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Winchester's lever action rifles, especially the Model 1873, remain among the most iconic and collectible American firearms of all time, and none is more desirable than the exceedingly rare One of One Thousands. James D. Gordon wrote, "To the collector of early Winchesters, the Model 1873 'One of a Thousand' has long been the epitome of desirable guns." If these rifles were the epitome of a desirable guns, this rifle has to be the epitome of the most desirable One of One Thousands. It has everything a collector could want: immense rarity, extremely high condition, exceptional quality, and a documented connection to the Montana frontier starting with its special order by "Mr. Montana" himself, Granville Stuart, followed by its historic factory inscription for his younger brother and fellow pioneer Thomas and publication in several notable collecting books. Winchester only manufactured 132 of these highly sought after rifles as part of a brief sales campaign in the 1870s specifically advertising them to men seeking the most accurate repeating rifles in the world. Many have long since been lost. When Gordon published "Winchesters New Model of 1873: A Tribute" in 1997, only 57 were known to the author. The factory ultimately abandoned the program but not before it gained the attention of some of the pioneers in the West, including Granville Stuart who ordered at least five of the 132 One of One Thousand Model 1873s. He rejected the first two, kept one for himself, ordered our current rifle for his younger brother Thomas, and ordered another for a friend. Granville and Thomas Stuart’s One of One Thousands are the only two Model 1873s deemed by Gordon and Lewis in their respective books to have the “Third Style” barrel inscription that was based specifically on Granville Stuart’s own complaints about the two rifles he rejected, and their "Third Style" rifles are distinct from later versions since their upper left and right barrel flats are not engraved. Thus, this incredible Model 1873 is one of only two One of One Thousand rifles to have the “Style Three” barrel inscription. This rifle shares Granville Stuart's One of One Thousand's exciting Montana frontier heritage but also remains one of the finest Winchester One of One Thousand rifles extant today. Most One of One Thousand rifles are plain and saw significant use, especially those that went West, but Thomas Stuart obviously took great care of his beloved factory engraved rifle given it remains without a doubt the finest "Style Three" One of One Thousand in existence and certainly one of the finest and most historic of all One of One Thousand Winchesters known. Like Granville's rifle, Thomas's rifle has been featured in several publications, including: "The Story of the Winchester 1 of 1000 and 1 of 100 Rifles" by Lewis on page 30, "Winchester: The Golden Age of American Gunmaking and the Winchester 1 of 1,000" by R.L. Wilson on page 64, "Winchester: An American Legend" by Wilson on page 49, "Winchester's New Model of 1873 A Tribute Volume II" by Gordon on 385 and 388. In the first book, Lewis writes, “The story of Granville Stuart is, in many ways, the story of the Montana Territory and the fledgling state of Montana.” “His elegant rifle, along with his brother Thomas’ rifle, are the only ones to have the Style Three barrel inscription. At the time the Stuart rifles were produced, the ‘standard’ type of barrel inscription was the Arabic 1 of 1000. In the last book, Model 1873 expert Gordon writes, “Few historic guns have as much interesting documentation as serial number 5611 and 7282, both 1 of 1000s.” A copy of a factory letter for Granville Stuart's rifle is included and lists it as 1 of 1,000 rifle with an octagon barrel, set trigger, XXXX checkered stock, Vernier peep and windgauge sights, casehardened finish, and Granville Stuart engraving. It was received in the warehouse on August 13, 1875, and shipped on August 21, 1875, in order 3514 which is the same order number listed on the ledger entry for Thomas Stuart's rifle. The rifle has “Thomas Stuart/1875” on the left side plate accented by scroll and geometric line engraving, an inlaid silver band at the muzzle, a dovetailed brass blade front sight, an adjustable sporting rear sight, the “Third Style” “One of One Thousand” in script engraving in a decorative banner with floral finials on top of the barrel at the breech followed by another inlaid silver band, scroll engraving on the top of the receiver and around the checkered oval “thumb-print” on the late First Model style dust cover which rides in grooves mortised in the front section of the frame, more scroll around the screw in the top of the frame, a border around the hammer well terminating in a scroll accent ahead of the adjustable peep rear sight, “Model. 1873.” on the tang under the sight, wavy borders on the sides and bottom of the frame with slight scroll accents, three sets of scrolls on the right side of the frame, scrolls at the front and rear of the frame on the left, the serial number engraved on the lower tang, and, correctly, no caliber marking on the elevator. The stock and forearm are checkered, and the 4x deluxe walnut buttstock has absolutely exceptional figure. The stock compartment contains a takedown cleaning rod. Adding significantly to this rifle's already considerable historical interest and value is the fact that Granville Stuart specifically ordered this One of One Thousand and his own because of the advertised enhanced accuracy of these rifles over regular Model 1873s. He intended these rifles to be actual used on the frontier for defense against Native American attacks, meting out "frontier justice" to rustlers and outlaws, hunting, and competitive target shooting. The One of One Thousand program had been announced in 1873 and then more fully explained in Winchester’s 1875 catalog under the headline “Variety of Arms.” The details of this section are covered in depth in Lewis’ book, and the most relevant section is worth reporting here to show why men like Granville and Thomas Stuart would have been drawn to order these expensive rifles for use on the Montana frontier: “Every Sporting Rifle we make will be proved and shot at a target, and the target will be numbered to correspond with the barrel and be attached to it. When one hundred barrels are thus proved, the one making the best target will be selected and set aside, and another hundred proved in the same way, and so on until one thousand have been tested and ten targets selected with the barrels with which they were made. They will then be made up into Guns, in which each part is selected with the utmost care and finished in the finest manner. They will then be again subjected