Local viewers of the popular History Channel series "Pawn Stars" received quite a shock during a recent episode when the village of Fredonia was mentioned by name during one of the several trades.
Two rotating, double-barreled rifles from the 1800s were brought into the show's World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. The rifles were 45-caliber and used percussion caps from the pre-Civil War era.
The owner of the rifles, who was simply known as "Mike" in the episode, said he was a collector and picked the guns up from someone he traded with. He said one of the rifles was left-handed, which is a rare find.
Mike also showed off a heart-shaped insignia on the guns from the early gunmaker William Hart. Later on in the segment, it was revealed that Hart was from Fredonia.
Town of Pomfret Historian Todd Langworthy said he was not at all surprised to hear about Hart on a national program since he is a noteworthy historical figure throughout the local region.
"I know he has at least one or two patents on different ways of manufacturing guns and was highly respected as a gunsmith. He came to Fredonia in his early 20's around 1819. Twenty years later, he moved to Buffalo, where he still kept his gunsmith business."
Hart lived on the corner of today's Forest Place and Hart Street in the village. The latter street was named after Hart in his memory. He was also the first person in the United States to dig a natural gas well, which he did in Fredonia in 1821, according to Langworthy.
"There's a lot of dispute over the exact date he discovered natural gas, with some sources saying he created the gas well in 1825," he said. "But I believe the date was 1821 because when General (Marquis de) La Fayette (of the Revolutionary War) visited Fredonia in 1825, as the story has always gone, the village was lit up with lights that were lit by gas for his visit, something he had never seen before. The disputed date in 1825 was a few months after La Fayette's visit."
During the "Pawn Stars" episode, after taking a closer look at the rifles, Rick Harrison, one of the four main operators of the famous pawn shop, said the rifles had to be made no later than 1870 when percussion caps started "going the way of the dinosaur." Harrison also observed that the guns had some work done to them, as the stocks had been replaced and modern-day screws were added to them, decreasing their value.
At the end of the segment, Mike received $1,400 for the guns. Originally, he wanted $4,000, but set himself up for disappointment after he realized the guns weren't as old as he originally thought.
If you missed the episode, entitled "Rage Against that Machine," there's no need to worry. The History Channel plans on re-airing it Thursday at 8 p.m. It will air again several hours later at midnight on Friday.
Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org