, according to the Museum staff originally collected in or near St Louis in the 1930s or 40s IIRC. The one with the sliver and mother or pearl is the Atchinson rifle the other the rifle in Helena. The Atchinson has what we call a "patent breech" for the nipple seat. The other the nipple seat was formed on the barrel when it was forged. The accent line on the Helena rifle runs over the wrist and terminates on the lock side of the stock.
I agree with your assessment of the Atchison Hawken and comparison to the Helena rifle. I came to the same conclusions some time back by studying photos of both (Herb Troester had provided me with detail photos of the Helena rifle that he took while examining the rifle a few years ago). I also noted the relation/simularities between the Peterson Hawken and the Helena rifle.

Jake and Sam worked together from 1825 until Jake's death in early 1849--almost 25 years. I would expect some variation over time in the rifles they made, and I think we see it in surviving rifles. Impossible to say which one influenced which rifle over this period. Jake, being the oldest, would have taken the lead on most things in the business as was the custom of the day. But that's not to say that they didn't work collaboratively at times, also. They also probably experimented with slight changes to the stock profile over time. This image shows the butt stock and cheekpiece on several J&S period rifles.

It's hard to draw conclusions from this other than to note the wide variation is cheekpiece shape and size and subtle differences in the comb and nose of the comb. I've kind of group the images by similarities in the cheekpiece to see if there is any evidence of a possible chronological order. I couldn't find any that applied to all or even the majority.

We certainly see a dramatic difference in the late S Hawken and most of the J&S marked Hawken rifles. But that difference also evolved over time as Sam made gradual changes to his rifles. Below is an example of this as illustrated in the snail of the breech bolster. These are all from S Hawken marked rifles.


The first image in the top left isn't much different than some J&S marked rifles. Below is the snail on the Sublette-Beale J&S Hawken rifle. The flat area I've highlighted in pink reminds me of a comma, so I refer to this style on J&S rifles as the "comma" snail.


The patent breech on the Atchison Hawken (below) is pretty unique as is the single set trigger. The lock screw threads directly into the standing breech and doesn't go to the off side lock panel. This is very "British", leading me to believe the patent breech, tang, lock, and maybe the triggers were imported from England.



Others have said that the unusual shaped lock plate on the Atchison and Peterson rifles is commonly found on English shotguns of the period. The round faced hammer on a flat face lock is a little odd, but the engraving patterns seem to match. The lock is most likely an English import.

Friend Rich Pierce calls the style of breech bolster on the Atchison Hawken a “conquistador” breech because it reminds him of their helmets. Other Hawken rifles with this shape of bolster do not have patent breech, or what the British called "false breech". They have the “conquistador” breech brazed or forge welded directly on the barrel like the Helena Hawken. Another unique feature of the Atchison Hawken and fits with it being imported.
 

Dphar1950

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Ok, I looked up the book Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, who also wrote No Country For Old Men, and read a synopsis of the book. It does have a character in it named Tobin but he is supposed to be an ex-priest. Probably a fictional character and definitely not Tom Tobin, half-brother of Charles Autobees. I can't find anything related to "My Confession" except a song by Josh Groban and a short work by Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.

If anyone is interested in reading more about Tom Tobin, I highly recommend the biography Tom Tobin: Frontiersman by James E Perkins, paperback – 1999.



I never said that Blood Meridian had anything about Tobin.
And McCarthy based it on "My Confession: Recollections of a Rogue" by Samuel Chamberlain (which I had to search for three times to find again). Kirker was not the only one doing this. And we must remember that Mexicans, given their ethic background, had scalps that could not be distinguished from Apache scalps we understand why paying for scalps was a bad idea. https://www.amazon.com/My-Confession-Recollections-Samuel-Chamberlain/dp/0876111568

