More than 50 years ago, three men clambered bottomward the abrupt coffer of Bear Brook in Robbins acquisitive to ascertain artifacts from a borderland burglarize branch that, forth with its owner, David Kennedy, vanished about 1838.
Arron Capel II, now the retired CEO of his family’s century-old braided rug accomplishment business in Troy, teamed with Pinehurst yst Don Schulte and candlemaker Carl McSwain to conduct what amounted to an archaeological dig. Anniversary bedevilled an constant absorption in the allegorical Kentucky connected rifle, which became the gun of best for America’s borderland settlers and angry men afterwards gunsmiths of German coast began address them in southeastern Pennsylvania about 1719.
Tse artisans apparent that aculation a rifled base in the bore of a 4-foot-long base badly added a gun’s accurateness at ahead unimagined distances. British soldiers accomplished the baleful ability of the rifles back patriot sharpsoters, battlefront from 250 yards away, aated redcoats like tenpins during the Revolutionary War.
Because the absoluteness of the borderland was sometimes referred to as “Kentucky,” the burglarize became ociated with that breadth alike admitting connected rifles were never absolutely bogus there. Ambitious entrepreneurs beforehand aculation from Pennsylvania to Virginia, and uredly afar areas like the autogenous of Arctic Carolina. One of tse burglarize makers was David Kennedy’s father, (John) Alexander Kennedy, a Philadelphia gunsmith of Scottish descent.
The absolute date Alexander confused his ancestors by wagon alternation from Philadelphia to Arctic Carolina is difficult to pin down. One annual suggests he actomed in this breadth as aboriginal in 1768 — the year of David’s birth. Ancestors belief says Alexander larboard Philadelphia to beacon bright of the British Army, ertive to appropriate the burghal in 1777. Concerned that the British would yze him as an accoutrements supplier to the rebels, Alexander usually refrained from block his name on rifles he made. Only one address the signature “A Kennedy” is accepted to exist, but his rifles were active by the Continental Army in the Revolutionary battles of Guilford Courtuse and Kings Mountain.
When he actomed in what is now Robbins, Alexander Kennedy befriended adolescent riflesmith William Williamson, w helped Alexander alpha his own operation by loaning him altered gun-making tools. He again accomplished his barter to son David. About 1795, David began his own business, partnering with Williamson in the operation of a gun-making ability on Bear Creek.
The ally erected a dam beyond the creek, breach the baptize breeze to millworks breadth the stream’s force powered a waterwheel that, in turn, operated the mill’s machinery. Iron collapsed bar was formed into the anatomy of burglarize barrels by ample grindstones uced by a adjoining accountability maker. The metal was t-forged and molded into barrels by trip-hammers, additionally operated by waterpower. The barrels (referred to as the gun’s “soul” by Arron Capel) were again “cooked for canicule at a time and ample like firewood.” Coal from a adjoining mining works supplied the calefaction source. Br accessories were casting at Bear Brook too. Already the accoutrements were embled, they were ysis accursed over the bank to a ambition and the rifle’s architect anxiously adjusted.
As Capel credibility out in his book, “Bear Brook Connected Rifles,” there existed a aerial appeal for able ammunition since, “(in) accession to the accessible allegation to put aliment on the table, every frontiersman had the albatross to ure his ancestors from adverse Indian attack.”
Moreover, the Kennedys’ burglarize comminute and boiler were strategically ancd to serve as an beginning for audacious antecedents abandonment from Fayetteville (then Cross Creek) and traveling the adjoining aisle on their journeys to Salisbury and destinations further west. It was not connected afore David Kennedy bought out Williamson’s absorption and, with his ancestor aging, became the man absolutely in charge. Soon, he broadcast his captivation to accommodate a sawmill, and lumberyard. Bristles of David’s 10 children, forth with his brothers Alexander and John, busied themselves autritative rifles, pistols and swords. Woodworkers, carvers, engravers and silversmiths crafted the finishing touches that gave Kennedy rifles their altered look. Virtually every component, abreast from flintlocks alien from England, was bogus and aculated at Bear Creek. So abounding accomplished artisans were active at the alive mill, the armpit became accepted as Mechanics Hill, and a column appointment by that name was opened. It was the aboriginal name actomed to a adjustment that over the afterward aeon and a bisected would abide name changes as frequently as a baffle man, identified, in turn, as Elise, Hemp and uredly Robbins.
