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John Wesley Hardin (May 26, 1853—August 19, 1895) was an outlaw and gunfighter of the American Old West. He was born in Bonhammarker, Fannin Countymarker, Texasmarker. When Hardin went to prison in 1878, he claimed to have killed 42 men. Hardin's criminal career resulted not only in the deaths of his victims but also in the deaths of his brother Joe and two cousins who were hanged by a lynch mob seeking revenge for a Hardin killing.

Early life

Hardin was born in Bonham, Texas in 1853 to James G. Hardin, a Methodist preacher and circuit rider and Elizabeth Hardin, described by him as being "blond, highly cultured, and charity predominated in her disposition". Hardin's father traveled over most of central Texasmarker on his preaching circuit, until 1869, eventually settling in Sumpter, Texasmarker, in Trinity Countymarker. Where he taught school, and established an institution that John Wesley and his brother, Joe G. Hardin, would later attend. Hardin was named after the founder of the Methodist faith.

At that school, another child, named Charles Sloter, once taunted Hardin as the author of some graffiti on the schoolhouse wall, insulting to a girl in his class. Hardin denied writing the poetry and accused the other boy of being the author. Sloter attacked Hardin with a knife, but before he could strike Hardin; Hardin drew his own pocket knife and stabbed Charles twice in the chest and throat, almost killing him. Hardin was nearly expelled over the incident, even though it was his own father's institution.

At the age of 15, Hardin challenged an ex-slave of his uncle named Mage, to a wrestling match, which he won, but had badly scratched Mage's face. The following day, a vengeful Mage hid by a path and attacked Hardin with a large stick as he rode past. Hardin drew his revolver and told Mage to back-off, while Mage grabbed the reins of Hardin's horse and threatened to kill him. Hardin fired his revolver into Mage five times before he finally dropped the reins. Hardin then rode to get help for the wounded ex-slave, who ended up dying from these wounds three days later. The shooting could be claimed as a case of self-defense according to the laws of the day. However, Reverend James Hardin saw little chance of a fair hearing for his son. Texas was going through Reconstruction and as a "Johnny Reb" accused of killing a former slave in the Union-occupied state of Texas, where more than a third of the State Police were ex-slaves, the elder Hardin believed that his son had little hope of a fair trial; so he told John Wesley to go into hiding. The authorities eventually located Hardin, and sent three Union soldiers to arrest him. Despite being warned by his brother Joe, Hardin chose to stay and fight rather than run.
"I waylaid them, as I had no mercy on men whom I knew only wanted to get my body to torture and kill.
It was war to the knife for me, and I brought it on by opening the fight with a double barrelled shotgun and ended it with a cap and ball six shooter.
Thus it was by the fall of 1868 I had killed four men and was myself wounded in the arm."

Life on the run

In an incident four weeks after the fight, Hardin was playing cards with Jim Bradley in Towash, Hill County, Texasmarker, Hardin was winning almost every hand, which angered Bradley, who threatened to "cut out his liver" if he won another. Hardin excused himself and left. Later that night Bradley went looking for Hardin, and upon seeing him, fired a shot which missed. Hardin drew both his pistols and fired, one shot striking Bradley's head and the other his chest. Dozens of people saw this fight and from them there is a good record of how Hardin used his guns: his holsters were sewn into his vest, with the butts pointed inward across his chest. He crossed his arms to draw. Hardin claimed this was the fastest way to draw, and he practiced every day.

Hardin's next fight was a month later in Horn Hill, Limestone County, Texasmarker, where he killed a man in a gunfight after an argument at the circus. Less than a week after this incident, in nearby Kossemarker, Hardin was escorting a saloon girl home when he was accosted by a man demanding money. He threw his money on the ground and shot the would-be thief when he bent to pick it up. It was to be a year before he killed again.

After the last of these incidents, he found refuge among relatives, the Clements family. They informed him that by getting into the growing cattle market he could make money in Kansasmarker. This would allow him to get out of Texas long enough for things to cool down. Hardin worked with the Clements, gathering cattle for Jake Johnson and Columbus Carol. On the trail to Kansas, Hardin was reputed to have fought Mexican vaqueros, Indians, and cattle rustlers among others.

