WANTED HENRY TOPPER RIFLES PLEASE USE CONTACT FORM IF YOU HAVE ONE OR KNOW OF ONE FOR SALE.
Click For Larger View
John "Henry" Topper born 1777 in Northampton Pennsylvania, son of Andrew Topper 1747-1831. Andrew was son of Christian Topper 1715-1789. Christian left Germany in 1748 to settle in America.
Henry Topper can be found in early 1800 records of Cumberland Township, Adams County PA. Henry may have learned the trade of gunsmith near Gettysburg PA and may have had a gun shop there.
In the 1810 and 1820 census Topper is found in Hampshire County Virginia, now West Virginia.
In the 1820 Census of Industry, Henry states that he is engaged in the gun making business, and has one employee. Indicating that he had purchased wood and iron. The previous year he made twelve guns. Toppers Gun shop was on Cold Stream Road not far from where the Edwards Run Public Hunting & Fishing area is today. Probably not much more than a stones throw from where the gun shop of Zebulon Sheetz' was located. With running water from the waters of Edwards Run and the Cacapon River combined with Iron from near by Bloomery, this was an ideal location. Some years later, Benjamin F Shane, James Rinehart and Christopher Sloanaker would find this area just as suitable for making guns as their predecessors.
A few years back I read in "Historical Records of Old Frederick and Hampshire Counties Virginia" By Wilmer L. Kerns, of a cemetery where the daughters of Henry and Maria Topper where buried. In another source I had read that MR Kerns had indicated that the engraving on the headstones were probably that of Henry Topper himself. The precision and skill required for such results, were the reason for this conclusion. Recently I became aware of a rifle signed H T that was attributed to Henry Topper. Upon inspection of the rifle and comparing it with the one on page 98 of " Long Rifles of Virginia" by James T. Butler and James B.Whisker, I concluded the same. To our knowledge these two Topper rifles are the only surviving guns made by him.
The Other Surviving " Henry Topper Rifle" Pictured on page 163 "Gunsmiths of Bedford, Fulton, Huntington & Somerset Counties" by James Whisker & Larry W Yantz also pictured on page 98 " Long Rifles of Virginia" by James Butler & James Whisker"
Maria Ann Topper
* H * T * on top flat of octagon barrel & asterisk to the right.
Click Pictures For larger View
While many gunsmiths have used symbols such as stars, pinwheels, fish, and even the asterisk. It is very possible that since the deaths of his baby daughters, that his use of the symbols was done in remembrance of them. The asterisk in Greek means little star. This symbol is also close to the ancient christian symbol spelling fish in Greek, only lacking the circle that surrounds that symbol.
The flintlock rifle made by Henry Topper has a 44 inch long rifled 50 cal barrel.
Even on the side plate below there is a design that closely resembles the etching on the bottom of Maria's headstone.
Similar design on both the sideplate above & the headstone below.
In 1827 Henry Topper sold his gun shop, house and land to Christopher Slonaker another Hampshire County Gunsmith. In the 1830 Census, Henry Topper is in Napier, Bedford County Pennsylvania. A few years later he is found living in Westmoreland County Pennsylvania. He dies there and is buried in Saint Vincent Cemetery in Latrobe in 1839.
Any information on John "Henry" Topper or guns made by him would be appreciated.
For more information on Topper or other Hampshire County gunsmiths see;
'West Virginia History Volume XLV 1984" William H.Ansel, James B.Whisker
"Gunsmiths of West Virginia" , James B.Whisker, Fred R. Lambert
"Historical Records of Old Frederick and Hampshire Counties Virginia" Wilmer L Kerns
THANKS TO THE COLLECTORS WHO ALLOWED US TO POST PICTURES OF THEIR RIFLES. DO NOT COPY PICTURES.