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Rood, Morgan L.

Name Street Town State From To
Rood, Morgan L.   Penfield, Monroe County New York 1840  
Rood, Morgan L.   Marshall Michigan 1851 1869
Rood, Morgan L. 202, 15th Street Denver Colorado 1870 1881
Rood, Morgan L.   Grand Junction Colorado    

Patent Date Remarks
10,259 November 22, 1853 Improvement in Revolving Fire-Arms
Patent drawing
Specification, 2nd page

Contract for

Born on January 31, 1816 in Monroe County, New York. Census of 1840 says:
Morgan L. Rood, Penfield, Monroe, New York
1 male of 20 & under 30
1 female of 15 & under 20
1 female of 20 & under 30

Census (Colorado) of 1870, value of real estate $ 8000.

It is believed, that he already moved to Denver in the early 1860s. Some record says that there was an other Morgan L. Rood already lived in Marshall and that it was just the other Rood to whome the patent was granted

His revolving rifle is cocked and revolved by a crank on the right side of the gun.

He is better known for his muzzle loading rifles. Over-under percussion rifles.

The following information was published in American Rifleman, March 1958


Morgan L. Rood, who made interesting pieces from 1860's to 1880 has gone unnoticed By Leighton L. Baker

The early gunsmiths of Denver are well known: J. P. Lower, whose shop was headquarters of the sportsman, the badman, the mountain man, and the Indian; Carlos Gove, who hauled his huge old forge by ox team from St. Louis in 1860; George C. Schoyen, pioneer gunsmith and one the finest old-time barrelmakers; and Axel W. Peterson, the last of the famous Denver gunsmiths, who died at the age of 86 with a partially-completed Ballard target rifle on his bench.

But the story of Morgan L. Rood, another early Denver gunsmith was never written. His name isn't very well known, and the Roods of Denver today are no relation to Rood, the gunsmith of pioneer Denver.

Rood was born in the East on January 31, 1816. He gunsmithed there and in Michigan, and started his business in Denver in the early 1860's.

Rood's first shop was a low wooden building on F Street (now 15th) below Larimer. The immediate area has, since that day, been the home of many fine gunshops. Gove's shop was a little over a block away, near the present corner of 16th and Larimer. In later years, when Lower and Gove became partners their new shop was nearby, in the same block as Gove's original shop. Still later, Schoyen and Peterson's famous shop was at 1415 Lawrance, only a block and a half away from the old Rood location. Then later still, Axel and Roy Peterson moved closer yet, to 1429 Larimer. In recent years Beavers had his shop just up the street and Custom Arms their shop just down the street, on 15th. But now they are all gone from these locations, and I know of no new gunshops that have been established in this neighborhood in the last few years .

Shop blows up

One of the most exciting days in Denver's early history occurred when Rood's gun shop blew up, on Sunday, September 11, 1864, at three o'clock in the afternoon. It was the custom of the time to hold Sunday afternoon church services and the church bells were ringing. Amidst the pealing occurred a most terrific explosion. Rood's shop and the two adjoining premises tumbled in ruins

It was later determined what had happened. A gunsmith named Hocum had been repairing a shotgun. A number of kegs of blackpowder were nearby. On test-firing the shotgun, it exploded with sufficient flash to ignite the powder. Hocum's clothes were completely blown off and his flesh burned black but it is believed he recovered. Rood, also in the shop, was cut and bruised but not otherwise seriously hurt. However, the explosion did damage his eyesight in such a way that he was able to do his best shooting only at the longer ranges. The shop was completely destroyed with a loss of $4000.

Rood's new shop,after the explosion, was on F Street below Blake. A little less than three months after the disaster he advertised. "Having a new engine lathe. I am prepared to do all kinds of work generally done in my line".

Made a variety of arms

Rood's work was varied. He made single- double- and three-barrel rifles with gain-twist rifling, some with conventional locks and others with mule-ear locks. He also advertised a six -shot rifle, revolving type, made according to his own patents. He made heavy-barrel target rifles and telescopes and advertised that they could not be excelled. He stated, "I will take shotguns and rifles which do not carry to suit the owner's, and recut them and make them satisfactory everytime without fail".