Arrest and escape

Hardin was arrested in January 1871 for the murder of Waco, Texasmarker, City Marshal L.J. Hoffman, which he claimed not to have committed. Unable to persuade a judge of his innocence, he was held temporarily in a log jail in the town of Marshall, awaiting transfer to Waco. While locked up, he bought two useful items from a fellow prisoner: an overcoat against the winter cold, and a revolver. Thus he was ready when a Captain Stokes of the state police and a guard named Jim Smolly tied him on a horse with no saddle to convey him to Waco for trial. Hardin was wearing the overcoat when they arrived. Under it, tied to his shoulder with twine, was the handgun.

One night while the three men were camping en route, Stokes went to procure some fodder for the horses, and Hardin was left alone with Smolly. Smolly began to taunt and beat his 17-year-old charge with the butt of a pistol. Hardin then burst into tears and huddled against his pony's flank. Hidden by the pony, Hardin slipped his hand into his coat and untied the string that held his gun. He shot Smolly dead and ran. Later he "convinced" a blacksmith to remove his shackles.

A few days later, several of Hardin's relatives were gathering at Gonzalesmarker, in south Texas, for a drive up the Chisholm Trail to Abilene, Kansasmarker. They persuaded a rancher to hire Hardin as a trail boss for his herd. Toward the end of the drive, a Mexican herd crowded in behind Hardin's and there was some trouble keeping the herds apart. Hardin exchanged words with the man in charge of the other herd. Both men were on horseback. The Mexican fired, putting a hole through John Wesley's hat. Swift to retaliate, Hardin found that his own weapon, a worn-out cap-and-ball pistol with a loose cylinder, would not fire; he dismounted, managed to discharge the gun by steadying the cylinder with one hand and pulling the trigger with the other, and hit the Mexican in the thigh. A truce was declared and they went their separate ways. However, Hardin borrowed a pistol from a friend and went looking for the Mexican, this time shooting him through the head. A general fire fight between the rival camps ensued. The Mexicans suffered all the casualties. Six vaqueros died in the exchanges – five of them shot by Hardin.


Ben Thompson as Austin City Marshal 1881–1882

The Bull's Head Tavern, in Abilene, Kansasmarker, had been established by gambler/gunman Ben Thompson with businessman and gambler Phil Coe. These two gamblers painted a picture of a bull with a large erect penis as an advertisement for their establishment. Citizens of the town (described by Dee Brown as "prudish") complained to Abilene's Marshal "Wild Bill" Hickok. When Thompson and Coe refused to take down the bull, Hickok altered it himself. Infuriated, Thompson exclaimed to Hardin, "He's a damn Yankee. Picks on Rebels, especially Texans, to kill." Hardin simply replied, "If Wild Bill needs killin', why don't you kill him yourself?".

By all accounts, despite Hardin's having been a dangerous man, he seemed to have, at the very least, respected Hickok. Later that night, Hardin was confronted by Hickok, who told Hardin to hand over his guns. Hickok did not arrest Hardin, for reasons unknown, although it was later claimed that Hickok had no knowledge of Hardin being a wanted man. Hickok did advise Hardin to avoid problems while in Abilene. One version is Hardin impressed Hickok by performing a "border roll" with both of his pistols(flipping the guns fronm the reverse position and cocking the hammers while pointing both barrels at Hickock).

Second encounter with "Wild Bill" Hickok

Hickok 1869

In Abilene, Kansas, Hardin again met Wild Bill Hickok, at the time the cattle town's reigning peace officer. Hickok took an indulgent attitude toward the young Hardin. He drank with Hardin, whored with him, and gave him advice. Hickock allowed Hardin to carry his pistols in Abilene, something Hickok never allowed others to do. For his part, Hardin was fascinated by Wild Bill and reveled at being seen on intimate terms with such a celebrated gunfighter.

At the American House Hotel, where Hardin had put up for the night, it is alleged that he began firing bullets through a bedroom wall and the ceiling above him, simply to stop the snoring of a stranger in the next room. The first bullet merely woke the man; the second killed him. Remorseful, and in the silence, Hardin realized that he was about to plunge into deep trouble with Wild Bill Hickok. Still in his undershirt, he exited through a window and ran onto the roof of the hotel portico—just in time to see Hickok arriving with four policemen, having been alerted by other guests. "I believe," Hardin said later, "that if Wild Bill found me in a defenseless condition, he would take no explanation, but would kill me to add to his reputation".

