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Significant Scots
John Paris Lee


Wallaceburg is the home of the first Lee-Enfield Rifle ever made ... the river front echoed the very first test shot of this repeater rifle as it whistled clear across the river and into an oak tree. A plaque in Municipal Park now marks this 1878 event and the museum houses this important military artifact.

This world famous forebearer of the modern repeater rifle was invented by a native of Hawick, Roxburgh, Scotland. He was born on August 28, 1831, the son of a prominent watchmaker. When the family first immigrated to Canada, they lived in Galt, but later moved to Chatham, where Lee's father opened a jeweller's shop. At age 7, James got a job in this shop and first started to experiment with firearms, and in 1850 James opened his shop. By 1862, he had patented his first rifle -- a single shot, breech loading rifle. The U.S. War Department ordered 1000 of these, but misunderstanding about the calibre led to cancellation of the order. Lee claimed damages from the government, but was forced to close his shop. 

James Paris Lee John LeeIt was in 1878, when James made his greatest contribution. He invented a rifle with a box magazine capable of firing 30 shots per minute. The rifle was perfected in Wallaceburg on a site opposite the Municipal Building. The gun was tested successfully in Wallaceburg. Bullets were fired from the Lee Brothers Foundry across the Sydenham River into an oak tree hundreds of yards away.

Ten thousand of these rifles were sold to the U.S. Navy and they also became the standard issue for the British Army for over 60 years. The Patent rights were purchased by England for 50,000 pounds plus 50 cents for each magazine. The rifle was produced in Enfield, England in 1888, thus the "Lee Enfield" name.


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