Signed "J Sheets" John Sheets, Staunton, VA Ca. 1815
A member of the famous Sheetz gunsmithing family, John worked in Winchester with Simon Lauck in the mid 1790's. He then set up shop 90 miles south in Staunton, Augusta County, Virginina where he worked from the late 1790's. While in Staunton he trained his son Henry, other gunsmiths, and set the standard for quality rifles in the region. His premiere example is on display at the Dewitt Wallace center Colonial Williamsburg.
The 4-petal flower patchbox has pierced upper and lower plates with nice engraving though worn from long use. An engraved silver 8-point star is inlaid on the cheekpiece and a beveled sideplate in the style seen on much of John's work protects the wood from the lock bolts. Notice the horizontal set screw arrangement for the set triggers which is seen on nearly all John Sheets rifles and those by his son Henry.
The lock is original to the rifle but has been expertly reconverted and properly aged to match. The silver thumb plate was left blank, usually engraved with the owners initials.
Silver double acorn escutcheon inlays are typicla on many Shenandoah Valley rifles; these appear to be replaced as the engraving is foreign to John's work. The engraved toe plate is an accurate restoration. Strips of wood have been replaced along the forestock which represents a typical restoration found on most rifles. The barrel length is 41&1/2 inches and nicely signed in script. The restoration of this rifle, though well done, holds its value back which makes it more affordable for collectors. It will hold it's value since it is signed, has a beautiful patchbox, nice surfaces, and slender architecture.