Major Wayne was assigned to procure the camels. On June 4, 1855, Wayne departed New York City on board the USS Supply, under the command of then Lieutenant David Dixon Porter. After arriving in the Mediterranean Sea, Wayne and Porter began procuring camels. Stops included Goletta (Tunisia), Malta, Greece, Turkey, and Egypt. They acquired 33 animals (19 females and 14 males), including two Bactrian, 29 dromedary, one dromedary calf, and one booghdee (a cross between a male Bactrian and a female dromedary). The two officers also acquired pack saddles and covers, being certain that proper saddles could not be purchased in the United States. Wayne and Porter hired five camel drivers, some Arab and some Turkish, and on February 15, 1856, USS Supply set sail for Texas. Porter established strict rules for the care, watering, and feeding of the animals in his charge; no experiments were conducted regarding how long a camel could survive without water. During the crossing, one male camel died, but two calves were born and survived the trip. On May 14, 1856, 34 camels (a net gain of one) were safely unloaded at Indianola, Texas. All the animals were in better health than when the vessel sailed for the United States. On Davis’s orders, Porter sailed again for Egypt to acquire more camels. While Porter was on the second voyage, Wayne marched the camels from the first voyage to Camp Verde, Texas, by way of San Antonio, Texas. On February 10, 1857, USS Supply returned with a herd of 41 camels. During the second expedition, Porter hired “nine men and a boy,” including Hi Jolly. While Porter was on his second mission, five camels from the first herd died. The newly acquired animals joined the first herd at Camp Verde, which had been officially designated as the camel station. The Army had seventy camels.
On March 25, 1859, Secretary Floyd directed reconnaissance of the area between the Pecos River and the Rio Grande using the camels still available in Texas. Lieutenant William E. Echols of the Army Topographical Engineers was assigned to conduct the reconnaissance. Lieutenant Edward L. Hartz commanded the escort. The train included 24 camels and 24 mules. It set out in May 1859. The expedition arrived at Camp Hudson on May 18. The group remained at Camp Hudson for five days and then departed for Fort Stockton, Texas, arriving on June 12. On June 15, the expedition set out for the mouth of Independence Creek to test the camels’ ability to survive without water. The distance traveled was about 85 miles at four miles per hour. The camels showed no desire for water during the trip, but were watered upon arrival. The party then set out on a 114-mile, four-day journey to Fort Davis near the Rio Grande. During this segment of the journey, one of the camels was bitten on its leg by a rattlesnake; the wound was treated and the animal suffered no ill effects. Upon reaching Fort Davis, the horses and mules were distressed, but the camels were not. After a three-day rest, the expedition returned directly to Fort Stockton. Hartz wrote that “the superiority of the camel for military purposes in the badly-watered sections of the country seems to be well established.”
Early in the Civil War, an attempt was made to use the camels to carry mail between Fort Mohave, New Mexico Territory, on the Colorado River and New San Pedro, California, but the attempt was unsuccessful after the commanders of both posts objected. Later in the war, the Army had no further interest in the animals and they were sold at auction in 1864. The last of the animals from California was reportedly seen in Arizona in 1891.
In spring 1861, Camp Verde fell into Confederate hands until recaptured in 1865. The Confederate commander issued a receipt to the United States for 12 mules, 80 camels and two Egyptian camel drivers. There were reports of the animals’ being used to transport baggage, but there was no evidence of their being assigned to Confederate units. When Union troops reoccupied Camp Verde, there were estimated to be more than 100 camels at the camp, but there may have been others roaming the countryside. In 1866, the Government was able to round up 66 camels, which it sold to Bethel Coopwood. The U.S. Army’s camel experiment was complete. The last year a camel was seen in the vicinity of Camp Verde was 1875; the animal’s fate is unknown.
It was in 1871 that a shipment of 24 Colt Dragoon Pistols was making its way from back East to its final destination at Fort McDowell. The pistols were under military escort, consisting of eight men. A sergeant, four soldiers a Lieutenant as well as a civilian packer.
The escort left Camp Pinal (Picket Post Mountain in Superior) beginning their arduous journey to Fort McDowell. After traveling on the only real road at the time (which was a stage road) the soldiers were attacked by between 15-25 Apaches at a spot where the road narrows tightly between two hills, making an ambush a flawless success.
As the first explosion of Apache’s gun fire erupted and in less than 15 seconds the four soldiers and the civilian packer were killed in a failed attempt to return fire. The Lieutenant and Sergeant grabbed the reigns of the pack mule that was carrying the pistols and made a frantic attempt to get away from the ambush and make their way back to the garrison Camp Pinal.
They rode like hell over several ridges and down into washes while being pursued by the Apaches, but were soon cut off by more warriors riding down on them from their chosen escape route. So the Lieutenant and Sergeant cut north and either rounded a sharp bend and took shelter inside of a small cave and prepared for their defense. The first warrior to round the bend charged the cave and was shot in the face by the Lieutenant and the pursuing Apache dispersed (at least appeared to disperse).
After about three hours of waiting and not seeing any signs of movement around them from the Apache, they decided to lighten their load to make a fast get away to Fort McDowell through the Superstition Mountains. So they took off the 24 Pistols that were packed on the mule and buried them in the floor of that small cave and then made good their escape.
As they made their way through the Superstition Mountains they could see in from a distance the Apache in return watching them from rocks high above but they didn’t make any movement to attack. As the Lieutenant and Sergeant were near the Salt River and clear of the Superstition Mountains, the Apache attacked yet again. The warriors knew exactly where to lay the ambush and exactly where they had to exit the mountains and cross the Salt River. The Sergeant was shot out of his saddle and the Lieutenant just spurred his mount and made a desperate attempt to escape and rode straight through the ambush. He was now the only survivor and eventually made his way to Fort McDowell and reported what had occurred.
General Crook dispatched two or three companies of troopers to go with the Lieutenant to the place where he had buried the Pistols and to investigate the attack. The troopers gathered up the bodies (what was left of them) but the Lieutenant could not recall where the cave was located where he had buried the pistols. He was new to Arizona and didn’t know the terrain, the only ones in his escort party who did know the Mountains and trails and passes were killed during the attack. The soldiers continued searching while in frustration but with no results.
The exact cave was never located and the pistols were never recovered and still waiting to be found to this very day. If these pistols could be found they could fetch a nice price but more importantly, they would be a priceless link to our states beautiful and bloody history.
(While on your search please carry water with you and watch for rattle snakes as the temperatures grown higher and higher. Try to stay cool and always tell someone where you will be going and when to expect you home).
Leon Trabuco’s Gold
At a makeshift Mexican foundry, gold coins and jewelry were melted down and cast into ingots. In less than three months, he and partners had collected almost sixteen tons of solid gold. They smuggled the gold into the United States, where if caught, they faced long prison terms. Trabuco searched for a safe place to hide the illegal treasure, but eventually, he decided it would be smarter to bury the gold. In the heat of the summer, he hired a pilot named Red Moiser to make several covert flights into the New Mexico desert for Trabuco.
It is believed that Trabuco chose a sparsely populated region near the Ute and Navajo Indian Reservations in New Mexico. Moiser allegedly made sixteen flights, carrying one ton of gold each time, taking them to pick-up trucks that transported them to burial site. Trabuco never revealed the location and was careful not to create a map. When the Gold Reserve Act of 1934 passed, the price of gold soared, but instead they waited for prices to soar higher.
Unfortunately, the Gold Act of 1934 made private ownership of gold illegal, and Trabuco was unable to cash in on his scheme. Over the years, he and his partners all died untimely deaths. Trabuco took the location of the gold to the grave.
Treasure hunter Ed Foster has searched for Trabuco’s Treasure in the desert around Farmington, New Mexico for over thirty-five years. He is convinced that he found the 1933 landing strip used by Red Moiser at a plateau called Conger Mesa. He has spoken with an Native American lady and Navajo woman who was six years old in 1933 who both recalled a plane that would land and take-off from there. Ed said she remembered several Mexican men who lived on the Reservation.
He also found an old Navajo home unlike any other on the reservation about twenty miles west of the mesa. It was probably meant as a guard post to guard the gold. It is a Mexican-style structure with windows, a front door, a back door and a veranda. Not far away is Shrine Rock inscribed with a date and the words: “1933 16 Ton.” Ed believes the gold could be hidden away somewhere in the vicinity of these three points.
Treasure hunter Norman Scott believes Trabuco’s Treasure has an air of authenticity to it. He believes that with available technology, it is only a matter of time before it is discovered.
It is believed that the treasure consisted of Mexican gold bought by several millionaires.
The Dalton Gang Loot
The famous Dalton Gang made history in 1892 when they attempted to rob two banks at the same time in Coffeyville, Kansas. The result was the death of four of the outlaws and four citizens, and a prison term for the only survivor, Emmett Dalton.
Less well known is the fortune in gold and silver coins allegedly buried by the outlaws on the evening before the Coffeyville attempt. The cache was estimated to be worth between $9,000 and $20,000 in 1892 values.
Before their Coffeyville robbery, the Dalton Gang held up a Missouri-Kansas-Texas train near Wagoner, Oklahoma, and another near Adair. From these robberies, they netted $10,000. A few weeks later, they walked into an El Reno, Oklahoma, bank and took $17,000.
Following these robberies, the gang members purchased new saddles and clothes. The remaining loot was carried in their saddlebags as they made their way toward Coffeyville.
On the evening of October 5, the gang arrived at Onion Creek where it joins with the Verdigris River near the Kansas-Oklahoma border. There, they set up camp. Desiring to travel as unencumbered as possible, they unloaded all of the goods from their horses. The gold and silver coins were placed in a shallow hole they dug adjacent to their campfire.
