Visiting the Kentucky Historical Society in Frankfort


I spent some time last Friday in Frankfort, Kentucky.  Pictured here are some items connected with Daniel Boone.  That includes a casting of the skull that was dug up at Daniel and Rebecca’s grave in Missouri in the 1840’s and reinterred in Kentucky.  There were some interesting artifacts on display at the Kentucky Historical Society’s museum.







A fowling piece that might have belonged to George Washington?

I am working on the next article for Muzzleloader magazine to be called: A Fowler at Mount Vernon.  One year ago, a friend, Larry Spisak and I were given permission to evaluate a flintlock fowling piece that might have once belonged to our first president.  The conclusion to that mystery will be presented in the January/February issue of that magazine.  I fell privileged to have been able to do this, thanks to the wonderful staff at Mount Vernon.

Mark Inspecting

mark inspecting 2


In the early 1990’s our reenactment group built a 22 ft. batteau in our garage.  The sides were made of white pine, the oars were ash, the ribs were made of tamarack.  It was a challenging, but fun project and the picture below was taken by a photographer from a paper in Duluth, MN.  We later took the batteau on a number of lakes and rivers here in Northern Minnesota.  Batteaus were used both in the fur trade and in the logging era.



12187680_10206244744131760_7610003510698002158_n12143101_10206244745611797_808634616975310863_nYesterday I shot this beautiful ruffed grouse with a contemporary copy of a flintlock, 20 gauge, smoothbore, firearm.  It was loaded with 70 grains of 2F (black) powder, topped by wadding from a wasps nest (no wasps were hurt in the loading sequence,) and an equal volume of lead shot held in place with more wasp nest wadding.  My research has shown that all different sorts of wadding material were used in historic, smoothbore firearms.  This included cloth, leather, paper, wool scraps, even grass.  All work well enough and were readily available.  Our family dogs, who haven’t realized they are not bred to hunt, 12193400_10206244748531870_8998207938735842222_n

scared up this grouse and I was able to shoot it at a distanced of about 15 yards.  The gun used is a copy of a type of firearm historians label as a “Carolina gun or Type G, trade gun.”  Whatever I hunt, I eat, and grouse makes for a good meal.  The gun was made by contemporary gun builder Mike Brooks and I have used it successfully on many different game hunts, including deer.


Our reenactment group took down an old square-timbered cabin and built a different one.  It has been an on-going project but it is almost done.  A couple of days ago I spent some time there with my good friend Gene Shadley, his son Josh, with Dan Bergerson and neighbor Bob visiting at different times.  The cabin is on the Prairie River, the same river that some of our members took a seven day canoe trip on last year.  The purpose of the cabin is to provide a base camp whereby we can experiment with 18th century skills during all seasons of the year.  Though the nights got cold on this trip, some of the days were pretty nice for this time of year.  Fall is on its last legs here in Northern Minnesota, but nature still has a lot to offer in the way of beauty.  I was thankful for the time to unwind, do some work on the cabin, hunt, and practice my (poor) culinary skills—at least I can boil water for tea and fry stuff.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to live in wild country.9
















IMG_5531IMG_5529IMG_5549 IMG_5530








I had an interesting time yesterday proofing a barrel made of wrought iron, not steel.  Wrought iron was used in gun barrels throughout the seventeen hundreds.  This barrel started out as a piece of rod stock taken from an old barn and was probably made in the 1850’s or 1860’s.  The rod stock was straightened, drilled, reamed and rifled into a .54 caliber barrel with a one turn in 66 inch twist.  Proofing is a means to test the barrel’s strength.  The outside of the barrel is measured and then it is loaded with a heavy charge.  In this case I used 160 of 2F powder under two patched round balls.  The barrel was strapped to a heave block of wood and a fuse was then used to ignite the powder charge.  I did this twice and there were no visible signs of bulging, stress or rupturing.  This barrel will go into the stock of a pre-Revolutionary War Kentucky longrifle being made by my good friend Larry Spisak and will be the subject of an future article comparing modern steel barrels with wrought iron barrels.

Welcome to Portals In Time

This is a website dedicated to America’s early eighteenth and nineteenth century frontier history.  As a writer I have covered the life of men like Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton and others, as well as stories of trips into the woods, experimenting with the clothing tools and guns of our distant past.  Sometimes I write about historic firearms or hunting experiences.  Overall, my goal is to touch base with our American heritage and to help others do the same.  As a public speaker I bring what I have learned from research and experience to life in my various presentations.  To me it is not just enough to learn about the past, but to learn from the past. IMG_1929A.IMG_4041Mark on Eagle Mountain shootingIMG_0572