Skip to comments.Rare Rifle Exhibit Tuesday in Robbins(NC)
Posted on 05/16/2011 5:05:41 AM PDT by marktwain
Some of the most rare and valuable rifles in the world will be on exhibit Tuesday at Robbins Town Hall.
Popularly known as Kentucky Rifles, these long guns are considered to be among the most beautiful examples of early American art as well.
A new coffee-table book published last fall by Asheboro attorney William W. Ivey tells the history of North Carolina long rifles in 332 pages, with more than 1,000 color illustrations. He will be on hand for the 6 p.m. event to talk about the first school of Carolina gunsmithing, the Bear Creek school that began not a mile from the town hall.
On a hillside above Bear Creek in the 18th century, a Pennsylvanian by the name of Alexander Kennedy started the rifle factory that came to bear his name. Robbins became known as Mechanics Hill, and generations of Kennedys drew water power from a mill on that creek to run the drills that bored the long octagonal barrels of their guns.
Ive collected for 41 years, Ivey said in a telephone interview Friday. I enjoy history, enjoy seeing the artifacts. The ones I collect speak to me. They have meaning. Ive always enjoyed holding a piece of history.
A recent issue of Our State magazine described Ivey as a storyteller to whom these old things tell tales. He wouldnt describe himself exactly that way but is fascinated with the times from which those long guns came.
There are a lot of stories, absolutely, Ivey said. There is a story that goes along with every one. I believe the Kennedys were Scotch/Irish, and the name was originally spelled Kannedy. They came down from Pennsylvania, which a lot of early 18th century settlers did. They came to North Carolina to get new land. There was more open territory.
His presentation was originally to have been at the Robbins Area Public Library, which is sponsoring the event.
Because of the great interest in Kennedy rifles, and the unique opportunity to see examples that are hardly ever displayed, it was moved to town hall.
One particular rifle is thought to be the sole surviving example of those made by Alexander Kennedy himself. The Kennedy factory had nearly 100 mechanics turning them out by 1799, and Ivey sees them as genuine works of art as much as any made in the early days of the American republic.
None of the owners of these rare guns want their names used. They are bringing them on condition of anonymity. Kennedy rifles have been targets for burglaries and home invasions for decades around the northern Moore County area, so while the names of the rifle makers will be prominently displayed, those of their proud owners will remain secret.
Ivey is coming back to the place where many of his prized collectibles were made. Hes never been to the site of the old plant, just down Salisbury Street from the center of Robbins. Hes coming for one reason: Mayor Theron Bell talked him into it.
Because Theron Bell wanted me to come, Ivey said. She is enthusiastic. It was her invitation. She is hard to say no to.
His other reason is that the Bear Creek school of rifle makers is the first of nine he deals with in his book.
That Bear Creek school is a very important North Carolina school, Ivey said. I am a believer in preserving history.
Alexander Kennedy was a Revolutionary soldier and his guns were used by the Continental armies. The sole remaining one, the possession of a not-to-be-named Robbins area resident, is taller than many men. It is polished and trimmed with brass and has a silver gun sight. Engraved on a brass plate is the name of its maker, A. Kennedy.
Alexanders son, David Kennedy, carried on the business after his father. A marker near the old Kennedy cemetery still stands not far from the upper banks of the Bear on the edge of town, easily visible from the road.
Their gun barrels were cooked for days at a time stacked like stove wood and fired with coal mined in the area. Coal was mined in those days between Robbins and Carthage near the intersection of N.C. 22 with N.C. 24-27.
Other gun factories in the area included one run by John Kennedy, and another at or near Browns Mill. Other gunsmiths in the country were William Williamson, Capt. John Ritter, Phil Cameron and James Ray.
I’d have figured 25 - 30” (barrel length) as the limit of what I was interested in had I been living at the time. Some of the long rifles I see look like they’d be next to impossible to deal with.
I once worked on the support staff of a large commercial collection agency whose demand for skilled bill collectors was so great that they routinely ran help-wanted ads in out-of-state papers. One day a call came in from someone in Florida.
"What kind of guns are you looking at?" he asked. Puzzled, the personnel director asked him what he meant. "Well," he replied, "I seen your ad in the paper, and it says WANTED: TOP GUN COLLECTOR. That's me!"
I’ve been told that, in many cases, the length was to enable a rifle to be used as a pike after it was fired if there was no time to reload. Generations of soldiers used pikes or spears and a six foot rifle could inflict quite a bit of damage.
Just think of the storys the old long guns had.
Bayonets are simpler...
