August 2011 ~~~~ Editor:  Cliff Hanger ~~~~
Abilene, Kansas from Wikipedia

Abilene began as a stage coach stop in 1857, established by Timothy Hersey and named from a passage in the Bible, meaning "city of the plains". The town grew quickly when Joseph G. McCoy decided to use the town for the location of his stockyards. Abilene became the very first "cow town" of the west.

With the railroad pushing west, cattle traders soon came to use Abilene as the largest stockyards west of Kansas City. The Chisholm Trail ended in Abilene, bringing in many travelers and making Abilene one of the wildest towns in the west.

Town marshal Tom "Bear River" Smith was initially successful policing Abilene, often using only his bare hands. He survived two assassination attempts during his tenure. However, he was murdered and decapitated on November 2, 1870. Smith wounded one of his two attackers during the shootout preceding his death, and both suspects received life in prison for the offense. He was replaced by Wild Bill Hickok in April 1871. Hickock's time as marshal was short lived. While standing off a crowd during a street brawl, gambler Phil Coe took two shots at Hickock, who returned fire killing Coe, but then accidentally shot his friend and deputy, Mike Williams, who was coming to his aid. He lost his job two months later in December.

In 1880 Conrad Lebold built what the newspapers called the finest house west of Topeka. Lebold was one of the early town developers and Bankers from 1869 through 1889. The Hersey dugout can still be seen in the cellar of the Lebold Mansion.

In 1887, Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built a branch line from Neva (3 miles west of Strong City) through Abilene to Superior, Nebraska. In 1996, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway merged with Burlington Northern Railroad and renamed to the current BNSF Railway. Most locals still refer to this railroad as the "Santa Fe".

In 1890, Dr. A.B. Seelye founded the A.B. Seelye Medical Company. Seelye developed over 100 products for the company including "Wasa-Tusa", an Indian name meaning to heal.

Abilene became home to Dwight D. Eisenhower when his family moved to Abilene from Denison, Texas in 1892. Eisenhower attended elementary school through high school in Abilene, graduating in 1909. The Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is located in Abilene. It is now the burial site of President Eisenhower, his wife, Mamie, and their first born son Doud Dwight.

Thomas J. Smith from Wikipedia 

A town marshal of Old West cattle town Abilene, Kansas.

Early life

Little is known of Smith's youth, although he was well known as a good man in a fight, had a reputation as a tough man, and had been a professional middleweight boxer. Originally from New York, he had served as a lawman in Kit Carson, Colorado, a few small towns in Wyoming, and as a police officer in New York City prior to his move to Kansas. While working as a police officer in New York City, Smith was involved in the accidental killing of a 14-year-old boy in 1868, after which he resigned and began working for Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska.

Smith received the nickname "Bear River" due to a stand he made during a skirmish with vigilantes while serving as a lawman in Wyoming. A vigilante group had lynched a railroad employee who was suspected of murder. Soon afterward, railroad employees retaliated against the vigilantes, resulting in most of the small town of Bear River City, Wyoming being burned to the ground, and a shootout between town citizens and mob members erupted. Smith stood both sides off, until troops from Fort Bridger arrived and imposed martial law. Bear River City soon became deserted, another railroad ghost town.

Smith has been described as having been a handsome man, with a thick mustache, and a trait of an almost fearless nature. There are a number of examples indicating that Smith would refuse to back down, despite whatever odds might be against him.

Marshal of Abilene

Prior to Smith's appointment as Abilene Marshal, two St. Louis, Missouri policemen had been hired. The town of Abilene was, at the time, a wild cattle town, and the crime rate had 

Thomas James Smith
known as Tom "Bear River" Smith
(12 June 1830 - 2 November 1870)
increased almost overnight, beginning in 1867, to the point where murder and shootings were commonplace. The town had numerous saloons and brothels, and up until that point a police force was all but nonexistent. The two St. Louis lawmen resigned before their first day of service was complete. The mayor of Abilene, Theodore Henry, sent for Smith in late 1869, who came highly recommended due to a reputation he had built while working alongside lawman Pat Desmond in Kit Carson, Colorado.

