published Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Heritage Center hosts historic gun display

IF YOU GO

The Grundy County Historical Society Heritage Center is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT Monday through Friday and is located at 465 Railroad Ave. in Tracy City, Tenn. From the Monteagle exit on Interstate 24, follow U.S. Highway 41 South to a stoplight in Tracy City where Highway 41 turns right. Go two blocks from that intersection to Railroad Avenue on the right. The center is next door to Citizen’s Tri-County Bank. For more information, call 931-592-6008.


ON DISPLAY

Guns now on display at the center include:

* An early .40-caliber Lancaster Pennsylvania percussion rifle more than five feet long with a full curly maple stock and markings designating “Conestoge Rifle Works.”

* A .50-caliber smooth-bore Kentucky percussion rifle with a full curly maple stock, a 39-inch barrel and an elaborate trigger guard, butt plate and toe plate made of brass.

* A .36-caliber Ohio/Kentucky percussion rifle by J. Bauer bearing a clearly stamped “J. Bauer” between the rear sight and the breach and a lock plate stamped “Davidson & Co. Cincinnati.”

* A .30-caliber Kentucky percussion rifle probably made in the mid- to late 1830s with a stamp on the lock that reads, “P.S. Lauman Xenio O.” There are no markings indicating the maker.

Source: Grundy County Historical Society Heritage Center

Civil War and military history buffs can see examples of weaponry used more than 150 years ago in a rotating display at the Grundy County Historical Society Heritage Center in Tracy City, Tenn.

“I have quite a number of flint and percussion rifles, and my primary interest lies in the Tennessee-made Kentucky-style rifles,” local resident and gun collector Bill Beard said of the artifacts he’s been collecting since 1949.

His collection, part of which will be in a continually rotating exhibit at the center, is a product of his fascination with the Civil War, and he admits there’s a little family history influence there, too.

Beard’s maternal grandmother’s father — his great-grandfather — was a surgeon during the Civil War.

“She would relay stories to me about things he had told her and that stimulated my interest,” he said.

Gunmaker Leech and Rigdon made many of the artifacts — revolvers, swords and knives — that Beard has obtained over the years, he said.

“One of my [paternal] ancestors owned a wholesale grocery in Columbus, Miss., that was housed in the old Confederate ... arsenal. That happens to be where Leech and Rigdon were making products,” he said.

Visitors will be most impressed by the level of artistry in the workmanship of the weapons, he said, and gun and history buffs will enjoy contemplating the manufacturers and craftsmen.

Oliver Jervis, historian and director of exhibits at the center, said it will be housed behind a plate-glass window in an area of the building being developed as a display depicting scenes from Grundy County’s coal-mining past.

The center officially opened a little more than a year ago, and exhibits are starting to take shape, Jervis said.

The guns are an exciting addition, he said.

“Each gun has a plaque with information on it mounted below each of the guns,” Jervis said.

The guns will be replaced during the next six months with another foursome from Beard’s collection, he said.

Jervis said the center has several collections of artifacts and displays to offer visitors a variety.

“There are quite a few other things to see,” he said.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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