Between the opening of Northeastern Pennsylvania in the 1750s and the anthracite coal rush following the War of 1812, the people who lived on the Carbon and Schuylkill County frontier were mostly farmers. In October, when the harvest was completed, the long hunt began.
Dave Ehrig, author of six books and host of six videos on the frontier experience, is coming to Carbon County to recreate the life of the longhunter. Known as Pennsylvania's Mr. Black Powder, Ehrig, dressing in buckskin and carrying the tools of the trade of the 18th century longhunter, will reenact what it was like to be a Pennsylvania pioneer in the late 1700s.
Ehrig is the feature presenter at the Longhunter Festival on Sunday, April 11 at 2 p.m. at the Mauch Chunk Museum & Cultural Center, 41 West Broadway in Jim Thorpe.
In addition to the Longhunter reenactment, the Festival will present Old Timey Music by McCarty, Finsel and Ruch; a Carbon County Quiz by historian John Gunsser; and a tour of the Mauch Chunk Museum. Refreshments, including an old-fashioned chili and beans lunch, is available from the Friends of the Dimmick Library, which is cosponsoring the event with the Mauch Chunk Museum and Carbon County Magazine.
Dressing as an early 18th century longhunter, Ehrig will recreate the life of the Pennsylvania pioneers who traveled up the Delaware River and then north through the Lehigh Valley across the mountains into Carbon County.
"Some were looking for adventure, others to make money, primarily through furs," Ehrig noted. "I'll be bringing a number of furs that are typical of the animals found in the area, even today, and talking about the role of the longhunter both as a trapper/trader and later on, as a settler in clearing away the forest to farms."
"I'll be bringing an original Pennsylvania longrifle as well as a powder horn, tomahawks and knives," He said. "I'm talking about the tools of the trade and why it was important to be self-sufficient. Today, so many people have lost the concept of independence and self-sufficiency. I hope to bring that back-up-close and personal."
Ehrig, a middle-school teacher for 35 years, who has had leadership positions in the National Muzzle Loading Society, the Jacobsburg Historical Society, and the Henry Rifle Museum, will illustrate how his interest in the longhunter grew from his love of Pennsylvania history and longrifles.
He will explain and illustrate with models, how the smoothbore musket, called the Yagger, that German gunsmiths brought to Pennsylvania at the time of the American Revolution, evolved into the Pennsylvania longrifle.
Ehrig was introduced to flintlock rifles back in 1973. "Pennsylvania announced a special deer season for flintlock rifles," he explained. "I didn't have one at that point."
"While visiting my in-laws, I mentioned this to my mother-in-law," Ehrig said.
"Oh yes," she said. "We have these old guns. You can have them but you are not allowed to shoot them."
"I brought home those beautiful old antique weapons," he said. "I remember sitting there, just drooling over them, and wishing I could shoot them."
That's when he met gunsmith George Dech of Nazareth, who asked, "If you can't shoot them, why not build one?"
With Deck's help, Ehrig constructed duplicates of the flintlock rifles. "That's how I started building rifles," Ehrig said. Since then, he's built his own reproduction rifles and used them to hunt-taking over 100 deer with his flintlock.
For additional information see: www.carboncountymagazine.com.