Author Topic: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle  (Read 2472 times)

Offline bluenoser

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An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« on: June 15, 2018, 03:08:46 AM »
Modified to restore lost pics.
Any and all comments are welcomed.
Lock pics of Virginia Rifles (Whisker's Gunsmiths of Virginia - pages 185 and 186) would be much appreciated.

This rifle has been discussed in a recent thread with a focus on the unusual method of attaching the lock, and a secondary discussion on the significance of the "PH" initials on the lock plate.  At the time, there were only a few photos and limited second-hand information.
The rifle was identified as being from Unicoi Co., TN and possibly having been repaired by Rudolph Holt in Pikesville TN - if the initials on the lock turned out to be "RH" instead of "PH".  One member has mentioned seeing an almost identical rifle in Pikesville, TN at one point.  Another member pointed out that two VA-made rifles with locks mounted with wood screws are known to exist (Ref. Whisker's Gunsmiths of Virginia - pages 185 and 186).

Now having the rifle in hand, I have chosen to start a new thread with a more general focus, rather than continue the older thread.  Please speak up if I have committed a no-no.  This is not intended as a show and tell.  My knowledge of Southern rifles is limited and I welcome any and all comments.



The rifle is a .32 cal with a 34 1/8" forged straight bbl measuring anywhere from .763" to .801" along it's length.  Since the largest measurement is at the breech and the smallest is at the upper thimble, with the muzzle flaring somewhat, a swamped bbl might be suggested, but it is likely just variation due to forging and filing.  The length of pull is 14 1/8".







As shown, the rifle was indeed built with the lock held in place by two front mounted, and very small, wood screws.  The lock appears to have been hand made and is a very precise fit in the mortise.  There is no fly and no half cock notch.  There is no evidence of the mortise having been modified for a replacement lock and I am confident the lock is original to the rifle.  The initials on the lock are, by all appearance, "PH".  The rifle was in use as recently as one month ago, and there is evidence of recent repairs.  The two bridle screws and the sear spring screw are likely new replacements and the screw holding the hammer in place is a modern replacement.  One can also see where some lock internals have been recently cleaned up.  The drum and nipple were also recently replaced and the original drum and nipple remain with the rifle.  Luckily, the threads in the bbl were not altered.



The same punch dot decorating theme appears on the bbl in the vicinity of the rear sight, on the lock and at the muzzle.  The decoration on the lock ties in with both that found around the rear sight and at the muzzle.  The decoration at the muzzle is very difficult to see, but is triangular sets of three dots at the 1:30, 4:30, 7:30 and 10:30 clock-face positions around the muzzle.  I would take the commonality of the decoration as further evidence the lock is original to the rifle and strong evidence that the barrel has not been shortened.  Please set me straight if you disagree.








All of the hardware appears to be hand made.  The hand made set trigger assembly is a single lever.  Interestingly, I cannot  determine what is holding the two-piece nose cap in place.  The answer may be under the bbl, but I am reluctant to pull the bbl to find out.





As I understand it, The details shown in this series of photos are what led to the rifle initially being identified as from Unicoi County.  Now, if we could just figure out who likely built it.  It is interesting how the butt plate and extension are attached.  I had thought the extension typically butted into the plate, but this one is just the reverse.

Thank you to all those who commented on the first thread, and a particular thank you to Cades Cove Fiddler and Molly.  Please chime in here.
« Last Edit: August 11, 2020, 11:02:58 PM by bluenoser »

Offline Cades Cove Fiddler

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2018, 05:28:57 PM »
 :o :o :o.... I"M AMAZED,.... !!! ..thanx for new pix..... still studying them,.... when you see something like this you just have to sit back, scratch your head and think,..."Hmmmmmm,...!!!" .... will comment later,.... regards, ... CCF,....
 

Offline JTR

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2018, 06:42:00 AM »
If you ever pop the barrel out, I'd be interested to know if there is a hole, or a recess through the lug at the rear of the breech plug.
Thanks for noting that its been used for shooting recently, as it looks like a lot of replacement parts inside the lock.
If this rifle was made with only the two small screws holding the lock in place, I'm amazed that those tiny screw holes are still anywhere near intact! Or that the lock mortise edges are anywhere near as well defined as is. Or maybe it just wasn't shot much?
As for the initials, given how deep the engraving is, I don't know how to imagine the R loosing its lower limb to make it a P, without loosing a lot of the other letter engraving.
While I like it overall, to me it looks strange without a lock bolt!
John   
John Robbins

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #3 on: June 16, 2018, 02:59:20 PM »
The lug can be seen in the middle photo of the second set of photos and there is no hole or notch in it.  The rear screw hole has been bushed and that is the reason the rear screw is somewhat cockeyed.  The front hole is still reasonably tight.  I attribute the condition of the screw holes and edges of the lock mortise to the very snug fit of the lock.

The rifle is indeed a departure from what we are accustomed to seeing.  However, there are at least two other (Virginia) rifles known to exist with similarly mounted locks.

