Author Topic: Stephen O'Dell 100113-3  (Read 10202 times)

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Stephen O'Dell 100113-3
« on: January 19, 2010, 04:46:47 PM »
"This rifle is by Stephen Odell . who worked in Natchez Mississippi .The
overall length is 47-7/8 inches , the 40 cal. bbl. is 32 inches the
trigger pull is 13 1/2 inches. The last photo shows how he stamped his
name in the wood as well as other parts, which was not a real common


A very pretty rifle by a legendary 'down river' maker. O'Dell of Natchez, should have as great a place in the history of the west as the St. Louis makers. He served the trade along the southern routes, to the west and the river people, as well. This gun is pretty typical of his work and shows a trimness, or a sleek look, that is very pleasing. Finish and attention to detail is typical of O'Dell's work. Other of his pieces use the standard lock plate.
His work is scarce and so this piece definitely qualifies for the display in the Library.

This is an important Mississippi rifle and most deserving of a place in the Library.

A very nice example of Stephen O'Dell's work. I have had several of his rifles in my hands over the years.  I recall them being stamped in the wood as well as on top of the barrel. I have several (five) rifles made by two brothers who worked for O'Dell before coming upriver to Galena, Illinois.  They came from Ireland, and O'dell may have had connections with them there.  They were Joseph and Isaac G. Evans.  There are a number of similarities between their guns and those made by O'Dell.

This is a fascinating rifle.... particularly if you study Kentucky guns. It is an almost perfect copy of a Moses Dickson and/or James Gilmore sporting rifle made in Louisville in the 1840s and 1850s. Despite Frank Seller in his "American Gunsmiths" listing Odell as working in Natchez, MS between 1840 and 1860, in fact Odell probably was trained in the Dickson & Gilmore shop in Louisville in the late 1830s, and was documented as working as a journeyman for the firm in 1841 according to a Louisville directory. 

The mountings on the gun are typical Louisville in style, including the narrow butt plate, guard with double spur and squared shoulder above the rear spur, oval barrel wedge inlays, rear ramrod pipe with tapered flange, and back action lock engraved to match the other engraved mounts, including the maker's name on the lock plate. The long two screw tang and capbox style are also similar to those found on Louisville guns. All these details were prominent on Dickson & Gilmore guns of that period. The stock architecture with high, straight comb, almost flat butt plate on a percussion era gun, and "squared up" oval style cheekpiece, are right out of the Dickson & Gilmore shop, as is the engraved patent breech.  This is, in almost every aspect, a fine Louisville gun. But there are a couple of subtle changes that indicate the gun was made after Odell left Louisville.

The guard is filed slightly thinner than those on Dickson & Gilmore rifles, which is odd because "plains rifles" usually had pretty stout guards. The forestock is slightly shorter out to the ramrod entry pipe than on most Dickson & Gilmore guns, which often had double keys on guns of this vintage. Dickson & Gilmore guns had engraved screw heads as does this Odell rifle, but their heads had rays running straight out to the edge of the head, while Odell has used wavy lines running out from the slot. Also missing is the Louisville style front trigger, which on Louisville guns had a small "C" scroll reinforcement on the upper back edge. We are fortunate this gun is signed, because if it were not, I would immediately attribute it to the Dickson & Gilmore shop circa 1845. But here we have a fine example of a Louisville trained gunsmith's work, probably done soon after leaving Louisville in the early to mid 1840s, that still strongly reflects its roots. Great rifle... almost as good as those Louisville, KY guns I love! 

As some of you may be aware, Stephen O'Dell was murdered in bed in 1862.  At the time of his death, he still owed Joseph Evans for a pair of "extra silver mounted pistols, as ordered". Evans petitioned O'Dell's estate for $75 owed him for these pistols in 1864.  Apparently, Joseph Evans continued to "sub-contract" guns for O'Dell well after he (Evans) left Natchez. The engraving on guns by the Evans brothers is quite similar to that of O'Dell, though obviously by different hands.  Isaac's engraving is not quite equal to O'Dell's, but Joseph's might even be a bit better than O'Dell's.

Just a comment here on the peripheral value of this site; in just a few responses, we now have a very good thumbnail history of O'Dell, his beginnings and a number of people with whom he was associated. And, we know of his demise as well.


« Last Edit: January 02, 2020, 06:50:32 PM by Tim Crosby »
In Memory of Lt. Catherine Hauptman Miller 6/1/21 - 10/1/00 & Capt. Raymond A. Miller 12/26/13 - 5/15/03...  They served proudly.