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
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 & another rifle attributed to R P & one relic stock that appears to have been made by R P. One rifle made by R P looks very similar to some of the rifles that Zebulon Sheetz made as you can see in the pictures.
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Attributed to R P
Signed R P
Signed R P
Signed Z Sheetz
Attributed R P
Signed R P
Attributed R P
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.