Sunday, October 25, 2009

Where are the guns now?

In a phone conversation the other day, the subject came up about a gun that had been inherited from the interviewees grandfather. According to family lore, the gun was picked up by an ancestor who was assisting with removing the bodies of the two elders from Cane Creek. The story goes on to say that this was THE gun used in the Massacre. OK, there was more than just one gun. There were many guns. I will be looking into the details about this specific gun in the future, but it made me think about the guns about which we know and wonder which gun could this be.

John Riley Hudson had a muzzle loading shotgun. He loaded it the day before the Massacre after being warned by his mother about a dream she had. The loaded gun was kept in the loft in anticipation of trouble. When James Conder called to his sons to get their guns, Riley ran to the house and went to loft to get his. He came down the stairs to find two dead missionaries, and a dead brother. Two men tried to disarm him but he shook them off and ran to the door where he fired on, and killed, David Hinson. Riley singled out Hinson and it is likely he felt Hinson was primarily responsible for what had happened. The gun was kept by his two half sisters until the 1940's when it was donated to the LDS Church History Library and Archives, where it can be seen today. Ardis Parshall has a great post on this very subject.

The second gun belonged to William Martin Conder. Martin had also loaded the gun on advice from his mother, but he placed it on deer antlers hanging over the back door. It has been alternately described as a shot gun and a Kentucky hunting rifle. It was certainly a long gun of some kind. When he ran for his gun David Hinson went for it too. The record is not clear about who got there first, but the two ended up fighting over the gun. Eventually Hinson gained the upper hand and used the gun to shoot Elder John H Gibbs. From there the gun disappears. The sisters did not talk about it, and it does not appear in any other records.

Until the other day, when a man claimed to have THE gun used in the massacre. The gun he has is a shotgun. We discussed the details about the guns manufacture but neither of us are gun experts. What is most interesting is the provenance. This gun has been in this man's family for several generations and we can track its ownership back to someone who would have been in a position to pick up the gun. For a historian this is very exciting. Most relics don't have it that good.

There were, of course, other guns used in the Massacre. Each of the vigilantes probably brought a gun or two. Some were pistols like David Hinson's and Jack Well's. Other were shot guns, like Babe Hinson's and the guns used inside the house against Elder William S. Berry and Malinda Conder. But these guns, with the possible exeption of David Hinson's, were most likely taken with the vigilantes when they left. Only Martin's gun would have had no one to remove it, yet it certainly disappeared shortly after the Massacre.


tenngran said...

George Thomas Talley found a gun in an old hollow chestnut tree probably around the 1890's as the story is told. The rifle has the initials G T M stamped on the top of the octagonal barrel. I have searched the 1880 census up and down cane creek and also southern hickman county near beaverdam and the only person I can find is George Thomas Mathis. He would have been 25 at the time. Also,
thanks for the info you sent me about Rachel and Lavica.

BruceCrow said...

That is very, very interesting. Do you know if the gun is still in the family?

As you probably know there were at least two Mathis brothers among the vigilantes: Rube and an unnamed brother who has been assumed by at least one researcher to be Jack. I can't seem to find a connection between George Thomas Mathis and Rube Mathis.

Anonymous said...

We have the gun. Tom Talley is my
husbands grandfather. The one that
found the gun. Tom was 14 years old at the time of the massacre and
living next to the Condors.

BruceCrow said...

Would it be possible to get a photograph of the gun? Perhaps with a detail photo of the initials. I would love to post it online.

I recently learned more about Rachel and Visey by speaking with one of Visey's great-great-granddaughters.