At dawn the following morning, the outlaws breakfasted, checked their firearms and ammunition, and saddled their mounts. Before leaving, Emmett told the gang members that if they became separated, they were to rendezvous at this site, where they would retrieve the coins and escape deeper into Oklahoma.
The robbery attempt was a disaster and spelled the end of the gang. All were killed, save for Emmett. He served only 15 years in prison when he was pardoned in 1907. Lawmen believed that when freed, Emmett would lead them to the buried cache. They followed him for weeks, but he stayed away from Onion Creek. He once told an interviewer that he believed the coin cache was tainted and he wanted no more to do with it.
The precise location of the Onion Creek campsite has been debated for years, but recently discovered information has narrowed the area of search. On the morning the Dalton Gang departed for Coffeyville, Mary Brown, the young daughter of a nearby rancher, was riding her horse when she heard voices near Onion Creek. Reining up her mount, she listened and heard the sounds of men eating and saddling horses. Moments later, Brown saw five horsemen riding out from under a small wooden bridge that spanned the creek and making their way toward Coffeyville.
Years later, when Brown was an adult, she heard the story of the gold and silver coins buried at the Onion Creek campsite and was determined to find them. During the time that passed since the Coffeyville Raid, however, the old bridge had been torn down, portions of the creek had changed course and the road had been relocated. Though she searched for a full day, Brown was unable to find the location where the Daltons had camped so many years earlier.
As far as anyone knows, the treasure is still there.
Belle Starr’s Lost Iron Door Cache
Belle Starr was arguably the American West’s most famous female outlaw. She was known to deal in stolen horses, and she provided sanctuary in her eastern Oklahoma home to Frank and Jesse James, the Younger Gang and other notorious banditti. Some believed that she helped plan crimes and aided her accomplices in hiding and spending money taken in bank and train robberies.
A tale that has surfaced over the years involves gang members Starr allegedly knew. They stopped a freight train bound for the Denver Mint during the mid-1880s. The train was transporting a cargo of gold ingots destined to be turned into coin.
Though the robbery went as planned, the gang feared immediate pursuit from federal agents. They decided to hide the gold in a cave in Oklahoma’s Wichita Mountains. Before riding away with the loot, gang members removed one of the iron doors from a railroad car and, using ropes, dragged the door along behind them as they made their escape on horseback.
When they arrived at the cave, the bandits stacked the gold against one wall. The iron door was placed over the entrance, wedged into position, and covered over with rock and brush. Before leaving the area, one of the outlaws hammered a railroad spike into an oak tree located 100 yards from the cave.
A short time after the robbery, railroad detectives learned of the possibility that the gold had been hidden in the Wichita Mountains. Though they hunted for weeks, they were never able to find it.
During a subsequent train robbery attempt a few months later, all of the members of the gang were killed. In 1889, Starr was murdered, a crime that has never been solved. With her death, no one remained alive who knew the exact location of what has come to be called the “Lost Iron Door Cache.”
During the first decade of the 1900s, a rancher and his young son rode into a canyon in the Wichita Mountains near Elk Mountain. Their attention was captured by the reflection of the sun from an object located on the eastern slope. On investigating, they encountered a large, rusted iron door set into a recessed portion of the canyon wall. The son wanted to see what was on the other side of the door, but the father reminded him they had to reach their destination before nightfall. Later, the father learned the story of the Iron Door Cache. The two returned to the region, but were unsuccessful in relocating the site.
During the ensuing years, a number of ranchers, hunters and hikers have reported spotting the iron door against one wall of a remote canyon in the Wichita Mountains. On learning the story of the gold, they attempted to return to the location, but could never find it.
While traveling through a remote canyon in the Wichitas in the 1950s, a rancher decided to pause and take shade under a large oak tree. He hung his hat on a railroad spike hammered into the trunk. Familiar with the story of the gold cache and the spike, he made plans to return to the canyon and search for the treasure, but was never able to relocate the site. Later, someone cut down the oak tree for firewood.
The latest sighting of the door was in 1996. A middle-aged man making his way on foot from the small town of Cooperton to Lawton, in search of work, took a shortcut through the Wichita Mountains and spotted the iron door. Three weeks after arriving in Lawton, he learned the story of Starr’s Iron Door Cache. He purchased a few tools and set out to recover the gold. On the way, he suffered a heart attack and died.
Bill Doolin’s Gold
In spite of lore that claims Bill Doolin netted over $175,000 in robberies in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas over the two-year period preceding his death, the outlaw lived frugally in a wood frame shack near Burden, Kansas.
In between robberies, Doolin purchased a small plot of land and a shack near Burden, 40 miles southeast of Wichita. To this place he retreated with his loot, and it was here that he buried most of it. He never told anyone about his new residence, preferring to keep it secret.
In December 1895, Doolin traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. An arthritis sufferer, he often bathed in the hot springs to soothe his aches. One afternoon he was arrested by Deputy Marshal Bill Tilghman while soaking in a hot mineral bath. He was placed in the jail in Guthrie, Oklahoma, to await trial for bank robbery. Certain that he would be convicted, Doolin escaped and fled to Burden. He began making plans to move his wife and child to this location.
For days following Doolin’s escape, the Oklahoma countryside was searched for some trace of him, to no avail. One lawman, Heck Thomas, got a tip that Doolin was planning on visiting his wife and son. He learned that Doolin’s family was living in Lawton. Thomas rode to Lawton and, from hiding, watched the house where Mrs. Doolin was living.
Thomas and a posse were hiding out near the house when Doolin came walking up, leading the horse and buggy. The outlaw spotted the lawman and reached for a rifle under the wagon seat, firing twice. Thomas shot him dead.
Doolin’s friends were aware that he buried his share of the robbery loot, but never knew where. Not until 20 years after the outlaw’s death did anyone discover his secret residence in Burden. By that time, the old shack had tumbled down, and the land was covered in weeds and brush.
Though many have searched the area for Doolin’s cache of gold and silver coins, it remains undiscovered.
Sam Bass Treasure
Following a train robbery outside of Big Springs, Nebraska, Sam Bass and other outlaws got away with 3,000 twenty-dollar gold pieces, along with jewelry and money taken from the passengers. After dividing the loot, the outlaws split up. Bass went to his hideout at Cove Hollow near Denton, Texas. Some believe he buried his booty at Cove Hollow, although others believe he just as easily could have spent the money. He soon formed a gang, robbed more stages and added to his caches.
Bass made plans to rob the Williamson County Bank in Round Rock, Texas. When the outlaws stopped at the store first to buy some tobacco, a couple of local lawmen noticed they were armed and started to talk to them. They didn’t recognize Bass. The outlaws opened fire on them, and a gunfight ensued. Badly wounded, Bass escaped.
Texas Rangers caught up with him in a nearby pasture. The outlaw died more than a day later, and with his death went the knowledge of the location of his treasure caches at Cove Hollow.
Henry Plummer’s Lost Gold
In a short span of time, the Henry Plummer gang amassed an impressive fortune in gold coins, ingots and nuggets from robbing stagecoaches, freight wagons, miners and travelers throughout Washington and Montana…at least, according to legend, since no evidence supports the claim. Some historians have made the argument that Plummer was not an outlaw, nor did he lead an organized gang. But for those who believe that Plummer was a gang leader and who also believe in the legend of his treasure, Plummer’s share has been estimated to exceed $200,000.
For a time, Plummer (and maybe his gang) lived near Sun River, 20 miles from Great Falls, Montana. Plummer apparently buried his portion of the gold near a small creek located 200 yards from the house. He never revealed the location.
On January 10, 1864, vigilantes caught up with Plummer and hanged him. In 1875, a young boy was digging in the soft ground near a stream at Sun River and found one of Plummer’s bags of coins. He returned to the area with his father, but was unable to relocate the spot. Plummer’s buried treasure, at its estimated value, would be worth several million dollars today.
Cy Skinner’s Lost Loot
Cy Skinner was among those named as a member of Henry Plummer’s gang. After Plummer was killed, Skinner loaded up the gold ingots and coins he had accumulated in the same robberies—$200,000 worth—and fled to Hell’s Gate (now Missoula), Montana. After reaching his destination, Skinner carried the gold to one of several small islands in the middle of the Clark Fork. Weeks later, a mob of men stormed Skinner’s cabin, hauled him outside and hanged him.
During the 1930s, a man named Taichert found a portion of Skinner’s gold on one of the islands. When he returned the next day to search for the rest of it, heavy rains had caused the river to rise, barring access to the island. By the time the flow receded, the islands had been altered in size and shape. Taichert was never able to find the precise spot where he had found the gold. Skinner’s gold still rests beneath a foot or two of river deposit on one of the small islands.
Mexican Payroll Loot Austin, Texas
A $3 million treasure, allegedly from a Mexican payroll in 1836 stolen by the paymaster and accomplices, the loot could be buried near Shoal Creek in Texas. After burying the loot and, in turn, killing members of the party, the remaining outlaw returned to Mexico. His map to the treasure shows it was buried five feet underground, close to an oak tree with two eagle wings carved on it.
Eight men dug 40 feet of tunnel for eight months along Shoal Creek, saying they were constructing a new bridge or a large house. On April 13, 1927, according to The Rising Star Record, the workers took off with the loot:
“A box was lifted from the square cut chamber between the rocks, for the next day the workmen were gone and the blasting has ceased. Curious throngs soon found the dark tunnel and with lights discovered traces of the large wooden box that had laid beneath the dirt for more than 60 years.”