Hardin leaped from the roof into the street and hid in a haystack for the rest of the night. Toward dawn he stole a horse and made his way back to the cow camp outside town. The next day he left for Texas, never to return to Abilene. In his autobiography, Hardin claimed that following this shooting and some thirty miles from Abilene he ambushed lawman Tom Carson and two other Deputies at a cowboy camp but did not kill them, he only forced them to remove all their clothing and walk back to Abilene. Years later Hardin made a casual reference to the episode. "They tell lots of lies about me," he complained. "They say I killed six or seven men for snoring. Well, it ain't true, I only killed one man for snoring".

Sutton-Taylor feud

About this time Hardin turned up in southeast Texas, in the area around Gonzales County, reuniting with his Clements cousins, who were allied with the local Taylor family, who had been feuding with the rival Sutton family for several years. Already notorious, Hardin was wounded by a shotgun blast in a Trinity City gambling dispute on August 7, 1872. After recovering, he resumed his depredations.

Hardin's main claim to fame in the Sutton-Taylor feud was the killing of Jack Helm, a former captain in the Texas State Police who was the sheriff of DeWitt County, Texasmarker. For years, Helm had been allied with the Suttons. On the afternoon of May 17, 1873, in Albuquerque, Texas (Albuquerque was on the Clear Fork of Sandies Creek two miles south of the junction of Gonzales, Wilson, and Guadalupe counties in Gonzales County), when Hardin and Jim Taylor were at the blacksmith having a horse shod, Helm advanced on Taylor with a knife, only to be cut down by Hardin with a shotgun blast. As Helm writhed on the ground, Taylor marched over with his pistol drawn and emptied it into Helm's head.

The next night, Hardin and other Taylor supporters surrounded the ranch house of Sutton ally Joe Tumlinson. A shouted truce was arranged and both sides signed a peace treaty in Clinton, Texas (DeWitt County). Within the year, war once again broke out between the two sides, culminating when Jim and Bill Taylor gunned down Billy Sutton and Gabriel Slaughter as they waited on a steamboat platform in Indianola, Texasmarker on March 11, 1874. Ironically, Billy Sutton was set to leave the area forever at the time of his killing.

Surrender and escape

In August 1872, John Wesley was shot by Phil Sublett with a shotgun after Sublett had lost his money to Hardin in a poker game. Two buckshot pellets had ripped through Hardin's kidney and for some time it looked like he would die. Hardin now decided he wanted to settle down and made a sickbed surrender in Gonzalesmarker, handing his guns to Sheriff Reagan and asking to be tried for his past crimes "to clear the slate." When Hardin learned how many murders they wanted to charge him with he changed his mind. A relative smuggled in a saw and Hardin escaped after sawing through the bars of a window.

On May 26, 1874, Hardin, Jim Taylor, and others were celebrating Hardin's 21st birthday in Comanche, Texasmarker when Hardin spotted Brown County, Texasmarker, Deputy sheriff Charles Webb. Hardin asked Webb if he had come to arrest him and when Webb replied he hadn't, Hardin invited Webb into the hotel for a drink. As he followed Hardin inside Webb drew his gun, one of Hardin's men yelled a warning and Hardin spun around while drawing his own guns. In the ensuing gunfight, Webb was shot dead.

After a lynch mob was formed, Hardin's parents, wife, brother and cousins were immediately taken into protective custody; however, a group of Brown Countymarker men broke into the jail and hanged Hardin's brother Joe and two of his cousins. It is claimed that the ropes were deliberately too long, as grass was later found between their toes, in order to cause death through slow strangulation.

Shortly after this Hardin and Jim Taylor parted ways for the final time.

Jim Taylor was killed on December 27, 1875. Jim Taylor's cousin William Taylor was found guilty of murder in the second degree in 1875 and sentenced to 10 years. He escaped from Indianola during a September 17, 1875 cyclone and was tried in Indianola and Texana twice on a charge of killing Sutton and was acquitted. On November 17, 1875, William Taylor shot and killed Cuero ex-town marshal Reuben Brown, who had once arrested Taylor.

Capture, Trial and Imprisonment

John Barclay Armstrong

Catching Hardin was no easy matter. The Texas Rangers caught up with Hardin when undercover Ranger Jack Duncan intercepted a letter that was sent to Hardin's father-in-law by his brother-in-law (outlaw Joshua Robert "Brown" Bowen). The letter mentioned Hardin's whereabouts as on the Alabama and Florida border under the assumed name of James W. Swain. Hardin was arrested on a train in Pensacola, Florida by Texas Rangers and a local authority. The lawmen went on board the train to effect Hardin's arrest. When Hardin realized what was going on, he attempted to draw his gun but got it tangled in his suspenders. Texas Ranger John B. Armstrong shot and killed one of Hardin's friends, knocked out Hardin, and arrested two others. Hardin's problems with his suspenders probably saved some lives that day including his own.