Good morning Eska, Yes I agree with that, all the newcomers like their high velocity Weatherby’s or Ultra Mags.
You should post an article or some historical facts about what the Alaskan Scouts used during WW2 when they assisted the US Army in defending Alaska from the japanes invasion.
I would but I need to get to work here in Wasilla, I just flew back in from Modesto, Ca last evening, my mother passed away friday morning and I have been gone since thursday.
Condolences on your mom’s passing.
Isn’t this one of American Riflemen’s “Ten Guns that Changed the World”?
Seems we could both be right. A matter of one feature producing two benefits
OK, I’m near the end of the show now, so I will post the list.
From The History Channel, American Riflemens’ “Ten Guns that Changed the World”
#10 Browning Automatic Rifle
#9 The Kentucky Rifle
#8 The Matchlock Musket
#7 M1 Garand
#5 Mauser 98
#4 The Brown Bess Musket
#3 1911 .45
#2 Colt Patterxon Revolver
#1 Maxim Machine Gun
This was true to a degree (the length that is) for military weapons.
Not entirely so, as there were exceptions, various European military rifles were quite short, but were provided with extra-long bayonets to compensate. Interestingly, in Europe hunting rifles of the same period tended to be very short, just a little above 3 ft, with a large caliber. “Fowling pieces” (shotguns) tended to be extremely long.
But civilian weapons like the American “long rifles” were very rarely if ever fitted for bayonets and bayonets for them were very uncommon. This also applied to the civilian smoothbore muskets that were actually more prevalent in America than the famous rifles. These weapons were certainly not made long for the sake of bayonets.
One of the problems the American militia had during the Revolution is that they had no bayonets, being armed mostly with their own personal weapons. So they could not hope to hold against a British bayonet attack - even though few bayonet charges actually reached their targets, the American militia were hopelessly outclassed in the intimidation contest, and they would almost always break and flee when the British got close. Some American generals could adjust tactics to compensate for this, like Morgan at Cowpens.
There was an analogous situation in Europe. Balkan and Eastern European muskets tended to be very long, and they had a reputation for accuracy. But these were not provided with bayonets either. Therefore, for a time anyway, many Eastern irregular troops carried, besides their musket, a wide variety of long hand-to-hand weapons.
Most everybody out here has old military guns, WWI & WWII vintage, some M1's and nowadays AK's too for caribou. I'm an AR guy myself, have 5 and plan on getting a few more. I killed a few caribou last year with 6.8 SPC and just got an AR-10 338 fed.
Quite a few locals are getting those Russkie Mosins for $110. They are super cheap, accurate, and if ya leave it in a cabin and river tourist steals it, no big deal.p>Been to potlatches where there were 30-40 guns on the floor for gifts, all 30-30's. Indians think 30-30's have some spiritual power and more grizz have been killed with them than any other gun by the local Indians.
I like weatherbys also, ha, have a couple 30-378 mags. I keep telling the wife I need a barret 50 to pay on over the nx winter for those long shots up on summit, maybe she sez.
My nephew just got back from Afghan, stationed in Anch with AK Air Guard, para rescue. Those guys go get what state police can't due to resources. Back last month a helo was shot down and 2 PJ teams had to go in get them. My nephew was with another PJ dropped near chopper, but pilot was dead. Other pilot was 400 yards up on hillside and another team dropped in to get him. Soon as they got on the ground, Afghans opened up and also hit their blackhawk and flight engineer; left the nephew & other pj on ground and flew back to base. He was stuck there for 5 hours getting shot at every 15 minutes. They were hiding under rocks and didn't think they were going to make it out of there. Afghans started firing on downed bird and blew it up, nephew had to run down ravine to get outta there. Anyway, 5 hours later A-10s and apaches showed up, rocketed the Afgahns outta there and they got out without losing anybody else. Nice writeup in AF paper about incident, check it out. Nephew just got back to AK 2 days back. I wonder if shooting a bunch of caribou will even interest him anymore after what he experienced in Afghan? Check it out, good read. http://www.bagram.afcent.af.mil/news...p?id=123254042
Which is what makes it a pike
The purpose of the long barrel was to give the powder time to fully ignite before the bullet released all the gases into the air. Short barrels meant low velocities and poor performance.
The book is apparently available now. For more information
The photography appears to be high quality. If you are a fan of the American Long Rifle, this book would a welcome addition to library. Many of the classic Pennsylvania / Kentucky Long Rifle books were photographed in black and white with varying degrees of clarity and details.
Osagebowman, posting on wife’s account