Deadwood Business... (www.deadwood.biz) A freedom statement!
Guns... what was most common, popular, or cheapest! (And a few more links placed later).
The gun was the most important thing affecting the way of life in the wild west!
It involved a great deal of responsibility and was often a major challenge to authority! To better understand the gun is to understand history during that time. The use of the word gun normally refers to a handgun or pistol... the rifle was called just that! (The rifle was used mostly for hunting and other long-range targets, the handgun was carried at all times and used more for personal protection). Many times guns were drawn in anger, sometimes they were even fired at someone, very few times were they actually used to kill anyone by average people of that time, only the "bad guys" did that...
This is why very few towns allowed the wearing of guns in bars after about 1861, (or anywhere else within the city limits of most organized villages). When out in the "wide open spaces" they were more used for rattlesnakes and the like... also to draw attention to your location or make others aware that you were armed.
Stories about Wild Bill or Wyatt Earp killing "hundreds, not counting Indians" are just that... stories! Wild Bill may have taken 9 lives, including his own, due to the handling of a gun. Wyatt only 6 or 7, not counting whores!
In those days it was often said it takes two "tenderfoot" easterners to believe one westerner... which is basically what caused most of the exaggerated information printed at the time.
This page deals mostly with what we know for sure, but was eliminated from history due to unpopular vote by the majority! All other information can be found at various links provided within my pages.
We know that Wild Bill had no hand guns or fancy clothes by the time he got to Deadwood, nothing but an old rifle, (and as far as I know, Don still had it when he past away in 2004)! The Gene Autry Museum claims to have one of the guns used by Wild Bill, at least at some time before he fell on hard times...
We know most of the guns in Deadwood during the first part of the gold rush did not work very well either. (Anytime they did happened to work... somebody got shot, and a few of those people even died). We know before Hickok fell on hard times he always carried two Ivory handled Colt Navy pistols, (36 caliber 6-shot cap 'n ball revolvers), and a smaller "hide-a-way" gun in his vest... as well as a large knife! Although the cartridge bullet was sold as early as 1873 and some of those guns were available at the time, they were very rare inside of the Deadwood area... and so were the bullets!
It was reported that Jack McCall also shot Bill with a 36 caliber pistol, but it was stolen and truly has never surfaced since then!
Many say the shotgun was responsible for more deaths during the time of the gold rush in the Black Hills... as that weapon was very dangerous! (You only had to point it in the general direction of the target, and death was often the result).
Famous names connected to guns... like Al Jennings, Hank Thomas, and Kris Matson are unknown to most people... You would not even know the Dalton Gang if they had remained lawmen! Wild Bill was mostly famous for being in one of the only true "walk-down on main street" gunfights that resulted in a fair killing, (when the other man drew first). The lawman who killed Billy the Kid would also be unknown to most, until he changed the story of how he shot him to make good print... (Pat tied up the sister and gunned Billy down in the doorway if the truth is told). The "left-handed" gunman who killed 21 men by the age of his death at 21 is also wrong... (He killed maybe 6 or 7 counting the Mexican). And what do you think is his real name... William Bonnie, William H. McCarty, or Henry Autum? (And the only reason he was said to be left handed was because some idiot reversed the "tin-type" in the only picture ever taken of him).
Another thing that made people of that day more famous was which side they had been from, (having to do with the war between the states, and how they reacted to it afterwards). You know the James brothers road with the Quantril Raiders, but did you know the Younger brothers helped them with the first true train robbery... And Bob Ford did not shoot Jessie in the back of the head... that man's name was actually J.D. Howard. (Although many changed their name to protect family, most changed it due to crimes in their past). And shooting someone in the back of the head was not as uncommon as you would think... Often it was said that shooting someone in the eye showed good accuracy, but shooting someone in the back of the head showed good judgment.
The story of the gunfight in the OK corral was told by the Earp family... The relatives of Ike Clanton have a much different version of the same fight. (Although there was a bit of cattle rustling involved with the cowboys, they only fired in self defense! And Ike did all he could to stop it. The fight was planned by the Earp brothers and even Doc Holiday had a devil-may-care attitude going into it). Wyatt is the most famous, but did you know at that time he was already a drug pushing pimp, even selling his own wife at times for a stake... Did you know he and his brothers ran crooked gambling houses and sold poison whiskey, even to the Indians? Probably not! (And did you know the fight actually happen in a vacant lot quite aways from the famous corral... lot 2 of block 17). Most people believe what was printed by sensational writers for the dime novels or penny dreadful articles of that day... Nobody has bothered to correct most of that information, after all, it sounds better!
People were allowed to carry guns in Deadwood during the gold rush though! (It was Indian Territory, most people were carrying around lots of gold, and there were a lot of bad guy around too). Many deaths occurred, both night and day, both right and wrong... (Some stories about shootings went unnoticed, others were reprinted way too often during this time)... Probably the most often reprinted one was the one between two Madams that shot it out with derringers! One of them was shot in the "pubic" area... In the local paper they had a mis-print, (calling it the "public" area), other papers later said the local people felt there was no need for printing a retraction on the mis-print... both versions were correct enough!
