HISTORY OF THE SCHWEND GUN COLLECTION
||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 grandfather's brother. He began his law enforcement
career in the mid 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.
family's knowledge, the collection was sold by Burton's widow to
R. J. Brown of Brown Jewelry and Loan in Wichita Falls, Texas
for the paltry sum of about $3,000. In the 1950's, Mr. Brown sold the collection
to A.D. Hodge and Irvine Fridge, owners of the Buckhorn Trading
Post and Tavern in Dallas, Texas. In 1957, Roy Rogers nearly
purchased the collection for his museum in Hollywood but a group
of businessmen from the Texas State Fair stepped in to save the
day. They purchased the collection and moved it to the Varied
Industries Building at State Fair Park and opened a wax
museum which portrayed all the famous owners of the guns in
after outgrowing their space at Fair Park, the Southwestern
Historical Wax Museum was built in Grand Prairie, Texas to house
and promote the Schwend Gun Collection. It was a fabulous success.
Tragically, in 1986, one of the wax museum owners was murdered, a
crime which has yet to be solved. 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. 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 100
weapons were simply bulldozed and hauled to the landfill. The
remaining parts and pieces, which comprised around 200 weapons,
were sold off piece by piece to individual collectors.
THE SCHWEND GUN COLLECTION TODAY
1990, 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.
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.
The collection resides in a very secure bank vault near Lexington, Virginia, the
final resting place of Robert E. Lee.
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 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, Tex Rickard, Belle & Sam Starr, and Frank James.
There were also many weapons taken from petty criminals
killed in poker games, surrendered at arrest or at gunpoint.
book, Reach for the Sky, is about
the two brothers who
started the collection and includes a glimpse into the early history of Clay County, Texas
where they lived. 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!