Preserving a family treasure
A long-awaited presentation of a one-of-a-kind historical rifle replica to the Ashcraft family took place earlier last week at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS).
Members of the Beaver State Historical Gun Maker's Guild presented a replica they recently completed of a Kentucky Muzzle Loader from the late 1700's that the late Doug Ashcraft had passed down to his grandson, Justin Radabaugh.
Vicki Birkby, daughter of Doug Ashcraft, recalls the history she gleaned from her father before he passed away, along with recent research she has done on her family history. The exact age and origin of the rifle will likely forever remain a mystery, but her father believed it dated back to the Revolutionary War and that it originated from Kentucky.
"The local gun guild believes it can definitely be traced to Henry Ashcraft (1810-1890) so the club refers to it as "The Henry rifle". What is certain, is that the rifle was passed through generations and ended up with our great grandfather and ultimately given to our father," clarified Birkby.
The gun originated in Kentucky, was taken to Arkansas and later to Prineville.
"The gun has such unique markings that the Guild decided, as a tribute to the family, to replicate the rifle. Hundreds of hours have gone into the workmanship of the replica," said Birkby. "The rifle in the making, was on display during Western Days in June 2019 and later shown at the Monroe Washington Gun Show in March 2020 after its completion."
A presentation to the family was planned to follow these events, but due to COVID-19, that presentation was postponed. Jim Malloy and members of the Beaver State Historical Gun Maker's Guild were able to present the gun to the wife of Doug Ashcraft, Dorene Ashcraft. The couple had been married 65 years at the time of Doug's death.
"She is so touched," commented Janice Radabaugh, daughter of Doug and Dorene Ashcraft. "We all are, but he (Doug) and Ernie are old friends, so it makes the gun even more special to her. I believe her thought is to eventually let it be on display so others can appreciate the hard work.
Others who worked on the rifle in addition to Ernie McKenzie were Ed Hauswald, Tom Cooper, Greg Gaut and Jim Malloy. McKenzie was instrumental in doing the draw filing of the barrel and some of the brass work. Malloy did most of the Woodstock, as well as Greg Gaut from Bend.
Tom Cooper created the engraving and brass cut outs and the patchbox on the rifle, and Ed Hauswald also did some of the brass on the gun.
"It was all done off the pictures I was provided," commented Cooper. "The patchbox came to me as a solid piece of brass, and so I had to cut it all out, and go from there. Nobody made anything readily that we could use that matched--being that is the centerpiece on that rifle (the patchbox)."
"All in all, it turned out well. A lot of time, a lot of effort. Lots of fun," he concluded.
Malloy originally knew Doug Ashcraft through the Boy Scouts of America.
"They had asked me to come to the Boy Scout day camp," he said. He soon became the black powder instructor for Crater Lake Council of the Boy Scouts.
Soon after he began his new role, Ashcraft showed him his rifle that was handed down to him from his grandfather. Doug Ashcraft passed in 2018, before Malloy and the Beaver State Historical Gun Maker's Guild could refurbish the rifle. In 2019, the guild continued the plan to make a replica of the Henry Rifle.
"We did that in 2019, and we started buying parts and getting them together," said Malloy. "I said, "we are going to make a tribute to Doug Ashcraft, because he was one of our good members and he was really interested in what we are doing. Let's do something for the family. Let's build a gun as it was originally and give it to the family."
Malloy indicated that they had to use rubbings from the gun, as they did not want to take any parts of the old rifle apart. It was important to the family to keep it intact.
Malloy started the Beaver State Historical Gun Maker's Guild in 2008 due to a strong interest from the community. In 2010, they group incorporated with the State of Oregon as a non-profit, which also helped them to obtain grant money through the State of Oregon and Crook County Coalition.
In the next eight years, the Beaver State Historical Gun Maker's Guild used the grant money to build a number of rifles for the community, including a rifle for the library, the Crook County Courthouse, the City of Prineville, one for the Crook County Sheriff's Office and the Prineville Police Department. They also dedicated one of the rifles to Gary Soules—which is currently in the National Guard Armory in Crook County.
History of the Henry Rifle
William Daniel (1887-1971), was the grandfather of William Douglas (Doug) Ashcraft. He farmed and lived his entire life in Arkansas. He was attracted to Polk County, Arkansas by reports of land grant, plentiful game, beautiful scenery, and a healthful climate. He moved his family to Hatfield in 1907. The Brushy community was already settled at the time of Civil War; however, many homesteads were left abandoned as families became part of the great western movement.
It was such a place that William Daniel (W.D.) took his family in 1910. He was later granted title to the land. Hatfield was the livestock marketing center of Polk County and W.D. became known as a stockman. Open ranges allowed grazing for cattle and high ground was felt to be safe from disease such as malaria.
"He was said to be a "colorful old gentleman" and appreciated for the heritage which he helped create," said Birkby.
William Sherwood (1910-1992), one of W.D.'s five sons, moved to Oklahoma as a young man, where he married and began his family. Nicknamed and known to everyone as Jim Bob, he later returned to Arkansas with his family. In 1942, the family came to Oregon. Settling in the Detroit-Idanha area, Jim Bob fell timber for several years. The family moved to Prineville in 1948, with three sons, Jimmie, William Douglas (Doug), and Daryle. Jim Bob also raised cattle and owned a small ranch off Barnes Butte.
William Douglas Ashcraft "Doug" (1931-2018), was said to recall "grandpa's" rifle leaning against the wall in the kitchen at their home on Brushy Creek.
Birkby went on to say, "At one point, Dad owned the Brushy Creek Arkansas property. Grandpa gave the Kentucky muzzle loader to Dad, who brought it to Oregon after one of his many trips to visit him. It was his most prized earthly possession."
Grandson, Justin, grew up hearing stories of his great-great Grandfather, of Arkansas and the gun.
"It is an honor that his grandfather entrusted him with a family heirloom that meant so much to him," said Janice Radabaugh.
When he became worried about the gun's deteriorating stock, Doug attempted to rebuild it. He sought the help of the local Beaver State Historical Gunmakers Guild. He was unable to do the workmanship himself to replicate the stock and decided to abandon the idea and leave the gun intact. Doug left the gun with his grandson, Justin Radabaugh, before his death in 2018.
"The entire Doug Ashcraft family wishes to thank the local gun club members for all their work on this magnificent replica," emphasized Birkby. "It is amazing and will be forever treasured by family members. We are grateful they saw the beauty that our father was so proud of in this one-of-a-kind piece of history."
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