The newspaper in Deadwood was very much "controlled" after only a few issues had been printed, just as the local paper called the "Black Hills Pioneer" is to this day. (As far as the articles by the "Scott" writer goes anyway). Often his version of the truth is so far from the actual truth you think it is about some other event, especially when it comes to stuff about bad things like death and corruption... (Just as in the early days, only the killings that were good for the bad were highly publicized).
There is also a number of conspiracy theories about other deaths, like Preacher Smith's... some even blame the Jews!
In the ten years before the Gold Rush of 1875 many advancements had been made to guns throughout the States, (brought on mostly by the request from both sides during the Civil War). By 1869 more than two dozen weapons manufacturing companies had designed new repeating rifles... using cartridges rather than the old ball of lead. The first to get these weapons were people who "lived by the gun" or those who were moving to dangerous territory in the new frontier. (Many of those pioneers were among the first to head for the Black Hills after the gold discovery by Custer's group in 1874). According to my Indian friends these guns were in their hands after most of those people were killed on the way... Several reports say the Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in June of 1876 had used over two dozen different kinds of ammunition on Custer's 7th Cavalry, who were still issued the single fired rifle at that time. (Reno and others reported they were not only severely outnumbered... they were out-gunned as well).
I compare this to the coming of the "computer age" in the late part of the last century... Many lawyers, business owners, and office personal were the first to own the "new" computers that only cost a bit over ten thousand dollars, not counting all the software. (Followed only a few years later by many others who got a much better one, for not much over a thousand... counting a great deal of free software). The office people and lawyers were now use to their "old" machines and programs, and were reluctant to upgrade, often falling behind the abilities of even the lowly secretary, who now had a better machine at home!
At the end of the Civil War the undesirable people who were running from their past came west, frightening many friendly tribes! Along with the slaughter of the buffalo, the rush to California Gold, the reports of various massacres, the coming of the noisy train and the telegraph... Many things helped the Indians to become more aware of the fact that they needed better weapons. (One story was retold often in tipi-TV performances during the winter months after 1867 about a group of two dozen "white hunters" who were attacked by over 500 Indians. Before they gave up over half lay dead on the "Montana Territory" land they were trying to defend, most killed by one man who had a repeating rifle... This story was also told by 22 surviving soldiers... out of the 25 in the group who were on that hunt... One man, their guide, with a Henry Repeating rifle and a clear eye single-handily shot over 300 Sioux Indians during the 6 hour stand-off). This was one of the few stories told the same way by both sides, most of the "Massacres" such as Wounded Knee have two totally different versions, only the "one shot-one kill" part later told by the Officers was true... (Many of the defenseless women and children were killed up close from horse-back by those in command, all others were killed with the old single shot Cartridge rifles from a greater distance, from at least two angles in "ambush" style)! Custer was a part of many of those raids... After he caused that rush to the sacred area around the Black Hills it was sort of the last straw, the Indians agreed they must band together and gather arms for a final battle... and they had one! (Click on this link for the true story on that Battle).
Going back to the origin of modern guns, the first "practical" rifle was the Henry Repeater, perfected and produced in large quantities by 1864, followed by the Winchester model a bit later. For the next ten years most of the "wanted men" from all over knew the "Indian territory" was a safe place for them, as they could not be extradited out of that part of the country for any crimes done in the past. It was not until 1875 that the first "hanging judge" volunteered to help with this matter... (that was Isaac Parker in Arkansas, followed by Judge Roy Bean later on). By this time most of the most dangerous men had made their way to the Black Hills...
The "bad guys" had most of the good-working rifles in Deadwood, like the Henry Repeater or one of the new Winchester models. (Many of the gold seekers still carried their "cap and ball" rifle used during the Civil War, it would often double as a shovel... or for prying rocks out of the creek)! Five and Six shot revolvers were much more common, but not as reliable as it was often reported... Many only fired all six shots if they had just been loaded, humidity and the change in temperature overnight often caused many shot to only waste a cap! (Handguns using cartridges were slow to appear due to cost , or the fact that many were already use to and owned an older one).
We are often reminded how the gun that killed Wild Bill misfired several time after that first shot during the flight! We also know many rifles from the early days of Deadwood were traded after they no longer worked very well. We are told the need for better rifles increased after the news reached Deadwood about the death of Custer and his men.
We also know there are four crates of brand new 1873 repeating rifles, still wrapped in oil and buried somewhere in the hills too, (I have some Indian friends who know where they are, but they want more money than I will ever have to go get them).
I collect guns... so does everyone else in town, Deadwood is the only place I know of where the guns "out-number" the people!
There is a great deal of other information about guns I need to clear with local people before placing here, stay tuned!
Some correction is still being done to this page... If you have something important you want to be included in our writing on this subject this is your chance to give input before we post it. If you disagree with something after it is linked, please do not be afraid to comment as well, all mail will be discussed with our people, changes will be made!
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Our goal was not to promote or enhance bull crap printed in the past... it was to get the corrected information to the people wanting to know the truth! We are not "owned" or controlled, we are not doing this for profit... In fact we are doing it at great personal expense!!
We welcome anyone who would like have what they know printed here, just try to stay with the true facts without adjustment.