Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
James Butts – Proud owner of a Gillespie Rifle
The Gillespie Rifles series of columns has proven to be rich in contacts with various people who have an avid interest in collecting the antique guns and, for those fortunate enough to own one, to share how they came into possession of such a priceless piece of weaponry.
One such person
is James B. Butts of
James Butts is pictured with his children, Logan and Morgan, holding a long rifle made by John Gillespie for Sydney Harshaw, James' great, great grandfather.
Sidney Harshaw (1815-1875) was born in Burke County,
NC. He was living in
He met Salinda Plott
(1835-1907) of the Plotttown section of
Union/Towns counties. She was born in
Sidney Harshaw's estate covered the land that is now a
Sidney and Salinda Plott Harshaw had seven daughters: Barbara Ann Harshaw (1855-1932) married Jacob Luther (Uncle "Boney") Colwell; Harriet Elizabeth Harshaw (1857-1917) married Hiram Theodore ("Red") Colwell; Sarah Cleopatra ("Clee") Harshaw (1859-1923) married Archibald Blucher Butt; Ellen Harshaw (1862-?) married Cicero Y. Rogers; Mary Harshaw (1863-?); Emma Lou Harshaw (1865-1943); and Julia Harshaw (1870-1939).
James B. Butts
who now owns his great, great grandfather Harshaw's
Gillespie rifle is the fifth generation of Harshaws.
His descendancy comes through Sarah
Cleopatra ("Clee") Harshaw
Butt and Archibald Blucher Butt along this line: Their fifth child,
Robert Bryan Butt (1897-1948) and Zora
Gibson Butt (1907-1980) had a son, James Robert Butt (b. 1932), who
married Betty Ann Davidson. James B. Butts and Jeff Butts (the fifth
generation from Sidney Harshaw) were their
sons. And now the sixth generation, Logan and Morgan Butts (Shelly
Burks Butts is
But the signed John Gillespie-made rifle did not always have a safe place with Sidney Harshaw's descendants. This is the story James Butts tells of how he came to receive the treasured firearm.
Emma Lou Harshaw died in 1943. Sidney Harshaw’s youngest daughter, Julia Harshaw, died in 1939. An estate sale was held following the deaths of these daughters. James Robert Butt, James Butt's father, remembers going to the estate sale with his father, Robert Bryan Butt. The Gillespie rifle was an item up for bids. Local blacksmith, Marion Jackson received the rifle at the highest bid of fifty cents! He took it to his blacksmith shop just off highway 129 north out of Blairsville, and put it on display.
Historian Ed Mauney saw the gun and
immediately recognized it for what it was--a treasured, signed John
Gillespie-made long rifle. He offered Mr. Jackson $5.00 for it, and the
blacksmith accepted his offer. Mr. Mauney
did much research on the Gillespie rifles made at East Fork in
The gun changed owners again. Claude LaFayette Butt (1879-1960), a grandson of Sidney Harshaw (son of Archibald Blucher and Sarah Cleopatra Harshaw Butt), bought the gun from Ed Mauney for $15.00. Many will remember Mr. Claude Butt as the long-time Union County Clerk of Court. A state patrolman offered to pay Claude Butt $35.00 for the gun, but he refused, knowing that it was a family heirloom. The rifle passed from Claude Butt to James Robert Butt, great grandson of Sidney Harshaw and James B. Butts's father.
Ed Mauney (1897-1977) in his research found that
the particular gun owned by the Butts family was indeed made in
thanks to James B. Butts of Blairsville for much of the information in
this column, and to him and Jerry Taylor, Towns County Historian, for
the descendancy chart of Sidney Harshaw's family. For questions or to contact
me, I may be reached at e-mail edj0513@alltel. net,
telephone 478-453- 8751, or mail: Ethelene
2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail