by Jeff Jaeger
The following four Indiana rifles were all made during the percussion era, but each displays a unique architectural style and incorporates features which were chosen by the maker or requested by the customer. None of the styles dominate Indiana guns and thus I describe Indiana as a "melting pot" of designs. Get a better look at each of these guns and many more this June in Friendship, Indiana where the Museum of the NMLRA will feature the exhibit: Historic Hoosier Guns and Tansel Powder Horns.
1) This Hoosier "poor boy" carries a homemade, iron triggerguard with simple squarish lines. The short, high comb gives the butt stock a boxy look. The lack of a butt plate may indicate that the customer was on a tight budget. The barrel is signed "J M Barlow." Jesse Barlow was born in Kentucky in 1805, but lived most of his life in Rush County, Indiana.
2) This half-stock of fine curly maple is marked "D. Gray". Davis Gray was born in North Carolina and served his apprenticeship in Indiana under Robert Polk, who also hailed from North Carolina. Gray did, however; live his adult life in Greensboro, Indiana as a gunmaker. Note the long, low comb and graceful curves of the trigger guard.
3) The "Bixler and Iddings" double rifle is reminiscent of an English double shotgun. The walnut half-stock features a checkered wrist and a short, high comb. The hammers, locks, iron trigger guard, and iron butt plate are all engraved. Both barrels are round and sport a double "wedding band". Both John Bixler and Samuel Iddings were born in Ohio. Their business flourished in Lafayette, Indiana for many years.
4) George Wareham's design is from "the Golden Age" of "Kentuckies". The highly decorated patchbox has seven piercings and a large, handsome finial. The long, low comb and sharp drop of the butt stock make this style somewhat rare in Indiana. Wareham spent his early years in Ohio before moving to Dekalb County, Indiana where he lived many years making quality Indiana muzzleloaders.
Thanks to Jack Vye, Ron Stanley, Haas Walston, and Curt Johnson for your cooperation and
education. These photos would not have been possible without your help.