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Thread: Cooper's Landing/ Bill Fuller/ Harold Johnson info

  1. #1

    Default Cooper's Landing/ Bill Fuller/ Harold Johnson info

    Summer is here and I am reading a bit between planting and tilling gardens.
    I was reading Alaskan Hunter by Roy F. Chandler who lived in Fairbanks in the late 1960's and early 1970's. It is an awesome book that dovetails nicely with the recent book about Slim Moore by Jim Rearden which was also an excellent book.

    Chandler and his son write books and manufacture sniper rifles for government contracts mentions Bill Fuller who was Johnson's gunsmith and then branched off on his own.

    I am wondering if Murphy or Brown Bear can regal us with a better profile of this story that resulted in the 450 Alaskan in model 71 winchester.

  2. #2

    Default Ocha Potter

    I am investigating a prospector/hunter who lived with his family up the Nizina river near Hole-In-The-Wall Glacier near McCarthy at the turn of the century.

    He wasn't a market hunter but he shot some really big sheep and I am curious if anyone has any information about him.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas
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  3. #3

    Default Good Question

    I don't have much info on Harold, though I am proud to own one of his early 450's. The friend I got it from spent a lot of time with him, but he's gone to the great beyond now. I'm curious to learn more, so I'll get off my duff and make some calls to see what I can learn. Lots of the guys that were young then are pushing daisies now.

    Supposedly my rifle was made right after Park's, and details of construction confirm that it's an early one. But one thing doesn't jibe with the original owner's account of the rifle's history. There's a distinct, sharp angled shoulder on cases almost like a POA improved version, and I don't think that came along till later. I've seen early versions that were more or less straight walled. My friend claimed to have lots of paperwork from POA, but never managed to produce it even after he gave me the rifle.

  4. #4
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    Here is a little bit from the archives. I've written more on this forum and have a long research paper about these guys and their guns. I don't have much time now I'll dig some more later. A very interesting Alaskan and from a time of great interest to me; the decade before and after statehood, and the WWII era.


    I think the old building is still there along the road to Homer.
    More later.


    http://www.outdoorsdirectory.com/akf...ting/56968.htm
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  5. #5
    Moderator hunt_ak's Avatar
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    Default

    You've probably seen this info, but here's what I came up with for Ocha Potter...

    Another

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    Back when I was a law dawg in Seward, I used to stop by Fullers shop in Cooper landing every time I was heading back from my folks house here in Homer (Home town) or coming back from grand jury in Kenai. I never could figure out how he found anything in that shop...He had little boxes full of old sights and parts everywhere.... I wish I would have bought more and listened more... back then I thought guys like that would be around forever... boy was I wrong...
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member
    http://site.dragonflyaero.com

  7. #7

    Default James Watts

    I have a book titled "James .458 Watts". He is/was an old Alaskan who lived the life, walked the "Valdez Trail", hunted Alaska, Africa, experimented with guns etc. He coresponded and met with Kieth, Weatherby, OcConnor, P.O. Ackley, Harold Johnson, Bill Fuller, Winchester reps and I forget who else. He claims a big ownership when it comes to the .450 Alaskan and a host of other.348 Wildcats, the .458 Watts, .458 Win. Mag., .416 Taylor ad some other interesting stuff. Anyway, I would encourage you to find a copy of the book, read it and form your own opinion. It is a great look at old Alaska. Those old timers could walk and walk and walk.......................

  8. #8

    Default Ocha Potter

    I went over to the UAF Archives and went through the OCHA Potter Box.
    He wrote a book called 60 years which described his life and was his memoirs.

    Ocha was a character. He served in the Spanish American War. He then went to Africa and did mineral exploration there. This is while he was working on a mineral engineering degree at the Michigan school of Mines.
    Then he went to Alaska in 1906 to locate copper and gold deposits. He first went around Lakina River Country and explored many of the creeks.
    He returned to Colorado where he married his sweetheart Julia Silverstone. He returned to Alaska in 1907 where he spent the entire year working on the Nizina /Chitistone area. He ended up exploring with a partner the Skolai pass so he was one of the first non-natives to go over the pass.

    He got into a fracas with a huge Brown bear in the pass. His pard had a 30-40 Krag in a winchester and he had a 30-30 carbine. The bear charged them and they opened up using all 18 rounds that they had. Ocha ended up killing the bear at 30 paces with a 44 special colt SAA peacemaker.
    The bear squared 12 ft and was hit 14 times but he is not specific about where it was hit. He was very leery of bears after that and he traded for the 30-40 that you see in the sheep pictures.

    Montegomery who was one of his partners ended up drowning on the Nizina when he was taking them out at the end of the season. Ocha's camp/mining operation was based right under what locals call mile high because of the mile high cliffs. His crew ended up killing 14 "bighorns" for winter. Remember that Dahl's Sheep weren't formally known as such yet.

    He left in the middle of winter on January 2, 1908. It was -60F on his trip to Valdez for grub. He returned with provisions and then went outside for his wife and young son. He returned to the camp and they did their best at the Nizina/Chitistone camp for a year. He later moved to McCarthy Creek where the prospects were a little big better. He shot the sheep on McCarthy Creek up on the upper stretches. Sheep hunting was his number one leisure activity but market hunting even at this time eventually pushed the sheep to low numbers.

    He saved Anthony Dimond who was visiting the area from drowning. Anthony Dimond eventually became an attorney and was Alaska's Territorial Representative.

    Ocha left and moved back to finish his schooling and worked in Michigan.

