The birth of the Kentucky Rifle Association was the culmination of the friendship and common interest of a number of early collectors and students of the Kentucky rifle and pistol.
In 1924 Captain John G. W. Dillin, wrote his famous book The Kentucky Rifle, the first comprehensive and authoritative work on the subject. In compiling material for his book, Captain Dillon developed close friendships with many early members of the Kentucky rifle collecting fraternity.
Among this group was George N. Hyatt of Wilmington, Delaware, a man who was to further Dillon’s early initiative by creating a permanent organization dedicated to the study and preservation of the Kentucky rifle as “A True American Heritage.” For it was George Hyatt who conceived the idea of the Kentucky Rifle Association, and provided the inspiration that brought it into being.
In the Spring of 1961, Hyatt invited a number of collectors of the Kentucky rifles and pistol to participate in an exhibit and discussion at the Valley Forge Hotel in Norristown, Pennsylvania. The meeting was so well attended and generated so much enthusiasm that those present decided to meet again.
On April 14 – 15, 1962, a second meeting was held at the Mountain View Inn, Greensburg, Pennsylvania. A proposal to create a permanent organization was enthusiastically received, and the birth of the Kentucky Rifle Association was formally celebrated! A slate of officers and a Board of Directors were duly installed. LaDow Johnston was elected President, R. Harley Mackintosh, Vice-President, and Albert M. Sullivan, Sr., Secretary-Treasurer. George Hyatt was honored by being elected Honorary President.
The first officers and directors piloted the new organization through its early, formative years with great success, building a firm foundation, creating a constitution and by-laws, holding annual meetings and exhibits, and gaining increasing attention and respect from the gun collection fraternity at large.
In 1964, at the Annual Meeting held in Bedford, Pennsylvania, Samuel E. Dyke was elected President, Albert M. Sullivan, Sr., Vice President, and Philip F. Cowan, Secretary – Treasurer. This group of officers was reelected for a second tour of duty, and served the Association with distinction through the Annual Meeting of 1967.
In 1965 the first of what was to become a continuing series of KRA Research bulletins was published and circulated to the membership. It was also during this period that the Association initiated one of it major creative undertakings – the compilation and publication of the KRA book, The Kentucky Rifle…a True American Heritage in Pictures.
The Kentucky Rifle Association is justifiably proud of those officers, directors, and members whose unselfish support, cooperation, and dedication made this project a most successful and rewarding venture. This widely distributed and highly regarded publication has brought significant recognition to the Association.
At the Annual Meeting held in Bedford in 1967, Albert M. Sullivan, Sr., was elected President, Howard L. Murray, Jr., Vice President, and Albert M. Sullivan, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer. The reputation and prestige of the Kentucky Rifle Association grew and was enhanced by the leadership provided by the initiative, experience, and continuity of effort of these officers.
The Annual Meeting of 1969, held in York, Pennsylvania, saw the election of Madison Grant as President, William H. Reisner, Jr., Vice President, and Ronald G. Gabel, Secretary-Treasurer.
Under the effective leadership of Presidents Sullivan and Grant the Kentucky Rifle Association continued its rapid development. Annual meetings featured displays of high quality Kentucky rifles, pistols, and accoutrements. An awards program evolved that encouraged the showing of outstanding examples of the art of the gunsmith, the creation of unique educational displays. The Association also attracted attention and favorable reaction through its educational displays at the annual meetings of the National Rifle Association.
During this period it was recognized that the Association had reached that point in time where formal incorporation of the organization was desirable. With the approval of the membership, the officers, and directors initiated action that culminated in the recognition of the Kentucky Rifle Association as a legally-constituted non-profit corporation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on August 26, 1970. A milestone!
In May of 1971 the Historical Society of York County (Pennsylvania), with the cooperation and assistance of the Kentucky Rifle Association, organized and conducted an Exhibit and Seminar on the Kentucky rifle and pistol. Outstanding arms loaned by KRA members and handsomely showcased in its museum by the Historical Society produced an outstanding historical exhibit that in all probability cannot ever be duplicated again. More than 20,000 visitors viewed the display.
The Kentucky Rifle Association made a further major contribution to the preservation of the record of the Exhibit and Seminar by contracting for high-quality photographs, suitable for reproduction, of the Exhibit pieces. The negatives have been added to the archives of KRA, joining other photographs of record to form an impressive pictorial reference of the history of the Kentucky rifles and pistol.
