View Full Version : old muzzleloader

November 17, 2000, 07:59 PM
One of my co-workers asked me to do a little research for him. He has an old muzzleloader and it is as such:

I think it is a Kentucky Longrifle or Pennsylvania Rifle

32 1/2 long, rifled (I think), heavy, octagonal barrel. It appears as though there are some sort of dimples on the bottom like they are flashings from a mold. Cap and ball , set triggers (if I know what that really means). Does that mean you pull the curved trigger so the hammer will engage and then pull the straight trigger to fire? Anyway, it has a severely curved brass buttplate and a cheek rest. The sights are dovetailed, but the rear sight is gone. The forearm extends to about halfway up the barrel and has a cap on the muzzle end, and the ramrod goes in the forearm cap and into the forearm. The diameter of the bore is about 3/8 inch.
It has a brass trigger guard with curved finger rests on the bottom that extend about an inch.The steel lockplate(?) is engraved with a a pointer dog pointing at some unknown animal. It also has leaves and grasses engraved on the plate surrounding the scene.

It is engraved with the words: g.g. julcher ( I think)

Any Ideas what this thing is?

[Edited by tatters on 11-17-2000 at 08:32 PM]

Mike Irwin
November 17, 2000, 09:26 PM

The name may actually be Gulcher...

For some reason, that rings a bell. I've got a good book on rifles of this genre around here somewhere.

Let me dig it up, and I'll try to find something about it.

You are, though, describing a pretty typical rifle of this type.

Your thoughts on the set trigger are, I believe, right on.

Mike Irwin
November 17, 2000, 10:27 PM

Not too much information, I'm afraid.

I THINK that the lockplate on your gun was made by James Golcher of Philadelphia.

My book unfortunatly has very very little information on him, only listing him as being in Philadelphia in 1855/1861. It doesn't give a reference for that information (such as tax lists, business directories, etc.)

And, that information doesn't seem to square with an illustration earlier in the book showing a Golcher lock in an early 1800s flint style.

Your friend may want to write to or contact the Philadelphia Historical Society, or the Pennsylvania State Museum & Historial Commission for more information.

November 18, 2000, 08:40 AM
Most gunmakers bought their locks instead of building their own. It was a matter of economy, among other things. The markings on the lock only indicate who made the lock, usually not the whole firearm. That said...
"The Golchers were a family of gunlock makers in the early nineteenth century. There were at least five members of this family. One of them, Joseph, eventually emigrated to California and opened a shop there.
At least two of the Golcher family, James and John, were riflesmiths, but their names and those of others of the same family are found on a great number of locks of old rifles known to be the work of many makers. This may account for the numerous so-called Golcher rifles. James Golcher branded his name on both his barrels and locks. The author has knowledge of only one of his guns. John Golcher doubtless made many rifles, but there is no credible evidence that others of that family were extensive makers."
The above information is from The Kentucky Rifle by Captain John G. W. Dillin

4V50 Gary
November 20, 2000, 05:43 AM
Mind you though that as guns were used and worn, they were salvaged for parts. Thus, a lock from England could find itself mated with an American barrel made in Tennessee and a trigger guard casted in Ohio with the stock and fitting done by some gunsmith in Kansas!

A more thorough examination of the gun is required to see whether the style and workmanship matches that of a particular gunsmith.

Cap n ball
November 20, 2000, 09:23 AM
Golcher, as said previously was a name associated with a Pennsylvania family of locksmiths from the mid 18th to mid 19th century. Now, I'm sure there were exceptions but their product was mainly a very ordinary affair used on common firearms such as would be purchased by folks at general stores and such. Your description fits what they called a fowling piece. Probably smooth bore and around 12ga. with hunting dogs engraved on it. Most were flinters with some being converted after percussion caps came into use. A converted piece is usually not as prized as an original. The wood used was not the best quality. These pieces were clearly intended to satisfy the family farm market. I haven't seen any listed as worth more than a few hundred dollars. I'd call it a wallhanger. I would not suggest that it be fired under any circumstances. Sometimes these old things are still loaded and old loads have been known to still ignite after a very long time. Make sure that the bottom of the bore is clear.

James K
November 20, 2000, 05:11 PM
By that time, very few gunsmiths were actually making anything but stocks, and even those were available roughly inletted. Barrels, furniture and locks were bought from outfits like J&D Little in Pittsburgh. The lock you describe sounds like a typical English lock, turned out by the thousands in Birmingham and sold all over the world. Many are marked "Warranted", though they don't say by whom or how a claim can be made if the product is defective. (Sound familiar?)

The caliber indicates it is a small bore rifle for deer and smaller game or for target shooting. Value is hard to judge, and there are many variations. Percussion rifles generally bring less than flintlocks and average $2-3000 in top condition. Obviously, rust, broken stocks, other broken parts, etc. will reduce the value considerably.

One interesting thing to check - many of the rifles of that era have straight rifling. I don't know why.


November 20, 2000, 11:08 PM
I looked again, guys, and I am almost positive the name is Julcher. It is fairly clean, and unmarred.
Any other thoughts?

January 15, 2005, 11:30 AM
I also have one that I'd like to get some info on.

The lock of this one reads "G. Gulcher"

The top of the barrel seems to read "J.F. VANTREES"


Where is the market for these?

