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Jonathan Browning

Jonathan Browning

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Published by Karisa Walker
History of Jonathan Browning and his ancestors
History of Jonathan Browning and his ancestors

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: Karisa Walker on Feb 05, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/16/2011

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Jonathan Browning
Born: October 22, 1805 at Brushby Fork, Gallatin, Sumner, TennesseeDied: June 21, 1879 at Ogden, Weber, UtahJonathan (Johnathan) Browning was born on a Tuesday, October 22, 1805 at BushbyFork, Gallatin, Sumner, Tennessee, son of Edmund Lloyd Browning and Sarah AllenBrowning. He married Elizabeth Stallcop (Stalcup) on November 9, 1826 at BledsoeCreek, Tennessee. The Browning name has been synonymous with creative gunsmithing for generations.From the repeating rifle to the automatic rifle and the MM. Aircraft cannon, theBrowning Arms Company has distinguished itself in armaments for nearly 120 years.The family tradition of creating exceptional firearms began with JohnathanBrowning, the inventor of a repeating rifle.1 Family records and surviving gunsevidence his unique gift as an inventive gunsmith.Johnathan Browning was born on October 22, 1805 and reared in rural Brushy Fork,Tennessee, in the early nineteenth century, amid scattered, nearly starving farmers.2Observing his father's struggle to reap a harvest from the rocky hillside led him toconclude he never wanted to be a farmer. But what else could he do? Brushy Fork 
 
was a community in name only and lacked even a school house and a church.Employment opportunities were few and a career other than farming seemedimpossible.However, in his early teens a challenging opportunity presented itself when aneighbor discarded an unusable flintlock rifle. Even though the gun was missing partsand the lock was broken, Jonathan offered to work for one week for the neighbor inexchange for the discarded rifle. He later claimed that week was the only enthusiasticfarming he ever did. Jonathan took the gun home and made the missing parts,repaired it, and then sold it to the neighbor for four dollars.3As word spread of his mechanical ability he was invited to be an apprentice to ablacksmith. During the next few years he learned the fundamentals of hand-forging,welding, brazing, tempering, and soldering. By age 19, six feet, well-muscledJonathan thought himself a competent gun maker, even though he had never met agunsmith. However, his confidence waned when he saw a rifle made by a realgunsmith stamped ``Samuel Parker-Nashville.''4 Anxious to learn from a master craftsman, he borrowed his father's horse, rode thirty miles to Nashville, andconvinced Mr. Parker to apprentice him without pay. After three months of apprenticeship the former tinkerer Johnathan Browning had mastered the trade.When Mr. Parker offered a partnership in his business, Jonathan refused, as heenvisioned himself a successful gunsmith in Brushy Fork with his own shop. Hereturned home to the rural countryside, married his sweetheart
El
izabeth Sta
lcup
 
(Stallcop) on November 9, 1826 at Bledsoe Creek, TN, and began a successful gunbusiness.5 His success in Tennessee ended when reports circulated in the communityof limitless land, free for the taking in frontier Illinois.6 One by one his customersand then family members joined the westward migration to Illinois; and finally 28year old Jonathan closed his shop, loaded two wagons and moved his supplies andfamily about 400 miles to Quincy, Illinois. 
Johnathan was a blacksmith and had a gunsmith shop in Tennessee
 
 
Quincy, favorably located on the Mississippi River, was a small but flourishingabolitionist frontier town in 1834. Newcomers were heartily welcomed and theBrownings from Tennessee quickly made new friends and acquaintances who wereanxious to barter for the talents of the young gunsmith. His shop was an immediatesuccess and he delighted in repairing lock, stock, and barrel. However, he wantedmore from his business. He wanted to create new firearms.Living at the time when flintlock guns were being eclipsed by the invention of thepercussion cap and pre-loaded paper cartridges, Jonathan believed a multi-shot gunwas possible and went to work to make his dream a reality. Although confined to asmall shop, using his forge, anvil, vise, foot lathe, and hand tools that littered hisbench, he invented a simple, practical repeating rifle and a six-shot repeater. Todaythese guns are a curio, but in the 1830s their continuous fire was unequaled by anycontemporary gun found along the frontier of Illinois.7The repeating rifle had a number of ingenious features that became the trademark of Browning firearms. The most notable features were simplicity and operating ease.The rifle's five-shot magazine had a rectangular iron bar with holes fitted toaccommodate the hand loads. The bar slid through an aperture at the breech and wasmanually operated, permitting loading in advance for five comparatively fast shots.The six-shot repeater operated by loading the powder and ball into the cylinder andplacing a cap onto each nipple. The rifle was cocked by drawing back the hammer and then manually rotating the cylinder after each shot.These inventions brought considerable local fame to Browning and orders for manyguns.8 As Jonathan was energetic, his business thrived as he personally customizedeach lock, stock, and barrel for the buyers. Although the lands and grooves werecleanly cut and the locks worked smoothly, hammer marks from his hours of pounding can still be seen on the rifles he made. These guns show his partiality to theoctagon gun barrel. It is estimated that each gun took Jonathan two weeks to createfrom start to finish. He worked hour after hour to make just one gun and then barteredor sold it for a mere twenty-four dollars.Nevertheless, the repeating rifle and six-shot repeater brought him instant localprominence. Jonathan enjoyed moving in the social circles of Quincy and having hisopinion valued on almost any subject. He was elected by his constituents to the officeof justice of the peace and relished being called
J
ud
ge Browning
. This position puthim in contact with young lawyers, including
Abraham Lin
c
o
l
n
, who stayedovernight at his home on at least two occasions.On one occasion Lincoln said, Judge, somebody told me that a youngster in theneighborhood broke his arm yesterday and you set it. Do you fix anything thatbreaks--plow, gun, bone? Jonathan laughed and nodded. It's a fine life you're leadinghere, Judge, mending anything that breaks. Looks funny at first glimpse to see a manwelding a broken gun part for a farmer one day and the next day setting a bone for thefarmer's son. Jonathan replied, Bonesetting's a lot easier. Nature does most of that

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