The Exhibit and Seminar project began under the administration of KRA President Madison Grant, and was continued under the direction of William H. Reisner, Jr. who was elected President of the Association at the Annual Meeting, 1971, held in York, Pennsylvania. Other officers elected at that time were Ronald G. Gabel, Vice President, and Merle E. Campbell, Secretary-Treasurer.
The 1972 Annual Meeting of the Association, scheduled to be held at the birthplace of the Kentucky Rifle Association, the Mountain View Inn, Greensburg, Pennsylvania, had to be cancelled because of torrential rains and subsequent flooding brought on by the new infamous Hurricane Agnes. It should be noted that because notice of cancellation did not reach all of the members in time, a few KRA stalwarts did manage to reach Greensburg and with ingenuity typical of our members, proceeded to stage a very satisfying mini-meeting.
The 1972 Meeting was subsequently rescheduled and a fine meeting was held at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in early November of that year. Three important innovations added much interest to the meeting: having an “official” banquet and banquet speaker; initiation of the annual awards which, among other improvements, was designed to encourage interest in educational displays.
In June of 1973 the Association returned to Carlisle for its Annual Meeting. A fine turnout of well over two hundred members and their guests from twenty-two different states characterized this most successful and enjoyable meeting.
New officers elected for ’73-’75 were: Ronald G. Gabel, President; Merle E. Campbell, Vice President; and Alfred Clegg, Secretary-Treasurer.
The 1974 Annual Meeting, held once again at Carlisle, was distinguished by a record turnout and highlighted by the very active participation of the members in all of the scheduled events. The presence and involvement of many of our new members was a welcome sight and a good omen for the future of the Association. “New Member” identification badges made their first appearance.
A 1974 program innovation featuring a seminar-panel discussion on the Kentucky rifle and repairs and restorations drew much favorable comment.
The 1975 Annual Meeting was held in Carlisle once again, with a record turnout of members and their families. Stimulated, perhaps, by picture-taking activities for the new KRA book, members brought out a particularly impressive array of arms and accoutrements for “show-and-tell” displays, and awards competition.
A fine presentation on “Powder Horns” was made by member John du Mont during the KRA seminar at the Annual Meeting.
Despite Watergate, fuel shortages, high prices, and economic slump, to mention a few national miseries, the KRA’s vigorous growth and development continued in 1975 under President Ronald Gabel’s able leadership. Organizational growth brought about a constitutional amendment providing for an expansion of the Board of Directors to meet the increasing responsibilities of the Board and to provide for a broader geographical representation of its membership.
The new and attractive newsletters, new in format and content, were developed by President Gabel, who doubled as newsletter editor and continues now in that assignment.
The new KRA book, Kentucky Rifles and Pistols, 1750 – 1850, was put into production as a joint endeavor by the Association and member/publisher James R. Johnston.
At the annual business meeting of the Association, new officers for 1975-77 were elected as follows: President, Merle E. Campbell; Vice President, Vincent W. Nolt; and Secretary-Treasurer, Joseph R. Flemish, Jr.
During President Campbell’s tenure in office many issues of long range import were examined and discussed. After a considerable debate it was determined not to numerically limit KRA membership, notwithstanding the increased difficulties of administration and securing of a suitable meeting site. It was further decided to streamline the membership petition.
Two constitutional amendments were adopted by the membership. One amendment (Article XII) clarified the organization and function of the Membership Committee. Another (Article X) allowed for reconstituting the number of directors needed to establish a quorum for conducting association business during board meetings.
Officers of the Association elected during the 1977 annual business meeting were: President, Vincent W. Nolt; Vice President, Joseph R. Flemish, Jr.; Secretary-Treasurer, George H. Carroll.
The new streamlined membership procedures conceived during President Campbell’s term were completed and implemented with success. The new procedures eliminate the previously required letters of recommendation while still protecting the integrity of our membership requirements.
A standard KRA reference library was established and incorporated as a welcome addition to our annual meetings. Another popular addition to our annual meetings had its beginning at the 1978 meeting when Mrs. Joanne Holman conducted our first Saturday afternoon seminar for the ladies. Her presentation on “Antique Dolls” was followed in 1979 by Mrs. Mary Dyke who presented equality excellent program on “Antique Fans.”
The 1979 Annual Meeting marked the 5th anniversary of our KRA Newsletter. Bound copies of the first five years were presented to the Association and the Association’s Library by its editor, Past President, Ronald G. Gabel.