The lug on on the rifle in Helena is not brazed on, it is possible it is welded on. W Greener in the mid 1830s wrote that barrels were being welded with the nipple lug in place but no real description of how it was done. I assume it would be easier to simply leave extra iron at the breech. I see this as easier than trying to add a piece after the barrel was welded. Also note that this feature is not as prominent as on the later breech/combined breechplug. It does not protrude beyond the lock plate. I would be very surprised if all the breeches on Hawken rifles did not come from England. Though its possible the later rifles had more domestic parts. Birmingham was making locks and other parts so cheap that competing with them was near impossible. As is indicated by the screen shots from W. Greener's " The Gun", 1835. I would like to find the quote on the nipple seats but cannot recall where it is and there are many pages on barrel making, over 50 just on welding and the various twist and Damascus types. I have no doubt that the American barrel forgers in PA were likely doing similar work if they could compete with the price. Barrel forgers were being paid 1 shilling per barrel or less if Greener is correct. So it was hard to compete. Thus its very possible these early Hawken rifles had barrels from Birmingham. Greener mentions barrels for the Amercian trade. He also mentions that the upper part of the barrel is made separate from the breech end then the pieces welded together (this is found in Trade Gun barrels according to Hamilton in "Colonial Frontier Guns"). Though I suspect this is more often done for 1/2 octagonal barrels for fowlers etc. But this is a guess based on Greener's comments. The breech on the Atchinson rifle indicates that the Hawkens were using both the integral nipple lug and the removable breech with the nipple seat at the same time. There are at least 2 rifles in Baird's book that have similar if not (within the parameters of hand made parts) identical nipple seats. The the FS rifle on pg 27, the HS rifle on Pg 36, and the "local trade" rifle on page 59 while more "modern" in shape may well be integral. The FS obviously has a integral nipple lug the others lack sufficient photos to be sure but the rifle on pg 36 has a very similar shape to the area around the nipple but may well be a removable breech, insufficient detail. I am not sure that Baird looked closely enough at this. For example I really doubt that the Modena rifle really dates to 1833. Might but I doubt it unless the Petersen and the Helena rifle are older than 1833. But unfortunately we don't have enough dated rifles to know.
I would love to debreech the Helena rifle to look at the flash channel...

This book can be found in PDF form on the WWW. But its hard to find as well. Since W.W. Greener's "The Gun and its Developement" is much more common. I downloaded a copy when I found it.

Greener on locks.png
Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 7.17.39 AM.png Screen Shot 2019-09-25 at 7.39.13 AM.png P1020450.jpg
 

plmeek

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I would love to debreech the Helena rifle to look at the flash channel.
That's the question I have, too. How were the flash channels made/drilled on the barrels when the breech bolster is an integral part of the barrel?

If the bolster was formed on when the barrel was made, then it seems to me that they would have had to drilled a whole from the side to form the flash channel. This could have been plugged with a short piece of screw then peened and filed flush. After over 150 years of surface oxidation, this might be hard to see.

If the bolster was added to the barrel after it was made, then the flash channel could have been drilled into the barrel and on the inside of the bolster. By carefully aligning the hole in the barrel with the hole in the bolster and holding the two in place, the bolster could be brazed on the barrel. Brazing can be very strong. I've seen antique barrels that had repairs made by brazing.

Either method may be hard to detect due to age and surface corrosion. A local antique gun restorer and I were looking at an antique military arm and were trying to figure out how they attached the under lugs to the barrel as they weren't dovetailed. We had to look at the joint between the lug and barrel with his engraving microscope before we could see the faint line of brass used to braze the lug on the barrel.

I don't think there is any question that the Hawken brothers used a lot of commercial parts in their rifles including barrels. Surviving Hawken rifles have barrels and locks that are marked with the commercial makers name. Many of these parts were imported from England. It's interesting to me that at other times they made their own barrels and locks.

The lock on the MHS Hawken is a commercial lock and has "TRYON, PHILADA" stamped on it, but they could have made the barrel with the bolster on it as you suggest. Hard to know.
 

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Being serious for a moment this discussion of Mountain rifles vs Plains rifles is extremely interesting, and new territory for me. If possible could you all post some photos to make understanding the details easier for us on the back row?

