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<a href="http://republicanherald.com/exhibit-brings-rich-gunmaking-heritage-to-life-1.594913" target="_blank">For more than 250 years, inhabitants of Penn's Woods have been using flintlock muzzleloader rifles for protection, hunting and competitive shooting.

Pre- and post-American Revolutionary War era Lancaster rifles were used throughout the Colonies and into the wilderness areas of what would become Kentucky and Tennessee well into the 1850s. Lancaster rifles were prominent at the Battle of New Orleans on Jan. 18, 1815, and at the Battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.

Of all the schools, however, the most unique was found in Berks, which was comprised of five unique and individual schools, while other counties and geographic areas had one school. An exhibition of rifles from these schools is now on display through Saturday, Feb. 27, at the Historical Society of Berks County in Reading. More than 50 rifles, several pistols and a collection of bags and powder horns are on display from the Berks School's five sub-schools of "Below the Schuylkill," "Blue Mountain," "Oley Valley," "Reading" and "Tulpehocken."

"Opening the exhibit last fall was perfect because 2009 marked the 275th anniversary of Daniel Boone's birth," Bertolet said. "When most people think about frontiersmen, they think about Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett and Conrad Weiser - and Boone was born here and Weiser lived here."

As for Crockett, his ability with a Pennsylvania rifle created his legend as a hunter and fighter. And while the famous "Old Betsy" rifle he was presented as a congressman was not with him at the Alamo, he is believed to have carried a Lancaster County rifle during the 13-day siege.

"In addition to the longrifles from famous builders such as Wolfgang Haga and Johannes Neff, we have four swivelbreech rifles, including the only known swivelbreech made by Leonard Reedy," Bertolet said. "We're also proud to have an 18th century Germanic Jaeger rifle from the 1750s, and it was these short, large-caliber rifles that influenced the early gunsmiths and led the development of the Pennsylvania longrifle."

For the next three weeks, one of the finest and largest collections of those rifles ever assembled in one location will remain on exhibit to kindle the imagination of everyone who keeps alive the adventurous spirit of our Colonial forefathers.

"Berks County Longrifles and Gunmakers" will be exhibited at the Historical Society of Berks County, 940 Centre Ave., Reading, Tuesdays-Saturdays, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., through Saturday, Feb. 27. For information, call the society at (610) 375-4375 or access on the Web at http://www.berkshistory,org
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