Thursday, October 1, 2015

Rifle by Philip Gillespie

This rifle was made by Philip Gillespie of Mills River, NC.  Philip was born February 11, 1815 and died of natural causes while serving in the (Union) North Carolina Mounted Infantry in East TN on January 15, 1864.

The 52 cal barrel is also larger than any other known Gillespie Rifle. The barrel measures 37.5” in length; it is slightly swamped, measuring 1.010” at the breech. .940 in mid-section and 1.050” at the muzzle.  The barrel has 4 German silver bands inlaid around it and the muzzle also has a wide German silver inlay.  The patchbox, sideplate, wear plate, ram rod thimbles/entry pipe all appear to be made of the same German silver alloy used in the barrel inlays.  The trigger guard, butt-plate and toe plate are made from brass.  The stock is American Black Walnut.

Philip Gillespie is probably the best known of the Gillespie gun makers.  His rifles are normally marked with the initial P * G stamped on the top barrel flat.  Most often he used little “fern” like stamps on either side of the initials, on this rifle he has them around the rear sight and also fore and aft of the rear German silver barrel inlays.  The front sight/barrel inlays has the same stamp treatment.

Philips gun shop was located on the banks of the Mills River in Henderson County NC. His father, Mathew Gillespie had his shop nearby.  Philips brothers John, James and Wilson may have been employed in his shop.  His brother-in-laws George Washington Underwood and Robert O. Blythe and also his first cousin (and brother-in-law) John Harvey Gillespie may have worked there prior to Philips death in 1864.

Philip was very much and entrepreneur.  In addition to being a gun maker, he was also a farmer and owned a legal distillery.  In 1849 he purchased 347 acres of land from the estate of his Grandfather (and namesake), Philip Sitton Sr. This property included the Philip Sitton, Sr. home as well as the Sitton iron Forge that Sitton had established circa 1800.

Philip was never married and had no children.

Copy by Dennis Glazener from his display. Dennis Glazener is the GGG Grandson of John Gillespie 1753-1822. Photographed at the 2013 Tennessee Kentucky Rifle Show by Jan Riser.

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