Author Topic: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School  (Read 17059 times)

Offline mbriggs

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North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« on: November 01, 2009, 11:51:49 PM »
Today we will take a look at the Salem School.

For a period of over 100 years, Forsyth County and Davidson County were the home of two closely related Longrifle Schools. In fact, there is still an on-going debate between collectors and students of these Schools if there was two schools or one single school operating in two neighboring counties?  My research has led me to believe that while both Schools largely used the same stock architecture, they did for the most part operate independently from each other.   

The Moravians purchased 100,000 acres in the Piedmont area of  North Carolina in 1753. The first group came down from Pennsylvania in November of 1753 and came to what was then called Stokes County but in 1849 became Forsyth County.  The first Moravian settlement was called Bethabara.  Other Moravian settlements soon followed: Bethania in 1759 and Salem in 1766.  Smaller, lesser-known settlements  Friedland, (near old 311 in East Winston-Salem), Frieberg, (near Peters Creek Parkway at the Forsyth/Davidson County border) and Hope (just off of Stratford Road East of Clemmons) were also founded during this period.

As Forsyth County became more populated, later arriving and non-Moravian German Settlers moved to what was then called Rowan County, which became Davidson County in 1822.  German Baptist communities were created in what is today Northern Davidson County near Abbott’s Creek, Midway, and Welcome.

The first identified Gunsmith in Forsyth County was Andreas Betz who came to Bethabara in 1754 and set up a Gun Shop.  Betz was born in Germany in 1727 and died in Salisbury in 1795.  There are no known signed examples of his work.  Betz had to leave the Moravians in 1766 when he married the daughter of Henry Bruner, Sr. of Salisbury, a non Moravian.
In 1764, John Valentine Beck set up his gunsmiths shop in Bethabara.  Beck was born in 1731 and died in 1791.  He came down from Pennsylvania and worked in both Bethabara and Salem.  Like Betz, there are no signed versions of his work that can be identified as being made at either place. Colonial Williamsburg historian & gunsmith Wallace Gussler owns an early unsigned rifle, circa 1760, that he attributes to Beck. Peter Christ joined Beck in 1772 and worked as a gunsmith.  There are four rifles known today that are attributed to Christ.

The first full time gunsmith in Salem was Jacob Loesch who arrived from Pennsylvania in 1781.  In 1784, he took young Christoph Vogler as his apprentice.  Loesch later moved to Fayetteville where he died in 1821.

Christoph Vogler is the person most responsible for what we call the Salem Longrifle School and many outstanding examples of his work survive today.  Christoph was born in 1765 in Broadbay Maine.  In 1787, he took over the Salem gunsmith shop from Loesch.  He built a house and gun shop on Main Street in Salem that still stands today.   Christoph taught the skill of Longrifle making to Moravians and non-Moravians alike including three of his sons and two nephews before he died in 1827.

Christoph Vogler’s sons Nathaniel, Gottlieb and Timothy Vogler both became gunsmiths in the Salem School.  His nephews John Vogler and George Vogler also worked as gunsmiths in Salem.  Timothy Vogler’s house that he built in 1832 still stands on Main Street in Salem and his gun shop which he built in 1831 is still open today and operated by Mr. Blake Stevenson and his staff making Salem Longrifles in the style of Timothy.  John Vogler’s house built in 1819 also still stands on Main Street in Salem.  John became more famous for his silver smith work.  An outstanding example of his work can be found on display at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Old Salem.   John Vogler made the Silver Eagle Patchbox rifle made in 1807 as a presentation piece for one of Francis Marion’s (The Swamp Fox) officers.  The rifle is completely finished in highly engraved silver.

The last operating gun shops in Salem were owned by Timothy Vogler, George Foltz, and William Dettmar.  Foltz was born in 1798 and apprenticed under Christoph Vogler beginning in 1816.  William Dettmar was born in Germany in 1832 and apprenticed under Timothy Vogler.  His shop was the last to close around 1870.


1. Andreas Betz
He was born in Germany in 1727. He came to Bethabara in 1754
and was the first gun smith there. He left the Moravians to marry
the daughter of Henry Bruner in Salisbury and died there in 1795.
2.  John Valentine Beck
He was born in 1731.  He moved to Bethabara in 1764.  He worked in both Bethabara and Salem.  He died in 1791.  There are no signed examples of his work that are known to have been made in Forsyth County.  (Bivins) Wallace Gussler owns an early rifle that he attributes to him that he thinks was made in Bethabara.

3. W.E. Beck
He lived and worked as a gun smith in Winston.  There is a signed  Half-stock, Salem School, percussion Longrifle that was made by him.