Smith was also commissioned as a Deputy US Marshal, and was insistent that he could police Abilene using his hands and wit rather than using guns. For a time, he was somewhat successful, although he was forced to use guns in the course of his duty on a few occasions. On one occasion, shortly after taking office, Smith singlehandedly overpowered two men known for their bad temperament, "Big Hank" Hawkins and his partner, known only as "Wyoming Frank". Smith banished them both from Abilene, after beating them both at the same time using only his bare hands. However, being the marshal of a town like Abilene at that time proved to be a dangerous job to have. He implemented a law of "no guns in town limits", which was extremely unpopular with many of the cowboys that drifted through town, and over the next two months Smith survived two assassination attempts. Several other incidents and arrests led him to develop a solid reputation, and he became widely respected and admired by the Abilene citizens.

On 2 November 1870, Smith and a temporary deputy, believed to be named James McDonald, attempted to serve a warrant on two local farmers, Andrew McConnell and Moses Miles. The two men were wanted in connection with the murder of another Abilene man, John Shea. McDonald and Smith located the suspects in a small settlement ten miles outside of Abilene. A gunfight erupted, in which Smith was badly wounded in the chest. Smith returned fire and wounded McConnell. His deputy fled the scene, and as Smith lay wounded, Moses Miles hit him with the butt of a rifle, then took an axe and decapitated him.

McConnell and Miles were captured and arrested in March 1871, and they were both sentenced to life in prison. Smith was buried in Abilene, and a huge tombstone was erected with a plaque to honor his service and ultimate sacrifice. Smith was replaced as marshal by legendary lawman and gunfighter "Wild Bill" Hickock. Dwight Eisenhower reportedly considered Smith a personal hero, and is reported to have visited Smith's gravesite on numerous occasions.

Derringer from Wikipedia
The term derringer is a genericized misspelling of the last name of Henry Deringer, a famous 19th-century maker of small pocket pistols. Many copies of the original Philadelphia Deringer pistol were made by other gun makers worldwide, and the name was often misspelled; this misspelling soon became an alternate generic term for any pocket pistol, along with the generic phrase palm pistol Deringer's competitors invented and used in their advertising. The original Deringer pistol was a single-shot muzzleloading pistol; with the advent of cartridge firearms, pistols began to be produced in the modern form still known as a derringer.
An original Philadelphia Deringer made by Henry Deringer.
This was the pocket pistol used by John Wilkes Booth
in the Abraham Lincoln Assassination.

Magazine of the four-shot COP derringer patent 4,407,085
A derringer is generally the smallest usable handgun of a given caliber. They were frequently used by women, because they are easily concealable in a purse or as a stocking gun. Such weapons designed specifically for women were called "muff pistols", due to their compact size enabling them to be carried in a muff. Derringers are not repeating firearms—repeating mechanisms such as used on semi-automatic handguns or revolvers would add significant bulk to the gun, defeating the purpose. The original cartridge derringers held only a single round, usually a pinfire or rimfire .40 caliber cartridge, with the barrel pivoted 
2 barrel Remington derringer
sideways on the frame to allow access to the breech for reloading. The famous Remington derringer design doubled the capacity, while maintaining the compact size, by adding a second barrel on top of the first and pivoting the barrels upwards to reload. Each barrel then held one round, and a cam on the hammer alternated between top and bottom barrels. The Remington derringer was in .41 Rimfire caliber and achieved wide popularity. The .41 Rimfire bullet moved very slowly, at about 425 feet per second (a modern .45 ACP travels at 850 feet per second). It could be seen in flight, but at very close range, such as at a casino or saloon card table, it could easily kill. The Remington derringer was sold from 1866 to 1935.

