MARIETTA - The 37th annual Association of Ohio Long Rifle Collectors Exhibit brought a couple hundred longrifle enthusiasts and history buffs to Marietta's Lafayette Hotel over the weekend.
Wall-to-wall tables containing displays of approximately 400 longrifles from Ohio's early history filled the hotel ballroom. More than 30 exhibitors participated this year.
"The association started in Marietta during the 1970s, and we've been holding this event for well over 30 years now," said Bob Poch, president of the AOLRC.
Photo by Sam Shawver
David Fortner, of Charleston, looks over a rack of longrifles Sunday during the 37th annual Association of Ohio Long Rifle Collectors exhibit at the Lafayette Hotel in Marietta.
He said the exhibit is a great time of fellowship for collectors, but also provides the public a chance to see a piece of history up close.
"Some of these rifles go back to the time when Ohio became Ohio," Poch noted. "But they were all made in this state."
The longrifle was a tool early settlers of the Northwest Territory could not live without.
"You had to have a gun," Poch said. "The early gunsmiths came from just across the river in Virginia, others migrated here from Pennsylvania. In this area there were full-time gunsmiths like John Vincent and his son from Lowell, while others were farmer gunsmiths who farmed during good weather, but often survived the winters by making guns."
He said early settlers had little money, so most of the longrifles were bartered - paid for with livestock or by providing the gunsmith with some needed service, like cutting firewood.
Collector Rod Frazer of Pickerington, Ohio, said most of his rifle collection were made in Meigs or Gallia counties, where his family has roots.
"I became interested when I was very young - some relatives on my mother's side of the family had five old firearms that had been handed down through the years," he said. "They were kept behind a door at their house and I used to spend a lot of time looking at them."
Later Frazer began doing some research on the longrifles and discovered they were made by local gunsmiths. He also began collecting the firearms.
"They're hard to find, but I have about 50 now," he said. "Most of mine are worth about $1,000. At some auctions you can buy a longrifle for around $300, while others may sell for $50,000 to $60,000."
David Fortner drove up from Charleston to see the longrifle exhibit, taking a rare Sunday off from duties as organist for his church back home.
"I've built four or five muzzleloaders myself - a couple from scratch," he said. "And I've been shooting them since the 1970s. I come here for the fellowship and like to talk with the collectors."
John Gaeckle, from Wadsworth, Ohio, also builds muzzleloaders, along with his buddy Dave Kutcher from Macedonia, Ohio.
"We were checking the unusual butt plate on this Barnhart rifle," Gaeckle said. "Every one of the rifles in this room has a story to tell. And I sometimes get ideas for building my rifles from these exhibits."
The longrifle display belonged to John Barnhart from Circleville, whose ancestors crafted the firearms.
"They were farmer gunsmiths - many of the rifles were handed down through our family - others I've collected over the years," he said. "And these rifles go all the way back to the 1820s."
Barnhart said people visit the longrifle exhibits for various reasons.
"Some are collectors, others like to know about the history or just enjoy looking at the craftsmanship," he said. "And one woman who came through Saturday said she didn't know anything about firearms, but she just loved seeing the beauty of these longrifles."