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Johnson County War of 1892 - Documented Winchester rifles and carbines
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April 22, 2024 - 2:45 pm
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The best documented frontier west gunfight in terms of firearms is the Johnson County, Wyoming War of April 1892.  Lots has been written about it.  The firearms the invaders turned in were documented in a list by make, caliber and serial number when they surrendered to the U.S. Army.  The list was compiled my Major Frank Wolcott, a Civil War veteran and one of the leaders of the invaders.

The long arms included 16 Model 1873 rifles and carbines, three Model 1876 rifles and carbines, and 19 Model 1886 rifles and carbines.  The only other long arms were four Peabody-Martini’s, two Sharps rifles and one shotgun.  All the revolvers surrendered were Colt single and double actions with the exception of one S&W.  The list of firearms surrendered ended up in the national archives.

It’s interesting to me as it shows the total dominance of Winchester products during that time.  There were many other fine repeating rifles available from Colt, Marlin, Bullard, Whitney-Kennedy, etc.  For whatever reasons, the invaders mostly chose Winchester rifles and carbines.

To date I have only documented one Winchester (a Model 1886) rifle from the list that survives.  Five Colt SAA’s are known in private collections.  I am sure there are other survivors that are not known.

Bill

I call myself a collector as it sounds better than hoarder

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April 22, 2024 - 3:59 pm
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Cool story! How would one find the list of firearms?

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April 22, 2024 - 4:30 pm
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Quite a few years ago, now, I was in the museum in Buffalo, WY, that had various mementos of the Johnson County War.  One was a lintel with bullets lodged in it from the attack on a settler’s cabin.  I seem to recall they had several pistols from the battle/war on display.  Whether on loan or owned by the museum I’ve no idea.  I recall a rifle or two as well, but they may have been “of the type” vs ones actually used and surrendered.  It just may be the museum has the listing of weapons turned in to the cavalry, tho.  May be easier than accessing the National Archives.  Tim

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April 22, 2024 - 4:45 pm
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I did a quick query and it is the Jim Gatchel Memorial Museum.  Jim was a pharmacist and traded for artifacts.  A read of their summary doesn’t include anything of the Johnson County War so the focus may have been refined.  Still I sent a query to them stating my dated memory and asking if they had a list of weapons that were surrendered to the cavalry.  I am suspecting the answer will be “no” as I am sure they would have listed the war as a subject matter if they still had displays pertaining to that event.  If you or anyone else can, I would query the National Archives and see what that entails.  Tim

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April 22, 2024 - 5:15 pm
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Bill Hockett said
It’s interesting to me as it shows the total dominance of Winchester products during that time.  There were many other fine repeating rifles available from Colt, Marlin, Bullard, Whitney-Kennedy, etc.  For whatever reasons, the invaders mostly chose Winchester rifles and carbines.

There’s no substitute for name recognition, earned by becoming first to market a new product, in this case, repeating rifles.  But what kind of “choice” did gun-buyers in 1890s Wyoming actually have at their local (meaning within a day’s ride) gun or hardware stores?   In the ’80s & ’90s, the factory distributed their products mainly through wholesalers, not individual dealers, about which Harold Williamson says (p. 115) the company policy was:  “to have jobbers handle Winchester firearms exclusively, or at least to give them preferential treatment.”  Not specifically addressed is whether a bonafide Winchester dealer would also be allowed to sell a competitor’s product.  

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April 23, 2024 - 2:47 pm
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I agree that the fact that the JCW guns are very well documented by Serial Number – makes them extremelly collectible. Having formal documentation in the National Archives and in Wyoming State Records is bullet proof provenance… and several levels above pure “family history” alone that a gun “has been there”.

I know the guy that owns a very nice .41 cal Colt SAA Revolver (along with a large folder of relevant info) that is documented by SN on the Major Wolcott List, as having been owned by one of the Cattleman Invaders – named Elias Whitcomb aka EW Whitcomb. Google this name along with “Johnson County War” … or “Wyoming Range War 1892” and you will be able to spend countless hours reading. 

The Wyoming Range Wars – Cattle Baron vs the Farmer or Homesteader …is the subject of many books and Movies, as you have all the elements for a classic frontier conflict. The fact that our beloved Winchesters and Colt’s are a prominent part of this conflict should not come as a surprise.

Now for the big BONUS:

As mentioned in the first posting of this thread – the Major Wolcott List is a very well known and legendary document … but has been a bit elusive for some that wish to have access to it. If you go onto Amazon and search for “Major Wolcott List” – you will see a newly published book on the same… and it is under 20 bucks! You may even reconize the name of the author…

I ordered my copy last week (hard copy has not arrived yet) – but I could not wait … so I accessed the Kindle Version right away to see the contents. I was not disappointed. Lots of relevant reference material … but most importantly, some well layed out charts that contain; gun owners name, make and model of gun, caliber of gun and serial number of gun. Believe me – you will be checking the serial numbers in your collection! I suspect that a few more of these JCW guns will be coming out of the woodwork… and it will be like a winning lottery ticket for anyone fortunate to find one in their vault.

Mike H

aka Long Spur Hollow

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April 24, 2024 - 10:38 pm
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Folks, I got a reply from the Gatchel museum.  First, she said my memory was correct.  That is monumental these days!  They have an entire gallery dedicated to the Johnson County War with some firearms pertaining to the war.  Please note that terminology.   They maintain a list from the 1967 edition of ” Shooting  Times”.  Thus you now have a potential source for the info.  She provided a scan of the listing from the “Shooting Times” and asked if I used the information I credit the source.  Suggest the same for you.  I also was provided a copy of same by an interested fellow WACA member.  Hope this helps those who wish it!  Tim

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April 25, 2024 - 1:47 pm
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Folks, I got a reply from the Gatchel museum.  First, she said my memory was correct.  That is monumental these days!  They have an entire gallery dedicated to the Johnson County War with some firearms pertaining to the war.  Please note that terminology.   They maintain a list from the 1967 edition of ” Shooting  Times”.  Thus you now have a potential source for the info.  She provided a scan of the listing from the “Shooting Times” and asked if I used the information I credit the source.  Suggest the same for you.  I also was provided a copy of same by an interested fellow WACA member.  Hope this helps those who wish it!  Tim

 

I would like to see that 1967 Shooting Times article and list … did you actually make that scan available to forum members? I don’t see it as part of your post.

Mike H

aka Long Spur Hollow 

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April 25, 2024 - 1:57 pm
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Here is a link for the “Major Wolcott List” booklet that I had mentioned is now available on Amazon 

https://a.co/d/bpuMtk8

Mike H

aka Long Spur Hollow 

edit: I tested my link and it takes you to the Kindle version. Just click or select the soft cover version from the option panel for this item to see the pricing for the  physical book.

-MH

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