New officers elected at the 1979 Annual Meeting were: President, Joseph R. Flemish, Jr.; Vice President, George H. Carroll; Secretary-Treasurer, Gerald DiCesare.
The 1980 Annual Meeting marked another milestone in KRA history. The gunroom show space was expanded by opening up an adjoining room. The extra space was soon filled with excellent displays and exhibits.
It was decided that the KRA research bulletins previously circulated to members beginning in 1965 be reprinted as a feature in future newsletters.
In 1981 our KRA book, Kentucky Rifles and Pistols 1750 – 1850, was reprinted by member published, James R. Johnston. Groundwork was laid toward the redistribution of the ever expanding duties and responsibilities of our Secretary-Treasurer. Also, a careful study of our insurance and legal situation resulted in the expansion of coverage and the bonding of our Treasurer.
In 1981 annual business meetings saw the election of George H. Carroll as President; Gerald P. DiCesare, Vice President; and Rudolph W. Gleichman, Secretary-Treasurer for the 1981-83 term. The initial issue which the new administration addressed was the need for more clerical capability. Since the organization was quickly approaching the 400 membership mark, a continued volunteer and “quill pen” approach was deemed to no longer answer organizational needs. Accordingly the paid position (as independent contractor) of Administrative Assistant was created. Duties include the management of fiscal accounts under direction of the Secretary-Treasurer, coordination of the annual meeting and publication of the directory. Also the Newsletter Editor is now a paid independent contractor.
Major issues addressed were as follows: Article IV of the By-Laws was revised to make membership qualifications more explicit; a survey of the membership reviewed the awards program; dues were raised to meet future increases in the annual show costs and to anticipate the eventual sponsoring of research and publishing; and adoption of a more explicit policy regarding exhibits at the annual meeting.
At the 1983 annual meeting, Gerald P. DiCesare was elected President; Rudolph W. Gleichman, Vice President; David S. Hansen, Secretary-Treasurer. In November 1983, Rudolph W. Gleichman resigned his office due to personal reasons. By action of the Board, David S. Hansen became Vice President. The office of Secretary-Treasurer was filled by Joseph R. Flemish for the remaining term.
The theme of the new administration was to refocus attention on one of our main objectives – education. It was felt that an effort should be made to provide members and the public with new material. As a means towards that objective textbooks, bulletins and video tapes were discussed. A program was initiated to photograph rifles and pistols belonging to members in order to establish a permanent photographic record of our collections for future reference and possible publication. A direct questionnaire to prospective members was instituted to further insure that quality of and “collector” status of new KRA members.
At the 1985 Annual Meeting David S. Hansen was elected president; William Myers, Vice President; and Joseph R. Flemish, Jr. Secretary-Treasurer. Several policy changes and programs were initiated which will have long range positive effects on the KRA Organization. The newsletter editor and administrative assistant services were secured with legal contracts, widow’s benefits were established, the Board of Directors was streamlined from 13 directors to 10, seminars were videotaped for the first time and a new style “best of show” award was introduced.
Serious researchers were given permission to photograph member’s guns at the annual show, permitted exhibit guidelines were further improved and stage exhibits of regional gun makers were reinstated with photos taken with the intention of publishing a monograph on the selected riflesmith.
A second edition of the Redbook was published and, best of all, the KRA had a gala affair in celebration of its 25th anniversary with the ladies receiving a rose and exhibitors receiving a special bronze medallion from the club. Vince and Helen Nolt presented a bolo or medallion to each member.
At the 1987 Annual Meeting William Guthman was elected President; Rudolph Gleichman, Vice President and Joseph Flemish, Jr., Secretary-Treasurer. The KRA continued along the successful path pioneered by Bill Guthman’s predecessors. An attempt was made to bring in professional curators to the seminars in order to lift the academic and interest levels of the topics offered.
The Kindig seminar was published and distributed to the membership and other such projects are in progress. Encouraging authors working on unpublished papers was a priority with the Board, as well as encouraging more displays at the annual meeting.
At the end of 1989 Annual Meeting, Rudy Gleichman was elected President; Frank Nocilla, Vice President; and Robert Kealey, Secretary-Treasurer.
In 1990 George Shumway’s fine book on George Schroyer Sr. and Jr. Series to guide future efforts, a uniform “Criteria for KRA Publications” was adopted. Two additional publications were given tentative approval.