Even with the advent of smaller, higher-powered cartridges made possible by the use of smokeless powder rather than the black powder used in the 19th century and before, the classic Remington design remained popular; a Remington-pattern derringer in .38 Special is still smaller than the most compact .25 ACP semiautomatic, and provides superior terminal ballistic performance to the .25 ACP. While the classic Remington design is a single action, manufacturers have also made double action derringers, including some four-shot models, with the barrels stacked in a 2 x 2 block. The COP 357 Derringer, made in Boise, Idaho, provided four shots of .357 Magnum in a package not much larger than a .25 ACP automatic, and was significantly more compact than a similar revolver. The COP derringer was invented by Robert Hillberg and closely resembled his earlier work on insurgency weapons.

A related design, often grouped with derringers since it fits no other standard classification, is the Semmerling pistol. It is a five-shot, .45 ACP pistol with a manual repeater: the barrel mechanism is manually pulled forward to eject the fired round, then pushed back to chamber the next round. These pistols were originally built for the United States Army, and the few available on the civilian market are highly sought after due to their unique combination of high power, large capacity, and tiny size. Another military pistol that is truly a derringer design is the FP-45 Liberator, a .45 ACP insurgency weapon dropped behind Axis lines in World War II.

The Remington derringer design is still in manufacture as of 2010. Bond Arms, Cobra Arms and American Derringer all manufacture the over/under derringer in a variety of calibers from .22 long rifle to .45 Long Colt. The current production of derringers are used by Cowboy Action Shooting reenactors as well as a concealed-carry weapon. It is the smallest handgun that is capable of handling the largest ammunition. Some favor the derringer as a concealed carry weapon because of its size as well as the swiftness of putting it into action. Critics believe it is not an adequate weapon for self-defense since the derringer possesses a two-shot capacity.

Derringer manufacturing history

Remington Model 95 over-under derringers were manufactured from 1866 until 1935, in several rimfire calibers, the most common of which was .41 rimfire. They were never serially numbered, but were numbered within production batches. Batches apparently went from 500 to 5,000 guns per batch depending on demand. There were 3 trademarks — "E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, NY", "Remington Arms Co.", and "Remington-UMC". The 1st model derringer had a hollow rather than skeleton butt and no extractor. It was marked "E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, NY". The 2nd had a skeleton butt but no extractor and the same trademark. The 3rd model had a 2-part extractor and same trademark. The 4th model had a one piece extractor and all 3 trademarks.

Remington went bankrupt in 1881. In 1883 the assets were bought by Hartley & Graham of New York, a major firearms wholesaler. Hartley & Graham renamed the company Remington Arms Co. and marked all Remington firearms with that trademark until 1910. In 1910 Hartley & Graham merged Remington with Union Metallic Cartridge Company and changed the trademark to "Remington-UMC". In 1921 Hartley & Graham sold Remington and UMC to the DuPont company. DuPont separated Remington and UMC and marked all Remington weapons except the derringer with Remington Arms Co. The derringer continued to be marked Remington-UMC until production ceased in 1935.

Hollow-butt derringers were made only in 1866. Skeleton butt without extractor from 1866-67. Two part extractor thru '69. One part extractor thereafter. Derringers with one part extractors marked E. Remington & Sons, Ilion, NY—1870-1881. Remington Arms Co. mark—1883-1910. Remington-UMC—1910-1935. 

Philadelphia Deringer

A Philadelphia Deringer is a small percussion handgun designed by Henry Deringer (1786–1868) and produced from 1852 through 1868. A popular concealed carry handgun of the era, this pocket pistol design was widely copied by competitors, sometimes down to the markings. Over time, the common misspelling "derringer" that was used on copies of Deringer's design has come to refer to any small-sized, usually large-caliber handgun that is neither a semi-automatic pistol nor a revolver.