In addition, he tried to stock a complete assortment of everything a sportsman, hunter, or mountain man would want. He called his shop "The Old Pioneer Sportsmen's Store of M. L. Rood". He was a dealer for Colt revolvers, Winchester, Peabody, and other rifles, double-barrel shotguns, ammunition, blasting and sporting powders, caps, lead, flasks, wads, knives, game bags, fishing tackle, etc.

During the years immediately after the Civil War, Gove and Rood had the only gunshops in Denver. However, the famous Samuel Hawken was Denver's first gunsmith. He had made his fame among the hunters, trappers, gold seekers, and voyageurs of the plains and mountains, as a riflemaker for 37 years in St. Louis. In the summer of 1859, after walking 800 miles, he arrived in Denver, an old man in his 60's, seeking gold and better health. He opened a gunshop, but remained only about a year and a half in Denver, after which he returned to Missouri to retire. His son, S. William Hawken, remained in Denver and ran the gunshop for several years, and then also left.

Gove opened his shop in the early 1860's. He was energetic, a good businessman, a top gunsmith, and he continued to enlarge his facilities for manufacturing. He, like Rood, had a large salesroom, with quantities of pistols, rifles, shotguns, knives, flasks, pouches, and similar supplies. There was little love lost between the two men. Rivalry and jealousy were eating at them both, not only because of their competing shops but also because of their competing reputations as rifle marksmen.

What kindled the spark I do not know, but Gove, believing that the pen was mightier than the sword, struck first. The April 2, 1866 issue of the Denver Gazette carried his challenge. Gove's language was strong and his accusations serious. Rood reacted immediately, in the next issue of the Rocky Mountain News, claiming that Gove was jealous because he, Rood, had secured several orders for double-barrel rifles that Gove would have liked to have.

Concerning his shooting ability, Rood replied: "I have had a standing offer before him (but never made it public) to shoot ten successive matches for $100 each at 550 yards, and would have put the money up any day, But as it is now, I do not know when I can shoot--I am near-sighted, and will acknowledge his eyes and skill in open sight shooting superior to mine, also his nerve, experience, or judgment in wind, and he is clear ahead of me in skulduggery and foul play. Now, therefore, it becomes necessary to divide it into small matches to keep him from playing foul, and shooting long range, for he says in his advertisement his guns, in point of power and accuracy, are second to none, and that is what I claim for mine. I will still hold to the same offer when I can get time to leave my work."

A spirited exchange

From here on words flew thick and fast. I can imagine now the impatience with which Denver waited for coming issues of the Gazette and the Rocky Mountain News. Entertainment was scarce in those days and with this feud was entertainment of the highest interest.

Gove answered in the Gazette of April 6, 1866, but this copy of the paper has eluded me. Apparently it was a rather spirited letter as a portion Rood's reply was as follows: "Thank you, Mr. Gove. I am not as well posted in rowdy phases as yourself but that is owing to a man's bringing up. As for my being a third class marksman, perhaps it is so and that is why you are so anxious to shoot with me. As for what you say of my guns, it is a lie. I should be willing to put up any amount of money and let you shoot both guns if you were honest but my first acquaintance with you taught me better and has proven so ever since, etc."

Gove really waded in with his next letter to the Gazette. He started off by accusing Rood of paying a shooter to throw a match and claimed that Rood had sold gunpowder to the Indians. The following paragraph taunted Rood for having had two wives, and then went on to discredit his guns, claiming that Rood was a "botch at the business, not fit to work in a first class shop or to handle a good gun".