Members of the KRA for 25 years were presented a special pin and were recognized by the membership. This policy will continue. Article VI of the By-Laws was amended absolving officers and directors from damages while acting on club business. Membership rose to 479 representing most geographic areas of the country. Starting 1992 club dues were raised to $45.00.
At the 1991 Annual Meeting, Frank Nocilla was elected President; Charles Kauffman, Vice President; and Robert Kealey, Secretary-Treasurer. In August our Secretary-Treasurer, Bob Kealey died suddenly; David Hansen was appointed Secretary-Treasurer.
The continuing efforts of the Board of Directors made available to the membership the fifth book in the KRA series – “Drums A Beating – Trumpets A Sounding” by William Guthman.
During the 1992 and 1993 annual shows a number of changes were initiated. A Friday bus excursion was added for the ladies. The Saturday evening banquet was replaced by an informal bar-b-que. The annual awards presentations also took place at this highly successful event.
A resolution regarding the proper use and distribution of the KRA roster was passed by acclamation and added to the corporation’s by-laws and front of roster.
At the 1993 Annual Meeting, Charles Kaufman was elected President, Richard Ulbrich, Vice President, and Timothy Hodges, Secretary-Treasurer.
During the next two years some important policy changes were initiated. Guidelines were established to limit financial exposure of the KRA when taking on or supporting new publishing projects. A committee was also established to review and, if necessary, revise the criteria for KRA sponsored publications.
Membership requirements were also addressed by a committee which wrote a new set of guidelines that gives the board more flexibility in members with a broader array of talents. It is hoped that this increased diversity will be beneficial to the organization in the long term.
The election of the new board of directors also marked the beginning of a period of self evaluation for the organization. This included seeking opinions from the membership, first by open letter in the KRA bulletin, and later by questionnaire. The results of these efforts indicated that the members at large generally supported the policies and direction set by the board for the organization.
At the 1995 Annual Meeting, Richard Ulbrich was elected President, Tim Hodges, Vice President, and Gordon Barlow, Secretary-Treasurer.
Richard Ulbrich’s tenure was marked with an increased emphasis on the educational aspect of the Kentucky Rifle. The additional seminar and workshop hopefully establishes a new standard. Several items were rotational award categories. Dick’s wife, Diane, (member) introduced a collectible “show and tell” event for the wives in place of the ladies’ seminar.
At the 1997 meeting, Timothy Hodges was elected President, Gordon Barlow, Vice President and Wayne Heckert, Secretary-Treasurer.
The focus on education was continued with the Friday workshops. In addition the speakers & participants in the program were rewarded with presentation of gifts made by KRA members. Gun room security at the annual show was simplified by using a camcorder to record removals. Membership broke the 500 number! Sadly we did lose several charter members & other senior members.
Most importantly, the establishment of the Kentucky Rifle Foundation was initiated. Board members were appointed from our previous KRA presidents.
At the 1999, meeting, Gordon Barlow was elected President, Wayne Heckert as Vice President and Gerald Gutchess as Secretary-Treasurer.
Sadly on March 11, 2000 Jerry passed on suddenly, Frank Kobilis was elected in his place.
The KRA ventured into the 21st Century with a renewed focus on education. The program of different rotating awards categories was continued with a special display award newly designed by Jerry Gutchess. A “handle with permission only” policy prompted members to participate in the awards program. Quality with fine rifles & accoutrements again serve as an educational tool for our membership.
A special memorial table at our annual meeting, with a beautifully designed plaque created by Siro Toffolon, provides the membership with a tangible connection to our deceased members.
The Kentucky Rifle foundation formed four working committees with policies to support the mission of the KRA. A logo for the Foundation is under development.
Dues were increased to $50.00 in 2000. Beginning in 2001 the KRA offered a Life Membership at a fee of $1,500.00. Mac Spencer designed the permanent silver Life Member card and a special Life Member pin. Living Distinguished Service Medal recipients each was awarded a permanent gold Life Member card and pin in keeping with their designated life member status. Membership now exceeds 500. Sadly we again lost several charter members and other members who are missed greatly.
At the 2001 meeting Wayne Heckert was elected President, Frank Kobilis as Vice President, and R. Mac Spencer, Secretary-Treasurer.
The recent emphasis on education was continued as the primary trust of this administration. In addition to presentations given by KRA members, the membership had the opportunity to hear speakers from both the Smithsonian and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Also at this time the entire contents of the KRA Bulletin was digitalized to facilitate publication of historically useful portions.
