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. 
Without the 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 various scenes.

In 1965, 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.


 Since 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.

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 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.

My new 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!


PLEASE EMAIL: schwendguns@gmail.com