In the 1970s, a Windham school bus driver named Eph Jillson bought one of the historic old homes on Route 302 in the middle of town. The old house had originally belonged to the Anthoine family, who had come here in the 1700s. John Anthoine was born in the house in 1794; he and his wife had nine children. He was a blacksmith and brickmaker and one of the volunteers who served in the War of 1812. Three of his sons, John, Ambrose and Joseph, all served in the Civil War – Ambrose died in the Battle of the Wilderness.

Jillson decided to put a foundation under the old barn on the property. His friend, Fred Kelley, was helping him. As the men were digging down into the earth around the barn, they dug up two old boxes. They pulled them up and opened them. One contained about 20 long pieces of metal.

Confounded by the find, Jillson threw most of them into the concrete they’d prepared for the foundation. Good reinforcing rods, he thought. He kept one piece out and stood it in a corner of the old barn, figuring this curious thing might be identified later.

Everett Millett, a Windham teacher and friend of Jillson’s, stopped to visit, and Jillson took him into the barn to show him what had been found. The visitor quickly identified the metal rod as the gun barrel of a Model 1816 flintlock. Most of the wooden gunstocks had been broken and rotted after being buried for such a long time.

Millett restored the gun himself, even carving a new gunstock. He was able to trace around what was left, and had another one in good condition to go by. In a discussion with Millett, he said that the gun they found was a model 1816 flintlock, developed after the War of 1812 and converted to the percussion system.

The Model 1816 had a 42-inch-long .69-caliber barrel, similar to the Model 1812, but had a longer lock plate, a shorter trigger guard,and a longer bayonet. The Model 1816 also had a more straight-lined stock. The overall length of the weapon was 58 inches.

Questions remain about why this cache was buried and who did the burying, but it may be that one of the Anthoines let his field be used for local militia training, or perhaps there were munitions stored here.

The Model 1816 musket was originally produced at the Harpers Ferry and Springfield Arsenals between 1816 and 1844. Around 675,000 were made, more than any other flintlock in U.S. history.


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