To promote the mission of the KRA both within and beyond our membership, the Association, through its foundation, lent support to the Pennsylvania Museum of the Longrifle at Jacobsburg, near Easton, Pa. The KRA Foundation made possible one of the key exhibits within the museum.
Also, the KRA established its own website on the Internet with the anticipation that site will be further developed as an informational tool. We continue to exceed 500 members, gained some new great friends, and sadly lost others who were close to us.
At the 2003 meeting Frank Kobilis was elected President, R. Mac Spenser as Vice President, and Lorentz Kafka, Secretary-Treasurer. At that meeting, President Kobilis set several goals for his term. With education being his primary focus, several projects needed to be completed and new ones initiated.
The newly created website required construction and development. He wanted the KRA-supported Jacobsburg Museum display ready for viewing by the public and the proposed book on the Kentucky Rifle Association, “Selected Articles from the KRA Bulletin,” to be published, all by the end of his term.
President Kobilis also wanted to have a presentation initiated for a proposed Speakers’ Bureau that would provide a unified presentation that individual members could use in their communities.
Through the hard work and efforts of the Board of Directors and the Kentucky Rifle Foundation, all of the goals were accomplished by the end of the 2005 term. This included the addition of over 700 gunsmiths’ names to the website, the delivery of the new publication to the membership at the 2005 annual meeting and the development of a CD that is available to the general public that showcases the Kentucky Rifle Association’s archived photographs of Kentucky Rifles.
At the 2005 meeting R. Mac Spencer was elected president, Lorentz Kafka, vice president, Tim Lubenesky, secretary/treasurer.
The 2006-2007 administration’s challenge was to continue the great work started by its predecessor’s; education remaining the KRA’s main focus along with a strong emphasis on membership growth. These goals were advanced with membership growth of 8-10%, educational displays by our membership, and the Kentucky Rifle Foundation sponsored KRA Presidents Displays. In 2006 the “Four Centuries of the Long rifle” display was a new venture for KRA featuring the great Contemporary rifle makers of today alongside the great gun builders of the past.
In 2007 the competing individual arms program was suspended due in part to lack of participation. This action opened up floor space for the outstanding KRF/KRA display “Early Moravian Gunsmiths”. The display featured 10 long guns, one pistol, and a number of great associated pictures and accouterments. As a direct result of Bob Lienemann’s seminar on “Gun Building in the Moravian Communities” and the once in a lifetime display, the KRF published a book in 2008 that included all the information presented.
Our members continued tradition by stepping forward with great seminars: Jeff Spotts “gunmakers of Huntingdon County”, Frank Tait’s “Captain Lewis Rifle-the case for George Fainot as Maker”, Brian LaMaster’s “Kentucky Rifle Restoration-where and what to look for”, and Bob Lienemann’s “Gun Building in the Moravian Communities”.
Thanks to Kevin McDonald, the KRA/KRF’s web master, a new web site was launched that is even more informational and includes more photographs. The web site will always be a work in progress.
A fund raising campaign was started in 2006 in an effort to raise money for our 50th anniversary celebration, a campaign which continued to be successful through 2007.
Our silent auction, run by the Kentucky Rifle Foundation, raised a record amount of funds in 2007 for the “Vince & Helen Nolt Publication fund” thanks to many members willing to contribute items.
Henry Bishop was honored with the associations “Distinguished Service Award” at the 2007 banquet in recognition of his work to further the growth and visibility of the KRA/KRF (thank you Henry).
The KRA/KRF continued to promote the Kentucky Rifle’s history and its status as a true American art form in various venues i.e. CLA, NRA, Jacobsburg Historical Society Long rifle museum, Allentown Forks of the Delaware gun show, Dixon’s gun-makers fair, the PAGCA Hamburg show and many more locations. With continued hard work by our members our organization will continue to grow and prosper.
The president personally thanks all the KRA members for their support over these last two years, and especially thanks Ruth Collis for her valuable assistance.
At the 2007 Annual Meeting, Lorentz Kafka was elected President, Tim Lubenesky, Vice President and Brian LaMaster Secretary/ Treasurer.
The 2008 annual meeting continued to focus on education. The Board reviewed a second membership survey and plans to retain their wishes to preserve our collecting activity & research of antique Kentucky rifles, pistols and accouterments and of their makers.
A display of 12 rifles from the Kindig collection stressed their symbolic content. Jim Renn and Lorentz Kafka introduced Samuel Baum’s biography & test at a seminar.
