The Grouseland rifle was purchased by the Grouseland Foundation in 2004, and is on display at the Harrison Mansion in Vincennes (image courtesy IndyStar.com)
Indianapolis, IN (The Indianapolis Star) -- Indiana soon will have an official state rifle to go along with the state tree, state stone and state flower.
The Indiana House voted 78-2 on Tuesday to declare the Grouseland the state's official rifle. It is one of only six remaining long rifles made by famed Hoosier gunsmith John Small in the early 1800s.
The measure, earlier approved 48-2 by the Senate and headed to Gov. Mitch Daniels, makes Indiana only the third state with an official gun. Utah became the first in March 2011, when it honored the Browning M1911 automatic pistol, followed in April by Arizona, which chose the Colt Army revolver.
Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, said he decided to pursue honoring the Grouseland Rifle, which is in President William Henry Harrison's Vincennes home, Grouseland, after hearing a few years ago that Pennsylvania was considering naming the long rifle its official gun.
Instead of filing a bill, Waterman got an amendment added to House Bill 1283, which mostly deals with libraries.
Tuesday, Republican state Rep. Kathy Kreag Richardson, the author of that bill, tried to keep a straight face as she asked the House to go along with the changes. Asked by one lawmaker how the rifle issue could be put into her bill in the Senate, Richardson noted that the bill pertains in part to the Indiana Historical Society, "and this is a very historic rifle."
Because the rifle issue was added by an amendment, there was no opportunity for proponents of other guns to make the case that their weapon should be Indiana's official big shot.
Waterman, though, said Small's rare guns are in a special class. Small, a Revolutionary War veteran who moved to Vincennes in 1785, was a man of many talents: tavern-keeper, ferry operator, gunsmith, woodworker, silversmith, Northwest Territory legislator, Indiana's first sheriff, Knox County surveyor and adjutant general of the territorial militia under Harrison.
Not to mention, Waterman said with a laugh, "he got shot in the butt" in a 1786 battle with American Indians.
Hoosiers who have never heard of Small likely are familiar with one of his artworks. Harrison -- who was governor of the Indiana Territory and later president for 32 days before dying of pneumonia -- commissioned him to design the seal of the Indiana Territory, which later became the state seal.
Dan Sarell, executive director of the Grouseland Foundation in Vincennes, said Grouseland acquired the long rifle, originally a flintlock that was converted to percussion cap, at an auction in 2004. He is hoping the official state designation for the rifle will not only attract visitors to Grouseland "but tell people the story of John Small."
Only one other John Small rifle, which possibly was carried by the Lewis and Clark expedition, is on public display. It is at the Missouri Historical Society.
"You don't have one for sale on every street corner," Waterman said.
If they ever are, Waterman hopes Grouseland will benefit. The bill specifies that any duplication, reproduction or sale of a reproduction must be authorized by the foundation