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Emil Albrecht Ferdinand Toepperwein, sometimes referred to by his contemporaries as “Emil” and/or “Ferd” will be hereafter referred to as E. A. F. Toepperwein. E. A. F. Toepperwein was the father of famed Sharpshooter Ad Toepperwein (the named as shortened by sponsor Winchester to Topperwein), but few know that E. A. F. Toepperwein was a marksman, gunsmith, gunmaker and that he patented and built a Repeating Rifle in tiny Boerne, Texas.
E. A. F. Toepperwein was born November 22, 1841 in New Ruppin (Neuruppin), Brandenburg, Prussia (which is located north of present day Berlin, Germany) to Lucien Ferdinand and Maria Leilich Toepperwein. Political times in Prussia were very difficult so the elder Toepperweins, along with young E. A. F. Toepperwein and the rest of his family immigrated to the United States when E. A. F. Toepperwein was 9 years old on the ship “Hohann Friedrich” landing at Indianola, Texas on December 30, 1850 after an eight week voyage that was described as “very fortunate”. From there, the family made their way to Fredericksburg, Texas where they stayed with E. A. F. Toepperwein’s father’s brother in law, Whilhelm Leilich, on his farm in Fredericksburg. He and his family resided there until about 1852 when they moved to a farm east of there next to the Grape Creek located southeast of Fredericksburg. Subsequent to that time, due to drought and other weather and crop conditions, the family moved apart but in several nearby areas – Leon Springs, Boerne and San Antonio, Texas. E. A. F. Toepperwein would have three children, among those being the more famous Adolph (Ad) Toepperwein who was born October 16, 1869 in Boerne, Texas.
E. A. F. Toepperwein became a prominent citizen of Boerne and early on, among other things, he was a Private in the Confederacy as soldier in the 6th Texas Field Battery in 1862 at age 21, a bailiff in 1866, a road worker, a gunsmith from about 1870 on and in 1877 he was confirmed as Justice of the Peace, Precinct Number 1 of Kendall County, Texas. Shortly thereafter, he resigned due to sickness. There was a very interesting article in the October 31, 1877 issue of the Galveston Daily News quoting a contemporary Boerne Register article stating:
“Judge E. A. F. Toepperwein, who has been so seriously ill for weeks past, is now rapidly re-covering. His case is a peculiar one, and is, so far, a mystery to the medical profession. He was supposed to be affected with a disorder of the liver, contracting during the war, and has been treated accordingly for a number of years. But his case continued to grow worse, and the other day, when his friends had lost all hopes, and were expecting his death at any hour, an animal was discharged from his stomach which has not yet been classified, but which is supposed to be of a class of water reptiles.”
This writer is uncertain of what that “reptile” might have really been, but some experts think that it must have been a world class tapeworm.
Per the 1881 City Directory of San Antonio, E. A. F. Toepperwein was a gun maker and had a gun shop in San Antonio along with his residence there. He died in San Antonio, Texas, October 8, 1882 at age 41 according to a statement in the San Antonio Light newspaper of October 9, 1882. That statement read:
Mr. Toepperwein, the well-known gunsmith, died last night, it is said, from a surgical opera-tion, add (sic) an overdose of morphine. He had been in bad health for some time.
He is buried in San Antonio’s City Cemetery No. 1.
During his tenure as a gunsmith, he had three firearms patents, one being for the Repeating Rifle shown here. One of the other two patents was for a set (or “hair” trigger) for a rifle and the other patent was for a hammer of a double barreled rifle or shotgun so that a single hammer would have a nose that would flip from one side to the other to fire either barrel.
It is thought by many here in Boerne that his shop building still exists, being a small stone structure right in the center of town. Ironically, this same building is attached to a gunshop named Montechema Firearms that is currently in operation at 104 East San Antonio Street, Boerne, Texas. E. A. F. Toepperwein was one of the Charter Members of the Boerne Scheutzen Verein (Shooting Club), established in 1864, and was an accomplished shooter himself having won several shooting trophies.
Locations for the Boerne Shooting Club have changed through the years. It still exists today, located for the last 103 years on the aptly named Shooting Club Road which is three miles from the home of the writer.
The Toepperwein Patent Rifle
As is evidenced by this rifle and the below copy of the actual patent, E. A. F. Toepperwein created a United States Patent dated September 14, 1875 for an “Improvement in Magazine Fire-arms”. Up until this time, there were a few patents already for repeating breech loading repeating firearms, most notably that being the 1854 patents of Horace Smith and Daniel B. Wesson which were later sold to B. Tyler Henry and Oliver Winchester who created the lever action rifles that are so familiar today. As is usually done, the initial 1854 patents were improved upon by others and E. A. F. Toepperwein’s was an improvement as well.
