Author Topic: John Newcomer  (Read 15800 times)

loco219

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John Newcomer
« on: February 06, 2011, 08:18:52 PM »
How much is known of the Lancaster gunsmith John Newcomer ? One of my hunting buds is a direct decendent, but the family here knows little. Was he someones apprentice? How many known guns are out there? What was the style and quality of his work?

Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2011, 10:49:17 PM »
The Newcomers (John and Abraham) intermarried with the (controversial) Meylin family. The Lancaster County Committee Minutes from 1774-77, which have never been published, contain some interesting material on John Newcomer, who wouldn't make muskets in 1775 (as the Committee demanded all riflemakers do) and later refused (as constable) to assemble a list of men eligible for military service.

Here is an 1824 map of Hempfield Township; you can see "Newcomer" property identified in the lower left quadrant.



There were some articles on the Newcomers back in Muzzle Blasts in 1965, but I've not seen them.

Scott
« Last Edit: February 06, 2011, 11:19:40 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

loco219

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2011, 04:17:56 AM »
So is it safe to say he was a Loyalist? Or at least against the war? I still would like to know about the quality of his work, how much still exists, etc.  I see some contemporary guns for sale " in the style of John Newcomer" , usually graceful long smoothrifles.

Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2011, 04:38:35 AM »
No, I wouldn't say he was a Loyalist. He was a Mennonite, and a lot of Lancaster County Mennonites refused to bear arms--not out of loyalty to Britain but out of religious principles.

Sorry I don't know about how many of his guns survive and where they are.
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline whitebear

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2011, 05:01:51 AM »
spgordon, that's interesting a Menonite who refused to bear arms was a gunmaker! Huuum.
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Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2011, 05:22:23 AM »
Actually, very common. Riflemakers didn't necessarily consider themselves in the "arms" business (rifles were used for killing deer, too--or for protection against Indians), and Newcomer's refusal to make muskets--which were required by the Lancaster County Committee of Observation to fulfill their promise to supply arms for the patriot cause--suggests that he, at least, distinguished between being a gunsmith and supplying weapons for war.

Moravians, too. Although some Moravians (including William Henry) served the patriot cause, the church forbade its members from accepting public office, serving in militias, and even paying for substitutes for military service. Yet the church kept their rifle-making shop at Christian's Spring up and running throughout the war. Given how absolute church authorities were about their non-participation in the war, they wouldn't have kept making rifles if they thought they were making armaments for use in the war.

Scott
« Last Edit: February 07, 2011, 05:33:18 AM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

loco219

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2011, 06:53:58 AM »
Interesting to say the least.
What about the guns he made? Someone here must have some insight on his products and contributions to Lancaster gunsmithing? Please don't be shy!

Offline Tom Currie

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2011, 07:06:34 AM »
George Shumway includes an early Newcomer rifle in his Rifles Of Colonial America volume 2. Unique carving makes this an interesting rifle. There is a Newcomer attributed fowler in Shumways Longrifle Articles series also.
Only 2 I know of.

Offline mr. no gold

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2011, 07:42:49 AM »
About 20 years ago, a rifle (a b-i-i-i-g rifle), was displayed at the KRA, and it was signed John Newcomer. Although the gun now has a patchbox, it was thought to have been added later, (like very recently; it's a late VA patchbox, probably Lauck). The rifle is an early Lancaster piece (second half of the 1700s), with fine carving and engraving. Although presumably built without a patchbox, it has a full octagonal barrel. Additionally, it was in great condition. I think someone said that Kindig owned it and had sold it to the owner who had it at the time of the KRA meeting. I do know that he passed away and that the collection was sold. Where any or all of it went, I don't know.
It was theorized that the box had been added to enhance its value before the sale to Kindig. This was the only Newcomer I knew about, for a time. They are rare! It may be that Old Joe had suspicions about the gun and decided to take it anyway, because of the rarity factor. He knew his guns better than anyone alive, or dead.
There is a place to look where photos can be found, Get a copy of "Kentucky Rifles and Pistols, 1750-1850;" go to pages 55 & 56 where you will find two rifles: one signed and one attributed, well worth looking. It's the KRA book, with gray covers, published by Jim Johnson in 1982. It has photos of scores of rifles.  It was reprinted some years back.
Too bad, Don Newcomer, a dealer of some years ago, isn't still with us; he must have been a descendent, too. He would certainly have known where to find a Newcomer rifle.
Best regards-Dick   

Offline Curt J

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2011, 08:07:19 AM »
I had a high school teacher, named Joe Newcomer, who was also a direct descendant of John. He was well aware that John was a rifle maker, and we talked about it occasionally. He passed away about 35 years ago, and has no family left in the area.

Yes, there were lots of Mennonite gunsmiths. There was one a few miles from me who made some fine percussion schuetzen rifles. I have one! His name was Christian Schoettler.  There were also Amish gunsmiths, by-theway.

