Saturday, November 25, 2017

Old Salem, NC a haven for old-time gunsmithing and Moravian History

My girlfriend, Pam, and I went to Old Salem for a fun day In September. It was a beautiful day with low humidity for the Piedmont, which is always welcome. We hit the MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) and various artisan and craftsman venues offered there.

Drew Neill is the shoemaker. Drew was kind enough to tell me about the brogan or work shoe of the 1840’s period. Here is Drew explaining how the “last” would be built up with leather to be the same shape as the customer’s foot so the finished shoe would be a custom fit.

As a fan of such things as antiques, Moravian and North Carolina history, flintlock rifles, leather working and wood turning where else would I want to be on a beautiful North Carolina day? (And I want to thank Pam for never rushing me though museums or living history events.)

Here is just a little bit about the history of Old Salem. It was founded as Salem in 1766 by the Moravians, who were ex-Europeans who came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, to establish a religious community. While Old Salem is not an operational religious community today, it retains its Moravian flavor through the painstaking restoration of the original buildings, the staff in period clothing and their sharing of the town’s history.

Our Old-Salem day began at the MESDA. Our guide through the museum was Jenny Garwood. Jenny was conversant on anything I asked about. The museum has many period interiors from simple to quite fancy antique southern homes. You begin the tour in a simple room with simple furnishings and wind your way through doors leading from one reassembled interior to another. The rooms are filled with antiques and art that are appropriate to each room’s period of history. The tour ends with seeing the MESDA’s collection of longrifles and shooting accouterments. You will see super rifles from makers such as Kennedy and Vogler.

No pictures are allowed in the museum so you won’t see any here.

Here is the exterior of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Bill Bailey is a real-deal gunsmith working in the Vogler Gunshop across from the MESDA. Bill’s historical impression is of an 1840’s gunmaker. He nails it! (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Bill Bailey tells the history of the Vogler Gunshop. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Here is Bill's personal powder horn and bag. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Blake Stevenson is the guy in charge of the Vogler Gunshop. Blake is a hands-on interpreter as well as the department head. Here is Blake with his copy of a Vogler rifle (with the iconic eagle patchbox). It is a shooter and has not been babied. It could pass for an original.

Here is Blake’s Personal horn with his own engraving. He says that his scratching is better these days, but I really like the folksy quality of this engraving.

I am lucky that Old Salem is just an hour and a half from me so I can go back soon. There are other artisan shops that I have not written about, but I will when I go back next year.

Here is the link to Old Salem. www.oldsalem.org

Thanks for reading,
Rick Sheets

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