Offline JBJ

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #4 on: June 16, 2018, 04:27:14 PM »
Judging from the pic of the muzzle, it has seen a lot of use over the years. Thanks for the great pictures.
J.B.

Offline Molly

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #5 on: June 17, 2018, 01:19:24 AM »
Dandy little rifle.  No pins in the guard either.  Not all that unusual but why pin and bolt it when you can screw it! :)

Many nice features but the use of the screws for the lock make it a rifle with tons of appeal.

Offline JTR

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2018, 01:24:03 AM »
Well thanks for all the pictures! It's certainly an interesting rifle!
Since the previous owner was shooting it, I wonder if you might as well? If so, a target would certainly be interesting to see.
Congratulations on getting it!
John
John Robbins

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #7 on: August 11, 2020, 05:16:28 PM »
Photos restored - no thanks to Tinypic.

Offline Cades Cove Fiddler

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2020, 11:12:25 PM »
 :o :o :o... Thanx for re-opening this discussion,... whenever I see "Unicoi County rifle" I stop whatever I am doing and take notice,... I'm thoroughly amazed with this rifle,... the new photos allow for enlargement to study better,... no sideplate really makes for a clean look,... hopefully someone  will recognize  the unique features and enlighten us,... !!! ... CCF 

Offline Tanselman

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #9 on: August 12, 2020, 04:22:36 PM »
By any chance, is there an internal threaded empty bolt hole going into the iron base of the tang? It almost looks like I can see a dark spot/hole in the internal wood in that area. Perhaps an earlier lock was mounted by a front lock bolt just ahead of the hammer and near the top of the lock plate. I've seen several southern rlfles with locks mounted that way, which provides a sturdy mount for lock. The two small screws don't seem like a solid way to mount a lock. Shelby Gallien

Offline WESTbury

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #10 on: August 12, 2020, 04:58:02 PM »
It appears as though the c'sunk hole at the rear of the lockplate was added sometime after the lock was manufactured. My reasoning is that the punch hole decoration which consists of four punches flanked by two punches looks to have been originally mirrored to the left of the group of four punches. At the top of the radius of the c'sunk screw hole there looks to be another punched hole to mirror the two holes at the right of the group of four punches.

"We are not about to send American Boys 9 to 10 thousand miles away from home to do what Asian Boys ought to be doing for themselves."
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Offline mountainman70

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #11 on: August 12, 2020, 05:28:00 PM »
Definatly thanks for the new info/pics. This method of lock fasteners would really make the job much easier/less expensive, and still get the job done in a good workman like fashion.
I believe the next po boy I make may very well use this method. I can see it now, no buttplate,nosecap, entry pipe, rudimentry guard, and no sideplate/lock screws.
 hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm !!
Thanks for sharing, Best regards, Dave F 8) 8)

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #12 on: August 12, 2020, 09:44:49 PM »
Tanselman
That is an interesting and, it would appear, efficient method of securing a lock that I was not aware of.  There is no hole in the visible portion of iron base of the tang, although there is an open area directly to the rear of it.  I doubt the opening in the wood has anything to do with a previous method of securing a lock.  There is a small area of the iron base of the tang that is not visible.  However, since I doubt there would be a hole at that location, I am reluctant to pull the barrel to find out.

I would not be inclined to build a rifle with the lock secured by a couple of small wood screws.  However, it seems to me that, provided there is good solid contact between the drum and lock plate, there would be little demand on their holding ability.  The bulk of the force would be transmitted to the perimeter of the lock mortise.  The erosion on the barrel, the original drum and the lock plate below the drum would indicate the rifle has seen a lot of use.  The lock is still a very tight fit in the mortise and the front screw hole is still reasonably snug.  The rear screw hole has been bushed, most likely in the 21st century.

The rifle is a bit of a head-scratcher.  In my opinion, it is well-built with well executed architecture and metalwork and very good wood-to-metal fit.  I believe it was built by an experienced and reasonably talented builder.  I doubt such a builder would have chosen this method of attaching a lock due to a lack of knowledge.










WESTbury
That is an excellent observation, and something I have also wondered about.  I believe that mark was made by the same tool used to do the decoration.  However, if there once was decoration at that location while the tail of the lock was shaped as it is now, I would expect the decoration to be lower so that it would be centred on the tail.  The lock plate appears to have been re-shaped after the decoration was initially applied.  Note how the border, which is only along the lower edge, runs toward the edge and peters out at the rear.  It is also interesting that the "P" in "PH" is partially under the hammer.  I am quite certain this is a hand-made lock, and there is no indication it has been reused.  My only supposition is that the lock, or at least the plate, was originally larger and unused, and was reduced in size for this build.
CORRECTION:  a portion of the border is also faintly visible on the upper edge of the lock plate to the rear of the hammer.  It appears as though it might have been filed out.
I am more than a little out of my league here.  I very much appreciate input from those with more experience.