Under Lorentz’s direction, education and collecting continued to be our focus in 2009. The Foundation displayed a spectacular group of Allentown and Reading area guns. The Foundation furthered their encouragement of the KRA by supporting educational displays. The Foundation represented us with excellent displays at the 2008, & 2009 NAR National shows.
During those years, both Frank Kobilis and Mac Spencer were awarded the Distinguished Service Award as was their due for their major work. The Bulletin was printed in color for the first time and was greatly improved. It was also decided to leave Carlisle and move to the Pittsburgh area in 2010.
President Kafka turned the gavel, in the form of a silver pipe, over to the next president, Tim Lubenesky. Vice president was Brian LaMaster and Secretary was Art DeCamp.
In 2010, after thirty-eight years at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, our annual show was relocated to a new meeting site at the Four Points Sheraton Hotel in Cranberry Township, north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Under President Lubenesky’s leadership and with outstanding effort by our Board and the membership, the first show was enthusiastically received with a record number of displays and record attendance at the Saturday evening banquet. KRA sponsored Ladies programs brought something special for the ladies: in 2010, a trip to the Heinz Museum followed by lunch and shopping and in 2011 a day trip to Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water”.
The President’s Display was solidified as the central display for our Annual Meetings. In 2010, the theme was “Early Lehigh / Northampton County Rifles” and in 2011 it was “Western Pennsylvania Rifles”. Both displays brought out the very best rifles, many not seen in years. The utmost praise is due our Kentucky Rifle Foundation for locating and setting up these displays, with special thanks to Mac Spencer and Henry Bishop. In conjunction with the displays, the Foundation initiated professional photographing of each year’s display, making high resolution photos available on CD for future study and for fund raising purposes.
In 2010, the long awaited and well received book “Moravian Gun Making of the American Revolution” was published by the KRF and KRA. Special thanks to Mac Spencer, Robert Lienemann and Steve Hench, among others.
The KRA was represented with outstanding displays at the 2010 NRA National Convention in Charlotte, NC and in 2011 in Pittsburgh, PA. The KRA also spread information concerning the Kentucky Rifle and the KRA with wonderful displays in many various shows.
At the 2011 meeting, Brian LaMaster was elected President; Art DeCamp, Vice President; and Hank Nowak, Secretary Treasurer.
In early 2012, the KRF and KRA published the comprehensive volume, “Pennsylvania Horns of the Trade; Screw-Tip Powder Horns and their Architecture” by Art DeCamp, the culmination of over 40 years of research and study.
At the 2012 Annual Meeting, we celebrated our 50 Year Anniversary with a record number of Educational displays and attendance. We honored Ruth Collis and Ron Gabel for their continued years of service and commitment to the organization. The Board of Directors worked very hard to make the 50th meeting one to be proud of for such a special year.
The KRF President’s Exhibit held 20 of the “Best of Show” rifles from the past 50 years. Mac Spencer, as President, was presented with an award for his hard work in making this exhibit possible.
Anniversary Medallions were created and given to each table holder and special wine glasses with the KRA logo were given at the banquet. A CD filled with photos taken over the years went to all the members.
For the 2013 Annual Meeting, the focus for the seminars and President’s Display showcased great rifles made in the South. The KRF brought rifles together and had them photographed for a CD for future study. Small pewter KRA medals were presented to each rifle in the President’s Exhibit.
For the close of the Sunday business meeting, Brian LaMaster wished to thank all who helped to make his two year term a success. He then turned the gavel over to the newly elected President, Art DeCamp, with Vice President Hank Nowak, and Secretary-Treasurer David R. Geiger.
Beginning in late 2013, the KRA Directors authorized improvements for the KRA website: www.kentuckyrifleassociation.org. Art DeCamp worked with the new webmaster Rex Reddick to improve the graphic format on the KRA website, with scrolling photos of Kentucky Rifles, viewable copies of recent KRA Bulletins, and protected member “ONLY” access to KRA Member directory information.
The 2014 Annual Meeting was held once again in Cranberry Township, north of Pittsburgh, and former KRA President and Distinguished Service Award recipient, Ron Gabel, was recognized as he retired from 40 years of service as the editor of the KRA Bulletin. Andy Tisler was named as the new KRA librarian, along with assistant Richard Wilks. The 2014 President’s Display featured “Kentucky’s of the Old Northwest Territory”, which included Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky made rifles.
