CARPER, Joseph – A native of Monroe County, Carper moved to Paint Creek about 1848, later selling his farm to Archibald Sweeney in 1855 and moving to Grandview. His sons, A. J., George W., William D. and James P., were Confederate soldiers. He was a celebrated gunsmith and “The Carper Gun” was noted for its finish as well as its accuracy.
Joseph was born December 27th, 1802 to Isaac and Susannah (Sovain) Carper in Botetourt, Virginia. After Joseph was born his parents went to Peterstown in Monroe County. After Joseph married Virginia “Jane” Shumate, they moved to Cashmere, where at 22 years of age he embarked on farming, operating a tannery and making rifles.
His guns were hard to beat. Whenever there were guns to be shown, Carper rifles were to be seen. Far and near, before the Buick slogan became known, it was commonly believed that “When better mountain rifles are made Joseph Carper will make them.” Samuel Carper succeeded his father as gunsmith. While he was a chip off the old block he never measured up to his old man when it came to making rifles. Tools were few and far between in Joseph Carper’s day, so he made his own tools. These homemade gun tools stood the wear and tear of time and were as sturdy as the rugged Teutonic hands that manufactured them.
Guns made by Joseph Carper sold for around $25 each and were worth every penny of it. Carper bought barrels for these guns in Pennsylvania but made much of the other parts of the guns himself. Somewhere it was even said that he made a few gun barrels.
One distinguishing mark of a gun turned out by Joseph Carper was its full stock. On the stock of each rifle he made a face rest. Stocks were commonly made of curly maple just like those produced by James Honaker. Carper also liked chestnut because it worked up well. His guns were a thing of beauty and hence a joy to its owner. Sights on the Carper guns were as good as skill could make them. Few smiths excelled Joseph Carper in making and putting on gun sights. He engraved his name in steel on the butt of the barrel. The barrel was forty inches on a full stock of curly maple and had rich brass ornamented equipment. It had .36 caliber.
The year 1849 found him at Sweeneyburg in Raleigh County where he lived six years. By 1855 he had 1,100 acres of land.
He was one of the twelve magistrates who incorporated Raleigh County. In 1855 the Carpers moved again, to a place to which he named Grandview. There he operated a tannery and engaged in gun making until Feb. 9, 1880 when he died in Raleigh County, West Virginia. His wife Virginia died Dec. 18, 1891 in Raleigh County. Both are buried in Grandview Cemetery, Raleigh County.
(I did not write this and I don’t know who did in order to give them credit. It was too good to not use here. So thank you so very much to whomever wrote this great piece and gave us an understanding of who Joseph was!)
“Early Deaths of Raleigh County, vol 2 1876-1895” by Pauline Haga:
Joseph Carper, Sr., 77 years, 2 months, died Feb 9 (1880) of papalysis. Born in Botetourt County Va., son of Isaac and Susannah Carper. Death reported by Joseph Carper Jr., son.
Carper was a noted gunsmith….. His grave is clearly marked by a metal frame surrounding the stone. The frame was ordered and shipped to Prince. It came during bad weather and was taken across New River in a boat. While crossing, the boat either shifted or capsized and the frame slipped off. It stayed in the river all winter. When summer arrived it was found and taken up the mountain, where it has remained for 105 years. Carper’s name is clearly engraved in the metal frame.
Have you ever seen or heard of a Carper Rifle? I would so love to know!
Here is a picture of one I found in my search ~
(Joseph Carper, Sr. is my 4th great-grandfather. )