Fond du Lac resident Ray Groff expected windy conditions and a good bite when he set out on the waters of Lake Winnebago last week. What he did not expect was that he would dig up a piece of American history.
“It was around 11 a.m. on Sept. 4 and as soon as I saw the barrel I knew what it was,” Groff told Action Reporter Media.
The antiquated firearm had been sitting on the bottom of the lake for over 200 years before the angler came along. He did not reel in the heavy, 47-inch-long gun but instead found it dangling off his anchor.
“This is crazy. It’s like one of those tall fish tales,” he recalled thinking.
The firearm’s bore shows signs of its great age. Rust had eaten away much of the barrel and a large section of the wooden stock had completely rotten off. The object was coated in a layer of invasive zebra mussels. Remarkably, the original piece of flint included with the musket was still in place, half-cocked, as if waiting to be shot.
Groff speculates that the gun may have once belonged to a trapper from the area 200 years ago, or was maybe a prized possession of the Winnebago Indians that used to live there. Around that time there was a small French fur trading post along the Fond du Lac River run by the explorers Augustine Grignon and Michael Brisbois. The two men would buy furs from trappers as well as trade with the local Native American tribes, exchanges which may have included this particular item.
Whatever the case, Groff says the rifle is a catch of a lifetime and will be proudly displaying it in his home. It will be unaltered except for a layer of sealant.
“I’m not going to start messing around with it,” he said.
An interview with Groff can be seen below: