Collections › MESDA Collection › Long Rifle

Long Rifle

Artist/Maker:
Young, Jacob
Place Made:
Sumner County Tennessee United States of America
Date Made:
1800-1805
Medium:
maple –iron –steel –brass –silver –gold
Accession Number:
5885.8
Description:
This long rifle is a tour-de-force of the gunsmith’s art that demonstrates both the skill of its maker, Jacob Young, and the importance of its owner William Waid Woodfork.

ARTIST: Jacob Young (1774-1842) was a second-generation gunsmith. Born in Southwestern Virginia, his family moved to Rowan County, North Carolina, and then further west to the Cumberland River Valley, settling on Indian Creek near modern-day Boma, Tennessee, in what was then Sumner County, North Carolina. His father William Young fought in the campaigns against the Cherokee as an armorer under the command of General Griffith Rutherford. Young presumably learned the gunsmith trade from his father.

In this period most gunsmiths used pre-made barrels and mass-produced imported locks, both of which were readily available in the trans-Appalachian west. However, this rifle was made “lock, stock, and barrel” by Young. That is to say, he crafted the gunlock—the heart of the weapon—from its raw materials; shaped the gunstock from a solid block of tightly grained wood; and forged and rifled the gun barrel from a solid bar of iron. He then further embellished the weapon with rococo carving and brass and silver inlays.

OWNER: William Waid Woodfork was an early settler in Jackson County, Tennessee. He owned a large plantation and was a surveyor. In 1806 was paid by the state of Tennessee to separate White County out of Jackson County.

DESCRIPTION: Long rifle with stock made of curly maple. Silver false wedge inlays cover the pins that hold the rifled barrel, signed by Young, to the stock.

The lock is entirely handmade by Young and signed. The priming pan and frizzen enclosure are lined in gold. The flash guard and touchhole liner are also gold. The bolts that hold the lock to the stock are silver plated. The lock’s sideplate is also silver, and engraved with William Waid Woodfork’s name.

The patch box is fashioned from a single piece of cast brass. Its finial is a four-petaled flower. Decorative engraving enframes the patchbox, its captured lid, and the screws that hold it to the butt of the gun. Additional engraving is found in the petals of the flower and on the patchbox lid.

A silver inlay with an American eagle in inlaid into the cheek rest. This inlay is held in place by

RELATED OBJECTS: A pipe tomahawk made by William Young, Jacob’s father, in on loan to MESDA (MESDA acc. 5885.1)

REFERENCES: Mel Hankla, “Note: The Cumberland, Unexpected Artistry of the Southern Frontier,” Journal of Early Southern Decorative Arts (2018) http://www.mesdajournal.org/2019/note-the-cumberland-unexpected-artistry-of-the-southern-frontier/

History:
This rifle was made for William Waid Woodfork (1779/80-1859), an early settler in Jackson County, Tennessee.
Credit Line:
Collection of Frank and Lally House