During the refinement and development of his idea into a patentable one is apparently when he made this rifle. This rifle matches the patent drawing exactly, unlike the other known example, and is engraved:
“E. A. F. Toepperwein’s Patent/ Boerne, TX” and “Pat. Sept. 14th/1875”. It exhibits a high degree of competency in its design and manufacture, but is clearly hand made. It is in caliber .44 center fire, the cartridge in use by Winchester at the time as well as a few other makers.
John M. Marlin who, at up until the late 1870s had produced only pistols, bought this patent from E. A. F. Toepperwein along with a couple of other gunmakers’ patents, to use for the design and production of his first repeating rifle, known as the Model 1881 Rifle to compete with the Winchester lever action rifles.
The Marlin Model 1881 lever action rifle was a success for the Marlin Rifle Company, establishing them as a major quality rifle maker that exists to this day. How E. A. F. Toepperwein went about selling this patent to Mr. Marlin is unknown at this time, but it must have provided Toepperwein with somewhat of a financial windfall as after this point in time his prominence in Boerne, Texas becomes more evident. It stands to reason that this marked rifle would have been a part of the deal with Marlin. It is the opinion of this writer that E. A. F. Toepperwein never intended to commercially produce the rifle, but simply developed his idea as something he could sell and he had to have a functioning rifle to show how his patent worked. He did also have the other two firearms patents a little later but it is not known if these were ever sold
to any manufacturer. As previously stated, it is thought that a total of two Toepperwein rifles were made and presently exist, the other one being a bit different, of a larger caliber and not marked as is this one and is not as finely made. Again, it seems likely that E. A. F. Toepperwein made no more than these two rifles as it appears that he was intent on selling his idea, not going into production. This patent repeating rifle operates differently than the lever action rifles of the day: there is a lever at the top right side of the receiver that is pulled up and back opening the breech, cocking the hammer, ejecting a spent cartridge, then elevating a new cartridge up. When the lever is then pulled forward to close it inserts the new cartridge into the barrel. The rifle is ready to fire by pulling a conventional trigger.
The E. A. F. Toepperwein Repeating Rifle has a 22” barrel in .44 centerfire caliber and the internal magazine can hold a few cartridges within the hidden area of the walnut forestock. The tube beneath the barrel appearing to be a magazine tube is just for show to illustrate where a full length magazine would be. This rifle is fully functional and could easily be fired and probably has been although not very many times due to its fine condition. The walnut stocks are well fitted and do show handwork, but certainly done on a quality basis. It is comfortable to hold and aim.
In writings about E. A. F. Toepperwein’s son, the more famous exhibition shooter Ad Toepperwein (sometimes spelled Topperwein requested by his sponsor, the Winchester Repeating Firearms Company), it has been stated that this patent rifle was acquired by Ad about 1925 from the Marlin Firearms Company and kept as a valued possession according to an August 18, 1949 issue of The Boerne Star and was kept as a valued rifle until he died March 4, 1962 at age 92.
This rifle was purchased several decades ago from a descendant of Ad Toepperwein in San Antonio, Texas and it resided in Mountain Home, Texas for many years. Later on it sold to a collector from Austin, then to another collector in Fredericksburg, then to this collector/writer of Boerne, Texas in 2016, so it has completed its journey back to Boerne, where it was conceived and built, but still having never left Texas or traveled further than 100 miles from where it originated after being obtained from the Marlin Firearms Company by Ad Toepperwein. The writer is pleased that he has been able to return the E. A. F. Toepperwein Patent Rifle to Boerne and hopes that it will become a part of the planned Kendall County Jail Museum scheduled for opening sometime next year.
The Genealogical Society of Kendall County, Texas History of the Family of Ferdinand Lucian Toepperwein and translated by Flora Wertheim.
Regina AdamBrophy, William S., Lt. Col., U.S.A.R., Ret., Marlin Firearms; A History of the Guns and the Company That Made Them. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1989.
Evans, Brent, Images of America – Boerne, Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.
Hirsch, Chris, The Texas Gun Trade; A Guide to the Guns Made or Sold in the Lone Star State, 1780-1899, Woonsocket, Rhode Island: Andrew Mowbray Publishers, 2008.
Perry, Garland, Historic Images of Boerne and Kendall County, Texas, Boerne, Texas: Perry Publications, 1998.
The Boerne Star Bryden Moon