    It is a remarkable story and I thank people who are giving me hints on the Harold Johnson Bill Fuller story.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas

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    Default Bill Fuller

    For those of you intwerested here is an old photo of Bill Fuller, a friend and a few original Hawken rifles. He used to be pretty well known for using 200 grains of black and 2 ball in those originals for bear hunting. I wonder what became of them. Kyle
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    Member Roland on the River's Avatar
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    Default Johnson's Gun Shop

    I found this old photo which will be of interest in this discussion.
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  11. #11

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    Still looking for the original source, but an early account of the 450 Alaskan I read credits its development to a request to Johnson from old time Kodiak bear guide Park Munsey. I'm friends with Park's descendants, and on my request they're going back into Park's correspondence looking for references. According to them he NEVER threw anything away, so there's likely to be info available. If they can find it.....

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    Default Harold Johnson

    Hi Harold was my father.
    if you want to chat great.

    Jeff Johnson

  13. #13

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    PM is waiting in your box.

    Thanks for the contact!!!!

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    Default 450 Alaskan and Harold Johnson

    Hi All,
    So what would you all like to know about my father, Harold Johnson or the 450 and 50 Alaskan.
    We still have the original 50 in the family and one of the first 450's which was sold to Carl Williams of Williamsport on the west side of Cook Inlet. I was told Carl killed a tremendous amount of Brownies with that rifle allot of them with one shot. I would say the number but most people would call me a liar. The action is so loose you can wobble the lever a 1/4 of an inch when fully extended and its all bare steel from being carried and cleaned.

    Dad developed the 450 after a couple of close encounters while guiding in the late 40's and early 50's that decidedly made him want to come up with better fast action big bore hard hitting rifle for brush and back up work.
    Kind of a oneshotbearstop or at least make the bear think about his own mortality.

    He lured Bill and Betty Fuller up here in the 50's, Bill to do his fine machine work as he was a tool and die maker from California. Bill was the only one I think that Dad thought was better than he was at the actual machine work and would work for practically nothing, knowing my dad as I do. Betty worked in our hamburger stand, marine store and ice cream emporium. Built out of log slabs and rough sawn floor, creek water and out house.
    They had to be saints to do what they did. Bill stayed in Cooper Landing to continue building some of the finest rifles Alaska has ever seen and Aunt Betty worked as a postmaster for 25 plus years.
    His Hawkens rifles roared through the Kenai valley on any given day and especially on Saturdays with all of his shooting cronies.
    Great people!

    I still have Dad's loading data (somewhere) on the loads of the 450 and 50.
    It's amazing to go back and look at the type rounds he practiced with and the data he collected. His best data was going out a shooting a bear and then dissecting and looking at the damage. He never found a 50 cal round.
    He said the bullet would go in the Brownies shoulder and go out the hip. Never recovered a single bullet from a kill. What this taught me is you could look in the loading data books all you want for muzzle energy, velocity at 100 yards coeffcients etc,
    and the only real test is if that brownie gets up again.
    And to see if you will when you get done shooting it, the 50 that is. The 450 is more like a big hard push, but the 50, dogone it!!

    P.O Ackley even claimed that the 450 was a better cartridge than his was.
    Thats saying something from one old gunsmith to another, and on record.

    Ever seen a 450 Alaskan on a 1937 Radom/Mauser action. Yeah he did one of those too.

    Thank you for the great photos from back in the day.
    It's always a pleasure to chat.

    Jeff

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    Jeff,

    Thanks for stopping by. That was a great story about your dad and his fine work. It is really very special to get some information from a family member or close friend who knew the smiths as, of course, you do. Your dad left a legacy in the cartridges he created and they are very worth while calibers for this Alaska bush also. Reading your post was like living those times. That must have been some time back in those days. What a life your folks made here. Thanks again and please accept my invitation to come here and post about those rifles, your dad and Bill and bears.
    Is there nothing so sacred on this earth that you aren't willing to kill or die for?



  16. #16

    Default

    Well said, Murphy!

    I greatly appreciate the info and details Jeff, and appreciate any and all you can offer.

    If you would like them for your own collection, I'd be happy to take photos of my rifle and email or snail mail them to you.

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    Default 450 Alaskan Harold Johnson of Cooper Landing

    Hi,
    This is Harold's son Jeff in Anchorage. If you have some specific info that i can help you with you can get back to me here at jvjohnson@gci.net

    Thanks,
    Jeff

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    I've acquired a Winchester model 71 ..450 Alaskan. It has " .450 Watts H.B. Anderson" stamped on the barrel. Does anyone out there have info on weather this was a Harold Johnson or James Watts product. Love the rifle. If there is some knowledge an this I'd appreciate the help.
    Jeff Johnson.. if you are reading this I'd like to pick your brain on what Harold Johnson had to say about it.

    Thanks for your time...

  19. #19
    Supporting Member Amigo Will's Avatar
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    What a wonderful forum.
    Now left only to be a turd in the forrest and the circle will be complete.Use me as I have used you

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    Member The Kid's Avatar
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    Your rifle was built by Harvey Anderson of Yakima Washington. He was a gunsmith as well as friend and business partner of James Watts. I have a sporterized Springfield done by Anderson, and it is a well done, serviceable rifle, albeit no frills. More info on both Watts and Anderson can be found in Cal Pappas' book about Watts. The last time I saw Cal he said he had a dozen or so copies left to sell, I don't have any contact info for him but I'm fairly certain he has a website. Good luck.

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