Hardin was tried for the killing of Deputy Charles Webb and was sentenced to Huntsville Prison for 25 years. Hardin was stubborn, sullen, and vicious the first five years in prison; this period was hallmarked by several failed escape attempts which were aptly punished. However, Hardin then began to adapt to prison life and ultimately used prison as an opportunity to better himself. He read theological books, was superintendent of the prison Sunday school, and studied law. Hardin was also plagued by recurring poor health in prison; the wound he received from Sublett became infected in 1883 and Hardin was bedridden for two years. Another event that marred Hardin's prison term was the death of his wife, who died on November 6, 1892.

Later life, and death

Hardin was released from prison on February 17, 1894 after serving nearly 16 years of his 25-year sentence and being behind bars for 17 years since his capture. He promptly returned to Gonzales, TX as a 41-year-old widower who had three children that did not even know what he looked like. Within six months of release, two significant events occurred in Hardin's life. First, on March 16, he was pardoned, and then on July 21 passed the state's bar examination, obtaining his license to practice law. On January 9, 1895 he married a 15-year-old girl named Carolyn "Callie" Lewis. However, the marriage did not work out, and it quickly ended, albeit never legally dissolved. Neither Hardin nor his wife ever disclosed why the marriage failed so abruptly. Ill feelings about his failed second marriage probably contributed to Hardin's desire to move west, specifically to El Pasomarker.

John Selman

El Paso lawman John Selman, Jr., arrested Hardin's friend, the widow M'Rose (also spelled Mroz), for "brandishing a gun in public." Hardin confronted Selman, and the two men had a verbal dispute. On being told of the argument, John's 58-year-old father, John Selman, Sr., a constable, approached Hardin on the afternoon of August 19, 1895 and the two men exchanged words. Later that night, Hardin went to the Acme Saloon, where he began playing dice. Shortly before midnight Selman walked in and saw Hardin with his back to him, and shot him in the back of the head, killing him instantly. As Hardin's body lay on the floor, Selman fired three more shots into him.

Hardin's post mortem photo

Selman was arrested for the murder and stood trial where he claimed he had fired in self defense. A hung jury resulted in his being released on bond. However, Selman was killed in a shootout on April 6, 1896 by US Marshal George Scarborough. Selman and Scarborough had been playing cards and got into an argument. Both exited to the alley and shot it out, after which Scarborough returned alone.

Scarborough was arrested for murder as no gun was found on Selman. However, just before his trial a thief was arrested and it was discovered he had Selman's gun. He stated he had seen the shooting and stolen the gun before the crowd arrived. Scarborough was then released.

On April 5, 1900, four years after he shot John Selman, Scarborough was mortally wounded in a gunfight with two robbers.