4V50 Gary
January 15, 2005, 12:32 PM
Vantrees could be the fellow who assembled the gun. By the mid-1800s, both barrel & lock could be bought and the gunsmith need only assemble the parts to make a gun. Many gunsmiths still could and did make their own barrels and casted their own parts (trigger guard, buttplate, sideplates, nose caps)>

January 3, 2006, 06:48 AM
In search for info on a Kentucky rifle I have, I came across this article in FiringLine. I imeadiately signed up. The rifle I have is marked "Jas. Golcher/Lancaster". It is a .30 cal. rifled bore' octegon bbl. Overall length is 54", bbl. is 38.5". The stock is fancy tiger maple, with 20 pcs. of silver inlay and brass patch box. It has a severe curved brass butt plate, the trigger guard is brass with curved finger grip. It has a set trigger, and is percussion. Condition is " fair to good " by NRA standards. I'll be able to post a picture soon. I'd like a reply with any info anyone may have.

January 3, 2006, 10:04 AM
I would guess these are possibly what is known as a "Ohio Halfstock Percussion Sporting Rifle" See Flayderman's "Guide to Antique American Firearms", Chapters XI and XII for a discussion on the differences between Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio rifles.


April 27, 2009, 12:11 PM
I new here...I seen the message about the J F Vantrees Stamp on the barrel of the gun. My new husband great great grandfather was the gun maker J F VanTrees. I would like to find some of these guns to give him as a gift. If anyone has them for sale or know where I could get some. Please let me know. If you want to know any info on them I'll try to find that out for you.

April 27, 2009, 01:48 PM
The one I posted about belongs to an in-law that asked about it.

Any info you coild come up with would be great! :)

April 27, 2009, 03:17 PM
The JF VanTrees guns were made in Fort Recovery,Ohio. I was told That JF made every gun stock to fit the person that the gun was made for. My husband actually has the JF Vantrees gun stamp. If you look up VanTrees in Fort Recovery Ohio there is an article all about the guns. There is also the VanTrees park in Fort Recovery. If they would ever want to sell the gun I might be interested in buying it.


April 27, 2009, 08:09 PM

I'm having trouble locating an article on that. Is it on the internet? Can you point me to a link?

Everything I find on Ft. recovery points me to an earlier period...that of the North West (Ohio) Territory. Which would seem to pre-date this gun by 50-60 years.

March 13, 2012, 09:41 AM
I just purchased an old JF Vantrees Full stock rifle out of a barn being cleaned out in Southern Michigan and found this thread so I thought I would add to it. I've found some interesting information about the builder but would like to learn more. Not really into collecting these so don't have much knowledge in this area (I collect mainly militaria WWI to Vietnam).
I will add pics here in just a minute.
Thanks and nice forum you have here!!

March 13, 2012, 10:03 AM
Here are some pics. It's just as found, all I've done for now is tie a piece of leather strap around the muzzle to hold the barrle onto the stock as the retaining pis are missing. The barrel looks unfinished underneath and hand forged. The unique thing is the "J F Vantrees" marking is on the bottom of the stock? Could this be an early one of his maybe?

March 13, 2012, 10:05 AM
More pics

March 13, 2012, 10:07 AM
Last ones.

March 13, 2012, 10:28 AM
You might be right on the hand-forged, with that drum and nipple style lock it looks like a flint-to-percussion adapted barrel. What's the caliber?

March 13, 2012, 10:51 AM
I'm not sure on the Cal. but I can see rifling. When I dropped the ram rod down the barrel it shot out a nice big ploom of dust!!:eek:

March 13, 2012, 10:56 AM
From what I've read this was a builder out of the Fort Recovery Ohio area and built his guns from 1854 to 1890. The Great-Grandsons still have his rifling tools. I was hoping to contact a relative.
If you look close at the hammer and cap area you can see a flash pan or shield?? I was told this might mean it was placed there for a left handed shooter? Does that sound right?

March 13, 2012, 11:37 AM
Very nice for a barn find. My WAG on the caliber is .32, hard to tell from a pic tho.

March 13, 2012, 11:45 AM
The bore seams to measure approximately 1/2" across if that helps. Yes I think it looks pretty good. Could use a coat of oil and some retention pins (if that's what they're called. The locking loops under the barrel are fine so they must have just been removed and lost or fell out??

March 14, 2012, 12:09 PM
I believe there is a book that has info on these pieces, at the Ohio Historical Society archives. I never did get around to requesting it.

I'd need too dig back through old emails to remember the name of it.

Mike Irwin
March 14, 2012, 08:35 PM
I'm pretty sure that was a commercial, factory-made barrel and was very likely never a flintlock.

If you look at the muzzle you can see a circular line where it was lathe dressed and likely held on an arbor and spindle while the flats were dressed.

My guess is the barrel was made post 1850, possibly even post Civil War.

The cup around the nipple was, as someone suggested, a shield. It directed blast and pieces of the cup up and away from the shooter or someone standing beside him.

The style of the stock and furniture also suggests post 1850.

March 15, 2012, 10:14 AM
in Lodi, Ohio.

The Kendrigs operate and MAY be able to ID supply additional info.

Google for website.