I assume a half stock rifle of the Lyman GPR style to be a plains rifle? Full stock flinters with more drop and something closer to Lancaster styling is a Mountain rifle?
"Plains Rifle" is a term invented by collectors.
Dan is right. "Plains Rifle" is a 20th century term coined by collectors and set in stone by Charles Hanson, Jr. with his book, The Plains Rifle, published in 1960.

"Mountain Rifle" is a 19th century term, and the one preferred by Sam Hawken himself. He referred to his rifles as "Mountain Rifles" in his 1882 interview. They also used the term "Mountain Rifles" in some of their 1850's advertising.

The two terms could be used interchangeably for the same type of rifle whether it be full stock or half stock. The key for Hanson was that the rifle should be suitable for carry on a horse ("maximum barrel length of 42 inches"), of a large caliber suitable for grizzly and buffalo, and "a barrel...heavy enough for service charges of 100 grains or better."
 

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What is the earliest date that the Hawken brothers would have produced a half stock rifle?

The concept was not new...the M1803 was a half stock. The advantages would seem obvious. Making a barrel rib and keys doesn’t seem any more difficult than working a stock channel and fitting pins to the barrel.

Is there a reason beyond style that the fullstock held on for so long?
With what we know today, it's impossible to say what the earliest date is that the Hawken brothers would have produced a half stock rifle. The surviving records are too incomplete to give us anything but a fuzzy picture about the rifles the brothers made. When a record does mention a Hawken rifle, it rarely provides any description whether it is a half stock or full stock. Depending on how early one wants to push the date of the Peterson Hawken, it may be the best answer we have now.

To your second question, price and familiarity is probably the answer.

In researching for his book on Hawken rifles, Hanson tabulated all the orders he found in period documents for Hawken rifles. He presented the tabulated data in Figure 6 of his book. It should be remembered that these are St. Louis prices, sometimes called first cost in records of the day. Mountain prices were two or three times St. Louis prices. It's also worth mentioning that equivalent NW trade gun prices were around $4.50 apiece, Lancaster brass mounted rifles were $11-12 apiece, and Lancaster iron mounted rifles were $17.50 to $19 apiece.



Hanson found it difficult to interpret the data in the table. He was somewhat amazed at the wide range in prices from a low of $18 to a high of $38 and a small number of "cheap" guns that he doesn't even to bother to price. As stated before, for most of this data no mention was made in the order whether the rifle was half stock or full stock.

Hanson's first thought was that the 18 most expensive rifles were fine engraved J&S Hawken rifles with patch boxes of which the Leonard and May rifles illustrated by John Baird were representative.

Leonard Hawken

May Hawken


"It seemed to fit quite well, with 69 guns falling in the approximate price range quoted by Sam [$22.50 to $25, in his 1882 interview], 14 of somewhat greater cost (perhaps patchboxes or other added features) and 18 high-priced, all turned out by J & S Hawken." But, Hanson didn't think it was realistic that one in six rifles would be the deluxe model.

As a different approach, he noted that an 1841 order listed 4 half stock rifles for $140, or $35, each and 1 Whole Stock Triger Rifle for $26. Then he noted an 1839 order included 4 rifles at $38 and one at $24. An 1847 order listed 1 New rifle half stocked for $30 and an 1855 order for half dozen half stocks for $25 each and half dozen full stocks for $18 each. He senses a trend of half stocks receiving about a 35-60% premium over full stocks. He also notices that the price of half stocks and maybe full stocks are declining over time.

He assumes the price for a Hawken half stock rifle changed as follow.:
  • The earliest half stock rifles of the mid- to late-1830s cost $38
  • Price revision about 1840 to $35
  • Price revision in mid-1840s to $30
  • Final price revision about 1850 to $25
He next assumes any price less than this would be a full stock rifle. This is the purpose of the dotted, stair-step line in his Figure 6 tabulation above--the demarcation between full stock and half stock rifles.

