H I S T O R Y
The Schwend Gun Collection was started by Henry Harrison Schwend, a Deputy Sheriff of Clay County, Texas and City Marshal in Henrietta, Texas. He was also my great grandfather's brother. He began his law enforcement career in the early 1890's and started collecting firearms at the same time. Clay County lies just south of the Red River and, at that time, the Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) was a favorite hideout for all manner of outlaws. Harrison was acquainted with and worked along side other lawmen and Texas Rangers in the pursuit of some of the most notorious bad men that made the history books. Many of the weapons he collected were given to him by them. His penchant for collecting these old tools of the trade was well known throughout the territory. When he died in 1924, he had amassed a collection of more than 125 weapons, many owned by famous outlaws and lawmen. In 1924, his brother Burton P. Schwend, also of Henrietta, inherited the collection and added another 175 firearms to the already vast collection before he died in 1947. Without the family's knowledge, the collection was sold by his widow to a pawn shop (Defour's) in Wichita Falls, Texas for the paltry sum of about $3,000. In the 1950's, R.J. Brown, the owner of Defour's sold the collection to A.D. Hodge, owner of the Buckhorn Trading Post in Dallas, Texas. Roy Rogers nearly purchased the collection in 1957 until a group of businessmen from the Texas State Fair purchased it and moved it to the Varied Industries Building at the State Fairgrounds. The idea that displaying the guns alongside wax figures of the men who carried them might be an additional tourism draw proved to be extremely popular. So much so that in 1965 the Southwestern Historical Wax Museum located in Grand Prairie, Texas was built to house and promote the Schwend Gun Collection. It was a fabulous success and was seen by hundreds of thousands of visitors. Then in 1988, under very curious circumstances, the museum burned to the ground and the entire collection was lost. Fueled by the wax figures, the fire was devastating and complete. The remains lay exposed to the elements for 6 weeks while the insurance company negotiated a settlement with the owners. A number of pieces were stolen from the rubble while others were retrieved by adjustors. It is estimated that 150 weapons were simply bulldozed and hauled to the landfill. The remaining parts and pieces, which comprised around 150 weapons, were sold off piece by piece to individual collectors. My life quest has been the recovery of those lost pieces of history so closely connected to the Old West and to my family, and to reassemble the original Schwend Gun Collection to its former glory.
T H E C O L L E C T I O N T O D A Y
Of the original 300 guns, I have reacquired over 100 in varying conditions. Some survived the fire intact with very little damage, while others are just rusted pieces of once beautiful works of the gun-makers' art. Some have been meticulously restored to their original pre-fire condition while others remain just as they were pulled from the rubble. I have exhibited the collection at numerous gun shows, museums, and historic functions in an effort to procure leads on additional missing guns from the original collection. All surviving documentation on the collection are in my possession along with related family papers, photographs, museum inventory lists with serial numbers and accompanying photos. Among the more famous pieces that were once a part of the original collection were guns carried by the likes of Billy the Kid, Bat Masterson, Geronimo, Pancho Villa, Sam Houston, Grat Dalton, Captain Bill McDonald, Bill Tilghman, Wild Bill Hickok, William "Bill" Cook, James B. Bonham, Bill Doolin, Sam Bass, Frank Jackson, Cole Younger, Buffalo Bill Cody, Billy Dixon, Tex Rickard, Belle & Sam Starr, and Frank James. There were also numerous weapons taken from the not-so-famous, petty criminals who were killed in poker games or robbed a bank or store. I have been working for a few years on a book about the collection and the early history of the Clay County, Texas area during the time in which these men lived. I hope to publish it at some point in the near future. This web site was created to assist in the search for pieces still missing from the collection. I've traveled all over Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Mississippi to find these old family treasures and purchase them back. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated!
Bat Masterson's Colt 45
IF YOU HAVE ANY INFORMATION ON THE WHEREABOUTS OF ANY OF THE GUNS FROM THE WAX MUSEUM FIRE OR HAVE ANY QUESTION, PLEASE E-MAIL ME AT THE FOLLOWING ADDRESS: