Early 19th Century gun donated to Wolcott Keeper’s House

OCHS president Paul Moon accepts an early 19th Century rifle for display at the Wolcott Keepers House from Joe Demshock.

Danbury Township Police Chief Mike Miesler with an early 19th Century gun donated to the Wolcott Keeper's House by 93 year old Joe Demshock.  Shown with Miesler are Mr. Demshock, his wife, Charlotte, and their grandson, Danbury Township road supervisor, Brett Waldron.

When Joe Demshock’s brother John showed him an old gun when they were teenagers back in the 1930’s, they weren’t thinking about local history.  Joe and his brother had a more practical attitude: Can we shoot it? John, an avid hunter and trapper, had traded one of his guns for the rusty, hammerless gun found in the Sandusky Bay by a neighbor on the Marblehead Peninsula. 

John had replaced the hammer, and the boys cleaned out debris and wadding. They were cautious for teenagers.   After loading the barrel with powder, a ball bearing, and wadding made from a crumpled Sears catalog page, they mounted the gun on a post, attached a long wire to the trigger, and got way back by the family’s pigpen.  

The first firing attempt was underwhelming, with the ball “practically falling from the barrel,” according to Joe.  They kept adjusting, and trying, until they made a three inch hole in their lard can target.  Now, after eighty years, Joe, now 93, a retired customs officer, and, again, a Peninsula resident, wanted to share this artifact of local history with the community.  

Joe, his wife, Charlotte, daughters Jill and Lynne, and grandson Bret Waldron, Danbury’s road superintendent, gathered in the Wolcott Keeper’s House recently to present the gun for display there on permanent loan. Danbury Police Chief Mike Miesler, to whom Joe had given the gun for safe keeping, was present at the transfer, along with Phil Edwards, friend of the family, and local history expert, Ottawa County Historical Society president Paul Moon, and other OCHS members and trustees. 

Brian Porter, a member of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry Civil War reenactors who leads a Civil War reenactment at the Keeper's House describes the gun as a Prussian rifle, from between 1809 and 1839, used by the 128th Ohio Regiment during the Civil War. It may have been bought from European surplus weapons for use by Union soldiers. The gun joins an 1820’s converted squirrel rifle on loan from Irv Davis of Martha and Molly’s.   

The Keeper’s House, 1820’s home of the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse, is located at 9999 East Bayshore Road, Marblehead, 2 1/2 miles southwest of the lighthouse.  It is open for docent-led tours Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 1-5 p,m, from June 10 until August 28; and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.  Special Saturday events are Music in the Firelands on July 12 with Strings of Glory and the North Coast Concert Band, a hearth cooking demonstration on September 13, and the Civil War encampment during the Lighthouse Festival on October 11.  The Keeper’s House is a restoration and living history project of the Ottawa County Historical Society, supported by membership dues, donations, grants, and fund raising.  Visit the web site at, or call 419-798-9339 for more information.

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