David Kennedy was able in award means to trim costs. Blackwell Robinson’s “The History of Moore Canton — 1747-1847” recounts the bounded fable of w Kennedy baffled acquittal to a New York aggregation of what he accounted to be outrageously cher gunlocks. Afterwards afoot on rseback to the branch and appliance his abundantly admired violin music to ingratiate himself with the apprentice and operators, David “soon apparent the abstruse complex and alternate to Mechanics Hill, breadth he began to accomplish his own.”
And the adroitness didn’t appear cheap. The best awful bizarre rifles, according to Robinson, “contained argent broiled from 16 argent dollars and awash for appropriately college prices.”
No absolute affidavit exists that Kennedy succeeded in landing a above arrangement to aculation accoutrements to the U.S. during the War of 1812, but Capel and his acquaintance Bruce Turner unearthed accord at the Archives of the War Department in Washington beatific by Kennedy in January 1812, to Arctic Carolina Congressman Archibald McBryde.
In a letter, Kennedy bidding his alertness and address to accomplish whatever numbers of rifles and muskets the government ability require, writing, “T I am not ancious to beneath booty the bisness, as I am agreeable with my present imployment, which a fordes me a fortabel livin….., back I ane on the blessings we injoy in our abundant beloeved country, it makes my hart glo with the adulation of the aforementioned and makes me willin to incounter about any accident in defence of our rights.”
Capel maintains there would never accept been the “sudden and affecting access of appliance at the burglarize comminute (150 workers, according to the appraisal of Walter Williamson, William Williamson’s grandson)” absent the accretion of such a deal. In his adamant research, Capel additionally apparent age-old aggressive annal advertence that a wagonload of Kentucky rifles “had been alien from the north,” to Gen. Andrew Jackson anon above-mentioned to the Battle of New Orleans — the final urance of the battle — and surmises that the wagonload is as acceptable to accept appear from Mechanics Acropolis as any added location.
Whether Kennedy supplied accoutrements for the war accomplishment or not, it is bright his branch was a booming moneymaker. Robinson’s history erts that the branch “was the bigger in this allotment of the south.”
One ancillary annual appear the profits of David Kennedy at about $15,000 annually and tse of his brother “about 1,000 per annum.” If Google’s aggrandizement calculator is to be believed, that $15,000 represents commodity in balance of $250,000 today.
Kennedy became an affecting animal and benefactor in Mechanics Hill. According to the 1830 demography he endemic a ample acreage consisting of 23 people, including 15 slaves. He and brother Alexander were advisers of the Mount Parnus Academy in Carthage. David donated acreage and financed the architecture of the Mechanics Acropolis Baptist Church, amid on Salisbury Street in Robbins, breadth the Woodmen of the World Hall now stands. He served as a affect in the church. A Bible donated by Kennedy in 1823 independent the afterward tongue-in-cheek inscription: “David Kennedy — his book he may apprehend acceptable but God knows when.”
Kennedy’s religious inclinations may accept been galvanized by a agonizing aing call. About ashamed by a rolling log at the sawmill, David “declared that ‘if the Lord let him alive he would use his logs for bigger purposes,’” according to Robinson’s Moore Canton history.
Business slowed at the Kennedy burglarize branch afterwards 1825, a aeon of a about crumbling abridgement culminating in the abat accepted as the Panic of 1837. Autritative affairs worse was the advancing attendance of aggressive burglarize mills abreast Salem and Jamestown. The absolute accomplishment de adroitness for Kennedy occurred about 1835, back he faced a appeal to accomplish acceptable a aggressiveness for acquittal of a ample debt owed by brother Alexander, wse accepted abundance had failed. David and wife Joanna were broke and their backing liquidated. According to Capel’s book, “one 300-acre amplitude of Kennedy’s acreage awash for four dollars.” Ironically, gold was afterwards apparent on it. The burglarize comminute was bankrupt and auctioned off. The client adapted the ability to a atom mill.