For loading a Philadelphia Deringer, one would typically fire a couple of percussion caps on the handgun, to dry out any residual moisture contained in the tube or at the base of the barrel, to prevent a subsequent misfire. One would then remove the remains of the last fired percussion cap and place the handgun on its half-cock notch, pour 15 to 25 grains of blackpowder down the barrel, followed by ramming a patched lead ball down onto the powder, being very careful to leave no air gap between the patched ball and the powder, to prevent the handgun from exploding when used. (The purpose of the patch on the ball was to keep the ball firmly lodged against the powder, to avoid creating what was called a "short start" when the ball was dislodged from being firmly against the powder.) A new percussion cap would then be placed on the tube (what today would be called a nipple), and the gun was then loaded and ready to fire. (The half-cock notch prevented the hammer from falling if the trigger were bumped accidentally while carrying the handgun in one's coat pocket.) Then, to fire the handgun, a user would fully cock the hammer, aim, and squeeze the trigger. Upon a misfire, the user could fully re-cock the hammer, and attempt to fire the handgun once more, or, equally common, switch to a second Deringer. Accuracy was highly variable; although front sights were common, rear sights were less common, and some Philadelphia Deringers had no sights at all, being intended for point and shoot use instead of aim and shoot, across Poker-table distances. Professional gamblers, and others who carried regularly, often would fire and reload daily, to decrease the chance of a misfire upon needing to use a Philadelphia Deringer.

A common magician trick from this era called the "bullet catch" was commonly done with a Philadelphia Deringer without applying a patch on the lead ball. The magician would, with great fanfare, go through the motions of pouring a small amount of blackpowder down the barrel, followed by inserting a very light overpowder wad, and by then dropping an intentionally-undersized lead ball down the barrel, unpatched, after showing it carefully to the audience, and placing a cap on the tube. Prior to handing the gun to another person, the magician would tip the Philadelphia Deringer, causing the lead ball to drop into a closed palm. The accomplice or a volunteer from the audience would then aim the Philadelphia Deringer at the magician, squeeze the trigger, the gun would fire, a large cloud of blackpowder smoke would appear, and the magician would, with great fanfare, have "caught" a bullet out of the air, holding the palmed bullet between his fingers. The trick was highly dangerous, as the overpowder could kill at short distances, and a real bullet or other small object, could be dropped down the barrel before the handgun was fired, for a volunteer or accomplice intent on malice.

Henry Deringer's production records, and contemporaneous records of his imitators, indicate that these pistols were almost always sold in matching pairs. (A typical price was $15 to $25 for a pair, with silver-inlaid and engraved models selling at higher prices.) The choice of buying a pair, in part, was to compensate for the limited power of a single-shot, short-barreled pistol, and to compensate for a design considerably less reliable than subsequent cartridge derringer designs. Original Deringers are almost never found still in their matched pairs today.

Initially popular with military officers, the Deringer became widely popular among civilians who wished to own a small and easily concealable pistol for self defense.

In total, approximately 15,000 Deringer pistols were manufactured. All were single barrel pistols with back action percussion locks, typically .41" rifled bores, and walnut stocks. Barrel length varied from 1.5" to 6", and the hardware was commonly a copper-nickel alloy known as "German silver". (The back action lock was a later, improved design among locks, which had its spring and mechanism located behind the hammer, where it was thereby protected from dirt, fired cap residue, and gunpowder residue unlike earlier front action locks that had their springs and mechanism located directly in the path of such residue in front of the hammer, under the tube.)

Currier and Ives depiction of Lincoln's assassination
with a Philadelphia Deringer. L-to-r: Henry Rathbone,
Clara Harris, Mary Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln,
and John Wilkes Booth

Because of their small size and easy availability, Deringers sometimes had the dubious reputation of being a favored tool of assassins. The single most famous Deringer used for this purpose was fired by John Wilkes Booth in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Booth's Deringer was unusual in that the rifling twisted counterclockwise (left-handed twist), rather than the typical clockwise twist used on most Philadelphia Deringers. 

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