Monday, October 30, 2017

Who Was H. P. Harrison & R P?

As much as we have studied the old rifle makers from here in this wonderful state of West Virginia, we still don't have all the answers.  They're so many rifles that are not signed, we can only give an educated guess of attribution from signed rifles we have handled that wear similar characteristics.  Then there are the rifles that are signed, but no maker by that  name has been uncovered. 

A while back a rifle came to our doorstep that was made in Hampshire county probably in the 1830's.  On the top flat of the octagon barrel between the rear sight & the breech, you can see the signature H. P. Harrison.  While searching for this maker in any place, we thought an answer might be hidden.  We managed to find two more rifles signed the same way.  We are not so fortunate to have any photos of those, but we did see them, so they do exist.  If we get photos of them & permission we will post them here.                                                              
                                                          Click Pictures for Larger Image

                                                                 Signed H P Harrison
                      Records indicating that John Harrison was a substitute for his brother Henry

So, we started digging around in records & after numerous hours and even days, we  came up with one possible candidate, Henry Harrison.  I will not bore you with all the details,  only enough that you may be able to help us fill in the blanks.  This Henry Harrison who lived in Hampshire County, came here  before 1820 & died in present day Mineral County in 1867.   He was born in Saint Marys County, Maryland in 1790 son of Joseph.  1820 records indicate he resided close to Zebulon & Frederick Sheetz both gunsmiths.  Frederick Sheetz, manufactured some of the Virginia Militia Contract Rifles .  Later, Henry can be found in present day Antioch located in Mineral County.  At some point Harrison's had a mill there.  During that time the  place was called Harrison's Mill.  During the War of 1812, John Harrison brother of Henry served in the war in place of Henry.  So, our speculation is, if this Henry had his brother serve in his place, then it is a possibility that maybe he was working with Frederick Sheetz on the Contract Rifles . That would have been good reason to have John serve as his substitute.  Another point that this Henry Harrison might be the maker of these rifles  his family had a mill, after he moved to present day Antioch.  The fact that Frederick Sheetz had a Mill as well as a gunsmith shop, could  have been the catalyst to Harrison's mill.  We have found more than one gunsmith who  owned  a mill.  I checked several records such as estate sale records, there was tools and such but not a specific listing of gunsmith tools.  One problem with this Henry as the maker of these rifles is that nowhere in our research can we find him using the letter P as a middle initial.  As a matter of fact we find no mention or use of a  middle name or initial in any records thus uncovered.  We also did not find him listed as a gunsmith in any records.  We are not stating that this Henry Harrison is the maker of the three signed pieces, we just believe he is a plausible candidate.  So if any of our readers have any information on this Henry Harrison having worked as a gunsmith, or some other person by the name of H P Harrison being a gunsmith,  please contact us via the contact form at the top of the blog.

Now, " Who is R P" ?  We have found two rifles signed by R P.  Both rifles made by R P look very similar to some of the rifles that Zebulon Sheetz made as you can see in the pictures.
Top to bottom
Attributed Zebulon Sheetz
Signed R P
Signed R P
Signed Z Sheetz

                                                                      Signed R P
                                                                      Signed R P
Attributed Zebulon Sheetz
                                                                       Signed R P                      
                                                                      Signed R P
Attributed Zebulon Sheetz
We believe that R P must have worked with Zebulon Sheetz, either as a apprentice or a journeyman  in his shop.  This R P should not be mistaken for rifles signed  R M P, who is Richard Miller Patterson of Marion County, as their work is not of the same hand, neither is their signature.   As in  previous "mystery maker" we are asking for your help. If you have any info on the makers or rifles signed the same way, we would appreciate you contacting us, using the contact form at top of page.
Thanks, Mark 

Monday, August 22, 2016


     By Jeff Sperry                                                                                                                           

Samuel Todd Sherwood   
Doddridge County West Virginia Gunsmith

Samuel Todd Sherwood, known as Todd Sherwood in the local community, was born on July 7, 1828 in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.  Samuel is the son of Joseph and Mary Sherwood.  The Sherwood family moved to West Union in Doddridge County, West Virginia in 1838 when Samuel was 10 years old.  Samuel Todd Sherwood married Drusilla Bland on Nov. 17, 1853 and had they four children named Mary, Sarah, Joseph Wayne and Lucy Ellen. Samuel and Drusilla purchased land on the banks of Meathouse Fork of Middle Island Creek near the community of Blandville in New Milton District of Doddridge County.  Samuel T. Sherwood first shows up as a Gunsmith in the 1860 US Census. 