Creditors never accomplished coursing David Kennedy alike afterwards he’d absent everything. He and his wife fled to Green Hill, Ala., breadth they resided on son Hiram’s affection plantation. He died there in 1837. His absolute acreage appear in Alabama tallied $170.30.
David’s additional son, John, backward on in Mechanics Acropolis autritative rifles in his own business. John accomplished abiding bounded acclaim in a three-way “sot-off” afore a ample army in Carthage adjoin adolescent Moore Canton gunsmiths Phil Cameron and John B. McFarland. Anniversary of the compeors claimed to accomplish Moore County’s best authentic rifles. Back the smoke cleared, all three were begin to accept met the bulls-eye. The men alleged it a draw and anniversary went me “feeling appreciative of his marksmanship, and ertive that no gunsmith in the accompaniment bogus a added authentic cutting burglarize than he did.” John connected in the business until anon afore he died in 1855, the aforementioned year a bounce storm done the Kennedy burglarize comminute bottomward history’s drain.
An ankle today forth Bear Creek’s asperous aisle provides bare affirmation that the breadth was already a beehive of activity. Abreast from calmly disregarded foundation stones, there is no evidence of the old factory. Capel, McSwain and Schulte knew it would booty absolute digging to acquisition any debris of manufacture, but they were able to do aloof that in their appointment to Bear Brook bisected a aeon ago. Over time, bounded ociation had unearthed orted brownish altar anion to accept been larboard behind, but few of tse charcoal had been preserved.
Working together, the three men amid a baby vine-tangled mound. It accepted to be the mill’s abandon pile. For the aflame connected burglarize enthusiasts, the shards of active burglarize barrels, ignment bits, flint bang castings and raw argent they unearthed consuted a abundance accession as admired as gold. These artifacts provided the insights into the Bear Brook operation.
Aficionados of David Kennedy’s rifles accept launched their own Facebook armpit — Kennedy Rifle/Mechanics Hill. Followers column comments that run the area from Additional Amendment dissions to accouterment beforehand apprehension of the Kennedy gun appearance and aliment drive afresh captivated in Robbins in April. Historian-collectors like Capel and Asheboro’s Bill Ivey, columnist of Arctic Carolina Scols of Longrifles 1765-1865, adduce the celebrated accent of the Bear Brook gun branch as one of nine accurate accessories (referred to as “scols” ) that uced the vaunted Kentucky connected rifles in Arctic Carolina.
What absolutely excites historians and collectors are the admirable carvings and engravings on the connected rifles. Like the Kennedys, abounding founders of the Arctic Carolina connected burglarize scols hailed from either Pennsylvania or Virginia, and their adroitness reflects tse roots. Ornamental block independent on the s of abounding Kennedy rifles display a six-pointed brilliant about duplicate from tse begin on accoutrements bogus in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, breadth Alexander Kennedy began his career. Similarly, engravings emblazoned on the ancillary “patchbox” (used to abundance bolt patches and grease) of Kennedy rifles about acknowledge “flower petals” that actor a actomed mark of Lancaster Canton rifles.
Long rifles announcement David Kennedy’s engraved brand or signature (he spelled it “Kannedy) are decidedly prized. Addition of the beneath 100 accepted Kennedy accoutrements depicts a serpentine-like comet on the . Capel says the architecture was aggressive by the “Great Comet of 1811,” which electrified the country for the bigger allotment of a year. In a arresting coincidence, a Kennedy burglarize endemic by Capel displays the name of an English lock maker alleged “Robbins” on the flintlock. It was crafted added than a aeon afore Karl Robbins’ alms in the ociation acquired the boondocks to be renamed in his nor. Back asked about the bazaar amount of Kennedy rifles, adeptness collectors Ivey and Capel tend to autrity their cards aing to their corresponding chests, but neither blinked at bristles abstracts as a fair sing point.
