Thanksgiving’s First Rifle: The Mayflower Wheel-lock Carbine

Simply marvelous.

Posted by ghostsniper at November 26, 2015 2:15 PM

Did I mention that my full name is Gerard Wheelock Van der Leun?

Posted by vanderleun at November 26, 2015 3:33 PM

Did I mention that my full name is Gerard Wheelock Van der Leun?

Is that true, or are you woofin? If true, way to go Gerard's parents. Us Dutchies are powerfully American, all right. I discovered a couple of years ago, through the agency of a Mormon woman, that my earliest American ancestor was born in the year 1600 in what would become known as New Amsterdam, in 1667 to be renamed New York.

So much for "we're all immigrants here," huh?

Posted by Rob De Witt at November 26, 2015 6:08 PM

I worked with John Alden back in the late 80's. He was a direct descendant of the Mayflower John Alden. It was curious how we would have company meetings at Longfellow's in Saratoga, NY.

Posted by sTevo at November 27, 2015 5:29 AM

Great article and absolute proof that firearms are a huge part of American heritage. And, imagine that; it's a Beretta!!

Posted by Jack at November 27, 2015 7:13 AM

It had rifling? Amazing if true.

Posted by Frisco Scooter Trash at November 27, 2015 7:33 AM

Yup..... Named Wheelock after the Wheelock-Whitney branch of the Massachusetts Bay Colony courtesy original American ancestor, Ralph Wheelock.

Ralph Wheelock - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The family sailed to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636, 6 years after the settlement of Boston, and at the peak of the "Great Migration".[6] Ralph's wife, Rebecca, reported gave birth to their daughter, Peregrina, on the voyage. He and his family settled in Watertown, Massachusetts upon arrival. After moving to the town of Dedham, which Wheelock had a major role in establishing, children Benjamin, Samuel, Record, and Experience were born. The family lived there for over a decade.
In 1651 Wheelock and his family moved to Medfield, Massachusetts, which he founded and where he spent the remaining 32 years of his life. Eleazar Wheelock was born to Ralph and Rebecca at Medfield. One of Eleazar's grandchildren, also named Eleazar, would go on to become the founder of Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Posted by vanderleun at November 27, 2015 9:37 AM

I found the fact that it was a rifle interesting also. Some high-end sporting arms had rifling back then; it was much less common for military weapons to be rifled, since in the wheelock and early flintlock eras, rifle balls were usually slightly bigger than the bore, and wedged down the barrel with mallet to get the proper seal. This made them too slow for all but a few specialist units of an army, which could get a much higher rate of fire with smoothbore muskets, but acceptable for a hunter, who could take advantage of the greater accuracy. (The greased patch was a later innovation that allowed the use of a smaller ball in a rifle, and a better rate of fire). The Alden gun is a beautiful firearm, though.

Posted by waltj at November 27, 2015 10:16 AM

Yes, the stories that rifle could tell! I keep a journal of all shots taken from each of my hunting rifles so that in fact, some day, each rifle can retell its stories.

Posted by Snakepit Kansas at November 24, 2016 6:06 AM

Elegant rifle,great story,and the comments even more so. The Dutch have produced some of the world's most remarkable people,Rembrandt van Rijn and van Gogh are personal favorites. There's few politicians on the planet gutsier than Geert Wilders,and for the gentlemen,there's Famke Janssen. Well done,Dutchmen. Happy Thanksgiving to All,wherever we came from.

Posted by Nori at November 24, 2016 6:20 AM

Happy Thanksgiving to Gerard and all Digest readers and their families! God bless us all and God bless the United States of America!

Posted by Kurt F. Miller at November 24, 2016 6:42 AM

This arm wasn't 'chambered' at all. Rifle or not, it was a front loader. Metallic cartridges weren't even a dream then. Beretta, though.

Posted by Dan Watkins at November 24, 2016 6:49 PM

This rifle has a 'hammer' and a frizzen, which seems to match the radius of the hammer. Why would a wheel-lock need either?

Posted by Dan Watkins at November 24, 2016 7:50 PM


There's a closeup of the lock mechanism here:

What appears to be a frizzen is actually the "cock" or "doghead" that holds the pyrite against the wheel.

Posted by waltj at November 26, 2016 10:30 AM

Um, check your math. A 50 caliber rifle is about a half inch across. A .50 caliber rifle is incredibly tiny. No decimal point needed for this rifle when using the word caliber and the size.

Posted by ben at December 1, 2016 2:53 AM

Um, check your math. A 50 caliber rifle is about a half inch across. A .50 caliber rifle is incredibly tiny. No decimal point needed for this rifle when using the word caliber and the size.

Also I believe that at the time rifling was not widely used.

Posted by Ben at December 1, 2016 2:56 AM

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