A Todd Sherwood was enumerated in the 1850 US Census living with the family of John and Mahala Engle in West Union, WV.  John is the oldest son of Ezra Engle and older brother of James E. Engle, both gunsmiths from neighboring Tyler County.  We are still trying to determine where Samuel Todd Sherwood worked as an apprentice.  His rifles appear to be closely related to the Patterson Rifles from Fairmont, WV but we have not been able to make a positive connection. 

Click Pictures for Larger Image.

Postcard picture of Samuel Todd Sherwood’s Gun Shop and Mrs. Drusilla Sherwood near Blandville, Doddridge County, West Virginia about 1909.

Sherwood marked his rifles S.T.S in block letters but there are a few rifles which are known to have been marked in script letters S.T.S

 Most Sherwood guns are quite plain, however, he also built some very fancy rifles later in his life with carved brass cap boxes and silver inlays.  

The rifle shown below is a beautiful example of Sherwood’s work with a carved brass cap box, butt plate and trigger guard along with the coin silver inlays including a nice acorn inlay and the flowers on the cheek piece.  The rifle has a 39 ½ inch barrel, 32 caliber and is 7/8 inch across the flats.

                                           Both Sides Full Length

                         Three Quarter Left side with silver acorn and flower inlays

                                  Detail of cheek piece with coin silver flower inlay

                 Three Quarter right Side showing engraved cap box and silver acorn inlay

                                                      Detail of engraved cap box

The next Sherwood rifle is a fine target rifle with a more elaborate carved brass patch box and the stock is made of walnut.  The barrel is 38 inches long and 1 1/16 across the flats and is .52 caliber. 
                                                            Full length both sides
                                                          Three Quarter right Side
                                                       Detail of Engraved Patch Box
                                                                    Detail of Lock
                                                         Detail on end of target barrel

The next Sherwood is a beautiful curly figured Walnut full stock rifle. in 38 caliber featuring a 44-inch tapered barrel starting at 1 inch at the breech and being ¾ inch across the flats at the muzzle.  This rifle is unique having the carved cap box, trigger guard, butt plate, carved wear plate along with the ribs, tubes, and end cap all being made of German silver.  We have found two order forms from Greer and Laing where Sherwood ordered German Silver gun mounts and this is one of the rifles Sherwood built with the German Silver.   This unique rifle also includes 8 coin silver inlays

                                                          Both Sides Full Length 

                                                         Three Quarter Right Side
                                           Detail of Engraved German Silver Cap Box
                                                         Three Quarter Left Side
                                       Detail of left Side Coin Silver Hunter’s Star inlay
                                                 Detail of German Silver Wear Plate

The next Sherwood rifle is a beautiful .38 Caliber full stock with a 40 inch barrel 7/8 across the flats.  It has an engraved brass cap box along with a brass butt plate and trigger guard.  This rifle has 8 coin silver inlays including a poplar leaf inlay on the cheek piece.                                   

                                                         Full Length Both Sides
                                                        Three Quarter Right Side
                                                 Detail of Engraved Brass Cap Box
                                                       Three Quarter Left Side
                              Detail of Cheek Piece with Coin Silver Poplar Leaf Inlay

The last Sherwood rifle I have included to show you is the most common rifle Todd Sherwood built.  It has a fine curly maple stock with a 40 inch .36 caliber barrel 7/8 across the flats.  It has a nice brass butt plate and trigger guard.  These rifles were mostly plain but very functional for the settlers of Western West Virginia. 