4. Beck & Pfaff
I have seen a 12 gauge single shot shot-gun signed Beck & Pfaff
Winston, N.C.  I would guess that the Beck was W.E. Beck.

5.  Christian Blum
As a boy in 1798, he became an apprentice of Christoph Vogler to learn to make Longrifles in Salem.  (Bivins)

6.  James Brandel
Born in 1817, worked stocking guns into the 1880’s.  A signed rifle exist.  (Bivins)

7.  Edward S. Butner
John Bivins list him as a gunsmith working in Bethania.

8.  Francis A. Butner
He was born in 1831 and was the son of Herman Butner.  He made guns in Bethania.  (Bivins)

9.  Herman H. Butner
He was born in 1793.  His shop was located on Muddy Creek near Bethania.  He owned 38 acres and operated a barrel mill.  He made 50 guns a year valued at $650.00.  (Bivins)

10.  Samuel E. Butner
He was born in 1818 and made guns in Bethania.  (Bivins)

11.  Peter Christ
Bivins list him as living with John Valentine Beck in 1772.  There are two fine early Longrifles that have been attributed to him by noted collector William W. Ivey.  One signed “P.C.” on the patchbox lid was recently purchased by M.E.S.D.A.  The rifle is featured in Bivins book, however Bivins attributes the rifle to the Davidson School.  There is a second even finer relief-carved rifle that Mr. Ivey also attributes to Peter Christ. I recently purchased a non-carved but very similar Longrifle with a Disselfink Patchbox that is attributed to Peter Christ.

12.  William Dettmar,
He was born in Germany in 1832.  He apprenticed with Timothy Vogler and operated a gun shop in Salem for many years.  There are rifles and pad locks signed by him.  Most of his Longrifles are percussion with back-action locks.  (Bivins)

13. George Foltz
He was born in 1798.  His gun shop was located across the street from Timothy Vogler in Salem.  He apprenticed under Christoph Vogler.  Most of his rifles that exist today are the late percussion
style, there is included in this study photographs of an excellent Eagle Patchbox Flintlock rifle signed by him.  (Bivins)

14.  Adam Koffler
He arrived in Forsyth County in November 1762.  He died in Salem in 1791.  Koffler worked as a gun smith and as a weaver in Bethabara and Salem.  (Bivins)

15.  Peter Leinbach
He was born in 1791 and worked in Bethania.  (Bivins)

16.  Simon P. Leinbach
He was born in 1822 and was the son of Peter Leinbach.  He worked in his father’s gun shop.  (Bivins)

17.  Emanuel Lesh
He was born in 1824.  He worked in Forsyth County was a farmer and gunsmith.  (Bivins)

18.  Jacob Loesch,
He arrived in Salem from Pennsylvania in 1781.  He took on Christoph Vogler as his apprentice in 1784.  There are no known signed examples of his work.  He died in Fayetteville in 1821.  (Bivins)

19.  Joseph Muller
In 1774, John Valentine Beck took over his gun shop and forge.  (Bivins)

20.  George Reavis
He was born in Yadkin County in 1818.  He apprenticed in Salem and then went back to Yadkinville and made Salem School rifles there.  There are three signed examples of his work known to exist.  The best one is shown in the photograph section of this study and features a Vogler style Eagle patchbox.  The rifle is incised carved “G.R.’.  John Bivins believed that this was George Reavis personal rifle.  The rifle is in a private collection.  (Bivins)

21.  Christian Rude
He was born in 1817.  In 1830 he became an apprentice under Nathaniel Vogler to learn the gunsmith trade.  (Bivins)

22.  Elias Schaub
He was born in 1811.  His gun shop was in Bethania.  A number of his signed rifles exist.  He died in 1881.  In the 1850 census he is listed as a gun & still maker.  He paid himself a monthly wage of $25.  Annually he used $50 worth of rough iron bar and $150 worth of copper and produced guns, stills and did repairs to a total value of $700.  (Bivins)

23.  Christoph Vogler
He is the father of what we today call the “Salem Rifle.  He was born in 1765 at Broadbay in New England.  When he first arrived in Forsyth County he lived in Friedland.  In 1774 he moved to Salem and became an apprentice for Jacob Loesch.  In 1787, he became the gunsmith at Salem.  His sons Nathaniel Vogler & Timothy Vogler became gunsmiths in Salem.  He taught his nephews John Vogler & George Vogler to make rifles.  He taught George Foltz and non-Moravians like Henry Ledford of Davidson County and George Reavis of Davie County to make rifles.  His house and gun shop still stand on Main Street in Salem.  A number of outstanding examples of  his work that still exist.  Two Rifles that are attributed to him are photographed in this study.  He died in 1826.  (Bivins)

