Saturday, September 27, 2014

JAMES EDWARD NELSON GUNSMITH & CONFEDERATE SOLDIER


CAPON BRIDGE & close vicinity, was home to many of Hampshire County's early gunsmiths. As we have discussed in past blogs, we give much credit to the Northwestern Turnpike & Bloomery's iron production for fostering the gun making industry in that area.  We have  covered a few of these gun makers  in  previous blogs. Today we are going to share with you what little information we have on James Edward Nelson.

                                                                       

                                    RIFLE MADE BY JAMES EDWARD NELSON
                                                       Click images for large view



James Edward Nelson came into this world on  August 24,1830.  James was the son of Lorenzo Nelson & Mary (Caudy) Nelson. James was the Great Great Grandson of James Caudy, early Hampshire County settler , Indian fighter and the famed legend of "Caudy's Castle".*

In the 1850 census James is listed as a "Farmer".  In the 1870 & the 1880 census he is listed as "Gunsmith". From whom he learned the trade we do not know. However, it may have been one of the Rinehart Brothers, James or John W, most likely the latter.  From earlier research we have found that Zebulon Sheetz influenced James Rinehart. James no doubt taught  his younger brother John W the trade. We also know that Benjamin Shane, Nathaniel Oates & Michael Rannels ( all 3 became  gunsmiths) lived in the same house as John W Rinehart in 1850. This indicates to us that John W did not mind sharing the knowledge and teaching the  skills  required  to pursue the  art  of gun making.
                                                                     

The Image Above Is A Tracing of Furnishings From a Signed Nelson Rifle. 

Exactly where James, had his gun shop we do not know. It is possible he moved a few times in his career. Census records show, Capon Bridge, Bloomery, & Forks of Capon.

Searching Confederate records show us that James Edward Nelson was a Sergeant with the 41st & 23rd Virginia Cavalry. Fortunately he survived  the war to return home to continue his trade.
                                                                               

                                                                         
THE 41ST VIRGINIA CAVALRY MERGED WITH THE 
23RD VIRGINIA CAVALRY
 APRIL 1864
JAMES
SERVED IN BOTH

James died 1882 , you can find his grave  marked by a monument stone in Parks Hollow Cemetery on a  small hill, in the valley that lies between Schafenaker & Cooper Mountain.







About the rifle.
                                                                             
ENGRAVED IN SCRIPT ON TOP OF BARREL
J. E. N.
Click image for large view

                                                                                                                                                               An antique  West Virginia/Virginia  Rifle is a wonderful thing to hold and admire & let your mind go back to earlier times.  But even better, is one that is signed, such as this rifle.  The rifle is signed between the rear sight & the breech on the top flat of the octagon rifled barrel, in script J E N .
                                                                         
DOUBLE SPUR BRASS TRIGGER GUARD

PERCUSSION CAPBOX ON CHEEK SIDE

ENGRAVED BRASS SIDE PLATE

PERCUSSION LOCK

ACORN FINIAL ENGRAVED BRASS PATCHBOX

BRASS NOSE CAP

NICE ROMAN NOSE MAPLE STOCK

 While we have heard there may be at least two more  surviving Nelson rifle, the one pictured here is the only one  we have ever had the  pleasure of holding. This percussion rifle is a little shorter than most area made full stock  long rifles of the period. It may have been cut down from the muzzle end for war use or somebody just liked a short rifle. There is no evidence of it ever being cut at the breech due to corrosion as many percussion rifles have been.  The  barrel is only 32.250 " long and the overall length of rifle is  just 48". It is a .40 cal and has a heavy barrel that is 1.125" across the flats. This makes for a fairly hefty rifle @ 11 pounds. Has double set trigger, that works perfectly , with less than a pound pull on the hair trigger,  made for accurate shooting. One can imagine it being used by a Confederate Militia member or sniper  during the Civil War. However, there is no  strong supporting evidence of this & the caliber  seems a little small for such work. It is more likely that it helped provide some Hampshire County Family  squirrel, rabbit, turkey & deer meat. This rifle sports the typical  Hampshire County acorn finial on the engraved,friction lid, brass patchbox. The Roman nose maple stock is expertly done. Also has the engraved brass capbox on the cheek side, as many 1840-1880  Hampshire County Rifles do.  Other brass furnishing includes , engraved side plate, nose cap,  butt plate , entry pipe & ramrod pipe & very petite double spur trigger guard. The workmanship on this rifle indicates to us that James was a very competent gunsmith.


* http://www.historichampshire.org/scenic/caudy.htm







AS ALWAYS THIS BLOG IS A WORK IN PROGRESS & WE LEARN MORE EVERYDAY. IF YOU HAVE MORE INFORMATION ON JAMES EDWARD NELSON OR A PICTURE OF HIM  OR HIS WORK & WOULD BE SO KIND TO SHARE IT WITH US, PLEASE CONTACT US, USING THE "CONTACT US" AT TOP OF PAGE.

SPECIAL THANKS TO THE OWNER OF THIS RIFLE WHO ALLOWED US TO POST PICTURES OF THIS RIFLE & SHARE IT WITH OTHERS. PLEASE DO NOT COPY PICTURES WITHOUT PERMISSION.