                                           Full Length Both Sides

                                                        Three Quarter Right Side

                                                           Three Quarter Left Side 

We have found that Todd Sherwood was most active making rifles from the late 1860’s until his death in 1900 with most of the activity in the 1870’s and 1880’s. From the records we have recently obtained, we have original invoices from “GREER & LAING” in Wheeling, West Virginia dating from May 29, 1866 until February 6, 1900 where Todd Sherwood ordered  249 gun barrels, along with steady orders for double triggers, ribs, ramrod pipes, bullet molds, gun locks, gun nipples, musket nipples, sheet brass, solder, bar lead, bastard files, flat files, sand paper, caps, powder, etc. 

Shown below are a few examples of S. T. Sherwood’s orders for gun parts. 
                          Order placed on December 22, 1869. 

                           Order dated February 10, 1881

                               Order placed Nov. 17, 1891  

 Below is part of a letter from Samuel Sherwood’s nephew, W. C. Sherwood in California ordering a rifle and describing how he would like it to be built.

July 7th , 1878
Dear Uncle, I seat myself to drop you a few lines in answer to your letter which I received on the 4th As you asked several questions I will begin to answer.  You have your choice mountains or prairie the mountains are timbered with pine and oak. Lots of deer I have been feasting on them. I have killed 24 since I have been here and haven’t hunted any neither. With a good many Bear the Grizzly and Brown Bear, the Squirrel, the Grouse, of fish there is any amount.  The Salmon and Trout is the principal kind. There is dead loads of them.  The climate there is no better.  I like the country far and a head of West Va. If you start to any of the Western country it won’t cost you but a little more to come to California and see for yourself.  You know we come here in the dead of winter and I thought I would freeze us in the train cars and when we got here the apple trees were in blossom and everything else.  It scarcely ever snows in the valley but it snows a heap on the big mountains.  There is snow on the peaks now.  As a location for your trade I don’t think there is any better if there was timber for stalks.  There is maple but I don’t think it is curly and no walnut or sugar tree.  My latitude is 200 miles North of San Francisco and as a farming country I don’t think it can be beat - especially for wheat it is celebrated.  Land sells for about $20 per acre in this valley at the present time.  I am at work in the carpenter trade such as building barns and am getting $30per month.  I will be at home in 2 years if nothing happens.  So I will close for the present.  Anything you want to know about this country.  Let me know and you will get the truth about it.  Write soon and give me the news.
Yours Respectfully,

I want you to make me a gun.  About a $20 gun with a barrel about 3 feet and 2 or 4 or 6 inches.  The kind of stalk you can suit yourself to run about 90 balls to the pound.  Let me know in your letters when it will be ready.  Guns sell here for $40 and $50 dollars. 

This is the letter is from W.C Sherwood instructing Samuel. T. Sherwood where to send the new rifle.

Sept. 15th, 1878 
Dear Uncle, I received your letter of Aug. 30th and am sorry to say that I did not receive your other letter.  I had wrote another letter to you but had not mailed it.  Send the gun C.O.D. on this account.  I am about 30 miles from the express office in the mountains and don’t want to come in til I am dome which will take about two weeks then I will be in to stay.  I will send you a $20 piece in gold which is very scarce with you I guess. 
Address the gun to:    Canelo
                                       Round Valley
                                       Mendocino Co., California
This leaves me well
Respectfully yours,
                                       W.C. Sherwood

Here is the letter from W. C. Sherwood in the spring of 1879 telling Samuel T. Sherwood what he had recently shot and how pleased he was with the new rifle.

 May 12th 1879
Dear Uncle,
 I received your letter written March 23rd  also one a few days after Christmas of which I answered and told you large hunting tales. I have killed about 40 deer with my new gun.  It can’t be beat in America if I have anything of a fair chance I can drop them every time.  I am going in the morning out in the mountains about 20 miles from the Valley to build a home for a man.  It will take most all summer.  I expect to tumble a few more old bucks while up their.  My intention is to come home this fall.  I aint sure that I will.  It will only be 8 years this fall.  I aint very home sick yet.  For I am well contented here as I could be any place.  I like the climate besides.  I can have more fun huntin than any place else this side of the Atlantic and make just as much at work.  It has been very wet here this winter but the rain is over til November.  We don’t fear rain in harvest.  Harvest begins next week wheat crop is as nice as could be barley oats.  There is a great stir about Texas and California.  A great many has gone from here their.  If I come home this fall I shall go through Texas and look at the country a little.  There was a man went their last spring. He came back on a visit this winter.  He says it is so far ahead of California that he would not live here a lot.  He went back to Texas.  I will write again and maybe the next time I will have a little more time.  This letter has been delayed.  Some where I never sent it til today.  It has been wrote nearly two months.  No more at present.
But remain yours,