I think this second approach of Hanson's has some merit, but it turns out that there are more surviving deluxe models than Hanson was aware of when his book was published. Assuming a given survival rate, this means more deluxe models initially. There has also been more orders discovered in fur company records since Hanson completed his work. The statistics now would be one in eight J&S rifles would be the deluxe model.

I would move the dotted line to the left to include the 9 pre-1841 rifles in the $28 to $33 range as half stock rifles, too. The two different price ranges for half stocks could be explained by the extra cost features of the higher range. Of course, I'm just guessing just like Hanson did.

Hopefully, one gets an appreciation of the difficulties one encounters in trying to answer questions such at those above.

Hanson's analysis indicated that about one third of rifles were half stock and two thirds were full stock. My updated info yields a 30%/70% split. Either way, based on this price data, a lot more full stocks were ordered than half stocks.

I think this is explained by the price and a general predominance of the full stock rifle during the MM days. A full stock Hawken in the 1830s was $25 or less compared to a iron mounted JJ Henry rifle for up to $19 and a brass mounted Lancaster rifle in the $11 to $12 range. In the 1840s, the first cost price of a Hawken full stock rifle had dropped to about $20. By the mid-1850s, the Hawken price was $18. The Lancaster and Philadelphia rifle price didn't change much in the period from 1830s through the 1850s.

Why were half stock rifles more expensive than full stock rifles?

In the 1820s, the rifles ordered by the fur companies were, in all likelihood, flintlocks. We assume the Hawken brothers made some flintlock rifles in this period but we don't have a bonafide example and only one written record of a Hawken rifle that was probably flint but not noted.

In the 1830s, percussion caps were readily available in St. Louis and some percussion rifles likely went to the mountains. Percussion rifles would have been more common in the 1840s. These early percussion rifles were likely more expensive than flint rifles due to the labor involved in making the percussion breech versus a simple vent hole. In addition, a hooked, patent breech would have been significantly more expensive to make than fixed breech. Surviving J&S full stock rifles all have a fixed patent breech. Only two of the surviving S Hawken full stock rifles that I know of have a hooked breech. One was likely an original flint with an English style hooked flint breech. The other is an original percussion hooked patent breech. The other S Hawken full stock rifles have fixed patent breech. Some surviving J&S half stock rifles have fixed breech but most have a hooked breech.

In summary, early percussion ignition systems would have been more expensive than flint. Hooked patent breech would have been more expensive than fixed patent breech.

Material and labor to make an underrib would have increased the cost of a half stock rifle. The Hawken brothers didn't have much machinery and certainly no milling machine. They would have had to forge out a rib, then file up the profile including the concave portion for the ramrod. Working metal with a file is much slower than working wood with a plane or a rasp.

Anyone that has built a Hawken knows that inletting a hooked patent breech can take longer than a fixed breech.

Considering the higher basic cost of a percussion half stock rifle in the J&S period, customers who could afford one may have been inclined to add extra cost items such as patch box, inlays, and engraving. Of the surviving J&S rifles, more half stock rifles have patch boxes than do full stock rifles.

Other items that could affect the price are quality of the lock, quality of the barrel, figure in the wood, and who built it.
 

Zonie

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With all of this talk about large numbers of Hawken full stock rifles, I find it interesting that only one of them, to the best of my knowledge exists today.
The last I read about the surviving full stock rifle indicated that it was a very early Hawken gun. Much earlier than the St Louis period guns.

I think if a lot of full stock Hawken rifles were made in the early 1800's, at least a few of them would still be around today.
 

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Zonie,

I guess I shouldn't be surprised by your impression. J&S Hawken rifles are less common compared to S Hawken rifles and not that much has been written about them. Baird covered some in his books, and more have come to light since the 1960s when he wrote the books.

A full stock J&S Hawken converted to half stock recently sold at auction. Baird had one picture of it in his second book, but little to no write up on it. I don't even think he examined it in person as he suggested some doubt about it being full stock originally. I saw the rifle in person at the May CGCA show in Denver, and believe it definitely was originally a full stock.



