FULTON, NY – Friends of History is no stranger to keeping Fulton’s history alive and well.
Recently, this group brought back to Fulton the great-grandson and family of James Hunter, one of the original founders of the historic Hunter Arms Company in Fulton.
During the 5th Annual Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend, Jim Hunter accompanied by his wife, Teri, their sons, Jace and Rob, as well as Jace’s expecting wife, Megan, came to Fulton to celebrate their family history with collectors and enthusiasts of their iconic family product.
Jim’s great-grandfather, James Hunter, along with his five brothers, bought the L.C. Smith gun manufacturing company out of Syracuse and built a factory for production in Fulton.
From 1890 to 1950, when the factory floor collapsed and forced the closing of the company, the Hunter Arms Company was a large, thriving piece of Fulton’s industrious economy.
For the past five years, the Friends of History has held the Annual Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend to honor the company that persevered in Fulton for such time.
Each year, guests of the event can expect to see a Hunter Arms Gallery at the John Wells Pratt House Museum which displays various L.C. Smith/Hunter Arms guns and memorabilia.
Collectors and gun enthusiasts from all over also had the opportunity to shoot their L.C. Smith guns at a friendly competition held at Pathfinder Fish and Game Club.
To conclude the weekend, Tavern on the Lock hosted this year’s awards banquet featuring a buffet style dinner.
Although this is the Hunter family’s third time attending the annual event, “We are extremely appreciative to be invited back to this each year,” Jim Hunter told Oswego County Today.
This year, the Hunters were excited to be able to stay in the Hunter homestead in Sterling Valley.
And co-chair of homecoming weekend, Les Weldin, was excited to see the growth of the event.
“We are getting more and more each year,” said Weldin, a Fulton native who is very educated on the history of L.C. Smith and the Hunter Arms Company.
However, this year in particular, the Hunters were pleased to be able to honor the man that they owe so much of their story to.
“It’s good to see familiar faces, but it’s also great to be able to commemorate the lives of Rich Beyer and Andy Anderson. They will always have a special place in our hearts. Rich held hundred of interviews with people and collected so much information about our family. He was a keeper of history that provided so many keepsakes for us to cherish. He was a very charismatic man with a great personality who brought history to life for us,” said Jace Hunter.
According to his wife, Suzy Beyer, Rich had a genuine love and interest in learning about L.C. Smith and the Hunter Arms Company.
“We spent 40 years interviewing all the employees of The Gun Works – that’s what they called it, and those guys would sit with us for hours and tell us all kinds of stories. It wasn’t until we retired that we put a book together and had it printed,” said Suzy.
Rich then went on with two of his friends, Andy and Frank, to organize the L.C. Smith Collectors Association which now has more than 600 member; 170 of them being life members.
“The L.C. Smith Association is a national organization and even has members from other countries. Rich had such a love for it, it was great to watch. He always said it was the best double-barrel shotgun on the market. It’s important, people fed their families with these guns. They were for hunters and it’s how a lot of families put food on their table. And even more so, almost every family from Fulton has a relative that worked there at one time or another,” added Suzy.
While the story of the factory is important to Fulton history, it holds a special meaning for members of the Hunter family.
“I wanted to show and teach my children about their heritage. I wanted them to know their story. And it’s a rich one, it’s a fun one,” said Teri Hunter.
To the Hunters’ surprise, as well as Rich Beyers’ surprise, the two ran into each other completely by chance and from there, their story took off.
“We were sitting in the file room at the Pratt House in August of 2007. All of a sudden, Rich came up the stairs and introduced himself. From then on, we’ve had a lot of adventures with him. It was just a serendipitous encounter and here came someone with all the information we were missing. He shares the same love and appreciation for what our family had done and we will always be grateful for Rich as he gave us the opportunity to learn so much,” said Teri.
Rich Beyer passed away on December 7, 2014, and Andy Anderson passed away on December 8, 2014.
Although the event was different this year missing two important people without the presence of Rich and Andy, the Hunter family helped keep the historic spirit alive.
Jim Hunter brought with him the original gun that was custom made for his great-grandfather, James Hunter.
All the collectors and enthusiasts present at the shooting event were in awe of the intricate detail in the engraving and the overall mechanics of the gun.
Although Jim had shot the gun before with his father, it is generally not used to ensure that it is well-preserved.
However, for the first time ever, Jim’s sons, Jace and Rob were able to shoot their great-great-grandfather’s gun. Their mother, Teri and Jace’s wife, Megan, took a turn as well.
While the John Wells Pratt House has a large Hunter Arms Exhibit room that is always on display, the entire downstairs of the house is transformed to display numerous stations of L.C. Smith collectibles.
Collector of guns for 50 years, Don Nickerson comes from Cooperstown and has brought his L.C. Smith collection to the Pratt House for Homecoming Weekend every year since its start.
This is the first year that Nickerson displayed his rarest find, an L.C. Smith field grade shotgun made in 1939 that has never been fired along with the original box and shipping crate it came in.
Nickerson also had the original 50th anniversary catalog, multiple other L.C. Smith guns, a number of informational authentication letters from the L.C. Smith Collectors Association and other original L.C. Smith memorabilia.
“This is a cool event,” said Nickerson. “It’s fun to be here with all these people that really appreciate this stuff.”
The 5th Annual Hunter Arms Homecoming Weekend brought a lot of guns, a lot of fun and a lot of history and knowledge back to life.
For more information on Friends of History and the Pratt House Museum of Fulton stop by the Pratt House during its hours of operation, Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or contact [email protected]