This is an 1851 Navy six-shot revolver which is believed to have belonged to
William Adams Hickman.   The above picture was provided by Bill Mackin.  Bill said he got the gun from Frank Longtine of Riverton, Wyoming, who got it from Bill Hickman's daughter Bernetta Allen.  If you want more details, click here.

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The original caption read as follows:

This is an 1851 Navy six-shot revolver which is believed to have belonged to William Adams Hickman.   Personally, I don't think so, but he probably had one just like it.  The above picture was provided by Bill Mackin.

Bill wrote to provide evidence that it really might be one of Bill Hickman's guns, and you can decide for yourself as you read the correspondence below:

Subject: 1851 Navy Colt

Despite your credit, your photo must have come from Bill Manns or the Museum of Nthwst Col.  In 1983 I gave Leona Holt a little photo of the gun and discussed the reasons I thought it had belonged to Bill Hickman. I needed some details about a possible daughter of his at Lander to resolve if she was the woman, Bernita Allen (as best I can remember), who had given the gun to Frank Longtine from whom I acquired it.  You indicate that you don't believe it is his gun.  I'm curious why.  Thanx

[Bill Mackin]
Dear Bill,

Thanks for writing.  The picture of the gun was one of a series of pictures I scanned that was loaned to me by Marlene Butcher Gates of Tooele.  I had no way of knowing if it really was Bill Hickman's gun, since the Colt factory probably made more than one, and a connection to a famous gunfighter is known to increase the value of an antique gun.  I watched the PBS show "History Detectives" its first season; most items claimed to be connected to some person or event turned out to be not the case.  Now that show goes for items that can be proved, because that's what the viewers would rather see happen.

If you have convincing evidence that it was one of Bill's guns, such as a trail of ownership through Bernetta Allen or whoever, I'll be very happy to stop being a cynic and rewrite the caption.  It's a wonderful gun, and the picture is an attractive presentation of it.  I'm sure Bill had as many guns as most mechanics have wrenches.

You may have seen Charles Kelly's unsuccessful attempt to obtain a Hickman gun back in 1935

Steve Richardson
Bill i don't know if you remember or not but I think it was you who gave me a pix of that gun when I lived in Midvale,UT...I believe Bill had more then one gun...and I have always believed the colt was his..

Who was Frank Longtine? Never heard of him; why would he get the gun? I guess we all will never know for sure it nice to believe that it's Bill's...i do know for sure the saddle was bill's it has always been in the hickman family...Steve i still need to get you a pix of that...

Marlene Butcher Gates

Hello folks,  I can't tell you for sure, and my inquiry was to learn if you had something that disproved the old Navy.  Frank Longtine was an old time cowboy mostly in Fremont County, Wyoming.  He is now long dead along with Frank Longtine Jr.  Both lived at Riverton, and Frank Sr. made bits, spurs and fancy cowboy buckles.  I list him as a maker in my book which has a photo of his first spurs made around 1930.  He said the old gun had come from a lady at Lander named Allen whose father had been the first sheriff in that area.  I think he worked for her.  That's all he told me.
   Years later,when I lived at Pinedale, a friend in Lander who was a history buff (John Henry, one time curator at South Pass City, also now deceased) told me about Bernetta (I got the name wrong) and pointed out that Bill Hickman had indeed been the first sheriff in the area.  (I think all of Southwestern Wyoming was one county, Uintah as I remember.)  I learned little or nothing about her or other Hickman family at the library or museum at Lander.
   On a trip to Salt Lake in 1983 I learned that Leona Holt was selling a new family originated biography of Bill Hickman.  Along with a friend of mine named Leon Holt, a complete coincidence but I think another relative of yours, I went to see Leona and bought the book, but I learned nothing about Bernetta.  I later gave someone a little picture of the gun that I took, and Leona told me that someone in the family "recognized" it.  (There were 130 Colts in my collection, most of which someone would definitely identify as their grandfather's; that's meaningless.)  The picture on your web page is the same gun, taken by a friend who is a photographer and publisher named Bill Manns of Santa Fe, after it was placed in the museum about 1992.  I conceivably gave you that picture as well, but don't remember doing so.  The gauntlet gloves are also in the collection, but I don't remember the photo.  (What I don't remember has become extensive and also meaningless.)  I love it on your web site with the comment!
   I'd kinda like to think that this was Bill's gun too, and we display it with a nice clean paper copy of Brigham's Destroying Angel (my old hard cover is home in the safe.  I would like to know if Bernetta Allen stayed around Lander into the twentieth century.  Longtine was married and living over on the Big Sandy in 1930, but I don't know when he had worked around Lander. Obviously the rather "ify"
connection depends a lot on whether Longtine's Ms. Allen was Bill's daughter.
   Steve, I agree wholeheartedly with your skepticism.  As a long time gun and antique collector and appraiser, I am astounded by the screwy provenance of even prominent museum pieces.  I would bet that at least half of the famous person guns are simply wishful thinking.  And I have personally disproved a slew of them.  It would amaze you how many of the "Fake" experts pull a lot of crap themselves.  The most infamous fake creator of my generation died in Orem in the last few years.  Bill Hickman was kind of my bad-guy hero.  I've covered most of his old stomping grounds horseback (Cedar Valley and Skull Valley).    Like you two I'd like to think it's Bill's.  But I want to know if you do. 
Thanx, Bill   

Dear Bill,  Thank you for those clarifying notes.  I now look at the gun picture with less suspicion (but one can never be sure).
One last question:  Are you a gun or antiques dealer, a western historian, or what?  Steve

Steve, I have collected guns since nine years old and was raised by a furniture manufacturer turned horse trader in the Salt Lake Valley, mostly Granger.  I was an ex-drunk Psychologist professionally, wrote the book, Cowboy and Gunfighter Collectibles in 1989, and over a hundred magazine articles largely in antique gun magazines and the Western Horseman.  I was a contributing editor for a dress-up-and-shoot magazine, "Trail's End," for five years with a regular feature each issue.  In 1991 I founded the Cowboy and Gunfighter Museum in the Museum of Northwest Colorado building.  Later I gave and sold the collection to the museum.  I honestly believe this to be the premiere collection of fine condition antique cowboy gear on public display anywhere.  There is a sampling of guns and spurs by photographer, Bill Manns, on the museum web site.
   I have been called a historian, and I did successfully challenge enough history classes at the U of U to have passed their requirements for a major in that field when I was a 32 year old freshman getting a one year BA, but I claim instead to be a student of the lore.  You are not burdened by all those facts that way.  Frankly, I was tempted to answer your question just yes, but I never miss an opportunity to talk about myself.  Keep in touch,  Bill
(These emails were dated 2 to 4 Aug 2007)

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