Baird had several pictures of this rifle in his first book. It belonged to Ed Louer at the time. It's now in the Jim Gordon collection. The markings on the barrel are illegible, but believed to be a J&S Hawken rifle.


This J&S Hawken rifle is stamped on the barrel. It once belonged to John Barsotti and a line drawing of it was used to illustrate an article he wrote on “Mountain Men and Mountain Rifles” which originally appeared in Gun Digest magazine in 1955. Photographs of the rifle was used as an illustration in Charles Hanson, Jr.’s The Hawken Rifle: Its Place in History, pages 49 and 53. It's presently in the Jim Gordon collection.


The Orville Dunham J&S Hawken was extensively discussed by Baird in Chapter 4 of his first book. It's in a private collection somewhere.


This is a full stock J&S Hawken that belonged to the Mormon John Brown. The caption describes it and gives its location.


This rifle was originally a full stock that has been heavily damaged and primitive repairs made. It was acquired from the family of James Dunn who was and Oregon pioneer. Dunn was born in “Delaware County, Ohio, Feb. 1, 1818, where he lived until 1840, when he went to Illinois. In 1851 with his family, he immigrated to Oregon”. Some contemporary writers say he was a Wagon Master on the Oregon Trail. The rifle is presently in the Jim Gordon collection. The original breech is missing, but the J&S Hawken stamp is still present on the barrel.


This next rifle is not marked but attributed to J&S Hawken. It was in the Jim Gordon collection.


This last rifle has a barrel marked "S. HAWKEN", but it has all the characteristics of a J&S Hawken. It's very possible that it had been re-barreled by Sam similar to the Medina Hawken. This rifle sold at auction a few year ago.


There are likely other full stock J&S Hawken rifles out there in private collections that have never had pictures published. One of them is the James Clyman full stock J&S Hawken. It is still owned by his descendants.

Hopefully, this gives you and others a new appreciation of the numbers of surviving full stock J&S Hawken rifles.

The data that Hanson researched and tabulated were for orders, mostly from fur companies but some from individuals like John C. Fremont for his 3rd expedition in 1845. Considering the rough treatment they likely were subject to in the mountains (see the Dunn and Barsotti rifles above as a possible examples), it's not surprising there is such a low survival rate. We have very few JJ Henry Lancaster trade rifles today and a lot more of them were made than J&S Hawken full stocks.
 

plmeek

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With all of this talk about large numbers of Hawken full stock rifles, I find it interesting that only one of them, to the best of my knowledge exists today.
The last I read about the surviving full stock rifle indicated that it was a very early Hawken gun. Much earlier than the St Louis period guns.

I think if a lot of full stock Hawken rifles were made in the early 1800's, at least a few of them would still be around today.
Zonie, I read your post again and realized I may not have addressed the part in "bold" above. The rifles in the picture below are all Hawken rifles from "back east" or in the Maryland School. The one with the bag and horn partially covering the forestock is engraved "S. Hawken" in script thought to be made by Sam in Hagerstown or Xenia, Ohio before he came to St. Louis. The one above it is engraved "C & J Hawken" in script. It is assumed to have been made by the father Christian and son Jacob. The top three are marked "W. Hawken" and thought to be by Jacob and Samual's brother William that stayed in Hagerstown and took over their father's gun shop. I think you can see that all these have similar architecture and similar patch box designs, and at least for the lower two, pre-date the St. Louis Hawken rifles.



Another point in your post "about large numbers of Hawken full stock rifles" I think I need to clarify. I don't mean to imply that the Hawken brothers made large numbers of rifles together. There production probably didn't average more than 100 rifles per year. The statistics that Hanson compiled show that of the rifles ordered by the fur companies, a large percentage, not so much numbers, were full stock rifles.