Seminars by Jeff Jaeger and Shelby Gallien were enjoyed by many members and for the first time, the KRF conducted and auction of Kentucky rifles from the estate of member Jack Vye. Membership remained strong at approximately 575 members with over 35 new members having joined over the previous three years.
In 2015, members continued to be active, conducting exhibits at the MACA “Baltimore” Gun Show in Timonium, MD and at the Renfrew Museum on behalf of the KRA. For the 2015 Annual Meeting, the ladies trip included a luncheon river cruise from Station Square in downtown Pittsburgh, PA. Seminar speakers were members Alan Gutchess and Frank Tait. The President’s Display featured fine “Rifles of York County” and the second auction of rifles was conducted by the KRF during Friday evening of the meeting.
At the Annual Membership Meeting on Sunday morning, members elected Harry “Hank” Nowak as President, David Geiger as Vice-President and David Powers as Secretary-Treasurer. Director Mark Wheland agreed to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms. Outgoing President Art DeCamp thanked everyone for another successful year and passed the gavel to the Hank Nowak. Hank presented Art with the traditional handmade tomahawk signifying his two years as President. Membership continued at approximately 575 members.
2016 – 2017
President Harry “Hank” Nowak accepted his June 2015 election with the goal to concentrate on Educational Member Programs with a focused approach to Bucks and Berks County Schools of Gunsmiths. In fact, Hank’s tenure required the unlimited help by too many people to name in this History: A dedicated and knowledgeable KRA and KRF Board of Directors, along with Current and Past Presidents, as well as many members and non-members, guided by Ruth Collis and supported by Helen Hodges, would shepherd the KRA though a period of change.
The evolution began in early 2016 as Helen Hodges assumed responsibility for the Annual Meeting due to Ruth Collis’ illness. Regrettably, Ruth passed away, so a “special” board meeting was called at Tyson’s Corner Virginia at Craig Bell’s offices. They planned the next 3 years of changes that would be needed to streamline the organization’s functional responsibilities. Helen and all board members provided the support needed to work through the organizational accounting and other administrative duties that Ruth had so diligently performed for most of the KRA history. Ruth was memorialized at the 2016 Annual Meeting.
The 2016 President’s Display “Guns of the Upper Bucks County Style” was richly populated by Verners, Shulers, Weikers, Daub Jr., AP and early Bucks high quality rifles. Mel Hankla’s updated seminar “Into the Cumberlands” was received by a capacity audience. The Interactive Panel Discussion on Auctioning your Guns was successful and lively with questions and related experiences.
The Hotel required effort to maintain an open line of communication with the new owners and changes of local management. KRA Members registered unanimous satisfaction with The Double Tree by Hilton staff, and Helen would be nominated to fill the Administrative Assistant responsibility, which she dutifully accepted. We ended the year with 571 members and a program to attract new members, including Rex Reddick (Web Master) adding KRA Flyers to the website and the publishing of his revised “Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle” by Joe Kindig, Jr.
2017, our 55th Annual Meeting, saw membership at 581 and Educational Displays under Carl Landis exceeding the room capacity, which included the KRA Library setup by Tisler and Wilks. The 2017 President’s Display and Seminar “Hub of the Tulpenhocken – Womelsdorf” by Henry Bishop completed Henry’s series of KRA Bulletin Articles and added accurate detailed information to accompany the Womelsdorf Rifles displayed by the KRF. Lorenze Kafka completed the seminar series with his Samuel States Account Book. The KRA Bulletin began being managed by Kevin McDonald & Nick Powers.
KRA members proactively promoting the KRA included active participation in the Baltimore Show and the Pennsylvania Antique Gun Collectors Assn., the NRA, with awards to Mel Hankla and 2 awards to Wayne Elliot and Matt Verdery with Higgins Best of 10 (9) at Atlanta.
The KRF provided an exhausting schedule of Rifle Displays, Coloring Book finalization and putting the finishing touches on Bob Lienemann’s book “Moravian Gunmaking II”, to name only a few KRF activities. Hank’s term ended with Dave Geiger being voted as the new President at the 2017 annual meeting and Hank was presented with a ceremonial pipe-axe, in the tradition of outgoing presidents.
The 2018 Annual Meeting was held at the Cranberry, PA Doubletree Hotel. Excellent seminars were provided by Wayne Elliot, who focused on Georgia Gunsmith Wiley G. Higgins and Bob Lienemann introduced his new book on Moravian Gunmaking II, published by the KRF. The President’s Display was dutifully managed and photographed by Van Pitman and the KRF. It focused on exceptional Pennsylvania rifles made in both Lebanon and Dauphin Counties. The Ladies program, organized by Ed Fish, featured a popular bus trip to the Frick House Museum in Pittsburgh. Membership remained relatively steady with 565 active members. Nine 25-year membership pins and one 50-year membership pin were awarded.