It appears likely that Samuel T. Sherwood was an active gunsmith until his death in 1900.  His estate was inventoried on December 26, 1900 and recorded in the Doddridge County WV Courthouse in Fiduciary Book 6 at Page 47.  Below is a partial list of Sherwood’s gun shop tools and inventory at his death.

Old rifle gun marked No. 1                                                      $3.00
Old rifle gun marked No. 2                                                       $.25
Old rifle gun marked No. 3                                                      $3.50
New smooth bore gun marked No. 4                                     $4.00
Rifle gun marked No. 5                                                            $3.00
Flintlock Daniel Boone gun marked No. 6                             $5.00
Shot pouch, knife and flask                                                       $.50
The whole set gunsmith tools                                               $50.00
100 or more sheets sand paper                                                $.30
1 keg rifle powder about 8 lbs                                                $1.50
5 gun barrels                                                                             $0.50
1 shot gun and case                                                                  $1.00
1 long barreled shot gun                                                          $1.00
1 sack powder                                                                           $0.25
1 house pistol gun                                                                     $0.75
21 boxes musket caps                                                              $0.75
20 boxes rifle gun caps                                                            $0.60
Lot of powder horns and ammunition                                   $1.00
1 pair buck deer horns                                                             $0.25
1 house dressed deer skin                                                       $0.50
4 ground hog skins – leather                                                   $0.40

Total appraised value                :      $493.30
A public sale of Samuel Sherwood’s estate took place on January 10, 1901 and is recorded in the Doddridge County WV Courthouse in Fiduciary Book 6 at Page 66.  Listed below are a few items of interest along with the sale price.

Purchaser                             Item                                       Price
  Ralph Givins                                 one gun                                           $1.00
W. C. Parks                                     gun fixtures                                    $0.20
M. Clark                                          gun powder                                    $0.25
A. Sutton                                         896 ft lumber                                 $1.46
G. W. McNeamer                          one gun barrel                               $1.00
B. Langfrit                                       one sack powder                           $0.85
Lace Hurst                                       gun fixtures                                    $0.50
E. Bee                                              one gun                                           $3.50
B. Langfrit                                       one gun barrel                               $1.85
G. W. McNeamer                          one gun barrel                               $2.80
A.T. Randolph                                one gun                                           $1.50
A. Sutton                                         200 ft lumber                                 $3.70
Frank Douglass                              one bunch files                              $2.30
Lute Maxwell                                 gun powder                                    $0.50
A Sutton                                          ground hog skins                           $0.40
Lute Maxwell                                 one buck skin                                 $1.40
Hugh Cahill                                     one gun                                           $15.00
Frank Pearl                                     one revolver                                   $0.95
James Bacus                                   one shot gun                                  $1.05
T. F. Jones                                       Blacksmith tools                            $3.75
R. A. Ball                                          one gun                                           $14.30
Stuff sold in shop, gun stocks, etc.                                                      $5.00
Total of the Estate Sale:                                          $310.87

Samuel Todd Sherwood died on December 14, 1900 and is buried at the Cowan Cemetery near the banks of Meathouse Fork of Middle Island Creek about 6 miles South of the Town of West Union, WV 

“S. T. Sherwood was for more than a quarter of a century one of the best pioneers in this section of West Virginia.  Having established a reputation as a gunsmith second to none in the entire state, the marvelous skill and accuracy of his workmanship were known to our fathers over a wide area of the Western foothills”  As written in the Obitutary of Drusilla Sherwood    

Click for Larger Image



We appreciate  Jeff Sperry & Ed Rayl  for sharing this  research and excellent  pictures with us. Hope you enjoyed, Mark 

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