George Scarborough

Hardin and the law

Prior to his killing of Deputy Sheriff (and ex-Texas Ranger) Charles Webb in May 26, 1874 and his arrest in July 23, 1877, Hardin had at least five confirmed clashes with the law:
  • On January 9, 1871 he was arrested by Constable E.T. Stokes and twelve citizens in Harrison Countymarker, Texasmarker on a charge of four murders and one horse theft. (In the Texas State Police arrest report for 1870–1871-he is listed as "Hardin, J.R.".) On January 22, 1871 Hardin killed Texas State Police Private Jim Smalley and escaped {Hardin was being taken to McLennan County Texas on a murder charge in the death on January 6, 1871 of Waco City Marshal Laban John Hoffman- a murder charge Hardin claimed not to have committed}.
  • On October 6, 1871 in Gonzales Countymarker, Texas State Policemen Green Paramore and John Lackey tried to arrest Hardin who killed Paramore and wounded Lackey.
  • On September 1872 he surrendered to the Sheriff of Cherokee County, Texasmarker; he escaped in October 1872.
  • June 17, 1873 Joshua "Brown" Bowen was broken out of Gonzales County Texas jail by his brother-in-law John Wesley Hardin {Bowen was charged with killing on December 17, 1872 Thomas Holderman and also killing a man named Phillips and a freeman named Rob Taylor; Hardin was implicated in Holderman's death as well). Texas Governor Edmund J. Davis offered a $600 reward for Bowen's capture. Brown was hanged in May 1878.
  • On August 1, 1873 he was involved in the killing of Dewitt County Sheriff John M Helms and in May 1873 of a J.B. Morgan of Cuero, Texasmarker. (Letter from DeWitt County, Texasmarker Museum citing Metz's work). (These killings happened during the Sutton-Taylor Feud. In 1892 Hardin plea bargained and served a 2 year sentence for killing of Morgan).
  • In April 1895 Hardin believed he was being cheated in an El Pasomarker dice game and took back the $95 he had lost at gunpoint. Two weeks later he surrendered and was charged with "unlawfully carrying a pistol", fined $25 and had the gun confiscated.
  • At least six accomplices and two relatives of Hardin also had clashes with the law:
    • On June 5, 1869 two accomplices {Taylor Faction} killed a Texas Sherriff.
    • On August 19, 1871 an accomplice {Hugh Anderson} was involved in the Kansas "Newton Massacre" aka Gunfight at Hide Park
    • On June 9, 1874 an accomplice killed a Texas Deputy Sheriff.
    • On February 28, 1876 an accomplice {Taylor faction} killed a Texas Posseman.
    • On September 23, 1878 a friend of Hardin killed a Texas City Marshall.
    • On March 28, 1898 Hardin's brother killed a Texas deputy sheriff.
    • On August 1, 1906 Hardin's cousin by marriage killed a police officer.

Hardin and unconfirmed claims

Like his contemporary fellow outlaw Bill Longley, in several cases where Hardin claimed to have been involved in killings, the reports either cannot be confirmed or prove to be nonexistent. For example:
  • His claims to have shot three Union soldiers in 1868 and one of two soldiers killed in 1869 in "Richland Bottom"-the other killed by his cousin "Simp Dixon"; see summary of Reports for the Fifth Military District August 1867-September 1868 in which four soldiers were killed and four are wounded from the U.S. 6th Cavalry Regiment from "Executive Documents Printed by order of the House of Representatives" 1868–1869, plus a reference to one soldier injured and a Deputy Sheriff killed in 1869 in the Lee-Peacock feud (see supplement in March 1868 report against Lee's band) +plus a report of 2 soldiers of the US 4th Cavalry killed 1867; in none of these records is Hardin named as a suspect nor do they agree with his claims. Likewise according to one account his cousin "Simp Dixon" was not killed by soldiers but was a victim of the "Lee-Peacock" feud.
  • His claim that that after his 1871 arrest he escaped, killing a guard named Jim Smalley, and killed three men named Smith, Jones, and Davis in Bell Countymarker, when they arrested him for an alleged killing; he also made another claim that in September 1871 in Gonzales Countymarker he killed one man named Green Paramour and wounded another named John Lackey who tried to arrest him and then forced an African-American posse which had come after him for those two shootings to flee from there back to Austinmarker after he killed three of them. There are no contemporary newspaper accounts from either Bell County (Letter from Bell County Texas Museum which stated that only account of alleged triple killings in Bell County is from Hardin-no contemporary newspaper account) or from Gonzales County to confirm these triple killings. He also claimed that after recovering in Trinity City Texas in July{?}/August 1872 from being wounded by Phil Sublette; either, according to different versions he gave at different times, he killed two members of the Texas State Police or merely drove them off.
  • He claimed that after his brother had been lynched after Sheriff Webb's killing that he drove off 17 Texas Rangers after having killed one of them on July 1, 1874. Roll of Honor for Texas Rangers for this year has 4 died; The Officer Down Memorial Page lists 2 killed in a skirmish July 12, 1874 with Native Americans; while the Texas Ranger website lists an additional Ranger killed in same skirmish and the other as having died 1874-no remarks on how or where he died. According to ODMP researchers Hardin killed 4 lawmen {Smalley, Paramore, Helms and Webb} and no Texas Rangers.
  • His alleged killing of two Pinkerton National Detective Agency Agents on the Florida-Georgia border sometime between April and November 1876 after a gunfight with a "Pinkerton Gang" who had been tracking him from Jacksonville, Florida. Hardin claimed that he had been tipped off to this "Pinkerton Gang" by Jacksonville local law officers. This never happened – the Pinkerton Detective Agency never tracked or pursued John Wesley Hardin. (Letter from Pinkerton National Detective Agency Archives)
  • His claim that on election night, November, 1876 he and a Jacksonvillemarker, Floridamarker policeman named Gus Kennedy were involved in a gunfight with Mobilemarker, Alabamamarker policemen in a saloon in which one was wounded and two killed; that Hardin and Kennedy were arrested but later released – this also never happened. (Letter from Mobilemarker, Alabamamarker library).

