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.
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.
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,
My friend Mark Thomas is well known as The Craftsman to the Past and he exists in a rare category as one of the finest artisans in the country. Whenever Mark is impressed, I listen. He and I spoke about Jerry Eitnier. And we agreed that an article about the man is appropriate to showcase his skills as a builder and blacksmith as well as recognize his undeterred spirit! Please enjoy this article by Mark Thomas…Thanks, Rick Sheets
Jerry Eitnier, Maker of Iron Mounted Southern Rifles
I would like to introduce my friend Jerry Eitnier to the world. Jerry has given me an opportunity to understand a little better the passion that one can bring to his craft. My meeting of Jerry at our Annual CLA show in Lexington, Kentucky is always a joy. He is a man that that has humbled me in a number of ways. He was going through some personal health issues but was at the show with the biggest grin I’d ever seen on the face of a fellow craftsman. The shear fact that he was there was the main reason for his broad smile. He has always apologized for not being a better craftsman. The quality of ones work isn’t the test of the person, it’s the passion that person brings to their craft.
Jerry is a charter member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association and a member of the NMLRA since 1973. He was inspired to build longrifles around 1987.
An observant person can see, his work is influenced by the Woodbury School fostered by Hershel House. Jerry’s focus is to build a safe shooting gun, and as he says, “the more you use them, the better they look.” He likes to forge the iron for the hardware on his iron mounted rifles but he is also capable of making other items in his blacksmith shop. Most of his blacksmith work is for his own projects but once in a while he will offer some things for sale or take in an occasional order. He may have a knife or two, an axe or maybe just trigger guards and butt plates.
I’ve included a couple pictures of some of the work that Jerry has made. The next time you pass by his table, take a look, give a smile and meet the man with his dry sense of humor and willingness to laugh. I look forward to the times I get to see Jerry if only for a moment; it is a moment well spent.
Mark Thomas 7/29/10