24.  George Vogler
He was born in 1789 in Friedland.  In 1806, he became an apprentice for his uncle Christoph Vogler in Salem.  He was the brother of John Vogler who worked as a gunsmith and silver smith in Salem.  In 1815, he married the daughter of Henry Burner (Mary) and moved to Salisbury where he made Salem School Rifles.  He also carved Tombstones and made furniture.  In the 1820 census of Manufacture he is listed as having a one man shop, with tools at an investment of $50.  Annually he used 5 lbs. of steel and 100 lbs. of iron, valued at $8.  He produced guns having a market value of $9 each.  There are excellent signed examples of his work.  There are photos of a rifle attributed to him in this study.   

25.  John Vogler
He was born in 1784 in Friedland.  He became an apprentice for his uncle Christoph Vogler in Salem in 1803.  In addition to making outstanding silver mounted rifles, he also became the silver smith in Salem.  He made and signed with his stamp “I.Vogler” many silver spoons and a number of other items including jewelry. 

The best Longrifle he ever made is on exhibit at the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.  It was made in 1806 as a presentation for one of Francis Marion’s (The Swamp Fox) officers at a cost of $125.  Normal Longrifles of that period sold for $9.  The rifle features an outstanding Silver Eagle patchbox and has a number of wonderfully engraved silver inlays.  It is worth the tour at M.E.S.D.A. to see this rifle although the guides will only allow you a few minutes for study in the Longrifle Gallery.  John Vogler’s house still stands on Main Street in Salem.  He died in 1881.  (Bivins)

26.  Julius Roland Vogler
He was born in 1830 in Salem.  (Bivins)

27.  Gottlieb Vogler
He was the son of Christoph Vogler and apprenticed under his father in 1811.  There are no signed examples of his work.  (Bivins)

28.  Nathaniel Vogler
He was born in Salem on 1804.  He was the son of Christoph Vogler and worked as an apprentice under his father in 1818.  He married Anna Maria Fischel in 1826.  He took over his father’s gun shop in 1827 after Christoph had passed away.  In 1830, he took on 13 year old Christian Rude as an apprentice.  While there are only a few signed examples of his work, one is generally recognized as the finest and highly decorated example of a Salem Rifle.  It is in a private collection in Florida. 

29.  Philip Vogler
He was born in 1725, came to Forsyth in 1777, later moved to Salisbury.  (Bivins)

30.  Timothy Vogler
He was the youngest son of Christoph Vogler.  He was born in Salem in 1806.  He trained under his cousin John Vogler in 1819.  May have also worked with his father.  He built his house and gun shop on  Main Street in Salem in 1833.  The shop is still in operation under the direction of Blake Stevenson.  There are a number of sign examples of his work.  Some early rifles fit in the late flintlock period and have eagle patchboxes.  His later guns are usually half-stock with percussion locks.  Many have back-action style locks.  Look at the example photographed in this study. A Kentucky pistol with an American walnut stock, hand checkering, German silver nose cap, iron trigger guard, and Vogler style barrel tang recently surfaced and has been attributed to him.  (Bivins)

We will now look at some examples of Salem School Rifles.

This is one of four rifles that we locally attribute to Peter Christ.  All four have the same stock architecture and the same Disselfink patchbox.

Notice that the Fore-stock molding terminates with a large C scroll. This is usually found on Salem School Longrifles and not usually found on Davidson School rifles.  This and the shape of the barrel tang are often the only way to identify from which School an unsigned rifle is from.  There are unsigned rifle with barrel tangs from one school and Fore-stock moldings from the other School that cannot be assigned to either School with any certainty.


Note the double incised carved line along the comb and the beavertail tab at the wrist.  Most Longrifles from both the Salem School and the Davidson School have these features.

This is a Salem Style Barrel Tang.

Note the shield molding behing the lock mortise. This is often seen on the best Salem School rilfes and not usually found on Davidson School rifles.


This style side plate if found on rifles from both schools.

This early Salem Rifle is attributed to Christoph Vogler.  I believe it was made around 1800.

The Vogler family became famous for their Eagle Patchboxes. I have been told that Vogler means bird or eagle in German but do not know if this is correct.

This rifle has a butt that is 2" wide.

The rifle is also a large caliber than normally found in the Piedmont.

Here is the Salem style tang used on most Christoph Vogler rifles

Note molding and C Scroll.

Side Plates

Here are a few photos of a second Longrifle attributed to Christoph Vogler that belongs to a friend of mine.

This next Longrifle has been attributed to George Vogler but it is possible that it was made by his brother John Vogler. The rifle features a brass patchbox with a silver Eagle finial.  It also has a eagle sideplate nearly identical to the one found on a boys rifle that John Vogler made for his son Elias.