What Hanson was not able to include, because the Hawken records don't appear to have survived, are the numbers of private sales. This would include mountain men that came to St. Louis and ordered a rifle directly from the Hawken brothers. It also would include the local folk that bought Hawken rifles. The James Dunn and John Brown rifles would be examples of these. In fact, it's likely that none of the rifles pictured above were purchased through the fur companies. Hanson fully recognized that his statistics were an incomplete picture of what the Hawken brothers produced, but it's the best he could do with the records available to him at the time.
 

The Crisco Kid

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Phil,
I've mentioned somewhere on this forum (I think) that I knew a fellow named Dick Dunn in Hoskins, Oregon. He had a J&S Hawken rifle that had belonged to an ancestor who had been at Fort Hoskins at it's establishment sometime in the 1800's. It turned out that Dick was a distant cousin of mine. I wonder if he was a relation to the James Dunn you mention?

John Shaw
 

plmeek

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John,

I looked up the location of Hoskins, Oregon and where the James Dunn grave is located in Philomath, and they are in the same Benton County and only 13 miles apart. Looking at Google Maps, there are several land marks with the name Dunn in them like McDonald-Dunn Forest. I would be surprised if your Dick Dunn wasn't related to the James Dunn.
 

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Well, folks, I tried to upload photos of that J&S Hawken at Helena, but can't do it. Flag comes up that says file is too large for the server to process (one photo). I have 11 photos of that rifle. I give up. Regarding Tom Tobin Frontiersman, page 208: "After Tom (Tobin) killed Felipe Niero Espinosa, Felipe's crippled widow Maria Secundina Hurtado and her three young children-- were left destitute, although they had actually been living in extreme poverty for about eight months prior to Felipe's death. Unknown to most people, Tom quietly began contributing to the family's welfare after he had killed Felipe, and he continued helping the family on a regular basis for years."
 

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There was a fullstock, large calibre (.53 I think) J&S Hawken in the private collection of a dear friend in Austin, Tx. I believe it was acquired by him in the late 40’s. It was simply a full stock mountain rifle. However, as I remember it, it had all brass furniture. The triggerguard had the typical scroll, but also had a spur on the bow.

I know Judge Resley, the old west Texas barrel maker, as well as others made castings of the furniture and all the old timer muzzleloaders in the area back in the 60’s had rifles built with the castings off this rifle. While I was still smithing at a shop in Austin about 8 or 9 years ago, a woman brought in one of these new built rifles that had belonged to her father. After inquiring to his name, and stating to her I remembered him very well, I was able to share with her the story of the rifle’s furniture.

I remember that my friend decided to sell the original rifle, and if I remember correctly I believe it was purchased by the old Texas gun collector, Victor Friedrichs shortly before he passed away in 1980. After that, I am at a loss as to the rifle’s present location. I’m sure it went to one of the big auction houses as did his Whitneyville Walker, Paterson revolvers, and Fluck dragoon ( which was found in an east Austin home being used for a doorstop).

The original owner also had a J&S Hawken marked pistol. It had been a family heirloom. I remember it well. It was a small bore. Approx. 38 calibre and had a saw handle checkered stock. I often thought it was a firearm built elsewhere, marked and sold thru the Hawken shop. Just my own musing. As best as I know this pistol is still in the family.

Thank you for allowing me to join the conversation.
 

brazosland

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Plmeek,

Thank you for taking the time to write those replies!

I guess my full stock percussion rifle is perfectly in line with historical accuracy but my half stock flint Hawken is a bit of an oddity.

Is there any historical evidence of flint rifles being converted to percussion by the Hawkens using a drum?
 