Many thanks to all for your interest and input

« Last Edit: August 13, 2020, 04:02:25 AM by bluenoser »

Online WadePatton

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2020, 03:37:31 AM »
I'm with DF, the wood screws might be worth doing on a po' boy.

The short barrel and long pull are curious too.

Thanks for sharing.
Hold to the Wind

Offline Cades Cove Fiddler

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #14 on: August 19, 2020, 06:19:19 PM »
 ??? ??? ???.. I just keep coming back to this post,...  such a unique and interesting hog rifle,... definitely shows Unicoi Co. traits,... was hopeing someone would identify the builder,... NOW, for my suggestion,... after much research, and viewing these photos, I would guess  young Pete Howell of Yancey Co. NC,.. He was the last of 3 generations of gunsmiths working  in the Lawing gunshop near Flag Pond, and later in their own shop on Flat top mountain,... Old Pete, his Grandfather, then Old Will, his father, and lastly young Pete, who was the last to build  guns,... Young Pete built several pistols, and I have seen some, but cannot recall how they were marked,... he built up until the early 20th Century,... as he was a later smith he might have experimented with the different features we see on this rifle,... BTW,... in that part of the mountains, most places cannot be sure if you are in Tennessee or North Carolina,... beautiful, rugged country,.. ( Dave Byrd and John Rice Irwin cover the Howell gunsmiths in their books...)  Regards,... Cades Cove Fiddler,...   

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #15 on: August 20, 2020, 04:03:58 AM »
Thanks CCF, I will certainly follow up on that possibility.  It appears I have an excuse to add to the library.
Could this be the Peter Howell you are referring to?
Samuel Peter Howell
BIRTH   10 Apr 1857, Yancey County, North Carolina, USA
DEATH   9 Apr 1913 (aged 55), Unicoi County, Tennessee, USA
BURIAL   Swingle Cemetery, Unicoi, Unicoi County, Tennessee, USA
« Last Edit: August 20, 2020, 04:08:29 AM by bluenoser »

Offline Cades Cove Fiddler

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #16 on: August 20, 2020, 06:06:07 PM »
 ;) ;)... Yes,.. that is Old Pete Howell,... father of Will Howell, and Grandfather of Young Pete,... Old Pete and Will both worked with the Lawings,... Dave and John Rice  and Jerry Noble have info on them in their books,...I sure hope we can solve this mystery,... too good a rifle to not know,... thanx again for starting this post,...!!!... CCF

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #17 on: August 20, 2020, 06:56:04 PM »
My mistake.  I had thought he might be the younger Pete Howell based on the date of death.  That would mean the younger Pete Howell was likely born somewhere around 1895 or later.  I guess the elder Pete Howell would have likely been in his early teens when he worked in the Lawing gunshop since, if I am not mistaken, Ambrose Lawing died in 1872.  Would that not mean Will Howell could not have worked under Lawing?
Not trying to be argumentative - just trying to understand how the pieces fit together.

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #18 on: August 21, 2020, 01:41:55 AM »
While reading through the thread "Tennessee Southern Rifle - Lawing or Who", I came across an interesting comment by Molly.  To paraphrase, Molly stated that she had not seen a butt plate attached to the toe plate with a fastener of some sort on any rifle except Lawing.  That caught my attention because the toe plate on this rifle is riveted to the butt plate.  The tang is similarly riveted to the butt plate.

Cades Cove Fiddler suggested the rifle might have been made by the younger Peter Howell, who worked in the Lawing shop prior to moving to the family shop on Flat Top Mountain.  Assuming I have not misunderstood Molly's comment, the riveted toe plate could support CCF's suggestion the rifle might have been built by the younger Peter Howell.  I understand his Grandfather, the elder Peter Howell, is another possibility.
What say ye?
« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 02:39:07 PM by bluenoser »

Offline Dennis Glazener

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #19 on: August 21, 2020, 03:03:36 AM »
While reading through the thread "Tennessee Southern Rifle - Lawing or Who", I came across an interesting comment by Molly.  To paraphrase, Molly stated that he had not seen a butt plate attached to the toe plate with a fastener of some sort on any rifle except Lawing.  That caught my attention because the toe plate on this rifle is riveted to the butt plate.  The tang is similarly riveted to the butt plate.

Cades Cove Fiddler suggested the rifle might have been made by the younger Peter Howell, who worked in the Lawing shop prior to moving to the family shop on Flat Top Mountain.  Assuming I have not misunderstood Molly's comment, the riveted toe plate could support CCF's suggestion the rifle might have been built by the younger Peter Howell.  I understand his Grandfather, the elder Peter Howell, is another possibility.
What say ye?

Let me correct you before Molly does, Molly is a lady and not a he  :)
Dennis
"I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend" - Thomas Jefferson

Offline bluenoser

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Re: An Unusual Unicoi Co. TN Attributed Hog Rifle
« Reply #20 on: August 21, 2020, 03:55:24 AM »
I most humbly apologize to Molly.  Error corrected.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2020, 02:39:49 PM by bluenoser »