Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine
Triggered by history
Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, Wild Bill Hickok, Davy Crockett, John Wesley Hardin... their names roll off the tongue as easily now as they did in the days of the old Wild West. Let’s start with Billy the Kid (born William Henry McCarty in the slums of New York in 1859 or 60), the notorious outlaw and gunfighter reputed to have killed at least 27 men before being gunned down in 1881. After legendary Sheriff Pat Garrett finally brought the
Kid to trial and the judge sentenced him to hang until “you are dead, dead, dead”, Billy reportedly responded: “And you can go to hell, hell, hell.”
Two weeks before his scheduled execution, Billy escaped, killing two guards in the process, one of them
Deputy Bob Olinger. Garrett mounted yet another posse to bring in the Kid and after tracing him to a friend’s ranch in Fort Sumner, New Mexico, shot him dead. No legal charges were brought against him and the killing was ruled justifiable homicide.
Now the gun used to kill the Kid – Garrett’s Colt single-action Army revolver – has fetched a stunning $6m (£4.35m) at a Bonhams Early West sale in Los Angeles. And the Whitney double-barrel hammer shotgun the outlaw took from Deputy Olinger and used to kill him during the dramatic Lincoln County Courthouse escape fetched £706,000. This shotgun is the only identified weapon Billy the Kid is known to have used – and the last.
Wild Bill Hickok – wagonmaster, Union spy, gunslinger, gambler and lawman – was reputedly the Fastest Gun in the West. But on August 2, 1876 he was shot in the back of the head in Deadwood, South Dakota, by Jack McCall while holding a poker hand of aces and eights (now popularly known as the “dead man’s hand”). In his coffin, Hickok was buried with his prized Springfield rifle by his side. Naturally, that rifle, recovered from his final resting place, also drew the big bidders and the final price for the damaged weapon, with JB Hickock crudely carved on the walnut stock, topped £343,000.
Hard-drinking gambler, quick-draw gunslinger and notorious killer of at least 21 men from 1868-77, John Wesley Hardin was shot in the back of the head by John Selman Junior in a bar in 1895. The Smith & Wesson “Frontier” revolver that Hardin was carrying at the time of his death realised £451,000.
Space permits only brief mention of other famous names: the Colt revolver outlaw Johnny Ringo was carrying when he was found dead near Tombstone, Arizona, in 1882 made £266,200; prospector, Pony Express rider, army scout and showman Buffalo Bill’s silver pocket watch £10,290; a Wells Fargo strongbox £7,485; and Gene Autry’s screen Colt revolver from films in the 1930s and 40s £7,480. Also making fourfigure sums were photos of Apache leader Geronimo, Sioux chief Sitting
Bull, frontierswoman and sharpshooter Calamity Jane, legendary bank and train robber Jesse James, US cavalry commander General Custer and markswoman Annie Oakley.
All fired up... collectors go wild for Wild West memorabilia. John Vincent reports on a multi-million dollar sale.
This shotgun is the only identified weapon Billy the Kid is known to have used – and the last.