Josie Bassett, an alleged girlfriend of Cassidy’s, lived on the Bassett Ranch at Brown’s Park. Cassidy had worked there as a ranch hand. Graves along the river, Josie’s cabin and remnants of Doc Parson’s cabin, where Cassidy lived for a while, still stand today.
Lost Opata Mine South of Tucson, Arizona
About 45 miles south of Tucson, Arizona, rises what remains of Tumacacori Mission, now a national park. The 18th-century church was built by Spaniards hoping to convert the pagan Opata and Papago Indians. The missionaries hired the Indians to work in their nearby silver mines and store the yield in a giant room.
The Opata kidnapped a woman they believed was the Virgin Mary and wanted her to marry their chief. She refused, so the people sacrificed her to their gods by tying her to the silver, rubbing poison into cuts in her hands, and dancing and singing around her.
The missionaries, so dismayed by the pagan violation of their Christian teachings, had the entrance closed off, presumably sealing in the woman’s skeletal remains—and all of the silver—still waiting to be found.
Lost Dutchman Mine Apache Junction, Arizona
Rich in gold, but—some believe—cursed, the fabled Lost Dutchman gold mine generates endless stories. The treasure hunters who mysteriously go missing while looking for the gold fuel the 120-plus-year legend. Today, some wonder if the Superstition Mountains really harbor the gold or if the stories have piled upon stories to bury the truth.
Sometime after 1868, a German (not Dutch) miner named Jacob Waltz found the Peralta family mine and worked it with an associate, Jacob Weiser. Legend has it that they hid some of the gold near Weaver’s Needle, a local landmark. Details after that are unclear, according to Lost Dutchman State Park information. Either Waltz killed Weiser or Apaches killed him, leaving Waltz as the only person who knew the whereabouts of the mine.
His neighbor in Phoenix, Arizona, who took care of him before his death in 1891, and countless others have searched unsuccessfully for the gold.
Ruggles Brothers Gold Redding, California
John Ruggles fired back, killing Montgomery. Thinking his brother was dead, he cached the loot somewhere nearby. Charles was alive, but some of the loot was never found. Eventually, local vigilantes lynched the Ruggles.
Jesse James’s Hidden Treasure Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma
Legend says the James Gang, in 1876, buried stolen treasure in a deep ravine east of Cache Creek in Oklahoma. Jesse James made two signs pointing to the gold: He emptied two six-shooters into a cottonwood tree, and he nailed a horseshoe into the trunk of another cottonwood tree. Then he scratched out a contract on the side of a brass bucket to bound everyone to keep the secret. Although this doesn’t seem in his character to do so, since the written oath could have been used as evidence against him, some folks believe the treasure exists.
The words on the bucket read: “This the 5th day of March, 1876, in the year of our Lord, 1876, we the undersigned do this day organize a bounty bank. We will go to the west side of the Keechi Hills which is about fifty yards from [symbol of crossed sabers]. Follow the trail line coming through the mountains just east of the lone hill where we buried the jack [burro]. His grave is east of a rock. This contract made and entered into this V day of March 1876. This gold shall belong to who signs below. Jesse James, Frank Miller, George Overton, Rub Busse, Charlie Jones, Cole Younger, Will Overton, Uncle George Payne, Frank James, Roy Baxter, Bud Dalton, and Zack Smith.”
The gold hasn’t been found, but the engraved brass bucket and simple map have been, as have the markers pointing to the treasure’s hiding spot.
The Old Man Who Claimed to Be Billy the Kid…..A small Texas town has embraced ‘Brushy Bill’ and his tall tales. By Eric Moreno MARCH 30, 2017….
History tells us that the outlaw known as Billy the Kid (aka Henry McCarty, aka William Bonney) was gunned down—at the ripe old age of 21—by Sheriff Pat Garrett on July 14, 1881, in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. He was buried, it is said, in Fort Sumner Cemetery, with his “associates” Tom O’Folliard and Charlie Bowdre, and the epitaph “Pals”—though none of them are likely directly under the tombstone there today. He’s since been romanticized in print, and on stage, television, and film as an emblem of the lawless West.
“As a society back then, people were tough, strong, and fearless, and yet this little guy is known as the most deadly outlaw of them all,” says Daniel A. Edwards, author of Billy the Kid: An Autobiography. “He is either a folk hero that single-handedly stood up against a corrupt government system, or he is a ruthless outlaw and cop killer that left a wake of terror in his path.”
In 1948, a paralegal named William V. Morrison was investigating a man named Joe Hines, a survivor of the Lincoln County War, the feud that helped make Billy the Kid’s name. Hines told him a whopper of a tale: Billy the Kid had not been killed in New Mexico, but was alive and well and living in a town called Hico in Hamilton County, Texas, as one Ollie “Brushy Bill” Roberts. Morrison approached Roberts who, perhaps sensing the end of his life was near (if he had been Billy, he’d have been 90 at the time), made a confession. He hoped that Morrison could help him claim the pardon that New Mexico Governor Lew Wallace supposedly promised Billy the Kid back in 1879.
“Brushy Bill was very well known around these parts,” says Jane Klein, historian at the Billy the Kid Museum. “He would tell people around here, ‘You know, I have a secret and one of these days you’re going to find out what it is.’ He didn’t want to tell his story at first. After he thought about it, though, he told [Morrison] that he was Billy the Kid. All he wanted to do was to get that pardon that he’d been promised, and I believe he felt this was his last chance to get it.”
In November 1950, Morrison filed a petition on behalf of Brushy Bill. But it wasn’t to be. Roberts died a month later, and neither Billy the Kid nor Brushy Bill Roberts ever received a pardon. Since that time, debates have raged over Roberts’s claims, and whether he was truly one of the West’s most notorious gunmen or just an old man looking for attention.
In researching his book, Edwards analyzed photographs of Billy the Kid and Roberts, and dug into the details of Roberts’s account of his life and comparing them with known facts about Billy the Kid. “Before I made the discoveries I made in my book, I did not have an opinion on Brushy Bill,” says Edwards. “I now believe without a doubt that Billy the Kid was not killed by Pat Garrett in Ft. Sumner. I believe he lived, had many more adventures … before he finally died in Hico in 1950.
“When you listen to his real story, he talks about how he wasn’t an outlaw, how he never robbed banks or stagecoaches, how he resented the fact that Governor Lew Wallace reneged on his promise of a pardon in 1879 and left him to die,” Edwards says. “Now these are strange things for someone that is a fraud to focus on. They are personal things, and things that make complete sense for him to be upset about if his story was true.”
The Billy the Kid Museum opened in Hico nearly 40 years after Roberts’s death, and the city actively celebrates the connection. In Hico Billy is everywhere, from a statue downtown, to the standee in the Chamber of Commerce, to the monumental arch over Roberts’s grave. There is no doubt there that Billy the Kid is one of their own, and they’re happy to tell the world.
“From what I’ve heard, [Brushy Bill] told a pretty credible tale,” says Hamilton Historical Commission Chairman Jim Eidson. “I believe all communities are built on legends, and in Hamilton County Brushy Bill’s stories connect us to those wild days of the frontier.”
Eidson’s “official” position on the story echoes that of the rest of the Historical Commission—we keep an open mind. We’re not trying to deceive anyone. It’s all just part of the area’s mythology.
“Brushy Bill and Billy the Kid, the whole story, that’s part of who we are now,” Eidson says. “I think people really like being associated with it now. Outlaws have a romantic air about them and I think the people in Hamilton County really enjoy having this as part of the history.”
Highwaymen were the pirates of the land, robbing travelers along public roads leaving a path of terror in their wake. The following ten tales focus specifically on American highwaymen whose monstrous and murderous deeds throughout history have, until now, seamlessly faded from present day literature.
10The Doan Brothers
Between 1781 and 1788, the Doan brothers terrorized eastern Pennsylvania with a string of robberies, shootouts, and jailbreaks in what many historians claim was the result of retribution. Prior to their criminal ways, the brothers were Quakers until the Patriots confiscated their father’s land during the American Revolutionary War. In retaliation, the siblings began a life of debauchery and crime, ultimately forming a gang consisting of at least thirty men.
One of the gang’s biggest heists was the Newtown Treasury in which they made off with £1,307. None of the money was ever recovered. Unfortunately for the Doan brothers, their years of luck would soon run out. The oldest sibling, Moses, was shot and killed by authorities, while Levi Doan and Cousin Abraham were hanged in Philadelphia. The three remaining brothers managed to escape; Mahon is theorized to have sailed to England following his break-out from a Baltimore jail while Aaron and Joseph headed north to Canada.
The last horse drawn stage robbery in the United States was on December 5, 1916, outside Jarbidge, Nevada. Fred Searcy, the driver of the first-class mail stage, was found shot in the back of the head with the culprits fleeing with $4,000 in gold coins.
Police later discovered, in the vicinity of the crime, a discarded black overcoat and a bloody envelope. The coat was recognized by townspeople to have belonged to Ben Kuhl, a troubled drifter with a lengthy rap sheet. Kuhl was tracked down and arrested along with three of his friends, one of whom would testify against him. In addition to countless testimony from several witnesses, the most damaging piece of evidence was the envelope containing the bloody palm print. For the first time in American history, palm prints were entered into court evidence, and this led to the Kuhl’s conviction and sentence of death.
After his death sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment, Plummer was released at the age of 61 in April 1943. He would die of tuberculosis only one year later.
