A Bucks County rifle and accouterments article has been on my mind for a number of years. The motivation for this came from three different people. First, Samuel Pletcher was my great, great, great grandfather. He lived in Lancaster County until he was about 40, then took his family by wagon to the Howard area in north central Pennsylvania around 1790. I’ve been interested in stories, tools, and possessions that would have been a part of his life.
Gary Brumfield was another influence. Gary was important to me and to others who study flintlocks. One area I appreciated was his knowledge of regional styles. Gary went through some of the factors that assisted in the evolving of these styles. I was intrigued by these factors as they applied to the region of Samuel Pletcher.
Since the area of interest is SE Pennsylvania, it is probably logical that Allen Martin would play a part in a Bucks County project. Allen is among a very talented group of Pennsylvania gun makers, and one who is widely respected in his study and making of the guns of this area. It would be difficult to mention Bucks Co, Berks Co, or Lehigh Valley guns with out mentioning Allen.
Allen and I have discussed the architecture of these guns at the annual CLA show. I handled a wonderful Bucks County Schimmel and decided to have Allen make one for me. We discussed the typical ageing health and eye problems, and he assured me that the schimmel would meet all my health issues. He was certainly correct.
I received the schimmel at the 2014 Spring Shoot at Friendship. It is a delicate little .40 caliber: long and slim, with wonderful balance. It may not weigh 7 pounds. It is slightly aged, but not distressed. The stock is dark maple with very nice curl. The beauty of this rifle comes from the architecture. As Allen told me, “Architecture is everything.”
The Bucks County Kit now needs a bag and horn. Frank Willis was my next stop. At CLA Frank had an original bag found in lower Bucks County. I bought a copy that Frank made from this original. There are some unique features about this bag, perhaps unique only to the original maker. These features are discussed in Frank’s article.
A rifle this fine and a proper original bag needs a proper horn. With many horners at CLA and many horns, the one that caught my eye was at Pete Hutton’s table. Pete makes screw-tip horns of various regional styles. One of the prettiest ones there happened to be a Bucks County screw-tip. I figured it would look just fine with the Martin schimmel and the Willis bag, so it came home with me.
It is worth noting that horners have been studying and making screw-tip horns for many years. It was Art DeCamp who put the information on regional styles together. After years of careful research, he published a book detailing these styles called Pennsylvania “Horns of the Trade” Screw-tip Powder Horns and Their Architecture. It has become the definitive work on Pennsylvania screw-tip horns.
When I studied the Bucks County section of Art’s book, I looked for the characteristics that Frank incorporated in his screw-tip. Frank’s is quite similar to #36 on page 128-129. Art describes this horn as an early horn, probably Bucks/Chester county just north of Philadelphia. The collar and tip show a Philadelphia influence. Art mentioned that Bucks County horns were “less refined and of a coarser nature than Philadelphia horns.” Frank’s horn, however, is finely finished, second to none in workmanship.
The schimmel, bag, and horn make a great combination. Besides equipping me for Indiana’s squirrel season, it serves as a reminder of three very talented makers whose work deserves recognition. We should also remember the study of Gary Brumfield, Art DeCamp, and many others have advanced our knowledge of Pennsylvania firearms history. I hope you will take the time to explore the links above.
The links associated with names in the text above take you to the artist’s page on this site. The links below take you to their own site.
Pete Hutton: powderhorn1
Larry Pletcher, editor: www.blackpowdermag.com