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Our gun lock maker's ancestor left Darlaston to work in Gettysburg

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

By Jan Golcher

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AFTER reading the article about the gun lock makers in The Bugle (January 23 edition) it prompted me to look at my husband's family tree, as I remembered that some of his ancestors were gun lock makers and also lived in Darlaston around the time of the Napoleonic War.

I came across three, they were James, Joseph and George Golcher.

Joseph was listed as working in King Street and George was working in Foster Street, but the one that took my interest was that of James. Although he wasn't listed at any given address at the same time as his brothers, he was working for his father in about that era.

James was born in Darlaston in 1807 and was one of about 14 children. He worked in his father's lock making business and later went on to run it with his brother Joseph (Josh).

By 1839 James had migrated to Gettysburg. His wife and children followed a year later.

The American census tells us that in 1850 he was residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but I believe he moved there before 1845. At some point his brother Josh joined him. Nevertheless, James and Josh were both well respected gun and pistol makers but primarily gun lock makers in the Philadelphia area.

In the Census of Industry of 1850 it shows us that James was proprietor of the Eagle Gun Works.

He had 17 employees and he had a capital investment of 2,000 dollars.

In the previous 12 months he had bought 20 tons of iron for 1,600 dollars, 4,000 pounds of steel for 760 dollars, and miscellaneous parts for 500 dollars. They made 600 dozen gunlocks valued at 3,600 dollars and made 500 guns valued at 3,500 dollars. James continued to work until he retired in 1880.

In 1877 one of James's sons (William) met up with a John Clabrough, also a gun maker from England. John persuaded William to take a look at his store in San Francisco and in 1878 William took charge of it, and by 1883 he owned half of it. The store fell victim to the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, but it was still business as usual.

Another James Golcher, also a gunsmith who came from New York about 1755 and worked until about 1774, made a gun for George Washington which is now in the Valley Forge Museum.

Now getting back to the article in question do we think Ian Henry is right asking: "Are we so very different now from the gun lock makers of Darlaston in 1838 after he read the book Wildfire Through Staffordshire?" My answer to this is in my poem on page 10 of the Bugle this week.

Jan Golcher,

9 Mosedale Drive,

Wednesfield.

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