8Joseph Thompson Hare
In 1790, Joseph Hare traveled from Pennsylvania to New Orleans upon where he befriended three men who shared the same conniving and murderous ways as he. On the men’s voyage back north, the four robbed and murdered countless peddlers and farmers while disguising themselves in a horrific fashion; smearing their faces with dark berries, allowing for a bloody and grotesque appearance guaranteed to cast fear. Throughout their coarse journey, they would encounter and trade with Indians, as well as obtain counterfeit passports for which they would be jailed by the Spaniards during the Spanish-American War.
Following their early release, Hare began experiencing ghostly hallucinations on the wooded trails of the country, at one point witnessing a “magnificent white horse.” The apparition stopped Hare in his tracks long enough—following a recent crime in which he was in pursuit by a vigilante posse—that he was captured and spent the next five years in prison. Following his release, Hare declared himself a changed man. Despite his newfound sense of self, he was arrested the following year for the robbery of a Baltimore night mail coach. For this crime, Hare was hanged in front of a crowd of 1,500 people on September 10, 1818.
In Ireland 1816, 20-year-old Michael Martin was offered a “partnership” by a man he met at a tavern who went by the name, Captain Thunderbolt. Thunderbolt saw potential in Martin who was an exceptionally fast runner, thus, dubbed him “Captain Lightfoot”. Armed with brass pistols, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot began robbing wealthy highway travelers, never once stealing from women or the poor. Their chivalrous thievery brought the two all over Ireland, Scotland, and England until the day Martin made the journey to the United States, never again seeing his mentor Captain Thunderbolt. In America, Martin began his old ways by robbing unsuspecting people as he traveled throughout the East Coast.
Martin’s last highway victims were a Boston dignitary Major Bray and his wife. Following the robbery of $12, Martin made off into the night but was soon captured by authorities. While in prison, Martin viciously attacked a jailor which allowed him to escape and flee to the countryside. He was eventually recaptured in Springfield, and in 1821 he became the first and last person to be hanged in Massachusetts for highway robbery.
For a man who served respectable offices—Tennessee delegate, county Sheriff, justice of the peace, Captain of the Livingston County Cavalry, and overseer of the poor—James Ford was the epitome of service to his respected communities, yet what lay underneath the facade was a dark and sinister man.
Of the many talents Ford possessed, he was a well-skilled ferry operator who worked the streams of the infamous Cave-in-Rock waters. Ford, who has been described as “Satan’s Ferryman,” was nothing more than a skilled counterfeiter turned murderous river pirate known for creating the “Ford’s Ferry Gang”; a cast of degenerates who preyed on travelers passing through the vicinity.
Ford’s gang of hoodlums would ravage and murder the region for the better part of the 1820s until their reign of terror came to a sudden and unforeseen halt. In 1833, a mob of unknown vigilantes took the law into their own hands and assassinated the gang leader bringing to an end a decade of violence and death.
5The Potts Inn
Even after the death of James Ford, lawlessness continued along the Ford’s Ferry High Water Road, only now the unsuspecting victims would first be made to feel right at home. Potts Springs was the location of Potts Inn, a quaint residence where travelers seeking food and lodging could lay their heads for the night.
The Inn was owned and operated by none other than husband and wife, Isaiah and Polly Potts who primarily catered to ferry goers. Whether renting a room for the night or merely stopping by the Inn’s tavern while passing through, the Potts would murder their guests and bury their remains in a shallow grave. In fact, one did not even have to be a guest of the murderous couple to fall prey, given that many travelers were killed along the route leading to the Inn. It is said that the Potts’ long lost son, Billy, was lured to the tavern and murdered, all the while both parties never recognizing one another.
Soon after enlisting in the Army at the age of 17, David Lewis became a deserter. Escaping the death sentence bestowed by the Military Court, Lewis broke from the shackles of the ball and chain. He would soon make his way to Vermont where he embarked on a new trade, counterfeiting.
Following his second imprisonment, Lewis escaped with the help of his future bride, Melinda. After relocating his operations out of the Doubling Gap Hotel, Lewis focused his sights on the city’s elite, robbing those he assumed would bring in the highest amount. After a profitable succession of robbing the wagons of wealthy travelers, the “Robin Hood of Pennsylvania” was in due course wounded and captured. In the end, gangrene infested his wounds and he died in jail in 1820.
In 1856, Henry Plummer was elected sheriff of Nevada City, California and served two terms before he was convicted of second-degree murder for killing his mistress’ husband. Having served only six months in San Quentin before being pardoned by the governor, Plummer returned to Nevada City, this time he was elected to Assistant Marshal. Avoiding prosecution for killing a man in a whorehouse brawl, Plummer fled in 1861, ultimately settling in Idaho where he took up with a gang of highwaymen.
Due to his influence, the gang became known as “The Innocence” who robbed and murdered travailing miners. In 1863, “The Innocence” followed Plummer to Bannack, Montana, where he was elected sheriff. While in office, Plummer ran an effective and deadly criminal ring, providing his henchmen with the routes of gold shipments, as well as their protection, all the while the gang ran rampant in Bannack without the fear of ramification. After the robbery and murder of more than 100 locals, a team of nearly 2,000 settlers turned vigilantes captured and hanged a weeping Plummer and two of his men on the same gallows the crooked sheriff had prepared for another.
The infamous shelter for roaming highwaymen, Cave-in-Rock, became a temporary respite for Samuel Mason in 1797. The Ohio River, situated on the Illinois-Kentucky border, was the site of Mason’s criminal headquarters. He murdered all who trespassed through his waters. Mason’s river piracies involved setting up a sign near the cave that read “Liquor Vault and House of Entertainment,” leading many unsuspecting victims into a deathtrap.
Once aground, any and all were murdered by Mason’s heinous band of criminals, in addition to the countless who were attracted to shore due to the beautiful “stranded” women hired by Mason. The bodies of the dead were gutted and filled and with rocks so they would sink to the bottom of the river, while all valuables were sold in New Orleans.
After Mason and his accomplices were detained by Spanish authorities in 1803, they escaped en route to Tennessee after murdering the commander overseeing their transport to American territory. Because of this, the bounty on Mason’s head substantially increased, leading one of his gang affiliates to take note. In July 1803, Mason’s head was cut off by his trusted criminal associate, Little Harpe, who brought it back to Mississippi to claim the reward.
1The Harpe Brothers
The Harpe Brothers are often referred to as America’s first true serial killers. Regardless of the assessments factuality, Micajah (“Big Harpe”) and Wiley (“Little Harpe”) left an endless trail of mutilated corpses throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, casting fear in the hearts of frontier families. They murdered not for financial gain, but for the love of the sport. Their lust for death proved even too much for fellow outlaws to bear, casting the brothers out of the Cave-in-Rock territory. Nevertheless, they continued their murderous spree of torture and disembowelment, with no discrimination pertaining to age, gender, or race. No one was spared. Their victim count is estimated to be between 25 to 50, although the actual number has never been known.
Big Harpe met his end from the blade of a tomahawk in July 1799. Subsequently, he was decapitated, and his head was fixed to a tree where it remained for ten years. Little Harpe escaped authorities and later joined the forces of Samuel Mason’s gang. After beheading Mason, Little Harpe strolled into town with the intention to claim his rightful reward only to be immediately recognized by officials. Consequently, Little Harpe was arrested and hanged in 1804.
The terms “gunfighter” or “gunslinger,” as they are most often called today, are actually more modern words utilized in films and literature of the 20th Century.
During the days of the “real” Wild West, men who had gained a reputation as being dangerous with a gun were more commonly called gunmen, pistoleers, shootists, or bad men. Gunslingers weren’t even called gunslingers during the ‘Wild West’ period. They didn’t wear the standard ‘gunfighter’s rig’ of a low-slung hip holster tied to their thigh for a faster draw. The terms “gunfighter“ or “gunslinger“ are more commonly synonymous to a hired gun who made a living with his weapons in the Old West.
Here’s a look at 10 of the deadliest Wild West gunslingers.
1. John Wesley Hardin
Some say the worst bad man that Texas ever produced.
John Wesley Hardin was easily the deadliest gunfighter of all time and one of the darkest characters in the Old West. He was a kind of a guy who will shoot first and ask questions later. This American outlaw and gunfighter claimed to have killed 42 men though the newspapers attributed only 27 killings. He was so quick tempered with a gun that it has been said that he once killed a man for snoring.
Hardin committed his first murder in 1868, when he was just 15 years old (gunned down an ex-slave) and then proceeded to kill three Union soldiers before going on the run. Hardin was known for carrying two pistols in holsters strapped to his chest, which he claimed facilitated the quick draw, and he used them to gun down three more people in various gunfights soon after his flight. At age 17, he was arrested for the murder of a Texas City Marshal, but he was able to escape. At 25, he was finally arrested by a team of Texas Rangers, and eventually served 17 years in prison before being released at the age of 41. Shortly after his release, he was shot in the back of the head by John Selman Jr. in the Acme Saloon in El Paso, Texas, while playing dice.
2. Jim “Killer“ Miller
James “Killin’ Jim“ Miller, also known as “Killin’ Jim“, “Killer Miller“ and “Deacon Jim“, was an American outlaw and assassin of the American Old West who is credited with killing at least 14 people, though legend has it that the number is somewhere closer to 50. As a teenager, Miller blasted his sister’s husband in the head with a shotgun after a disagreement. He was handed a life sentence for the murder but escaped justice owning to a technicality.
