Are you ready to walk in the footsteps of American history?
The gun shop at Wilderness Road State Park was opened in the spring of 2008 as a purely volunteer effort. Although several volunteer gunsmiths have worked in the shop over the years, including Nick Nichols, Gary Tucker, Mike Miller, and Simeon England.
Where I come in
I am the main volunteer, and often refer to myself as the “barefoot gunsmith of Martin’s Station” and this is the story I love to tell.
I am the historic interpreter at Wilderness Road State Park
Although there are no period references to a gun shop in the area during the 1775-1776 period, we feel there was surely a need for one. By mid-summer 1775, there were several hundred people building homesteads in Powell’s Valley, as well as, several hundred people going to and from the Kentucky settlements over the nearby Cumberland Gap.
Martin’s Station was the last outpost along the Wilderness Road toward the Kentucky settlements. All of these people around and passing by Martin’s Station had guns for sustenance and protection. Since guns break there would have been a need for someone here to fix them.
Life at Martin's Station at Wilderness Road State Park
The scenario for the shop is that it’s the summer of 1775 and the growing community has a need for a gunsmith.Capt. Joseph Martinthe station’s namesake, calls on a gunsmith friend to come to his settlement. Initially, he promised a one room cabin for a shop and living quarters with the idea that in a year or two a larger more complete gun shop will be built. (In fact, in June 1776 the settlement will be deserted due to a pending war!)
When you enter the shop you will see on your left the clothing, horse tack, etc, common to living in the Virginia backcountry. To your right, you will see tools and work benches needed to repair and build flintlock rifles.
Home for a frontiersman is demonstrated at Wilderness Road State Park
Since the gun shop opened in 2008, we have built two 1770 era rifles and a third one is now under construction. In all three cases we started with a reproduction 1770 English flintlock, an appropriate tapered and flared barrel, and a piece of curly maple for the stock wood. All the rest of the parts were hand made at the shop. The brass mountings were sand cast at Martin’s Station and were formed, filed and finished in the shop. Even the wood screws, with hand-filed threads, were made in the shop.
Two 1700 style rifles have been made at the gun shop at Wilderness Road State Park
A true 1770
The second rifle made in the shop was particularly interesting.Instead of using a commercially available lock and barrel made from modern materials and by modern machines, we were able to talk Richard Sullivan of Colonial Williamsburg into hand making a wrought iron barrel and Mike Miller of Paducah KY into hand making a 1770 English-style lock.
All the rest of the parts, as well as the assembly and finishing were done in our shop. This rifle was a true 1770 rifle in every respect.
Volunteers such as myself help tell our nation's history
Park staff and volunteers are dedicated to bringing to life this part of our nation’s history. This summer we will be finishing the construction of Martin’s Station Rifle No.3. I humbly ask that you come by and check it out! I will be the one walking around without shoes.
Wilderness Road State Park is located at the most western corner of Virginia, see the map below for directions. Our address is:8051 Wilderness Road, Ewing, Va. 24248 and phone(276) 445-3065 if you have any questions, or drop us an email here.
The park does not have overnight lodging available, so we recommend you stay less than an hour away at Natural Tunnel State Park in their beautiful cabins and campgrounds.
It is worth the trip out to visit this outdoor living history museum Martin's Station at Wilderness Road State Parkwhere you can walk in the footsteps of American history.