Offline G-Man

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2011, 05:07:24 PM »
The great English styled longrifle with English fowler styled hardware, which Shumway included in Volume II of RCA with the southern rifles under the assumption that the strong English styling influence suggested a Virginia origin, has recently been attributed to John Newcomer of Lancaster, based on similarities to a signed piece.  So that makes two more.    I don't know the number from RCA offhand, but I am sure someone here will know.

Guy

loco219

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2011, 06:52:33 PM »
Are any of these guns in museum or collection where they can be measured for a documentary copy?

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2011, 06:56:29 PM »
Shumway attributed the fowler style wood patchbox rifle in Volume 2 to John Bullard based on details it shared with 2 or 3 Rubin and John Bullard fowlers that were made near Fredericksburg VA. This rifle has several interesting details including a fowler style stock and a silver hine sight. It is in the Colonial Williamsburg collection an usually on display at the DeWitt Wallace Gallery.

Then a signed John Newcomer rifle turned up at the KRA show that was very much like the one in Volume II and the attribution was changed. This latest discovery has a brass box that is "unique" in that it seems to reveal a style completely different from the traditional or typical Lancaster box. Interesting to speculate that there might have been two concurrent Lancaster styles and that one died out.

There is also an ad in the Pennsylvania Gazette for a gun signed Newcomer that was  "lost or stolen" from a wagon. When I get a chance I'll search the on line index for that reference. AIR it gave a description and the current owner of the rifle Dick mentioned thinks his may be that very one.

Gary
"If you accept your thoughts as facts, then you will no longer be looking for new information, because you assume that you have all the answers."
http://flintriflesmith.com

Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2011, 07:06:56 PM »
Here's the material from the PA Gazette:

November 25, 1772
The Pennsylvania Gazette
FOUR DOLLARS Reward.
LOST, or taken out of a waggon loaded with hops, betwixt the river Sasquehanna and Philadelphia, upon the 5th, 6th, or 7th day of this present month November, a strong board CASE, without mark or direction, inclosing a very neat new FOWLING PIECE, 4 feet 2 inches in the barrel, 5 feet 5 inches the whole length of the gun, with a curled walnut stock, sliding loops, mounted with brass, the foresight and thumbpiece silver, the makername John Newcomer, engraven upon the hind part of the barrel, near the figure of a manhead, and J. Newcomer engraven on the lock. Whoever has found the same, is desired to deliver it to Joseph Vandegrist, at the sign of the Cross keys, in Chestnut street, Philadelphia; to Caleb Way, at the sign of the Waggon, on the Philadelphia road; to Matthias Slough, at the sign of the Swan, in Lancaster; or to James Wright, in Hempfield, near Susquehanna, and they shall receive FOUR DOLLARS reward. JAMES WRIGHT.

From Eric Kettenburg's excellent site: http://web.mac.com/kettenburgs/Site_3/PA_Gazette_III.html

By the way, the remark "near the figure of a manhead" may very well refer to the "indian head" that folks are discussing on another forum (http://americanlongrifles.org/forum/index.php?topic=14513.0).

Scott
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

loco219

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2011, 08:25:47 PM »
So if I am reading that correctly, Mr. Wright got his brand new gun stolen out of the wagon, and a four dollar reward would have been quite hefty for the time. Appears as if some things never change. The story isn't too detatched from a guy out hunting today and leaving a gun in the car and having it stolen when he stops for lunch somewhere. 

mkeen

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #15 on: February 07, 2011, 09:34:20 PM »
The Newcomers (John and Abraham) intermarried with the (controversial) Meylin family.



Scott

Scott, what is your source for John Newcomer being intermarried with the Meylin family? In 1766 he was married to Elizabeth Stoneman, the daughter of the deceased Christian Stoneman. See Lancaster County deed M 293. Abraham Newcomer married Anna Herr, the widow of Martin Meylin II (d. 1751). A rifle made by John Newcomer is pictured in Wood & Whisker's Arms Makers of Lancaster County, pages 136-137. It is unknown if the rifle was by John Newcomer the father or his son John.

Mart Keen

Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #16 on: February 07, 2011, 09:50:44 PM »
Sorry, sloppy language there. I didn't mean that both Newcomers married into the Meylin family. I meant only that Abraham did--as you say, marrying the widow of Martin Meylin (son of the controversial Martin Meylin). I think I was trying just to indicate that there were two Newcomers (John and Abraham) but that then interfered with my attempt, simultaneously, to say that the Newcomers and the Meylins were related by marriage.

(That Martin Baer I was searching for a while back, btw, was the grandson of Anna and Martin Meylin.)