Described as being cold to the core, Miller famously declared that he would kill anyone for money, and is rumored to have gunned down everyone from political figures to famed sheriff Pat Garrett. On April 19, 1909, following the murder of former Deputy Marshal Allen “Gus“ Bobbitt, he was arrested and his days of bloodshed finally came to an end. Before he died, he made two requests. He wanted his ring to be given to his wife (who was a cousin of John Wesley Hardin) and to be allowed to wear his hat while being hanged. Both requests were granted. He also asked to die in his black frock coat; this request was denied. Apparently, he screamed, “Let ‘er rip,“ before stepping off the box. His body was left hanging for hours until a photographer could be found to immortalize the event.
3. James “Wild Bill” Hickok
A legend in his own time.
James Butler Hickok (a.k.a. Wild Bill) was the most notorious man in the Wild West. A gunfighter, gambler, civil war spy, Indian fighter, peace officer, Hickok was said to have killed more than 100 men. At the age of 17, he left home and worked as a “canal boat pilot“ in Utica, Illinois. Got his nickname “Wild Bill“ from fighting in the Union army during the Civil War. During this time, he provided many services, such a spy, scout, and a sharpshooter.
In 1865, on the streets of Springfield, Missouri, he gained a reputation for being handy with a gun after he killed David Tutt with a single bullet from 75 yards away (first classic “Wester-style“ quick-draw duel). Suddenly he could not go anywhere without being recognized. On August 2, 1876, Deadwood, South Dakota, Hickok was playing poker when he was shot in the back of the head by a gambler named Jack McCall (better known as “Crooked Nose Jack“), supposedly in retaliation for a prior insult. Hickok was supposedly holding a pair of Aces and Eights at the time, a combination now known as the “Dead Man’s Hand.“
4. Tom Horn Jr.
Thomas “Tom“ Horn, Jr. was a respected lawman and detective, but he was one of the most cold-blooded killers of the Old West. In the 1880s, Horn made a name for himself as a tracker and a bounty hunter. He was eventually hired as a detective by the famous Pinkerton Detective Agency and was responsible for the arrest of many feared criminals. Quickly becoming known for his volatile temper and dangerous capacity for violence, he was forced to resign his position with the Agency after becoming linked to the murders of 17 people.
Following his resignation, he developed a reputation as a hitman and is said to have been responsible for as many as 50 murders in his 43 years of life. Thomas Horn was arrested, tried in a controversial trial and hanged the day before his 43rd birthday in 1903. A retrial was held in 1993 in which he was declared innocent. The New York Times described the trial, “Once Guilty, Now Innocent, But Still Dead.“
5. Clay Allison
Robert Clay Allison was a Texas cattle rancher and gunfighter. Known for his unpredictable personality and violent temper, Clay was a gunslinger who is remembered as one of the deranged outlaws of the Old West. Allison fought in the Civil War, but was discharged after a blow to the head started causing unpredictable behavior in him. Historians believe this event explains some of his shockingly brutal actions, which included once beheading a man he suspected of murder and carrying the head into his favorite bar to share a drink.
After this incident, which bond his reputation as one of the most dangerous figures of his day, Allison was participating in a number of gunfights against fellow gunslingers. The most famous of these gunfights was against outlaw Chunk Colbert, whom Allison shot in the head when the other drew his gun on him following a meal they had shared. When asked why he had eaten with a man who wanted to kill him, Allison replied, “I wouldn’t want to send a man to hell on an empty stomach.“ He died in 1887 when he fell from his wagon and broke his neck. His gravestone is said to read:
“Clay Allison. Gentleman. Gun Fighter. He never killed a man that did no need killing.“
6. Wyatt Earp
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp was an American gambler, deputy sheriff, and deputy town marshal inTombstone, Arizona. He spent most of his life roaming the West, supporting himself with police work, mining, gambling, saloon-keeping, and real estate deals.
Famed lawman Earp is perhaps the most storied figure of the Wild West, but he was also an accomplished gunslinger who was greatly feared by the bandits of the time. Earp had a violent career that saw him travel to boomtowns like Wichita, Dodge City and the lawless town of Tombstone to serve as sheriff, and he participated in some of the most legendary gunfights of the 1800s.
Best known for his participation in the controversial “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,“ which took place at Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881. The famous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was a 30-second gunfight between the semi-outlaw group “The Cowboys“ (Ike and Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury) and lawmen (Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday), that is generally regarded as the most memorable shootout in the history of the American Wild West and the greatest gunslinger moment of all time (the outcome of the shootout: Earp, Virgil, and Morgan wounded; Doc Holliday grazed; Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton killed.). The shootout and the bloody events that followed resulted in Wyatt Earp acquiring the reputation as being one of the Old West’s toughest and deadliest gunmen of his day. All told, Earp participated in numerous gunfights in his life, killing anywhere from 8 to 30. He would become the fearless Western hero in countless novels and films.
7. Dallas Stoudenmire
Dallas Stoudenmire was a feared lawman and is known for participating in more gunfights than most of his contemporaries. Stoudenmire earned himself repute as a legendary lawman and gunslinger, but he also made himself a lot of enemies. Armed with two guns, he was an accurate shooter with both hands, and he had a reputation for being tough and dangerously shot-tempted when he had a drink or two. After being wounded several times while fighting in the Civil War, Stoudenmire moved to the lawless and violent city of El Paso, Texas, to serve as sheriff. On the third day on the job, he killed three men with his two 44 caliber Colt revolvers in a famous incident known as the “Four Dead In Five Seconds“ gunfight.
Witnesses generally agreed that the incident lasted no more than five seconds after the first gunshot though a few would insist it was at least ten seconds. Marshal D. Stoudenmire was responsible for three of the four fatalities with his “twins.“ Less than a year after these incidents, he would kill as many as six more men in gunfights while in the line of duty, eventually gaining a reputation as one of the most feared lawmen in Texas. In 1882, Stoudenmire was shot to death by a group of outlaws during a verbal confrontation.
8. Billy The Kid
Henry McCarty, a.k.a. William H. Bonney or just “Billy the Kid,” started his life of crime with petty theft and horse thievery, but is said to have first killed a man at the age of eighteen. In 1877, he was deputized during the so-called “Lincoln County War” and rode with lawmen who were seeking to arrest a group of corrupt businessman responsible for the murder of an innocent rancher. Billy’s group, called, “the Regulators,” became known for their wanton violence, and were themselves soon regarded as outlaws.
The group was unfazed by their new classification as bandits and proceeded to go on a killing spree, gunning down three people in the course of just three days, including a sheriff and his deputy. The group was eventually broken up by law enforcement, but the Kid managed to elude capture. He formed a gang and increased his notoriety after shooting down a gambler in a New Mexico saloon. After a number of run-ins with the law, the Kid was again captured and sentenced to death, but he managed to escape after he got a hold of a weapon and gunned down the two men guarding him. After three months on the run, he was killed when Sheriff Pat Garrett and two deputies shot him to death in 1881. All told, Billy the Kid is said to have killed a total of 21 men, one for each of the years of his life, though this number is often regarded as inaccurate and exaggerated.
9. King Fisher
One the lesser-known but more violent pistoleers of the Old West, gunfighter, and one-time lawman John King Fisher was in and out of prison from the age of sixteen. By the early 1870s, Fisher became known as a bandit when he joined a group of outlaws whose specialty was raiding ranches in Mexico. Though quickly becoming known for his flamboyant style of dress, (always seen wearing brightly colored clothes), and signature twin ivory-handled pistols, it was his propensity for aggression that singled him out.
Among his many exploits, he was known for gunning down three members of his own gang during a dispute over money and then killing seven Mexican bandits a short time later. In his most famous gunfight, Fisher is said to have taken on four Mexican cowboys single-handedly, which after hitting one with a branding iron, outdrew another. Then in his well-documented sadistic style, then shot the other two who were unarmed. In 1884, Fisher was ambushed and killed, along with gunslinger Ben Thompson, by friends of a man Thompson had previously killed in a gunfight.
10. Sam Bass
Sam Bass started out an honest man. He had a simple and modest dream of moving to Texas and becoming a cowboy. Eventually he did just that but decided after one season he didn’t like it. While transitioning from simple farmer to famed outlaw might be a stretch for some, Bass did it seamlessly. He began robbing banks and stagecoaches and became rather proficient at it.
After his 7th stagecoach robbery, Bass and his gang turned their sights on bigger prizes and decided to rob trains. They eventually robbed the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco, netting over $60,000, which is to this day the largest single robbery of the Union Pacific. He was wounded by Texas Rangers on the way to rob a small bank in Round Rock and died two days later on his 27th birthday.
The small 1849 Colt Pocket “five shooter” put famed gunmaker Sam Colt in business for keeps.
“You gonna pull those pistols or whistle ‘Dixie?’”
Clint Eastwood’s gunslinger famously brushed off a group of Union soldiers with those sneering words—just before he shot all four of them dead. The line was more than a bit reminiscent of the oft-misquoted line Eastwood said in the 1971 movie that catapulted him to fame: “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?,” his Dirty Harry character asked the bad guy at the mercy of his Smith & Wesson Model 29 .44 Magnum.
When Eastwood’s character ruthlessly killed those soldiers in 1976’s The Outlaw Josey Wales, he chose as his weapons of death the 1847 Colt Walkers from his belt holsters. It’s not surprising that Hollywood would have him draw Colt’s first six-shooter, as much of the credit for taming the Wild West is usually assigned to six-shooters and big-bore rifles. But had he met those soldiers at a poker table, Josey might have reached into his vest pocket for the little five-shot pocket revolver that played its own part in the saga of the American frontier.
That hideout revolver, the 1849 Pocket Colt, was the most produced of all Colt percussion arms. It also became the best selling handgun in the world during the entire 19th century.