The Crisco Kid

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John,

I looked up the location of Hoskins, Oregon and where the James Dunn grave is located in Philomath, and they are in the same Benton County and only 13 miles apart. Looking at Google Maps, there are several land marks with the name Dunn in them like McDonald-Dunn Forest. I would be surprised if your Dick Dunn wasn't related to the James Dunn.
Phil,

This is interesting! More than 40 years ago I probably held in my hands the James Dunn rifle you mentioned. I wish I could remember more about it. I was getting into muzzle loading then and Dick was good enough to let me handle his family heirloom. I remember the rifle as being used to the point of being worn out. There was a grease hole in the stock with a finger wipe in the tallow. I don't remember the caliber or barrel dimensions but am pretty sure it was a half stock. Somehow Dick and his wife Francis owned the Fort Hoskins site. Dick willed it to one of the park services and it has been turned into an interpretive site. A pretty good one I have to say. Dick built a small cinder block tavern for the locals to pass the time in and shoot some pool on the excellent tables he had. This was back in the hills in the Oregon coast range. I spent many a happy hour in the Hoskins Tavern shooting the breeze with the local loggers, hunters, and trappers. Since I grew up just "over the ridge" I fit right in. I'll research the family tree you linked and see what I find. Thanks for the memories!
John
 

The Crisco Kid

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Phil,

I found that Dick Dunn died in 1979 which was 7 or 8 years after the time I've mentioned. He's buried in the Kings Valley cemetery which is where my great grandmother, our common ancestor by marriage, is buried. Is the Dunn Hawken in Denver now? If it is do you what trail it followed to get there?

John
 

plmeek

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Is there any historical evidence of flint rifles being converted to percussion by the Hawkens using a drum?
The simple answer is no, there is no evidence that the Hawken brothers converted flint to percussion using a drum.

Of course “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Hanson in The Hawken Rifle said, "one of the earliest advertisements for caps and conversion service I've seen was by Wm. Goulding in Portland, Maine, November 12, 1827. In 1832 an advertisement by Wheelock & Ames of Portland, Maine, included the note, 'As the PERCUSSION LOCKS are coming into general use, particular attention will be paid in altering the Flint Lock to fire with caps'." Henry J. Kauffman in The Pennsylvania-Kentucky Rifle transcribes an ad by Jacob Fordney from June 23, 1830 that includes, "Guns altered to the Percussion Principle, and all other kinds of REPAIRING done in the best manner, and on the shortest notice."

A couple hardware and gun stores in St. Louis began advertising percussion caps in 1830. The number steadily increased each year. Hanson showed that gun repairs made up a good part of the Hawken brothers business. Even though we have no advertisements by the Hawken brothers mentioning flint to percussion conversions like those cited above. It's very likely that they did perform that service when requested. There's just no hard copy evidence of it.

A related question would be are any Hawken rifles known to have been converted from flint to percussion? That answer is yes. The Smithsonian Hawken is a S Hawken marked rifle built in the 1850s that has been converted from flint to percussion.



In the October 1979 issue of The Buckskin Report was an article by Edward S. Kollar about an early J&S Hawken marked rifle that appeared to have been flint at one time. Unfortunately, the rifle was destroyed in a fire before it was fully vetted and authenticated and is still a question mark today.

In my post #96 in this thread I said, "There is another rifle that has recently come to light that may be another early J&S Hawken rifle. It hasn't been published or vetted and inspected by experts yet, so I can't say it is an authentic Hawken. Time will tell. Don Stith has inspected it and thinks it's credible, so much so, that he has created a parts set for replicas of it...The most important aspect of this new rifle is that it appears to have been flint originally and converted to percussion."

Possible Flint to Percussion Conversion J&S Hawken



Unfortunately, I'm not sure I can help you with your half stock flint Hawken. That may be a pure fantasy rifle.
 

plmeek

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Phil,

I found that Dick Dunn died in 1979 which was 7 or 8 years after the time I've mentioned. He's buried in the Kings Valley cemetery which is where my great grandmother, our common ancestor by marriage, is buried. Is the Dunn Hawken in Denver now? If it is do you what trail it followed to get there?

John
The James Dunn Hawken is in the Jim Gordon collection in New Mexico now.

It may have been in Colorado Springs for a while. The tag that Gordon had on it says "From former collections of Bill Reisner and Kip Rapp." I believe Reisner lived in Colorado Springs before he died. I don't know anything about Kip Rapp unless he was a St. Louis collector.

 
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