In the 18th century, Western Pennsylvania was the frontier of the United States. It was a harsh land, and the early settlers were merely trying to survive.
The promise of open land and a better life for their families drew settlers to the region, but what they found was an unforgiving land and a hard lifestyle.
Besides the brutal work needed to build a home and farm the land, settlers had to worry about disease, injury, and lack of food supply. On top of this, they lived in constant fear of raids by Native Americans. Because of that fear, settlers would always carry their firelocks with them.
Their flintlock guns became an accessory that always went with them. Much like today, how we grab our wallets or purses when we leave the house, settlers would grab their muskets when leaving their homes. These muskets were not mass produced: They were each individually hand crafted by gunsmiths. As such, there were slight variations to each musket.
When purchasing a musket from a gunsmith, you also received a bullet mold. Each mold was custom made to fit a certain musket. This mold was used to form musket balls from lead for use in the firelock.
In the 19th century, as muskets began to be produced with interchangeable parts, bullet molds did not need to be custom made for a certain musket. But in the Pennsylvania frontier, during the late 18th century, bullet molds were as important as your musket, and it could be devastating if it were to be lost.
Clay Kilgore is executive director of the Washington County Historical Society.