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Auction Date: April 24, 2015

Lot 306: Parker Bros - Under Lifter Hammer

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Historic Wells Fargo Marked Parker Bros. Under Lifter Double Barrel Shotgun with Presentation Plaque Inscribed to Express Messenger Aaron "Hold the Fort" Ross For Heroism with Research
Estimated Price: $10,000 - $20,000
Item Views 281 Bid Activity Average
Serial #Parker Bros   - Under Lifter Hammer ManufacturerParker Bros ModelUnder Lifter Hammer
TypeShotgun Gauge10 Catalog Page91
Barrel25 Inch Solid Rib FinishBrown/casehardened Grip
Stockwalnut ClassAntique RatingSee Condition
DescriptionThis Parker Bros. shotgun has a presentation plaque inscribed to one of the few true western legends: Wells Fargo shotgun messenger Aaron Y. Ross. Like many of the men that populated the West in the late 19th century, Ross initially headed to California hoping to make a living as a gold miner. He eventually gave up the dangerous and rigorous work of excavating ore to work an equally dangerous job as a guard and express agent for Wells Fargo. By the time he retired, Ross became one of the most famous shotgun messengers in the history of the West. Many period sources record that Ross was fearless even when staring down the barrel of a gun. He was involved in multiple gun fights against outlaws attempting to rob stagecoaches and trains and even fought in a running stagecoach battle against up to twenty-five Native American raiders. In multiple of those events, Ross used his scattergun to dispatch his foes. He was responsible for killing up to five of the raiders in the running stagecoach battle and at least two robbers; in other battles he sent the attackers running to recover from their wounds. In these instances he saved the lives of the passengers as well as protected the currency. Perhaps the most exciting story from Ross’ time in the West occurred when he was 53 on January 23, 1883. Ross was the lone guard on a train headed east from San Francisco. Aside from the Wells Fargo assets, the train carried gold bullion worth a few million dollars today. At Montello, Nevada, a group of seven outlaws compelled the conductor to stop the train. They tried to convince Ross to leave the car and surrender, but he instead tried to buy himself some time while fortifying himself in the car using the freight. The robbers threatened to burn him out of the car and murder him if he did not surrender to which he fired a few rounds through the side of the car. They surrounded the car and returned fire from all sides. Three of the bullets made their mark, but Ross did not give up despite the injuries to his finger, hip, and chest. He fired multiple shots towards the end of the car and then heard one of them on the roof. He calculated his location by sound as best he could and then dropped the villain. He bided his time while the gang planned its next move. They tried to gain entry using coal picks and fired in upon him to cover their actions. Ross managed to stay safe and kept quiet. The robbers found the picks were of no use and came up with a plan to open the doors using the train itself. They ordered the engineer to ram the express car and the doors flung open a few times but each time Ross was able to secure them again. When the robbers discovered another train would arrive within a half hour, they decided to gather their losses and flee. For their efforts they lost one of their men and only rode away with $10 stolen from the wallet of the conductor. Ross's actions earned him the nickname "Hold the Fort Ross" along with multiple handsome rewards though some sources say all he asked was for a day off. The shield shaped plaque on the right side of the butt of this shotgun reads "-TO-/MESSENGER/A.Y. Ross/PARKER SHOTGUN/used in your heroic/and successful defense of the/-EXPRESS CAR-/against Train Robbers at/Montello, Nev/W.F.&CO./JANUARY 23, 1883". The shotgun has standard Parker Bros. markings along with "WELLS FARGO & Co. EXPRESS" on the rib which has a single bead/post front sight. The matching serial number is marked on the forearm, wedge, barrel lug, and water table. It is mounted with a semi-pistol grip stock and forearm with a steel buttplate. The serial number data included in the research documents places the manufacture date in 1878. The muzzles gauge slightly larger than a standard cylinder choke, and the chambers measure 2 5/8 inch and have an extractor. The length of pull is 14 1/8 inches. Ross also received $1,000 in cash and a custom gold presentation pocket watch with a near identical inscription. Ross continued to work for Wells Fargo into his seventies and was invited to several Wells Fargo events. His life end in a way few gunfighters did, he passed away surrounded by his family at his daughter's home in Ogden, Utah, at the ripe old age of 93.

ConditionVery good. The barrels have a speckled brown patina with some twist patterns showing through and several minor dings mostly on the breech end. Traces of case colors remain visible on the side plates with a mixture of brown patina and partially bright surfaces on the balance of the metal surfaces and some areas of minor oxidation. Most of the markings remain clear though some are faint. The moderately worn stock is good with traces of the checkering visible but mostly smooth surfaces with several pressure marks and scrapes along with some chips and cracks. The presentation plaque has some attractive age patina and a fine inscription. The action is fine. This is a rare chance to own a historic Parker Bros. shotgun connected to a real American gunslinger.
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