Hardin's legacy

Hardin's legacy as an outlaw has made him a colorful character and subject of various forms of media from the 1920s to the present day.

Hardin in literature

Hardin's autobiography was published posthumously in 1925 by the Banderamarker printer, historian, and journalist J. Marvin Hunter, founder of Frontier Times magazine and Frontier Times Museum. Many people came to know of Hardin through the TV ad for Time-Life Books "Old West" series. During the description of the book The Gunfighters the famous claim is made, "John Wesley the time the Texas Rangers caught up with him, he'd killed forty-three men, one just for snoring too loud".

Hardin has also been the subject or supporting character of various historical novels about the Old West such as Larry McMurtry's novel Streets of Laredo. Western novelist J. T. Edson uses Philip José Farmer's Wold Newton family theory to insert John Wesley Hardin into his novels as the paternal nephew of Ole Devil Hardin and cousin of Dusty Fog, the protagonist of Edson's "Floating Outfit". James Carlos Blake wrote The Pistoleer, a novel about Hardin published in 1995. Four Sixes To Beat: The Tale of a Killer by N. Croft] is a classic historical fiction novel first published in 2004, a fictional tour of Hardin's life in the wild west. There is also a reference to him in the 2008 book "The Book with No Name".

Hardin in film and television

John Wesley Hardin has been porteayed on screen by John Dehner in the 1951 film The Texas Rangers, Rock Hudson in the 1953 film, The Lawless Breed, Jack Elam in the 1970 film Dirty Dingus Magee, Max Perlich in the 1994 film Maverick, and Randy Quaid in 1995 TV mini-series Streets of Laredo. The actor Richard Webb (1915–1993) played Hardin in a 1954 episode of Jim Davis' syndicated western television series Stories of the Century. A 1959 episode of Maverick, "Duel at Sundown", has the character of Bart Maverick posing as "John Wesley Hardin" to stage a fake gunfight against his brother Bret, in order for him to avoid a real gunfight with a local tough, played by a pre-fame Clint Eastwood. As Bret and Bart ride out of town, they meet a stranger who wants directions to meet the "fake" John Wesley Hardin. The stranger is none other than the "real" John Wesley Hardin.

Hardin in music

Country Western singer Johnny Cash wrote and recorded a song about Hardin entitled "Hardin Wouldn't Run". It relates some of the true events of Hardin's life, including his murder at the Acme Saloon. "Here's to John Wesley Hardin" is a song composed by Moondog, released on his album "H'art Songs" in 1979. Hardin is among the outlaws mentioned in the song "Rhymes of the Renegades", by Michael Martin Murphey. There is even a musician, Wesley Stace, who uses the pseudonym John Wesley Harding, which was Bob Dylan's misspelling of the name.

Hardin's guns and effects

In 2002 Greg Martin's auction house in San Francisco, Californiamarker auctioned three lots of John Wesley Hardin's personal effects. A deck of playing cards owned by Hardin, one of Hardin's business cards, and a newspaper account of Hardin's death sold for $15,250. The bullet that killed Hardin in the Acme saloon shootout in El Paso sold for $80,000.

Court records show John Wesley Hardin was carrying a Colt Model 1877 "Lightning" revolver, serial number 84304 and an Elgin watch, serial number 4069110, when he was shot and killed on August 19, 1895. The revolver and the watch had been presented to Hardin in appreciation for his legal efforts on behalf of Miller in his trial for murdering Frazer. The Colt, (with a .38 caliber, 2 1/2" barrel) is nickel-plated, with blued hammer, trigger and screws. The back-strap is hand-engraved: "J.B.M. TO J.W.H." It wears mother-of-pearl grips. The Lightning was recorded in Colt factory ledgers as shipped on July 16, 1891, to Hartley & Graham, New York City, with five like guns in the shipment. The Colt was accompanied with a tooled leather holster, marked with a barely visible stamp of an El Paso maker. This gun and its holster were sold at Greg Martin's auction house for $168,000. Another Colt 1877 revolver, known as a "Thunderer" in .41 caliber owned by Hardin and used by him to rob the Gem Saloon was sold at the same auction for $100,000.



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