I found a reference in a book on Prescott Family Genealogy which indicated that a musket owned by my 10x great-grandfather Jonathan Prescott [1604-1681] was here in Madison, Wisconsin. I wrote to the Wisconsin Historical Society, which confirmed that they did indeed have his musket in their collection. They have indicated I can stop in and see it by appointment, which is kind of exciting. Here are the photos they sent me along with a lovely explanation of how they acquired it and the history of the item. There’s not much left of the old girl, but it’s still cool to think it was used by my 10x great-grandfather to defend his land in the 1600’s.
We do indeed have the musket you mentioned. Its catalog number is 1947.1066 and I have attached some images of it. Here is the information we have about it in our collections database:
“An Ancient Gun. — Presented by Prescott Brigham. This gun was the property of John Prescott, and was brought by him from Lancashire, England, who went first to Barbadoes, and owned land there in 1638, and came to New England about 1640. In 1645, Sholan, the Indian proprietor of Nashawog, offered to him and other persons a tract of land ten miles in length, which was accepted, and the General Court subsequently confirmed the deed. The town was named Lancaster, in the present county of Worcester, Massachusetts. John Prescott had occasion to use this gun during King Phillip’s Indian War of 1675. On one occasion, as tradition has it, a number of Indians made their appearance at Prescott’s old mill, hoisted the water-gate, when Prescott took this gun, heavily loaded, and started towards the mill, when the Indians retired to the hills close by; Prescott having fixed the mill, thought it prudent to retrace his steps, but did so backwards, with his eye upon the foe, until he reached his house. At that point the Indians raised a whoop, Prescott concluded to give them a specimen of his gunmanship; and as he shot, they scampered off. Afterwards visiting the spot where the Indians were when he shot at them, blood was found on the ground. The Indians ever after kept clear of the Prescott neighborhood. Mr. Prescott had at least seven children; and among them was Hon. Benj. Prescott, the father of Col. Wm. Prescott, who commanded at Bunker Hill, and grandfather of Judge Wm. Prescott, of Boston, and great grandfather of Wm. H. Prescott, the historian. The old gun in question was given by [Jonathan] Prescott [III 1672-1749] to his daughter Tabitha, wife of Silas Brigham, who in her old age gave it to her grandson Prescott Brigham, born in 1780, now a resident of Sauk county, Wisconsin, and by him to the Society [in 1858]. Prescott Brigham is the elder brother of the pioneer settler of Dane county, Col. Ebenezer Brigham, of Blue Mounds.”
[Report and Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, for the Years 1857 and 1858, 1859, vol. iv, pp. 55-56.]
The following infomation appears on the catalog card which was typed c. 1947:
“Seventeenth century military matchlock musket converted to flint. Said to have been used in King Phillip’s War 1675 to 76. Carried by John Prescott, of Lancaster, Mass. Would be valuable piece if we had more of it. Pins missing or replaced with nails, ramrod missing, lock missing but recess has been filled with wood insert. Part octagon barrel 48″ long and about .85 or .90 caliber. 63″ overall. Only visible mark of identification on the gun is a mark on the barrel near the breech which looks like a trident but is not completely clear. Gun is not in too bad [of] shape considering what it’s gone through, but wood stock is beginning to get beat up and should be treated with respect. Lock is missing and a wooden plate has been inserted in the inlet. Would be a very nice piece if it had the lock.”
Photos and explanation courtesy of Paul Bourcier, Wisconsin Historical Society