200-Year-Old Flintlock Found in Lake Winnebago

The old musket pictured above was retrieved from Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin two years ago. It appears to be a “trade musket” manufactured about 200 years ago. From boatingwinnebago.com . . .

“It was around 11 a.m. on Sept. 4 and as soon as I saw the barrel I knew what it was,” he said.

There — hooked on the end of his anchor — was a flintlock musket, rusted and weathered by the passage of time.

“This is crazy. It’s like one of those tall fish tales,” he thought as he held the ancient musket in hand and turned his 14-foot Lakeland fishing boat toward shore near Clarence’s harbor.

The 47-inch heavy iron barrel was coated with zebra mussels and a large portion of the wooden stock was missing — eaten way after centuries of resting at the bottom of the big lake.

The story resonates with me, because 35 years ago, I spent considerable time dragging grappling hooks along the bottom of Lake Winnebago. I worked with a Wisconsin Conservation Warden. I will simply call him “Tom” because he was a law officer that was a little off his rocker. We never found any muskets, but we did pull up a few old fishing rods and plenty of sticks.

No guns, though. Pity. I wish I had snagged that musket. Of course, just because the musket was about 200 years old doesn’t necessarily mean that it was lost on Lake Winnebago 200 years ago. Flintlocks are still in use. It could reasonably have been lost at any time up to about 1900.

©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
Gun Watch


  1. avatar kapeltam says:

    I need to take up fishing again, I think

  2. avatar Liberty7 says:

    Is this the result of those tragic boating accidents we all keep hearing about?

    1. avatar Ray Ficara says:

      I can’t be certain without the rest of the buttstock but it’s either a low end fusil de Chasse (hunting gun) carried by voyageurs and coureurs de bois or a Northwest trade gun. The trade guns were used as treaty payments to the northeast Indians. That kept them at peace with the English and slaughtering each other. The Company would have been proud.


      1. avatar TruthTellers says:

        No, this looks like a Tanegashima, a Japanese matchlock. This means that there must have been Japanese Samurai who traveled to the area after being warned by Japanese time travelers that Japan loses World War 2 and the Shogun, believing defeat in the future by his descendants to be a dishonorable act, dispatched his best warriors to find the ancestors of the US generals and admirals and kill them so they can’t be born.

        Basically, this is like The Terminator without Skynet, John Connor, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

    2. avatar CoolBreeze says:

      200 years ago it was referred to as a tragic canoe accident.

      1. avatar vv ind says:

        Some old ‘gun nut’ lost his scary ‘assault rifle’ in a tragic canoe accident

  3. avatar Jacob says:

    The oshkosh area is great. Big deer and a ton of crazy aerospace tech. Interesting find for such a big lake. Wish I could have made it up this summer.

    1. avatar Wood says:

      Isn’t that where kiddie overalls come from?

      1. avatar Jacob says:

        And the phrase “don’t cha know”

  4. avatar JWM says:

    No expert in these matters but judging from what I can see of the action, especially the trigger gaurd, I would say it’s indeed a trade musket. Likely French.

  5. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    47 inch barrel… Wow. Heavy as heck, but what a sight radius!

    1. avatar Jacob says:

      I shot a flint lock musket once. It was like shooting a pinball machine.

    2. avatar JWM says:

      The H&R Pardner shotgun of its era. A workable gun built on the cheap. No frills or extras.

    3. avatar Publius says:

      And yet a Mosin still makes it look puny! =D

  6. avatar matty 9 says:

    Is there any chance that the low oxygen environment at the bottom of that cold lake could have preserved it enough that it could be brought back to life? Like those ancient extinct trees that don’t rot and then they are sold as exotic wood??? Hmmmm that’d be cool.

  7. avatar gsnyder says:

    Zebra mussels, illegal immigrants attached to an old firearm which continues to resist them.

  8. avatar Bud Harton says:

    I just snagged a 1858 Remington Beal’s Army Revolver that was dug up from a Civil War battlefield in NW Arkansas some seventy or so years ago.

    Old firearms finds are great. That Winchester lever gun that was found a couple years ago in tree was another good story.

    Here’s a link to an 1873 Winchester that was found 100 years later in Wales, AK with the skeleton of an Eskimo . An it’s being auctioned off by Goodwill Industries as a donated item:


  9. avatar Ralph says:

    A 200 year old musket from Lake Winnenago is cool. But y’know what would be even more cool? A 200 year old Winnebago from Lake Musket.

    1. avatar Dave says:

      Gypsies, tramps and thieves?

      1. avatar Jeff the Griz says:

        Hot fuzz!

  10. avatar Noishkel says:

    Yup. Every so often someone comes across something like this out there. I know of one that was discovered by an associate of my father. Someone found a civil war era rifle inside of a tree. I can only image someone propped his rifle and had was either killed or otherwise had to flee and the tree just grew around it.

  11. avatar Bill Cook says:

    Good thing this didn’t happen in New Jersey. He would be off to prison for having an illegal weapon.

    1. avatar Ray says:

      Actually, I think unusable muskets are one of the few firearms that are still legal in Joisey.

  12. avatar johnnosk says:

    Or as the media will report it, “An unregistered Ghost Gun was recovered”

    1. avatar Chicago Steve says:


  13. avatar Stuki Moi says:

    Good thing it wasn’t found in a Winnebago. The poor driver would have been carted off and jailed.

  14. avatar Gunr says:

    S. Watts, and D.Feinstein will probably say “Check the serial number”, to see if it’s stolen.

  15. avatar Roymond says:

    Now that’s what I call a “long arm”!

  16. avatar dph says:

    Apparently firearms have been getting lost in “tragic boating accidents” for a lot longer than I thought.

  17. avatar tsbhoA.P.jr says:

    your grappling hook dredging knocked off the stock, b’gosh.

  18. avatar Richard in WA says:

    Do they make an SBR version?

  19. avatar Gunr says:

    I finally figured it out!,
    This is the gun that’s in Friday’s “Photo caption contest!

  20. avatar bontai Joe says:

    I think I’d go out with a big-ass magnet instead of dragging an anchor or big grappling hook.

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