Colt’s First Pocket Revolver
During the 1840s, people had a myriad of single shot pistols to choose from for personal portable protection. These guns varied from huge and cumbersome large-bored horse pistols to miniscule, largely ineffective “coat pocket” handguns. As insurance against malfunctions, some of these pistols were actually designed with auxiliary weapons such as affixed knives or heavy club-like handles.
One of the few repeating pistols offered at the time, the multi-barrelled “pepperbox,” was a popular, but somewhat unreliable gun. Named for condiment canisters, a host of these single-action and double-action pepperbox pistols were produced by manufacturers including Allen & Thurber, Blunt & Syms and the English firm Manton. While some considered the pepperbox pistol one of the best pistols of its time, others saw it as unreliable, inaccurate and sometimes downright dangerous for its possessor. In his classic work Roughing It, Mark Twain claimed that the safest place to be when such a contraption fired was in front of it. A justice of the peace in Mariposa, California, agreed with Twain and actually ruled in an 1852 assault case that an Allen’s pepperbox could not be considered a dangerous weapon.
Lacking a truly reliable pocket-sized revolver, the public clamored for a quality, accurate weapon. Sam Colt, an astute businessman, knew he could fulfill the need. He carefully studied his big and heavy Dragoon revolver and determined that certain features deemed necessary in a large belt revolver could be removed from a smaller pocket-type pistol. In crafting his first pocket revolver, Col. Colt eliminated an estimated 85 of the roughly 480 separate operations required to produce his firm’s belt pistol, the .44 caliber Dragoon, reports P.L. Shumaker in Colt’s Variations of the Old Model Pocket Pistol, 1848 to 1872.
Colt’s first pocket revolver began production around 1847, after the collapse of his Patent Arms Manufacturing Company in Paterson, New Jersey. Now called the “Baby Dragoon,” this 1848 revolver was the predecessor to the 1849 Pocket Model. About 15,000 Baby Dragoons were the first pocket pistols produced by Colt’s facility in Hartford, Connecticut.
Colt offered these .31 caliber pocket pistols as an inexpensive repeating firearm designed to compare more favorably to the single-shot handguns then available. To cut costs, Colt replaced the traditional six-shot cylinder with a five loader. The Baby Dragoon also included a recoil shield but no safety cutout to catch a percussion cap. If a cap failed to ignite its chamber’s main charge, the pistol had to be dismantled to replace that faulty cap.
The model also lacked a rammer assembly underneath the barrel, which made loading a Baby Dragoon a cumbersome process. The shooter had to load ammunition by knocking out the barrel wedge and removing the barrel and cylinder. The shooter then charged the chambers of the cylinder with powder before utilizing the cylinder pin to force a lead projectile into each chamber. Next he fitted percussion caps over the nipples, replaced the cylinder and barrel assembly, and securely fastened the barrel wedge. Lastly, he rotated the cylinder so that the hammer rested over a single cylinder “safety” pin located between two of the chambers on the rear facing of the cylinder.
In spite of these drawbacks, Colt’s new pocket revolver still outperformed other available single-firing and multi-shot handguns in design, quality and function. The public’s approval was overwhelming, and the new little “revolving pistol” was a success from the very start.
Pocket Colt Shoots Out Competition
Public opinion spurred Colt to implement additional changes to the Pocket Colt (the first few had an estimated 150 run). Colonel Colt added a rammer assembly for easier loading and a cutout in the recoil shield so that capping could be accomplished without taking the pistol apart. Other improvements included affixing a roller bearing at the base of the hammer, placing tiny “safety” pins between each chamber, as opposed to just a single pin, and replacing rounded stops cutting into the cylinder with rectangular stops. Colt also lengthened the frame and barrel design, and modified the trigger and guard. The most notable cosmetic change made to the gun was engraving a “stagecoach holdup” scene by rolling it onto the cylinder. (Some early models, however, featured the “Ranger and Indian” fight scene as found on the Dragoon and Baby Dragoon models.) These features constitute what has become known as the standard 1849 Colt Pocket Model pistol.
Produced in a wide variety of configurations and barrel lengths, the 1849 Pocket Model Colt became one of the most famous handguns of its time. It outsold all of the company’s other models as well as those manufactured by competitors. City dwellers in the East mainly purchased the five shooters for travel “insurance” and home protection. But many of these Pocket Colts also went west for California’s Gold Rush.
Initially promoted in California in March 1851, as the “New Pattern…with patent lever,” Colt’s improved ’49er quickly became a favorite with miners, express agents and other argonauts who needed a small pocket revolver. On San Francisco’s Barbary Coast, gamblers sometimes referred to such hideout guns as a “fifth ace.” The demand in the Golden State proved so great that Colt’s factory in Hartford was unable to keep up with the orders. The large belt model Colt, which sold for around $16-$18 each in the East, was selling for as much as $250-$500 apiece in the West. Even the less expensive .31 caliber model commanded prices around $100 on the West Coast. The gun proved to be a favorable alternative for folks who found the heavy Dragoon a bit inconvenient.
Many ’49 Colts made their way overseas. Thanks mostly to Colt’s British agency, the pistol reached ports in Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, India and Australia. The demand “down under” was particularly strong due to the Australian Gold Rush of 1853-54. During the American Civil War, soldiers on both sides purchased the pistols with their own funds. They carried the 1849 Pocket models for close combat situations. For decades during the mid-19th century, adventurers worldwide praised these little Colts in the highest terms.
The ’49er was so well-regarded that many expressed their admiration for it by embellishing the Pocket Colt with custom stocks, special finishes, engravings and special gun sights. More non-standard Pocket ’49ers exist than any other model in the world, writes Robert M. Jordan and Darrow M. Watt in Colt’s Pocket ’49, Its Evolution, Including The Baby Dragoon & Wells Fargo. Jordan’s research shows at least 26,000 of the 1849 Pocket models were factory engraved and that more Pocket ’49ers are found in presentation cases than any other gun in the world.
The 1849 Pocket Model Colt may have outshot the competition, but it actually didn’t deliver much of a punch. Fortunately, it didn’t need to. The sidearm was perfect as leverage against a touchy situation. A misdealt card, a mining claim dispute, a defense of a lady’s honor or perhaps
an expedited bank withdrawal might all be eased along through the use of a ’49er. The simple brandishing of the firearm could even elicit the desired reaction.
If fired, the Pocket Colt’s efficacy varied at the whim of several factors not necessarily tied to its load. A .31 caliber round ball, or pointed (conical) bullet, weighs in at around 45 grains of pure, soft lead. With a standard charge of about 15 grains of FFFg (3Fg) blackpowder, this loading is capable of traveling at around 590 feet per second (fps) and hitting with a bit under 35 foot-pounds of muzzle energy. In comparison, a little modern .32 Smith & Wesson, when fired from a short-barreled revolver, develops approximately 680 fps and delivers almost 90 foot-pounds of muzzle thump.
By our current standards, the ’49 Pocket Colt is hardly impressive, but in its time, it could do damage. At close range, the length of a card table for instance, the gun could be dangerous. The soft lead of its bullets had the capacity to frustrate the period medical establishment.
Colt made the 1849 Pocket Model in barrel lengths of three, four, five and six inches. The four-inch and five-inch tubes were the most popular, and the six-inch barreled version appears to be the scarcest model produced. Unloaded, a ’49er weighs from 24 to 27 ounces, depending on barrel length. Sold with a blued barrel and cylinder, the frame and loading lever were color case hardened. Grip straps were generally silver plated over brass, although some were made with blued- or silver-plated iron. Factory standard stocks were of the one-piece varnished, straight-grained walnut variety—typical of commercially-produced period Colts. Custom stocks of select burl walnut, ivory and other materials were offered. On an 1849 model, you’ll likely find one of a variety of barrel roll stampings noting the addresses and places of manufacturing.
Although one of the Pocket Model’s improvements was the incorporation of a loading lever assembly, Colt produced a small number of ’49 models without these additions. Modern gun aficionados nicknamed these three-inch rammerless ’49ers the “Wells Fargo,” yet no evidence supports the claim that the famed express firm ever officially adopted this weapon as a sidearm for its drivers, guards and various agents. Wells Fargo employees certainly did carry ’49 Pocket Colts,
both with and without rammers. Many of these were privately purchased, along with other sidearms.
In any event, the rammerless Colt ’49 never sold well. Sometime around 1860, Colt attempted to sell the remaining inventory of his pocket pistols without rammers by fitting these three-inch barreled revolvers with loading assemblies. These were made by crudely modifying loading levers from the standard four-inch barreled pistols. In spite of this modification, the guns still met with public disapproval as the altered rammer lever made it difficult to apply the proper pressure to the rammer itself. Colt manufactured relatively few of these guns, probably around 100. As such, these factory-modified Colts are extremely desirable pieces with today’s collectors.
During its 23 years of production, Colt’s Hartford facility manufactured about 320,000 Colt Pocket Models, while another 11,000 were produced at the plant in London, England. Production of this handgun finally halted in 1873, when Colt began producing self-contained metallic cartridge revolvers. Despite the transition from cap-and-ball to metallic cartridge arms, Colt’s factory records reveal that percussion model ’49ers were still being shipped as late as 1889. This was especially ironic because the 1849 Pocket Model was one of the caplock revolvers that the Colt factory converted during its first stages of producing metallic cartridge handguns as early as 1869. A Colt employee, E. Alexander Thuer, designed a conversion system that allowed specially designed cartridges to be front-loaded. This little revision legally skirted around the Smith & Wesson-held Rollin-White patent for a drilled-through chamber in the revolver’s cylinder.
