Author Topic: The Bear Creek School  (Read 8239 times)

Offline Hurricane ( of Virginia)

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The Bear Creek School
« on: February 09, 2009, 05:48:58 AM »
First, I would like to start off with a heart-felt Thank You to Dr. Fred Garner (Hurricane on here), Nord, and Dennis, for their yowman like work effort to create the virtual library on this site.  I was asked by Dr. Fred if I would be willing to have the articles I had posted on this site over the last year be moved into the library and I gladly agreed.

Dr. Fred has also requested that I please write a series of articles on the different Schools within North Carolina Longrifles.  I have agreed to do this and hope this informtion will be found to be useful to those who would like to learn more about these subjects on this site.

I have been collecting North Carolina Longrifles for close to thirty years now.  I am a life long native of the state and have become good friends with most of the other big collectors of these rifles and have been able to visit their homes, look at and handle their prized  possessions. This has given me the opportunity to be exposed to more of these Longrifles than most. I do not consider myself to be an expert on the subject. (Back in the 80's a collector friend told me that when it comes to collecting historical weapons, the definition of the word expert, is someone that is more than 200 miles from home, then you can be an expert on any subject.  I have lived here all of my life.)

In his ground breaking book "The Longrifles of North Carolina" the late John Bivins talks of rifles being made in 10 different Counties. This book was originally published in 1968. Since then a number of new important rifles have surfaced a lot of significant research by people like my friends Bill Ivey, Arron Capel, the late Dr. Harley MacIntosh and myself.
Today, we believe for the most part North Carolina Longrifles can be broken down into nine different Schools.  Here is a list of the nine Schools.

1. Bear Creek School.
2. Lower Deep River School.
3. Guilford or Jamestown School.
4. Salem School.
5. Davidson School.
6. Rowan School.
7. Mecklenburg School.
8. Catawba Valley School.
9. Appalachian School.

In this first article we will look at the Bear Creek School. This School is largely centered around two familys of gunsmiths. The Kennedy Family of Mechanic's Hill (now known as the town of Robbins) in Moore County and the Harper Family of Chatham County.  John Bivin's described the Kennedy's as a large gunsmithing group, working from the Revolutionary period until after the Civil War. The first and oldest of the Kennedy gunsmiths was named Alexander Kennedy. He moved from Pennsylvania to Moore County, North Carolina prior to the Revolutionary War. I have seen one relief-carved Longrifle that was made by him.  David Kennedy was born in 1768 in Pennsylvania and moved to North Carolina in or about 1795. He died in Alabama in 1837. He became the most prolific of the Kennedy Gunsmiths and was the best known. The Second Edition of the Longrifles of North Carolina features both an outstanding Longrifle and and pistol by David Kennedy on pages 220, 221, 222, and 223. The rifle belongs to a close friend of mine and the pistol is on display at MESDA. (The Museum of Early Decorative Arts in Old Salem, N.C.) I have also seen rifles signed by David's son Enoch Kennedy. Bivin's also list John Kennedy and W.W. Kennedy as working in this School. My close friend Joe Byerly has an outstanding Bear Creek School Longrifle that is signed by the maker "Carney".  Also working in this School was Edward Harper born in 1780 and his son John Harper born in 1815.

I have seen three early Longrifles from the Bear Creek School. Two of them were relief-carved. Two also had captured Patchboxes, meaning the Patchbox lid did not extend all the way to the butt-plate. One of these rifles featured a pewter patchbox. Each of these early Kennedy Longrifles (like the Carney Longrifle photograped below) featured Edelweis Patchbox finials like often seen in Longrifles from the valley of Virginia.  Another significant feature is that the patchbox release lever is often on the cheek piece side of the rifle on these early rifles. Each of these rifles have short one or two screw barrel tangs. The post 1800 Bear Creek School Longrifles usually have Patchboxes with Star Finials (very similar as the Finials used in the Guilford - Jamestown School). Also seen on the best rifles from this School is a raised molding along the comb of the rifle. I have seen an early signed Edward Harper Longrifle that is elaborately relief-carved that featured what I like to call a Pac-man Patchbox. It has brass Jaws open with a silver wedge between them that looked like the game pac-man.

Here are the photos of the Carney Longrifle that belongs to my friend.  It looks like the three early Kennedy Longrifles that I have seen and shows off some of the best features of this School.

Here is the cheekside view.

Here is a detailed view of the patchbox.

 Here is the cheek rest. Notice the Patchbox release lever.


Here is the lock mortise area.

Here is the barrel tang.

False Silver Wedge on the fore-stock.


Here is the top view of the butt plate and silver inlay.

Here is the toe plate.

Here is the two screw side plate.

I hope you find this article and photos to be helpful. Please let me know your thoughts.

C. Michael Briggs
« Last Edit: November 27, 2019, 03:07:40 AM by Dennis Glazener »