Brockfeld's Gunsmithing and Ammunition in Truesdale, Missouri, celebrated its 140 anniversary, making it one of the oldest businesses in Warren County.
Nestled off Booneslick Road in Truesdale is a small, unassuming gray building.
It’s easy to miss as you drive by.
Easy to miss, that is, until the history of the business it houses becomes apparent.
The building is home to Brockfeld’s Gunsmithing and Firearms, one of the oldest – if not the oldest – business in Warren County.
“I know the railroad is older than we are, but they’ve changed ownership four or five times,” owner Paul Brockfeld said. “And I also know there are farms here in the county. They’re family owned.”
Whether or not Brockfeld’s is the oldest business in the county ultimately doesn’t matter. It still reached a major milestone as it celebrates 140 years in business – all of them in Truesdale.
The business had a small event on Oct. 7 to mark the occasion, and it brought Truesdale Mayor Jerry Cannon out to honor the Brockfelds for their long commitment to the city.
“Brockfeld’s and the Brockfeld family has always been a pillar in the Truesdale community,” Cannon said. “From sponsoring events, to public service, Truesdale is blessed to have them as a vital contributor to our city. We are proud that Brockfeld’s calls Truesdale home.”
The community support is part of the reason Brockfeld’s stays in Truesdale.
“They really support the people who have been here a long time,” Paul said.
During the event, Cannon issued a proclamation in support of the business, which has its origins dating to a time when the world map looked significantly different.
It all began with Brockfeld’s great grandfather, Johann Rudolph Brockfeld.
He was born in 1856 in Gutersloh, Westphalia, which, at the time, was part of the kingdom of Prussia. Today, the city is located in western Germany.
At age 16, Johann Rudolph enlisted in the Prussian army.
“Once his commitment was up in 1882, he immigrated to this country in 1883,” Paul said.
He came to Truesdale to live with people he knew and to apply his skills as a painter and wallpaper hanger.
“He was a master grainer,” Paul said, an art that sees the master take a cheap piece of wood, such as pine, and painting grain on it to make it look like a more expensive piece of wood, such as walnut or mahogany.
“That’s how he got his start in this country,” Paul said.
Johann Rudolph opened his business just east of where the business currently sits in a spot that’s now occupied by Warren County Concrete. It moved to its present location at 727 E. Booneslick Road in the 1920s.
That’s when the second generation of the Brockfeld family took over the business.
“My grandfather, Paul, took over the business from his father and he loved to hunt and fish. So the transition from painting to wallpapering to guns and ammo was easy since in those days, the suppliers were the major hardware chains in St. Louis and those hardware chains supplied not only paint and wallpaper but guns and ammunition as well,” the current Paul said.
He would have carried hunting guns, mostly .22 rifles and shotguns.
“Deer season had been closed in Missouri in the 1920s because of the scarcity of deer,” Paul said. “But people squirrel hunted, they small game hunted. They hunted for fur bearers and they did a lot of bird hunting, either duck and goose hunting, waterfowl hunting, or birds such as quail and dove.”
That helped take the business into the 1930s, a time when many businesses across the country failed as the Great Depression took its toll. But Brockfeld managed to thrive.
“My grandfather actually did quite well during the depression,” today’s Paul said. “In addition to selling firearms and ammunition, he also trained hunting dogs. And in his clientele, you would have found people with the last name of Busch, well-known Cardinals baseball players, and other well-known figures in St. Louis.”
The first Paul took the business into the 1950s, when David Brockfeld took over the business. He’s the Brockfeld who added gunsmithing to the mix.
It was during David’s watch that the last vestiges of Johann Rudolph’s original business ended. Brockfeld’s continued offering wallpaper services into the 1980s.
“We had some old-time customers who weren’t going to allow anyone in their home except for Brockfeld’s to hang wallpaper,” Paul said. “And once those folks no longer required our services, we gave up the painting and wallpapering.”
Paul took over the business in 2013.
Through 140 years in business, there are bound to be tough times.
The business survived the depression, and made it through a number of additional recessions.
Only once did Paul think the business was gone for good.
“The fire of 2016,” Paul said. “Two young gentlemen decided that they wanted to see a gun shop burn and they broke in and set a fire and we pretty much had to rebuild from the ground up when that happened.
He said there were tough times after that.
“There were days when we were cleaning up the aftermath of the fire when we were trying to rebuild there, there were days that I would just tell the folks that were helping me to go home,” he said. “We’re done for the day. Yeah, I can’t deal with this anymore.”
But Paul and the family persevered and got the business rebuilt, keeping alive the family tradition.
He said it was the community support that kept him going.
Paul keeps the business in the city, and not just because of the community support. The Brockfelds are tied to the city, too.
“I grew up in the house next door,” Paul said. “My brother still lives in the house, so there’s a family connection here.”
That family connection is strong, and they’re already preparing the fifth generation of Brockfelds to take over as Paul’s daughter, Olivia, gets on the job training.
Olivia is a 14-year-old freshman at Warrenton High School who has an up-and-close and personal relationship with the 140-year old family business.
She’s already thinking about how she’ll adapt the business to keep it strong in the future.
“I’ll continue it by doing the gunsmithing and adapting the gun store to what’s going on,” she said.
Olivia has already started learning how the gunsmithing process works.
“She’s going to learn how to make gun stocks the way I learned how to make gun stocks,” Paul said. “We started with a chunk of walnut and she’ll learn how to turn that piece of walnut into a nice-looking gun stock.”
The family, and the Truesdale community, can feel secure that the business will be in good hands moving forward.
“It’s something that’s been in the family for years,” Olivia said. “And I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this in my life.”
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org