“Editor’s note: I posted the wrong story online about the Lunning family last week. This is the corrected version. Please accept my apology.” — Mark Constance
In 1894 Albert Dew from Scotland, arrived in Oscoda County. He was one of the very first settlers in the Comins and Fairview area. With him he brought a rifle, a Model 1876 Winchester in .45-60 caliber, a black powder cartridge. He made his living shooting deer to feed the numerous lumber camps in the area.
According to Judy Lunning, Albert’s grand-daughter, when Albert passed, the rifle was willed to Albert’s son and Judy’s Uncle, Harry Dew, who didn’t hunt a great deal but he promised Judy that when she and her husband, Damien, built a house they would receive the rifle to hang on the mantle. They built the house and, true to his word Uncle Harry passed the Winchester which took up residence over the fireplace. Now the rifle wasn’t always an ornament. In 1969 Judy used it to take a nice eight-point buck in the same area as her grandfather. Illustrating how important this firearm had become to the family, Judy said when their house burned in 1990 the first thing Damien grabbed was the Winchester.
Fast forward to this deer season of 2019. Judy and Damien have retired to the settlement of Rousseau in Ontonagon County in the UP. Their grand-son Tanner was hunting opening day when he chanced upon a nice eight point buck about one-half mile from Rousseau. The Winchester spoke again one hundred and twenty five years after great, great grandfather Albert Dew used it to feed the loggers and once again provided fine meat for the Lunning table.
The Winchester Model 1876 was a black powder rifle, not designed for modern smokeless powder loads and factory ammunition is very difficult to find. Fortunately, Tanners grandfather, Damien hand-loads and can fabricate cartridges for the rifle. Despite being underpowered when compared to modern cartridges, the old girl, in the hands of a marksman can still get the job done. The Winchester 76 was a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt’s on his Elkhorn Ranch in North Dakota and on his trips to Africa. To the Lunning family, the rifle has become a part of their heritage putting food on the table for over a century,