“A free people ought to be armed.” -George Washington

Virgil Lam & sons (2)
Virgil Lam with sons holding a couple of Winchesters and a rolling block

“The Constitution shall never be construed to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.”
– Samuel Adams

It’s believed that the first gunpowder was formulated in 9th century China, this substance would come to be called: “black powder”. The Chinese have always been known for their ability to harness the power of explosives. It wouldn’t take long for them to develop the technology and “know-how” to put this substance to use in what we would consider today to be firearms. The earliest firearms were primitive to say the least. With a hollowed piece of bamboo, a bit of gunpowder, and some shrapnel a warrior could have a device that could put him head & shoulders above his foe.

For centuries black powder was the only propellant used for sporting and military purposes. During the 19th century a series of inventors developed different propellants and explosives until they arrived at the substance we currently call “smokeless powder”. Over the years a number of smokeless powders have been developed but the term remains the same for all of them. The term itself is somewhat of a falsehood in that the powder isn’t necessarily smokeless, just produces far less smoke than early black powder. Smokeless powder is used in the common rifle cartridge we currently use for our rifles and pistols.

Big George Meadows (l) & Little George Meadows (2)
Big George and Little George Meadows. Big George appears to be holding a 1903 Winchester

My grandfather, Nelson Wyant with a Winchester he harvested the foxes with

Ed Meadows with hunting dogs
Ed Meadows with a side-by-side shotgun and hunting dogs

Now that I have our short history lesson out of the way I want to write briefly on the need for firearms in generations past…
George Washington once said: “A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.” The pictures that I’ve included in this article show a free people that were very proud of the ability to keep and bear arms in a country that guaranteed that right. The need to defend one’s self, family, & property is as basic as the need for food and water.

Not only did our ancestors have a need to defend themselves, but a need to supply necessities for their families. One of the most important necessities included food. Without food the body will slowly wither until death wraps its fingers around it. I like to think of the first hunters with firearms as trailblazing pioneers using a device that they had not yet began to use to its full potential. With today’s firearm technology it’s hard to imagine a world where you have to take down your quarry with a single shot, a single shot that may not be as accurate as the man pulling the trigger.

Zeb Lam & Mr Hereford & Big George Meadows (2)
From L: Mr. Hereford, Zeb Lam (holding 1903 Winchester), Big George Meadows

The era of single-shot muzzleloading rifles had passed when the men in my pictures posed for the photos with rifles in-hand. These rifles were used as tools, tools that could be used to harvest dinner, keep predators out of the livestock, or even defense of life and property should the need arise.


About Blue Ridge Ramblings....

For as long as I can remember history has always held a special place in my heart. Genealogy has always played a large part in my history research....
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One Response to “A free people ought to be armed.” -George Washington

  1. Gloria Watson Pittman says:

    Just recently started searching for my ancestors, and many appear on your posts – Hezekiah & Lucy Lam were my grandparents on my mother’s side. The Meadows’ are on my father’s side.
    Have figured out who Big George Meadows is, but who is Little George? Would appreciate your reply very much. Thank you.

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