Fore-stock molding with C Scroll and false silver wedge on inlay.

Eagle side plate.

Vogler style barrel tang.

This last rifle is signed by Timothy Vogler.  It was supposedly made for one of his daughters as a Christmas present around 1850.  All of the metal parts were ordered from England.

Silver cap box

This is an unsigned pistol made with american walnut that may have been made by Timothy Vogler.


I hope you find this information helpful.  Please tell me about any Salem School Longrifles that you know off that should be added to this study.  All comments are welcome.

« Last Edit: November 27, 2019, 03:32:12 AM by Dennis Glazener »
C. Michael Briggs

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #1 on: November 02, 2009, 04:53:19 AM »

  This is a wonderful presentation on the NC schools. It is very well presented with excellent photos for comparsion. A great learning tool that should be duplicated for all the various schools for those seeking to learn. You have set a high standard and it is appreciated.



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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #2 on: November 02, 2009, 06:45:54 PM »
Thanks for your contribution on NC rifles.  My aunt was a professor at UNC/Greensboro for many years and one of my first memorable childhood experiences was a trip we took to Old Salem Village.  To this day, I can remember the layout of the gunshop and some of the fine rifles on exhibit in the town.  This experience was one that helped to form my lifelong fascination with firearms.  Terriffic rifles came out of this area, and your write-up is most useful.  JWH

Offline WElliott

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #3 on: November 02, 2009, 06:58:45 PM »
Mike, thank you for your excellent and informative piece about one of the most appealing and distinctive North Carolina schools.
And thank you for doing excellent displays of North Carolina rifles in several shows each year.
Wayne Elliott

Offline gusd

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #4 on: November 02, 2009, 09:13:09 PM »
Thank you for the great presentation and all the work that went into it!

Offline Tom Currie

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2009, 03:50:22 AM »
Mike, Thanks for your excellent contributions to ALR. Your generosity in sharing your passion of  North Carolina Rifles benefits us all. 


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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #6 on: December 23, 2009, 11:58:11 PM »
Mike - Thank you for doing this, my great great great Uncle was Henry Ledford, who we believe trained with the Voglers in the early 1800's and had his own shop nearby to the mid 1850's.  I have two of his rifles and Blake is making me a reproduction that is in the Blevins book.  Thank you again.  Gary Ledford

Offline WElliott

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #7 on: December 24, 2009, 06:07:30 PM »
Welcome to the forum, gleddream.  You have a great rifle-making heritage.
Wayne Elliott

Offline Cory Joe Stewart

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #8 on: December 24, 2009, 06:32:59 PM »
This is fantastic.  I posted a question about this not long ago in the builders forum.  I am researching the Salem Moravians as part of my dissertation and have run across Christoph Vogler's name quite a bit.  My works stops at the ratification of the Constitution.  The research has made me very curious of what types of wepaons they would have had in Surry and Rowan Counties. 

Wonderful stuff,


Offline mbriggs

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #9 on: December 26, 2009, 10:48:55 PM »

There was no identified Longrifle School in Surry County.  Prior to 1840 I think most people would have traveled to Salem or Salisbury to purchase a longrifle.  After 1840, the Jamestown School came to dominate and often put out of business most of the other longrifle schools.

Rowan County was long a center for Longrifle making.  It is believed that Longrifles were being made there as early as 1770, but none have survived or been identified. The Eagle and Ribelin families made a very attractive style of Longrifle in the 1830's in this county. A man named Leonard Nash who lived in Iredell County also made and signed Longrifles of this style.  I believe that Mr. No Gold has the earliest known Rowan School Longrifle but I am not sure of the year it was made.  I hope to write an article on this School in the future.

I hope this information is helpful.  Do you live in Greensboro?

C. Michael Briggs

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Re: North Carolina Longrifle Schools #4 The Salem School
« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2009, 07:44:46 PM »

At the time of the Revolution Salem was in Surry, but you are right I have not run across a gunmaker in Surry other than Salem.  Surry was carved out of Rowan county in 1771 so poinning down these geographic borders can be like hitting a moving target.  I have seen in some Surry estate records gun parts listed, but it is probably from repair pieces. 

What I am thinking is most of the weapons by the time of the Revolution migrated with the people, and the styles did to.  So you are right, it was probably sometime before and identified style emerged. 

What I have found that is interesting is the estate records always specify whether a gun is a rifle or smoothbore for value purposes, I am sure.  In some cases the smoothbore is referred to as "old".   

I lived in Greensboro for a while I am now in Surry County, Surry has been home for my family for about 20 years now.