A Collector’s Dream
Inevitably, newer and stronger designs in pocket handguns and ammunition pushed the ’49 Pocket Colt to the wayside in favor of more modern arms. Today, the ’49 Pocket Model is considered quite collectible, commanding premium prices among discerning arms collectors. Greg Martin Auctions in San Francisco, California, set a record for the highest price paid at auction for a firearm when it sold a cased, gold-inlaid 1849 Pocket Colt engraved by Gustave Young for a $720,000 bid in 2003.
With the original garnering such a commanding price, it’s not surprising that variations of the 1849 Pocket Colts are still manufactured by Italy’s A. Uberti and Company, the world’s largest replica house, and sold by Cimarron Fire Arms, Uberti (Benelli USA), Taylor’s & Company, E.M.F. Company and Dixie Gun Works. The firms offer the standard four-inch barreled 1849 Model, the so-called “Wells Fargo” model (sans rammer assembly) and the rammerless Model 1848 “Baby Dragoon.” The Pocket models can be purchased from either company in a variety of standard finishes that include dark blue, charcoal blue and the so-called “original” antique patina.
Shooting one of these replica 1849 Pocket Model Colts is a true joy. The attached rammer assembly on Cimarron Fire Arms’ replica of the four-inch barreled version makes loading easy and firing the gun delightful. Unlike the big belt model cap-and-ball six-guns of the age, you won’t hear a booming report or see as much white smoke with each shot. Discharging this little spitfire is rather reminiscent of a small vocal dog. The diminutive wheel gun barks sharply, spitting out a .31 caliber ball with the gusto of a feisty little critter. At close range, say within 25 feet, the accuracy is gratifying. At card table distances, the ’49er is deadly, putting its lead pills right where they are aimed.
After handling and firing this pocket revolver, one can easily see why it commanded such respect among the people of the Victorian era. For its time, the 1849 Colt Pocket Model was a modern and practical pocket gun. And no bluecoat whistling “Dixie” in your face would have stood a chance against it.
Buffalo Bill was born William Frederick Cody on February 26, 1846. He lived until January 10, 1917. Cody grew up on the frontier and loved his way of life. As he got older, some of his titles he earned included buffalo hunter, U.S. Army scout and guide, and showman, as well as Pony Express Rider, Indian fighter, and even author. Whatever Cody’s titles, he was destined for fame.
His track of fame began as with his reputation as a master buffalo hunter. While hunting buffalo for pay to feed railroad workers, he shot and killed 11 out of 12 buffalo, earning him his nickname and show name “Buffalo Bill.” As an army scout, Cody extended his fame by gaining recognition as an army scout with a reputation for bravery. As a well-known scout, he often led rich men from the East and Europe and even royalty on hunting trips. Cody’s fame began to spread to the East when an author, Ned Buntline caught wind of him and wrote a dime novel about Buffalo Bill, called Buffalo Bill, the King of Border Men (1869). To top it all off, Buntline’s novel was turned into a theatrical production which greatly contributed to his success and popularity in the east.
Before long, Cody ended up starring as himself in Buntline’s play. Soon after, he started his own theatrical troop. It wasn’t until 1883 when Cody first got his idea for a Wild West show. That same year, he launched Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show in Omaha, Nebraska. With his Wild West show in hand, nobody could deny Buffalo Bill’s fame. “At the turn of the twentieth century, William F. Cody was known as ‘the greatest showman on the face of the earth’”.Cody had full domination of the Wild West show business.
Out of all of his fame-bearing titles, William F. Cody is most celebrated for being the inventor of the Wild West show. His crown title would be impresario, or manager or producer of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show. His motivation to produce the show was to preserve the western way of life that he grew up with and loved. Driven by his ambition to keep this way of life from disappearing, Cody turned his “real life adventure into the first and greatest outdoor western show”. Cody did not want to see his way of life vanish without remembrance. Consequently, Cody became the first real Westerner to cash in on the western myth, which others had been writing literature, dime novels, and plays about for some time.
In creating the Wild West show, Cody also created the myth of the adventuresome, exciting, and outright wild western frontier. Cody helped pitch-in to give the West its image as we see it today. The legend he fathered became a permanent part in America’s history and is still present today. He also was the first to establish the format and content of Wild West shows.
The shows consisted of reenactments of history combined with displays of showmanship, sharp-shooting, hunts, racing, or rodeo style events. Each show was 3–4 hours long and attracted crowds of thousands of people daily. The show began with a parade on horseback. The parade was a major ordeal, an affair that involved huge public crowds and many performers, including the Congress of Rough Riders. The Congress of Rough Riders was composed of marksman from around the world, including the future President Theodore Roosevelt, who marched through the parade on horseback.
Among the composition of the show were “historical” scenes. “The exact scenes changed over time, but were either portrayed as a ‘typical’ event such as the early settlers defending a homestead, a wagon train crossing the plains, or a more specific event such as the Battle of the Little Bighorn”. In both types of events, Buffalo Bill used his poetic license to both glorify himself or others while heightening the villainous mischievousness of the “bad guys” (outlaws or Indians) and to embellish each situation for theatrical enhancement. “Typical” events included acts known as Bison Hunt, Train Robbery, Indian War Battle Reenactment, and the usual grand finale of the show, Attack on the Burning Cabin, in which Indians attacked a settler’s cabin and were repulsed by Buffalo Bill, cowboys, and Mexicans.
A more specific historical event in the show might have been a reenactment of the Battle of Little Bighorn also known as “Custer’s Last Stand”. This event was made into a famous act performed in the show, with Buck Taylor starring as General George Armstrong Custer. In this battle, Custer and all men under his direct command were killed. After Custer is dead, Buffalo Bill rides in, the hero, but he is too late. He avenges Custer by killing and scalping Yellow Hair (also called Yellowhand) which he called the “first scalp for Custer”.This reenactment is exciting for the audience and also stresses Buffalo Bill’s importance, as it suggests that were he to ride in on time, Custer and his men may have been saved.
Shooting competitions and displays of marksmanship were commonly a part of the program. Great feats of skill were shown off using rifles, shot guns, and revolvers. Most people in the show were all good marksmen but many were experts. Buffalo Bill himself was an excellent marksman. It was said that nobody could top him shooting a rifle off the back of a moving horse. Other star shooters were Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith, and Seth Clover.
The show also demonstrated hunts executed by Buffalo Bill, cowboys, and Mexicans, which were staged as they would have been on the frontier, and were accompanied by one of the few remaining buffalo herds in the worlds. “People throughout North America and Europe who had never seen buffalo before felt the rush of being in the middle of the hunt.”
Animals also did their share in the show through rodeo entertainment, an audience favorite. In rodeo events, cowboys like Lee Martin would try to rope and ride broncos. Broncos are unbroken horses that tend to throw or buck their riders. Other wild animals they would attempt to ride or deal with were mules, buffalo, Texas steers, elk, deer, bears, and moose. Some notable cowboys who participated in the events were Buck Taylor (dubbed “The First Cowboy King”), Bronco Bill, James Lawson (“The Roper”), Bill Bullock, Tim Clayton, Coyote Bill, and Bridle Bill.
Races were another form of entertainment employed in the Wild West show. Many different races were held, including those between cowboys, Mexicans, and Indians, a 100 yd foot race between Indian and Indian pony, a race between Sioux boys on bareback Indian ponies, races between Mexican thoroughbreds, and even a race between Lady Riders.
All in all, the show had a pretty big entourage. It contained as many as 1,200 performers at one time (cowboys, scouts, Indians, military, Mexicans, and men from other heritages), and a large number of many animals including buffalo and Texas Longhorns. Performers in the show were often popular celebrities of the day. Some of the recognizably famous men who took part in the show were Will Rogers, Tom Mix, Pawnee Bill, James Lawson, Bill Pickett, Jess Willard, Mexican Joe, Capt. Adam Bogardus, Buck Taylor, Ralph and Nan Lohse, Antonio Esquibel, and “Capt. Waterman and his Trained Buffalo”. Even more famous were Wild Bill Hickok and Johnny Baker. Wild Bill Hickok was well known as a gunfighter and as a marshal, and he was also an established dime novel hero, like Buffalo Bill. His name on the playbill gave a great draw of audiences because they knew him from dime-novels, and he was a genuine scout. Johnny Baker was nicknamed the “Cowboy Kid” and considered to be Annie Oakley’s boy counterpart. Cody originally took him on in the show mainly because he would have been the same age as his own dead son, but little Johnny Baker turned out to be a great success, was very skilled and ended up becoming the arena director.
The list of famous Wild West show participants was not limited to men. Women were also a large part of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and attracted many spectators. In fact Annie Oakley, one of the show’s star attractions was a woman. Born Phoebe Ann Moses, Oakley first gained recognition as a sharpshooter when she defeated Frank Butler, a pro marksman at age 15, in a shooting exhibition. She became the star attraction of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show for 16 years, under the management of Frank Butler, whom she ended up marrying. Annie was billed in the show as “Miss Annie Oakley, the Peerless Lady Wing-Shot”. She was also nicknamed “Little Sure Shot” by Chief Sitting Bull, who was also in the show. Annie was renowned for her trick shots. Annie was able to, from 30 paces, split the edge of a playing card, hit center of ace of spades, shoot down a playing card tossed in air, shatter glass balls thrown in air, hit dimes held between Butler’s fingers, shoot an apple out of poodle’s mouth and shoot off the butt of cigarette from Butler’s mouth. She also performed the last trick shooting the cigarette out of Crown Prince Wilhelm’s mouth in Berlin. Her most famous trick was a mirror trick in which she hit a target behind her shooting backwards using a mirror for aim. These incredible feats of marksmanship amazed and excited people and she generated huge audiences eager to see the display.