-- Scott
« Last Edit: February 07, 2011, 10:54:44 PM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2011, 01:34:03 AM »
So if I am reading that correctly, Mr. Wright got his brand new gun stolen out of the wagon, and a four dollar reward would have been quite hefty for the time. ...

In my never ending push to keep the colonial money situation in mind --- the "4 dollars" being offered as a reward were Spanish mill dollars or what many know as "pieces of eight." A Spanish dollar (in the late colonial period) was valued at 4 shillings 6 pence British Sterling and 7s 6d Pennsylvania. So the 4 dollar reward was 30 shillings PA Currency (1 and 1/2 pound PA ).

Gary
"If you accept your thoughts as facts, then you will no longer be looking for new information, because you assume that you have all the answers."
http://flintriflesmith.com

Offline Jay Close

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2011, 05:53:20 PM »
Gary, I don't get out much. Any photos of this new-found Newcomer floating around?? -- Jay

Offline nord

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #19 on: February 08, 2011, 07:19:43 PM »
Contributed by Dr. Whisker...

Newcomer gunsmiths of Lancaster Co area.

Abraham Newcomer. gunsmith. Abraham Newcomer married the widow of Martin Meylin. Reportedly, Abra­ham had run the smithy and forge on the Meylin Planta­tion earlier. Abraham was noted as a gunsmith when he testified at the coroner's inquest on 28 February 1764, which inquest was called to investigate the deaths of Conestoga Indians in 1761 at the hands of the "Paxton Boys." Newcomer testified that the Conestoga had threat­ened to scalp him unless he sharpened and mended their weapons. Others of Newcomer's friends and relatives, including several gunsmiths, were brought into court as witnesses. It is likely that Abraham Newcomer was one of those, along with his minister, who planned the massacre of the Conestoga who had taken refuge in the Moravian Graveyard. "Abraham Newcomer, a Mennonite, by trade a gunsmith ... testified on the extermination of the Conestoga Indians that two Indians had threatened to scalp Newcom­er when he refused to mend their tomahawks." [Parkman, Conspiracy of Pontiac,II, appendix, p.168]. He was listed as being a gunsmith in 1764 in Rupp's History of Lancaster County (p.165). Lancaster tax lists of 1758, 1759 and 1769 show no such person. In 1771 a man with this name was an overseer of the poor in Conestoga Township; and was a township auditor in 1772, 1774, 1776-77, 1780-82 and 1785. In 1782 he appraised John Newcomer's estate. There was a will for this man dated 1794 which listed a son Abraham [Will G-1-249].

Christian Newcomer. gunsmith. As early as 1788 there was a weaver named Christian Newcomer in Hempfield Township. In 1802 and 1803 Christian Newcomer, gun­smith, with 5 acres, was taxed in Hempfield Township., Lancaster County. There were other men by this name in the area. The gunsmith was taxed on the trade only in two years, although he remained in the same place through 1822.

 John Newcomer, I (-1782). gunsmith. In 1763 John was taxed on the trade of "gun" in Hempfield Township. In 1769 there were four men of this name in this area. In 1775 there were two: "Sr. & GS" and "BS & Farmer." The gunsmith was taxed through 1781. On 30 August 1766 John New­comer, blacksmith, and Elizabeth, his wife, bought land in Hempfield Township., Lancaster County, which they sold on 12 January 1768 [Deed Book M: 293]. On 17 Novem­ber 1767 John Newcomer, blacksmith, bought land in Hempfield Township, Lancaster County [Deed Book M: 160]. His name also showed on court records of 1767. The Pennsylvania Gazette of 6 January 1773 carried a notice that a fowling piece with a barrel 4 feet, 2 inches in length, and an overall length of 6 feet, made by John Newcomer, had been stolen. Johannes Neukommer was married to a lady named Elizabeth. His will was written 1814 and probated 1821. Had 8 children. Mennonite. His estate was appraised on 14 November 1782. It showed:

 Gunsmith Tools, 60/0/0

Wheelwright's tools, 25

Tools in Blacksmith Shop, 8/2/6

A Grindstone with crosscut saw 3/0/0

A Lathe & Set of Wheelwright's Tools, 25

Some Old Brass @ 12d per lb., 2/8/0


FOUR DOLLARS Reward. LOST, or taken out of a waggon loaded with hops, betwixt the river Sasquehanna and Philadelphia, upon the 5th, 6th, or 7th day of this present month November, a strong board CASE, without mark or direction, inclosing a very neat new FOWLING PIECE, 4 feet 2 inches in the barrel, 5 feet 5 inches the whole length of the gun, with a curled walnut stock, sliding loops, mounted with brass, the foresight and thumbpiece silver, the makername John Newcomer, engraven upon the hind part of the barrel, near the figure of a manhead, and J. Newcomer engraven on the lock. Whoever has found the same, is desired to deliver it to Joseph Vandegrist, at the sign of the Cross keys, in Chestnut street, Philadelphia; to Caleb Way, at the sign of the Waggon, on the Philadelphia road; to Matthias Slough, at the sign of the Swan, in Lancaster; or to James Wright, in Hempfield, near Susquehanna, and they shall receive FOUR DOLLARS reward. JAMES WRIGHT.

