Author Topic: The Lower Deep River School School by Michael Briggs  (Read 8409 times)

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The Lower Deep River School School by Michael Briggs
« on: February 09, 2009, 06:05:23 AM »
This is the second in a series of nine articles on the Longrifle Schools in North Carolina.

Today we will examine the Lower Deep River School which was centered in North Western Randolph County along Deep River and the Centre Meeting House area on the border of Northern Randolph County and Southern Guilford County.  This School is the least understood of the nine Schools in this state largely because there are only a few good examples from it that still exist.

For those of you that own a copy of John Bivin's Book "The Longrifles of North Carolina", please get it and turn to pages 82 and 83 and look at the signed Alexander Frazier Longrifle illustrated as No. 12.  This relief carved rifle is the best known example of a Lower Deep River School Longrifle and was signed by the best known maker in this School.  There are only about five known examples of Alexander Frazier's work. Do not pay much attention on Bivin's text which was written in 1968.  We now know that their were three generations of Alexander Fraziers. The first was born in 1769 and is the maker of this rifle that would date around 1800. All three of the Alexander Frazier's and their kinfolk that made guns spent their careers in Randolph County, not Rowan as Bivin's list. The second Alexander Frazier was born in 1797 and the third was born in the 1830's.   

Please notice the double incised carved line the runs along the bottom of the stock from the butt plate to the trigger guard.  This is an important architectural feature that is repeated on most of the rifles from this school.  This same molding is also seen along the fore-stock from the entry pipe to the nose cap.

The other wonderful Longrifle from this school photographed in Bivin's book is on page 84 and 85 and is listed as No. 13.  There is some question as to who made this rifle.  John Bivin's attributes it to Alexander Frazier, but it is not signed by him.  This rifle also does not have the double incised carved lines on the bottom of the stock.  My friend and longtime collector John Braxton has shown me photos of a longrifle with identical patchbox and relief carving that was signed by Elias Albright, an early maker in Alamance County.  John Braxton believes that rifle No. 13 was made by Albright.

Local tradition has it that there was a Quaker gunsmith named Matthew Osborne that lived in the Centre Meeting House area that made longrifles for most of the locals prior to the Revolutionary War. After the near-by Battle of Guilford Courthouse on March 15, 1781, word got back to Osborne that several of his neighbors had become members of the County Militia and had used those rifles during that battle.  Osborne then went a re-purchased each longrifle and broke the stocks so they could never be used for this purpose again.  No Matthew Osborne signed longrifle is known to exist by any of the local collectors.

I own two longrifles that are architecturally from the Lower Deep River School.  Both are signed by David Grose who went on to become one of the founders of the Guilford - Jamestown School.  Prior to moving to Guilford County in 1806, Grose must have lived or apprenticed with someone in the Lower Deep River School.   On August 23, 1805 the Guilford County Court ordered that a three year old orphan named John Conner be bound to David Grose to "learn the art and mystery of a gunsmith. In 1806, David Grose purchased 120 acres of land from Jesse Williams for the price of $360. The tract of land was bordered on one side by New Garden Friends Meeting and on the other by Horsepen Creek. Grose built a house and gunshop on this land.  On November 20, 1806 the Guilford County Court ordered that 14 year old orphan Daniel Muly be bound as an apprentice also to learn the art and mistery of a gunsmith and that he give him $50 when free along with three months schooling.  In 1821, David Grose moved to Terre Haute, Vigo County Indiana.  I do not know if he made Longrifles there.

This first Longrifle is signed D*G on the barrel. It is iron mounted and features a sliding wood patchbox.  The rifle has a triple bead molding running along the bottom of the stock and on the forestock.

Here is the cheek rest side view of this rifle

Here is a closeup of the sliding wood patchbox and triple bead molding.


Lock area

Lower Deep River style two screw sideplate

Fore-stock with triple bead molding.

This rifle has a short one screw barrel tang.

In the Revolutionary War Section of the Greensboro Historical is a nearly identical Longrifle that features the same sliding wood patchbox, stock architecture and triple bead lines on the stock and fore-stock.  This rifle is unsigned.

The second David Grose signed Longrifle in my collection has a wider butt plate and could be earlier. This rifle features a brass beehive shape patchbox.  This rifle also has the incised carved lines along the bottom of the stock and on the fore-stock.

Here are some photos of this rifle.

Close up of the patchbox area

Cheek rest view

Lock area

A good friend of mine owns another Lower Deep River School Longrifle that is nearly identical to this one and has the same beehive shaped patchbox, but is unsigned.

In thirty years of collecting local Longrifles, I have seen less than a dozen Lower Deep River School Longrifles.  This makes them not very well known outside of North Carolina and very sought after in it.  (Smile)

I hope you find this information helpful.  Do you want me to continue with these articles on the North Carolina Schools?
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C. Michael Briggs
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