Rood replied in the next issue of the Rocky Mountain News, defending himself quite ably and in a more gentlemanly manner. Rood denied that he had ever paid a cent to have a match thrown and at the same time said that circumstances went very strongly to show that perhaps Gove had done so. As to the powder being sold to the Indians, he said that he had been informed that one of his employees Robert Le Cavalier, had sold powder to the Indians, one day while he, Rood, was absent form the store, and that Le Cavalier had kept the money. He readily admitted having two wives but added that he hoped Gove didn't mean that he had them both at the same time. He said the wives were such that any decent man would have left them, and that it was he who had secured the divorce each time. As to his honesty and character, Rood recommended that anyone interested write to the Marshal of Calhoun County, Michigan, and inquire.

As to his gunmaking ability Rood replied, ".......I can do as find a job on the outside, and a better job on the inside of a gun than this blowhard. My guns seem to suit the hunters very well".

Le Cavalier's name had been mentioned in the exchange, and he jumped into the fracas. He also picked the pages of the Rocky Mountain News to spread his views. If Rood was half as bad as Le Cavalier claimed, he certainly was a mean one.

Rood's letter of April 27, 1866, was the final one of the series. He said: "I noticed in Friday's issue of your paper, a notice by R. Le Cavalier which made me out a very bad man. I at first thought to treat it as though a jackass had kicked me, but as some might think that silence gave consent, I will explain the matter. Last summer when I had been trading with the Ute Indians, someone said to me that I ought not sell them guns or ammunition, for they might be getting it for some bad intent. I then turned to all of the boys in the shop, and said you must not trade any more with them. On the next Sunday when I was out, R. Le Cavalier sold them nearly all of the ammunition in the shop; and when I came in he showed me what a fine lot of skins he had bought and how much he had made for me. I told him I did note care for that, for I thought he understood me not to trade any more with the Indians. He said he was sorry and would not do it again. About two or three days after, I was told that Bob had sold two cans of powder for a fifty dollar bill. I took him alone and asked him if it was so, he denied, and I said no more about it, and should not have mentioned his name in my reply to Mr. Gove's insinuations, but could not avoid it; and to avoid any further trouble I apologized as well as I could, without taking it all to myself. I have been told this same thing by a good honest man, that said he would swear to it, that he saw the fifty dollar bill given to him by an Indian for the powder, and stood close to him.

".....I became satisfied that Bob was not the man I wanted around my shop, and paid him off. As for my politics, you can call me anything but a Copperhead or a Traitor. Now, if anyone doubts my statements, let them come to me, and I will satisfy them, and could say a great deal more, and tell the truth about this young man, but I have been too lengthy already. But one thing more; Bob was in the habit of being out late at night, and coming in and counting his money, and telling how much he had made at gambling. Now, must anyone knows that it is not so easy winning money from the gamblers, so you can see what kind of a man he is. He was the man to bring the first article to me from Gove, and laugh about it. He seems fond of getting up a row."

No record of a match

Whether it was ever determined who was the better rifle shot I do not know. I can find no record of a match between them. As to who paid whom to throw a match, or as to whether powder was sold to the Indians contrary to law, time has erased the evidence. As to the workmanship of the two men, that can still be judged, for examples of their craftsmanship are still with us. I have examined rifles by both and there is little to choose between them. They were both craftsmen, riflemakers, the kind of men who built Denver solidly and helped open the mountains to the west. The hunters, the trappers, the mountain men carried Gove's and Rood's rifles through the canyons and over the passes, pushing the Indians aside and beyond. Gold was found, and the torrent was on, and the voices of Gove's and Rood's rifles continued to echo from the rocky ridges.

Morgan Rood's eyes were bad and his health was failing. The terrific explosion of years before was taking its toll. His nerves were going, his shoulders were stooping, and his hands were shaking. There was no gunsmithing during the last years of his life; he was unable to hold a rifle to his shoulder.

On Saturday, November 26, 1881, the Denver Republican carried this small item: "M. L. Rood, an old resident of Denver, died at an early hour yesterday morning of paralysis, with which he had been afflicted for a number of yea rs. Mr. Rood was initiated in the Union Lodge No. 1, I.O.O.F., October 22, 1866, and will be buried with the ceremonies of that order on Sunday afternoon."