Author Topic: Carved Powder Horns from Mercer County, Ohio... and Surrounding Counties  (Read 1410 times)

Offline Tanselman

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1536
There are two important schools of carved Midwest powder horns, the well-known Tansel family horns of Kentucky/Indiana, and the lesser-known Mercer County horns of Ohio. I've published on the Mercer Co. horns in two magazine articles, "Mercer County, Ohio, Carved Powder Horns and Their Rooster Headed Eagles" in "The Gun Report" in August of 2001, and "The Elusive Mercer County, Ohio Powder Horn Carver, "W. D'" in "Muzzle Blasts" back in December of 2010. Several new horns have been found since those articles were written, and I intend to do another article, so would like to hear from anyone who might have a Mercer County horn and be willing to share images and dimensions. To make this request more interesting, I am posting pictures of a Mercer Co. horn I recently acquired out of an old estate in Lancaster, Ohio, just southeast of Columbus. The horn's original owner "E. B." was from Reiley Twp in Butler County as noted on the horn, which was carved in 1837. Masonic symbols and a 3-story Masonic temple for the apprentice, journeyman, and master levels appear on the horn. All Mercer Co. horns have strong Masonic imagery, dates, usually the owner's name or initials along with the carver's name of initials, and often the county in Ohio/Indiana where the owner lived. A few Mercer Co. horns show wear, but the majority appear almost unused, and were undoubtedly more a memento of the owner's Masonic ties than a hunting horn to be used. The prevailing thought is that the horns were made as gifts for a master level mason when he became lodge master at his lodge.

Mercer Co. horns have been documented from Van Wert, Mercer, Darke, Preble, Montgomery, and Butler Counties in Ohio, and Shelby and Jay Counties in Indiana, all counties on, or close to, the Indiana/Ohio border. Perhaps new horns will be found from other close-by counties. Most of the horns were carved by William Dunwoody of Butler and Mercer Counties, OH, with several almost identical horns carved by his brother, Samuel Dunwoody, and a couple horns have both men's names on them. These horns may have been inspired by the somewhat earlier Tansel horns of nearby Indiana. All Mercer Co. horns are well carved with large, bulbous lathe-turned butt plugs, and most have "rooster headed" eagles on them with a star field overhead and "E Pluriby Unum" banner, plus polychroming similar to Tansel horns. The following images are of my most recent Mercer Co. powder horn. The carver's initials appear in large flowing script as "W. D." just to the left side of the large date "1837." The horn has suffered "bug bites" in several areas and has years of grim on it in these images.

Shelby Gallien











« Last Edit: July 24, 2022, 08:57:28 PM by Tanselman »

Online Tim Crosby

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *
  • Posts: 17918
  • AKA TimBuckII
 Never heard of such but will keep an eye out now. Very interesting, it is a very nicely done horn. I live in Lancaster.

  Tim

Offline mr. no gold

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 2654
Shelby, it appears that you have found a new 'school' of carvers, perhaps competing with the Tansels to some extent. This is a great horn whatever damage it has sustained notwithstanding. The carving is quite good and the overall piece is well done. Thank you for sharing your research and showing this latest find. We will keep our eyes open for these horns. An interesting point here, I have seen numerous Tansel horns, but never a Mercer horn.
Dick

Offline Tanselman

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1536
Dick, you west coast guys will probably never see one of these horns. Being Masonic related and memento-type horns, I believe most have stayed in families longer and remained closer to home over the years. The large majority of these horns show up in Ohio and Indiana, my stomping grounds. Many Mercer Co. horns are more profusely carved/covered than this most recent acquisition, often with figures of standing hunters with rifles and dogs and wearing brimmed hats, along with the "rooster headed eagles" I mentioned earlier. Spouts are usually somewhat similar to this one. Carving is well done, but the carver didn't have quite the same level of artistic ability as the Tansels. On the other hand, that makes these horns even more folky and enjoyable... and more fresh than the Tansels, kind of like southern rifles today being more 'fresh" than all the better known eastern rifles. If you find one out there, just remember it's junk and send it to me; I'll reimburse you for postage.

By the way, I changed out some of the photos. I've gently cleaned the horn to remove some of its grime, and the carving shows up better in the new photos.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: July 25, 2022, 07:30:43 PM by Tanselman »

Offline jdm

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1376
Wow! A little bit of soap and water makes all the difference .My wife has been after me to take a shower . I just might try it.  That is a neat horn and a group I new nothing about. Thanks for enlightening  me. By the way have you talked to Noble about these ? Jim
JIM

Offline Tanselman

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1536
Jim, 

I've spoken to most Midwest horn collectors who have knowledge of these horns, Jerry Noble being one. The most knowledgeable collectors were old time KRA members Jim Johnson and Tom Parker, both of whom shared their knowledge and images of their horns with me for the initial articles. I've had a few contacts from horn collectors who pick one up and don't fully understand what they have, but most collectors don't see more than one or two of these horns in their lifetime. I've seen and owned enough to understand what they are, and have done enough research to put a reasonable "story" together about them. But each new Mercer County horn usually adds a new twist to what we previously thought we knew. My recent acquisition actually pushed the known dates on these horns back a couple of years, and it's the only horn to have the township of the owner spelled out, so it was a neat find that added to our knowledge of these important American carved horns.

Shelby Gallien
« Last Edit: August 27, 2022, 04:23:04 AM by Tanselman »

Offline Rajin cajun

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 432
  • Ragin Cajun
Quiet interesting Shelby, great information.
Thanks for sharing!

Bob
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog !

Offline Spotz

  • member 2
  • Full Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 164
Shelby—I have an early Mercer County horn that might be of interest to you that I picked up at the KRA several years back.  Feel free to contact me so I can help with your project.

Jeff Spotts

Offline Tanselman

  • member 2
  • Hero Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 1536
Jeff,

I would appreciate getting information about your Mercer Co. horn. I'll send you a private e-mail about it.

Thanks,  Shelby