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“He (William Holmes Willis) wanted the gun to go somewhere to be appreciated and admired,”
“He didn’t want to auction it.”
While the elder Willis died in 1914 and is buried in Kingston, the gun continued to be handed down through generations of family.
“It is a very nice weapon and has a lot of engraving on it,”
Herron said of the weapon, made famous as the “Peacemaker” since it was introduced to the public as a “Model P”.
It was purchased in bulk by the US Army in 1873. It was the first military pistol that fired cartridges instead of utilizing black powder, ball and percussion cap. The black powder weapons were common in America just prior to, and immediately following, the Civil War. The Colt .45 was a revolutionary design for its day.
Cowboys called the weapon a “thumb-buster” since the thumb had to be used to cock the hammer thus rotating the six-shot cylinder after each cartridge was fired. Retail price for the weapon in 1904 would probably have been about $45, according to the website Armslist. The website had a 1904 .45 caliber Colt on sale for $4,000.
It was the Army’s sidearm of choice from 1873 to 1911. Even after the Army abandoned it, the love affair between it and the general public lived on. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, public interest in the weapon was resurrected by those who enjoyed watching television horse operas such as “Gunsmoke,” “Rawhide,” “The Rifleman” and “Bonanza.”
Today, it is the weapon preferred above all others by western re-enactors nationally.
The standard barrel length was 5.5 inches.
However, fictional “Gunsmoke” lawman Matt Dillion’s pistol had a 7.5-inch barrel which he drew with ease to dispatch the bad guy in opening credits on the mega-hit TV western, the second longest running primetime television show in history with 635 episodes.
Little history of the Willis weapon survives. As far as anyone knows, it was never used in a gunfight or battle, Mr. Cole said. However, its unique place in Chickasaw history makes it iconic and it is proudly displayed in the Holisso Center.
posted October 5, 2013 10:10 am edt