Calamity Jane (or Martha Cannary) was another distinguished woman participant of the show. Calamity Jane was a notorious frontierswoman who was the subject of many wild stories- many of which she made up herself. In the show, she was a skilled horsewoman and expert rifle and revolver handler. She also claimed to have a love affair with Wild Bill Hickok (and that she was married to him and had his child), which he denied and there is no proof of.Calamity Jane appeared in Wild West shows until 1902, when she was reportedly fired for drinking and fighting. Other mentionable females in the business were Lillian Smith and Bessie and Della Ferrel
Native Americans were also a part of Cody’s show. The Native Americans who took part in the show were mostly Plains Indians like the Pawnee and Sioux. They participated in staged “Indian Races” and historic battles, and often appeared in attack scenes attacking whites in which their savagery and wildness was played up. They also performed talented dances, such as the Sioux Ghost Dance. In reality the performance of the ghost dance meant that trouble was brewing and about to break out, but it wasn’t portrayed as such in the show. The Native Americans always wore their best regalia and full war paint. Cody treated them with great respect and paid them adequately. The extent of his respect was demonstrated when he named the Native Americans as “the former foe, present friend, the American”. Audiences were impressed by the presence of Native Americans in the show because they were extraordinarily “simultaneously exotic and accessible people”.
Native Americans in the show also had their claim to fame, the best known being Chief Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull joined the show for a short time and was a star attraction alongside Annie Oakley. It was said that he only agreed to join the show because he was fascinated with Annie Oakley and Buffalo Bill assured him that if he joined, he could see her perform all the time.During his time at the show, Sitting Bull was introduced to President Grover Cleveland, which he thought proved his importance as chief.He was friends with Buffalo Bill and highly valued the horse that was given to him when he left the show. Other familiar Native Americans names who performed in the show were Chief Joseph,Geronimo, and Rains in Face (who reportedly killed George A. Custer).
Buffalo’s Bill’s Wild West show continued to captivate audiences and tour annually for a total of 30 years (1883–1913). After opening on May 19, 1883 in Omaha, Nebraska, the show was on what seemed to be a perpetual tour all over the east of America. The show “hopped the pond” in 1887 for the American Exhibition, and was then requested for a command performance at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 at Windsor Castle, in England. The whole troupe including 200 passengers plus 97 Natives, 18 buffalo, 181 horses, 10 elk, 4 donkeys, 5 longhorns (Texas steers), 2 deer, 10 mules, and the Deadwood Concord stagecoach crossed the Atlantic on several ships. They then toured England for the next six months and the following year returned to tour Europe until 1892. With his tour in Europe, Buffalo Bill established the myth of the American West overseas as well. To some Europeans, the Wild West show not only represented the west, but all of America. He also created the cowboy as an American icon. He gave the people of England, France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany a taste of the wild and romantic west.
In 1893 the show performed at the Chicago World’s Fair to a crowd of 18,000. This performance was a huge contributor to the show’s popularity. The show never again did as well as it did that year. That same year at the Fair, Frederick Turner, a young Wisconsin scholar, gave a speech that pronounced the first stage of American history over. “The frontier has gone”, he declared.
The Wild West on Film – Actual Footage of Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley by Thomas Edison
The Lussiure New of England predicted “The Business will degenerate into the hands of men devoid of Buffalo Bill’s exalted simplicity, and much more eager to finger the shillings of the public than to shake the hand of Mother Nature.” By 1894 the harsh economy made it hard to afford tickets. It did not help that the show was routed to go through the South in a year when the cotton was flooded and there was a general depression in the area. Buffalo Bill lost a lot of money and was on the brink of a financial disaster. Soon after, and in an attempt of recovery of monetary balance, Buffalo Bill signed a contract in which he was tricked by Bonfil and Temmen into selling them the show and demoting himself to a mere employee and attraction of the Sells-Floto Circus. From this point, the show began to destroy itself. Finally, in 1913 the show was declared bankrupt. “Cody was forced to take his tents down for the last time”.
Western shows “generated a passion for Western entertainment of all kinds.”This passion is still evidenced in western films, modern rodeos, and circuses. Western Films in the first half of the 20th century filled the gap left behind by Wild West shows. The first real western, The Great Train Robbery was made in 1903, and thousands followed after. Contemporary rodeos also still exist today as major productions, still employing the same events and skills as cowboys did in Wild West shows.
Posted: Sunday, February 7, 2016 11:00 pm |Updated: 11:57 pm, Sun Feb 7, 2016.
Another photo said to be of the famous outlaw Billy the Kid — showing a young man posing on a rock, holding one pistol in his right hand and another in his holster — surfaced last week.
It is still unauthenticated and lacks provenance.
But like all the other purported Billy the Kid photos, this one has an interesting backstory.
Two Gun Billy is one of nearly 500 photos in an Old West collection believed to have been owned by Frank Phillips, the founder of Phillips Petroleum.
The photos are now owned by an unidentified couple who traveled in the 1990s to Checotah, Okla., where they stopped at an antique store called the Downtown Antique Mall. The woman, who is an artist, purchased several photos from the store to use in painting profiles.
Both she and her husband are Western enthusiasts and, after comparing the photos to those in their books on the Old West, they went back to the antique store the next day, and the day after that, and spent a few hundred dollars on the collection.
The couple believe that 100 of the photos depict people involved in the O.K. Corral shootout, their family members and others from Tombstone, Ariz.
Because there were photos of Phillips and his family among those the woman purchased, she and others who have examined them concluded that they once belonged to Phillips, whose 3,700-acre ranch in northwestern Oklahoma, called Woolaroc, was only 100 miles away from where the photos were purchased. And the property was adjacent to land frequented by outlaws. The photos came to be known as the Phillips Collection.
Jim Williams, a Western antique dealer with a shop in Springfield, Mo., was hired by the couple to help authenticate the photo called Two Gun Billy and market it. Cathy Briley, Williams’ fiancée, a real estate appraiser and collector of antiques from Palmyra, Neb., said they immediately felt the albumen print was of Billy the Kid.
They didn’t have the resources, Briley said, to hire people with the software to do facial recognition — and besides, they were unsure if it would work because the photo shows the Kid in profile. But they did decide to try to find the location where the photograph was taken, and they were pretty sure the landscape depicted New Mexico.
They came here in December, after studying Google Earth images for weeks and weeks. In New Mexico, everyone gave them different opinions. They failed at first and spent the night in Ruidoso before driving home.
It was there when Briley had an idea that the photo might have been taken at the time of the shootout at Blazer’s Mill between the Lincoln County Regulators and the buffalo hunter Buckshot Roberts. The Regulators apparently were hunting down anyone associated with the murder of John Tunstall, which had set off the Lincoln County War. The confrontation took place three days after the shooting of Sheriff William Brady, a crime for which Billy the Kid was convicted in 1881. The Regulators, including the Kid, were supposedly in Blazer’s Mill to eat at Mrs. Godfrey’s Restaurant.
The connection hit Briley, she said, “like a ton of bricks.”
They now believe the photo was taken on a hillside between Lincoln and Tularosa overlooking a 19th-century village called South Fork. The area subsequently became part of the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation. Williams and Briley believe the photo was taken April 3, 1878, the day before the shootout.
Williams went back to New Mexico and on Jan. 20, Briley said, he found the rock overlooking South Fork on which the Kid had been posed, and matched up the mountains in the background as well as old Indian trails.
Briley said the face looks identical and the body type and size are “perfect” when compared to the authenticated tintype of Billy the Kid purchased by billionaire William Koch for $2.3 million in 2011 at an auction in Colorado.
Furthermore, the figure is wearing patterned suspenders and an unadorned sombrero, and is pictured with the types of guns Billy was known to carry. There’s a bandana wrapped around his leg above his right knee, which could be related to injuries sustained in the Brady ambush, Briley said.
In Koch’s tintype, the Kid looks sloppy, but in this photo, his tie is tucked into his shirt and, according to Briley, he was known as a “snappy dresser.”
Briley said she has seen another photo that surfaced in recent years — one said to show the Kid playing croquet in New Mexico in 1878 — and the National Geographic program that aired about the photo last year. In that case, the photo was bought by a California man for $2 or so from a Fresno County memorabilia shop.
She believes that photo is of the Kid, but she conceded many photos claimed to be of him don’t get received very well. “They get a lot of negative response,” she said. “Western enthusiasts immediately deny them if there’s no provenance attached to the photo.”
So, she said, even though “I do think our photos are the genuine article … we are fighting an uphill battle.”
But that doesn’t stop people who think they have the real deal, she added. “We’re just going to be inundated with photos because people are seeing dollar signs.”
Briley said several photos from the Phillips Collection already have been sold, including those of outlaw Belle Starr and lawman Wyatt Earp’s brother James, and one of Earp himself in a forest with several other people. Two of those were bought by Williams and resold. There are two other photos of the Kid in the Phillips Collection, Briley said.
The original Oklahoma vendor, however, had no idea of their value, she said. Online, Briley called the collection “likely one of the largest historical finds in recent history.”
But Daniel Kosharek, photo curator at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives in Santa Fe, said the number of Kid photos cropping up is getting to be “almost as bad as Elvis sightings.”
“This one is a pretty good stretch,” he said of Two Gun Billy.
Korsharek said there are many photos that could show the Kid, and even in the Museum of New Mexico collection, he said, he could probably find a half-dozen tintypes that could be of the famous outlaw.
Contact Anne Constable at 505-986-3022 or firstname.lastname@example.org.