Author Topic: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid  (Read 1343 times)

Offline Tanselman

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A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« on: April 05, 2023, 04:24:42 AM »
Kentucky's nine identified "schools" of gunmaking were heavily influenced by the early migration patterns into Kentucky. Along the state's southern border, early Kentuckians often came up from Tennessee, and many of their rifles shared characteristics with Tennessee guns. While not the fanciest rifles made in Kentucky, some of them are on my "favorites" list these days. One little-known family, the Heaths of Allen County, Kentucky, originally came from Sumner County, Tennessee, and moved north across the state line into nearby Allen County. Richmond Heath was an early Tennessee gunsmith of Grainger, Campbell and then Sumner County who had four gunsmithing sons. Three of those sons, when of age, moved north into Kentucky to work. The two oldest, William and John, made almost identical rifles for many years in Allen County. Younger brother Daniel learned the trade but was less proficient at it and ended up doing mostly blacksmith work. These rifles fall withing Kentucky's southcentral "Barrens School" known for its undecorated rifles that performed well... and were usually the pride of the neighborhood similar to the better-known Settle family rifles.

I recently acquired a nice John Marshall Heath rifle, typical of their work in Allen County and almost a carbon-copy of his older brother William's work. I thought everyone might like to see a good Kentucky-Tennesse hybrid, not well-known outside of the local neighborhood, but considered the best rifles ever made to folks down in Allen County, KY. The rear sight sits several inches behind the rear ramrod pipe, as on most Heath rifles, and this is the sight's original position; the barrel remains full original length. For those interested, the barrel is 43" long with a .34 caliber bore. And for those who like a puzzle, you'll notice there are no barrel pins/wedges. All Heath rifles, father and sons, are signed in large block-letter initials similar to those of John Marshall Heath shown below.

Shelby Gallien










« Last Edit: April 05, 2023, 07:19:42 AM by Tanselman »

Offline Carl Young

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2023, 06:42:47 AM »
Shelby, I think nice is quite an understatement. That is a very handsome rifle. As a researcher I appreciate the information you post and I have some understanding of the effort required. Thank you for sharing your find with us!

Regards,
Carl
Dr. Carlton Young
Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses. -Juvenal

Offline Sequatchie Rifle

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #2 on: April 05, 2023, 12:58:56 PM »
Shelby,

Thank you for sharing this. When was was John Marshall Heath building rifles?

Bill
"We fight not for glory, nor riches nor honors, but for freedom alone, which no good man gives up except with his life. Declaration of Arbroath, 1320

Offline T*O*F

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #3 on: April 05, 2023, 06:44:54 PM »
Quote
And for those who like a puzzle, you'll notice there are no barrel pins/wedges.
I worked on 2 guns, one by an Indiana maker, that had that feature.  One had a pin buried in a pewter nosecap and the other had the pin hidden under inlays.  There was a single, hooked underlug.  To remove the barrel, one lifted it up and forward.  I suspect the rear thimble pin could serve a dual purpose.
Dave Kanger

A dedicated person with just a pocketknife can accomplish more than a lazy person with an entire toolbox.

Offline Daryl

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #4 on: April 05, 2023, 09:05:38 PM »
I thought it might be a dual purpose entry pipe pin.
Daryl

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Offline Tanselman

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #5 on: April 05, 2023, 09:23:17 PM »
Bill,

Dates [birth-death] for the Heath gunsmiths are:
Father Richmond Heath of Sumner Co., TN               1805-1879
   1. Son William M. Heath of Allen Co., KY               1826-1890
   2. Son John M. Heath of Allen Co., KY                   1831-1901
   3. Son Daniel M. Heath of Allen Co., KY                1834-1891
   4. Son A.I. Thornberg Heath of Sumner Co., TN    1837-1924

Dave, you guessed it... a pin hidden in the pewter nose cap catches a hook-style lug to hold the barrel to stock.... although not as tightly as the normal three or four barrel pins. To show how similar the signed barrels are by the Heath brothers, I've attached a barrel signature by oldest brother William "Billy" Heath from a rifle almost identical to the one I posted above.

Shelby Gallien


« Last Edit: April 05, 2023, 09:29:08 PM by Tanselman »

Offline Notchy Bob

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2023, 04:56:25 AM »
Shelby,

Thank you for posting this.  The rifle is a beauty!

It reminds me of a rifle we have in the family.  I think Dad said he bought it from Red Farris in the late forties or early fifties for $10-$15. It needed some work, but Dad was a pretty good gunsmith and got it safely shootable, although the bore should be freshed out.

Our rifle is full-stocked in walnut, but the architecture, from the entry pipe to buttplate, is very similar to yours.  It has no cheekpiece (I see that your rifle has none, either), and ours has a very similar triggerguard with double finger rests, neatly forged from iron.  It is all iron mounted, except for a poured nosecap with some simple open work.  If I remember correctly, it is around .44 caliber, and the barrel is about 44" long.  It has the name J.J. Pryor neatly stamped on the top flat of the barrel.  I believe I recall a rather tall, almost semi-buckhorn rear sight, which I would think unusual for a rifle of this type.

I'm sorry I don't remember the other details clearly, but it has been a number of years since I have handled it.  I'll try to get some photos next time I visit the current owner.

Are you familiar with the name J.J. Pryor?  I'm sure I've left a few stones unturned, but I've found nothing to date.

Best regards,

Notchy Bob
"Should have kept the old ways just as much as I could, and the tradition that guarded us.  Should have rode horses.  Kept dogs."

from The Antelope Wife

Offline Tanselman

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Re: A Kentucky-Tennessee Hybrid
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2023, 08:11:51 AM »
Notchy Bob... I haven't seen the name "Pryor" or any similar spelling in my years of Kentucky research... which is ongoing. I'm like you, haven't seen the name anywhere as a gunsmith, or on a gun. But I will keep an eye out for it, in case he turns out to be from Kentucky.

Shelby Gallien