[Pennsylvania Gazette, 25 November 1772]

John Newcomer, II. gunsmith. From 1780 through 1783 John Newcomer, II, lived in Hempfield Township., Lan­caster County. [tax]. From 1805 through 1811 he was taxed in Hellam Township, York County.

Regarding the religious dissenters and guns. Many of the Brethren used guns to hunt with and shoot recreationally, but were opposed to carrying arms in war. The NC Moravian Archives show several times the Moravian Brethren of the Order were ordered to hide their equipment, etc., when the army was nearby. The Brethren generally traveled freely among the native aborigine because they were pacifists; however some or many Brethren too up arms after Braddock's Defeat and the subsequent Amerindian uprising.





In Memory of Lt. Catherine Hauptman Miller 6/1/21 - 10/1/00 & Capt. Raymond A. Miller 12/26/13 - 5/15/03...  They served proudly.

mkeen

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #20 on: February 08, 2011, 09:30:54 PM »
Contributed by Dr. Whisker...

Newcomer gunsmiths of Lancaster Co area.

 It is likely that Abraham Newcomer was one of those, along with his minister, who planned the massacre of the Conestoga who had taken refuge in the Moravian Graveyard.



Dr. Whisker, what is the source for this statement? Are you saying that Abraham Newcomer's minister planned the killing of the Conestoga Indians in the Lancaster jail? This is the only place I have ever seen this claim and would seem to be totally in error.

Mart Keen

Offline spgordon

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2011, 03:51:16 AM »
There is no evidence whatsoever that Abraham Newcomer planned, or even participated, in any incident related to the Paxton Boys incidents.

The only connection between A. Newcomer and the events can be found in Thomas Barton's (Anglican minister in Lancaster) pamphlet defending the Paxton Boys. Even there, though, Barton only states that Newcomer appeared before Lancaster's chief burgess and swore that "divers Times within these few Years, Bill Soc and Indian John, two of the Canestogoe Indians, threatened to scalp him...as soon as they would a Dog." He testified further that a few days before the Indians were killed, Bill Soc "brought a Tomahoawk to him to be steel'd, which this Affirmant refusing to do, the said Bill Soc threatened, and said 'you will not! you will not! I'll have it mended to your Sorrow'--From which expressions the Affirmant hath declared that he apprehended Danger from said Soc."

Barton uses Newcomer's testimony, in effect, only to prove his (Barton's) general argument that the murdered Indians were not innocents--that the Paxton Boys targeted enemy Indians, not peaceful ones as Franklin and others charged.

There is no suggestion that Newcomer participated in the events, let alone "planned" them.

I don't understand the reference to taking "refuge" in the "Moravian graveyard," either. The colony put the Indians in Lancaster's prison for their own safety--into which the Paxton Boys broke and slaughtered the Indians.

Scott
« Last Edit: February 09, 2011, 04:55:54 AM by spgordon »
Check out The Lost Village of Christian's Spring:
https://christiansbrunn.web.lehigh.edu/
And The Letters of Mary Penry: A Single Moravian Woman in Early America
http://www.psupress.org/books/titles/978-0-271-08108-3.html

Offline flintriflesmith

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #22 on: February 10, 2011, 06:13:52 AM »
Gary, I don't get out much. Any photos of this new-found Newcomer floating around?? -- Jay

Jay,
It is in a private collection and the access to it, and pictures of it, have been tightly controlled. I'm 99% sure that it isn't published or on line at this time.
Gary
"If you accept your thoughts as facts, then you will no longer be looking for new information, because you assume that you have all the answers."
http://flintriflesmith.com

Offline Dr. Tim-Boone

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #23 on: February 11, 2011, 02:00:24 AM »
Jim Chambers has a kit which is reported to be based on the newcomer gun in the DeWitt Wallace museum.  That gun in the museum was a mind bender to me. alll of the guns I had seen before were 10-12 lb pieces of timber and this rifle is grqaacceful and really!!! slender. I think one of the prettiest I have seen in terms of architecture.
http://www.flintlocks.com/rifles03.htm
« Last Edit: February 11, 2011, 04:51:37 PM by DrTimBoone »
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loco219

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Re: John Newcomer
« Reply #24 on: February 11, 2011, 02:54:45 AM »
I have seriously thought about having this Chambers kit built. There is one on Gunbroker finished, but it looks like they "jazzed" it up with extra inlays. It has been for sale for several months, I just don't like the extras on that gun, it detracts from the overall appearance, my humble opinion.