Our 2019 Annual Meeting focused on Moravian Gunsmithing and culture. Vice President Dave Powers was instrumental in getting Johanna Brown from MESDA in Winston Salem, N.C. to present “Moraviana” as our Ladies Program. It was very well attended and received by our members as well as the ladies. The KRF sponsored President’s Display encompassed rifles made at the three major Moravian communities settled in Pennsylvania as well as Winston Salem in North Carolina. Van Pitman again photographed and organized this presentation of rarely seen, early rifles. On Friday, Mel Hankla and Frank House presented a seminar titled “Origins”, and Michael Briggs presented “The Longrifles from the Wachovia Tract” on Saturday.
On Sunday, the KRA membership elected Dave Powers as President, Mark Wheland as Vice President, Craig Bell as Secretary/Treasurer and Ed Fish as Sergeant- at- Arms. Frank Slyker resigned after many years of service on the Board. Membership remained steady at 560 members. Outgoing President, Dave Geiger, thanked the Board of Directors and membership, among others, for their support and received his Bucks County inspired tomahawk from incoming President, Dave Powers, who concluded the meeting.
Sadly, less than 5 months after David Powers accepted the gavel he passed due to a short bout with cancer. Members were encouraged as to the direction Dave would have taken the KRA as he was profoundly interested in the Kentucky Rifle, American history, and decorative arts.
An emergency meeting of the Board advanced the officers: Mark Wheland, President, Craig Bell, Vice President, Ed Fish, Secretary/Treasurer, Mark Tyler, Sergeant at Arms.
The 2020 era began with the Annual Meeting being cancelled for the first time. This was due to the Wuhan Virus, Covid-19, which was spreading fast, so the Board decided it was best not to meet that year. David Powers’ desired President’s Display, “The Year of the Pistol” was postponed until the next Annual Meeting.
At the 2021 annual meeting, the traditional “Outgoing President Tomahawk” was presented to the family of David Powers in recognition of hi many years of service and dedication to the KRA. The President’s Display featured a wide array of finely made Kentucky Pistols. Seminars by Brian LaMaster & Gary Lamolinara were enjoyed by the many members in attendance. Friday evening the KRG hosted an auction of Kentucky Rifles from the estate of Bob Blemker. The Ladies Program featured speaker Mike Burke, assistant director of the Fort Pitt Museum and the topic of 18th century items made of horn. At the Saturday evening banquet, the newly renamed “Ruth Collis-Distinguished Service Award” was presented to members Tim Hodges & Brian LaMaster in recognition of their continued efforts to promote the KRA. At the Sunday morning business meeting, President Mark Wheland, Vice President Craig Bell, Secretary/Treasurer Ed Fish and Sergeant at Arms Mark Tyler were elected to a new 2-year term.
Our 2022 annual meeting, seminars and President’s display focused on rifles made in Emmitsburg, MD. Seminars by member Art DeCamp, Alan Gutchess and Jack Brooks were well received and followed with active question and answer sessions. The President’s Display was filled with 24 high quality Emmitsburg rifles brought together by the KRF for the study and pleasure of our members. The ladies program featured a bus trip to the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s historic North Side. Membership remains steady at around 520 members.
In 2023, we celebrated our 60th Annual Meeting. The weekend began with a Thursday evening bus trip followed by a casual reception at the Fort Pitt Museum. The President’s Display as well as seminars by Shelby Gallien, Mel Hankla and Frank House all focused on “Rifles of the Kentucky Frontier.” The number and quality of Educational Displays remains high under new Awards & Education chairman Ed Rayl and assistant Major McCollough. The KRA and KRF continue to be well represented at various events throughout the year including the NRA Convention, the Baltimore Antique Arms Show and many others. Membership remains strong with 26 new members added during this year. On Sunday morning, members elected Craig Bell as President, Ed Fish as Vice President, Mark Tyler as Secretary/Treasurer, and Ed Rayl agreed to serve as Sergeant-at-Arms. Mark Wheland thanked the Board of Directors and membership for their support during his time in office. Then he was presented with the traditional “Outgoing President Tomahawk” before turning the gavel over to incoming President Craig Bell to close the meeting.