The Moore Canton Telepne Directory contains about as abounding entries for “Kennedy” as there are for “Jones” and added than a few are birth of David Kennedy, including Southern Pines’ Assistant Boondocks Manager Chris Kennedy. A gun lover and ter, Chris had frequented Robbins abounding times and was about actomed with David Kennedy’s story, but his 2015 appointment to the boondocks as a affiliate of the Moore Canton Leadership Insute acute his acquaintance of his ancestor’s ytical role in the founding and development of the town.
“It’s appealing humbling, abnormally in my role, to ane that the Kennedys had a lot to do with development not aloof of Robbins, but of the accomplished county,” says Chris.
The accelerated abatement in contempo decades of Robbins’ bolt industry acquired boondocks leaders to attack with w best to allure new business. One tactic has been to go “back to the future” by affirmation the community’s rifle-making origins. Prominently positioned in the centermost of boondocks is a actual battleground applique acquainted the Kennedys’ “extensive gunsmithing operation” at Mechanics Hill. In 2013, the Boondocks Council ociates adopted resolutions establishing the additional Thursday in anniversary April as “Mechanics Hill/Kennedy Burglarize Day,” and acknowledging their claimed affidavit ignment to advocate the Additional Amendment.
Like the Penix of age-old lore, gun autritative in Robbins astonishingly rose from the ashes. Soft-spoken gun addict and lifetime Robbins citizen Joey Boswell is commodity of a closing day David Kennedy. Afterwards a absolute career uming computer automation, engineering new artefact developments, and about ytic all sorts of automated problems for orted manufacturers, Boswell annoyed of biking to absent destinations and actuality abroad from his family. Actomed with the design, operation and limitations of weaponry, both noncombatant and military, he and his wife, Martha, sed their own business, War Sport Industries LLC, in the “barn” alongside their me aloft a acropolis in Robbins.
His aboriginal above abandoned activity in 2008 complex award a adjustment to appearance the bittersweet calefaction arresting to the adversary at caliginosity on the t barrels of American soldiers’ accoutrements afterwards again firing. Boswell invented a heat-resistant accessory he labeled a “suppressor sock,” which did the trick. The beat became accepted affair for ertive Army weapons. They began address their own accoutrements — the aboriginal bogus in Robbins back the day the Kennedy branch was shuttered. Afterwards all-encomping research, Boswell advised what he alleged a low afterimage operations appliance burglarize (LVOA), which accepted to be a above advance in aggressive weaponry.
Soon, chump appeal for the LVOA added to the point that the Boswells could no best handle operations out of their barn and they confused War Sport to an old branch off N.C. 24. With operations active abounding tilt, two shifts, with 25 employees, War Sport had aback become a above Robbins employer. In 2016, the Boswells awash their interests in War Sport (which continues its accomplishment beneath altered management) and began addition weapons-related action in their barn. The new aggregation is alleged Mechanics Acropolis Business LLC, in admiration to Boswell’s gun-making predecessor. The Boswells and Mechanics Acropolis now ignment in affiliation with Osprey Accoutrements in researching, developing and business its weapons and added accompanying ucts.
“I accept never had to move from Robbins to do annihilation I capital to do, and I accept formed across and everywhere,” says Boswell, w has served as a affiliate of Robbins’ Boondocks Council back ’09. As the aator to the activation of gunmaking in Robbins, Boswell feels a alikeness with David Kennedy back — avant-garde aculation band processes abreast — the art of autritative accoutrements has not afflicted abundant back Kennedy’s day. “Here we were bringing jobs to this boondocks in the aforementioned business that sed it.”
This commodity originally appeared in PineStraw Magazine. Pinehurst citizen Bill Case writes about history for PineStraw. He can be accomplished at Bill.Case@tmpsonhine.com.
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