DAVIDSON COUNTY — A new book written by one of the state’s noted authorities on North Carolina longrifles details the rich history of longrifles made in Davidson County.
The book, titled “The Longrifle Makers of the Davidson School,” was written by Greensboro resident Michael Briggs, who has also written books about longrifle makers in Guilford County, Mecklenburg, Rowan and Salem.
The 314-page, full-color book includes hundreds of illustrations of existing Davidson longrifles and an introduction by noted Davidson County artist Bob Timberlake, who has had an interest in longrifles for much of his life.
According to Briggs, Davidson County had 21 gunsmiths — all of them in the northern part of the county — who made longrifles between the 1790s and 1850s.
“The two most important ones were Henry Ledford and Andrew Long,” Briggs said.
“Ledford High School is named for Ledford’s son, Preston. And Andrew Long, he had two cousins — Felix Long and Solomon Long — who all three had gun shops beside each other, just outside of Midway.”
The book includes images of about 35 Ledford rifles and 10 or 12 made by the Longs.
According to Briggs, longrifles made by the Davidson County gunsmiths resemble those made by Salem gunsmiths, though there are certain distinctions.
“The Davidson people, I think, copied what the Salem people were doing,” he said. “They were all German heritage folks. The Salem folks were Moravian, and the Davidson folks were Lutheran and Primitive Baptist, but they still came from Germany. In their guns, they use the same stock architecture and the eagle patch box.”
Briggs devotes an entire chapter of his book to icons and symbols the Davidson gunsmiths used in making their rifles.
“Davidson did lots of symbols that the Moravians didn’t use, nor did any other gunsmiths,” he said. “We’re not sure what they all stand for, but there’s too many of them for it not to have some meaning to them.”
Briggs, who has been interested in longrifles for about 40 years, was instrumental in getting a number of historical markers placed throughout Guilford County — including two in High Point — honoring local gunsmiths and Guilford’s gun-making history.
“The Longrifle Makers of the Davidson School” can be purchased for $60 (plus $5 postage) by sending a check to Briggs at 103 Battle Road, Greensboro, NC 27410.