Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Introduction To Hampshire County's Gunsmiths

By John McKee

 Here's a brief introduction to our gunsmiths here in the county.  First of all Hampshire County was formed from Frederick Co. in 1754.  In 1786 Hardy Co. was formed from Hampshire Co.  Morgan Co. was formed in 1822 from Hampshire Co.  Mineral Co. came along in 1866. This is to give you a general idea of  how large in size Hampshire County was at this time.

 Now I'll give you some idea of the settlement of this part of Virginia.  Port of entry to our country at this time, 1735 to 1800 can generally be considered to be Philadelphia. Baltimore and Williamsburg  were also ports of entry, but for this time frame Philadelphia saw the most movement to this area.  So for the most part we were seeing the movement of people from the North to the South traveling the great wagon road down the Shenandoah Valley. This influx of people populated areas we know as Martinsburg, Harper's Ferry,Winchester, Woodstock, New Market and so on.  The important factor here is Winchester.  From there our area gunsmiths migrated to Romney and other out laying areas.

 The earliest known gunsmith was Jacob Reed.  In 1751 he was found in South Fork of the South Branch area, South of present day Moorefield.  This area at that time was Augusta county Va., but by 1754 was a portion of Hampshire county.  The next early smith that would be close to this area was George Glaze senior of Springfield, settling there around 1768.  Then we have Rudolph Rinehart,  around 1785 he was established near Augusta in or near Bear Wallow Hollow.  Frederick Sheetz set up shop around present day Fort Ashby around 1790.

 No examples exist of the work that Reed, G. Glaze senior or R. Rinehart produced.  So to study their work to see who influenced them is not possible.  However we can surmise that their work was heavily influenced by builders from  Lancaster ,York and the surrounding areas.

 Adam Haymaker and Simon Lauck Sr. both of Pa. establish shops in the Winchester Va. area around 1780 or a little earlier.  We know that George W Glaze Jr. and Frederick Sheetz of Hampshire county both apprenticed under Simon Lauck of Winchester Va. and their work reflect that of the Lauck shop. Frederick finished his apprenticeship just prior to establishing his own shop in present day Fort Ashby,(1790) and later Headsville, near the confluence of Beaver run and Pattersons creek.  This is where he produced his 1812 contract rifles for the state of Virginia.  However his normal work reflected that of the Lauck shop, with low relief carving and silver inlays found on many of his Golden Age guns.

 G. W. Glaze Jr. apprenticed a little later with Lauck and his work also reflects that of the Winchester School.

Gunsmiths here in the county were numerous, numbering up into the 40's.  All moving in and out of the county going to Ohio, Indiana and further points West.

For a more in depth study on the individual smith's . I suggest reading " Early Gunsmiths of Hampshire County" by William H. Ansel, Jr. and the ( Hampshire County Longrifle blog) both sources have a wealth of knowledge for those who want to learn more about the Hampshire county rifle. Known locally for years as the (home rifle.)

Thanks to John McKee for sharing this article with us.

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