to trials for accuracy, and the best of the ten selected and marked ‘One of a thousand,’ the price of which will be $80.00 to $100.00. The other nine will be marked ‘one of a hundred,’ and the price will be from $60.00 to $75.00 each. Sportsmen will readily see that this severe process of gleaning will be a slow and expensive one, and the result be but a limited number of choice Guns, and that orders should be given in advance of their wants, or patience exercised with the necessary delay of filling them.” A regular Model 1873 for comparison cost $50 when the rifles were first debuted. Period documentation on this rifle begins even before it left the factory and includes a copy of the letter from Granville Stuart to Winchester explicitly laying out what he wanted for his and Thomas' 1 of 1,000s. He had previously rejected two prior rifles because they did not meet his specifications and expectations based on Winchester’s advertisement. . After receiving the first rifles that he rejected, he wrote to Winchester on May 20th, 1875, stating “The two 1 of 1000 rifles order by me arrived in good order but I am disappointed in them because you did not send such as I ordered, nor do you give any explanation why you did not follow the terms of the order.” After repeating the above order, he notes that Winchester had initially said they could not send a One of One Thousand meeting his specification for some months but could send “a very fine gun, finished in accordance with my instructions.” He wrote back tell them he wanted nothing but One of One Thousand Rifles and repeated that he wanted “’two of your very finest finished (not plated) one of a thousand rifles.’ Now with the exception of the wood in the Model 1873, I do not see that the guns are any better finished you’re your common ones, there is not a single line of engraving on them, and you did not send a hunting front sight nor a Beach front sight, nor did you send the leather cases, and although you state the sights are adjusted to 1000 yards, yet I find upon [inspection] that their greatest range is only 850 yards.” He notes that he has “some cause to be dissatisfied with” Winchester’s handling of his order but did note that his rifle “shoots remarkably well.” He also noted in a letter on June 14, 1875, that the new rifles should come with both hunting sights and globe and peep sights and the latter graduated out to 1,000 yards and “on some appropriate place on this latter engrave in fancy text surrounded by a wreath of flowers my name and date this, ‘Granville Stuart 1875; and on the other ‘Thomas Stuart 1875’ in same styles. The guns of course to be ‘one of a thousand,’ engraved and finished in your best style. I also want the words ‘One of a Thousand in fancy letters and surrounded by a wreath or other appropriate border for the figures on those guns you sent before, ‘1 of 1000’ are neither neat nor of a handsome appearance.” In this statement, you can credit Granville Stuart with generating the distinctive Third Style inscription on his rifle and his brother Thomas’ and the Fourth Style that followed. He also specified a casehardened finish. Some of these letters are also in part transcribed in the pages in the books above. His original order from October 22, 1874, had requested: “Two of your ‘One in a Thousand Rifles, 24 inch, Octagon barrels, set triggers, & finely engraved, in fact the finest guns made by you, but not plated, Model of 1873, (center fire) fitted with hunting sights, and also peep rear sight, with Beach front sight. Also wiping rod and all appurtenances & leather case for each, full length of the gun." He added, “If these guns are as accurate as they should be . . .and as well finished as described I think many can be sold in this territory.” On November 15, 1874, he noted that his goal was to get rifles “in superior finish” and desired the rifles be “as nearly absolutely accurate as you can make them” since they intended to use them in shooting matches. A ledger from May 1875 lists “for ‘One of a thousand’ Winchester rifle 122.50.” among other expenditures including ammunition, candy, and other regular expenditures. The staff at the Winchester factory clearly took their time this time around to ensure the Stuart brothers were satisfied with their rifles by truly supplying some of the finest wood we've ever seen on a Model 1873 and tastefully embellishing and inscribing the rifles personally for the brothers. They succeeded in satisfying Granville given, on September 6, 1875, he wrote that the rifles "which arrived yesterday are perfect in every particular, they are far superior to any rifle made, except for very long range shooting, and I am not sure that I will not make even that exception for today at my first trial of my gun I made 45 out of a possible 60 at 500 yards, and I expect to be able to reach 55 at my next trial. When I get it down to a scratch, I will send you some of my scores." One of his friends was so impressed by the Stuart brothers’ rifles that he had Stuart order him a One of One Thousand on May 23, 1876. Winchester surprised his friend by making it more deluxe than was ordered. On July 26, 1876, Stuart wrote to them with the $105.75 payment for that rifle stating the rifle “is a magnificent gun and exceeds any anticipations, as I had not expected any engraving or peep & combination front sights for which accept my thanks. It is indeed a beauty and the friend for whom I ordered it is in ecstasies over it and well he may be for if the Sioux should come a little further up this way it will be a mightily handy thing to have in the house. If poor Custer’s heroic band had been armed with these rifles they would have covered the earth with dead Indians for 500 yards around and it is probable a portion of them [meaning Custer’s men] would have been alive when Gibbon and Terrys forces reached the bloody field. Why the Government does not adopt your arms is beyond any comprehension.” Clearly Winchester had succeeded in pleasing Granville and establishing themselves a healthy reputation on the Montana frontier. Granville Stuart (1834-1918) led a remarkable life that parallels the history of the American West and was a gold miner, Montana pioneer, rancher, vigilante leader of “Stuart’s Stranglers," an author, and a statesman among other vocations. He has been called the “Father of Montana” and “Mr. Montana” and was a nationally known figure in his own time and lived the most notable years of his life as a pioneer in Montana in the second half of the 19th century. His life story was a grand adventure with gold, shootouts, travels through dangerous conditions, conflicts with Native Americans, and even years spent in faraway lands that certainly feel like a story you might have heard or seen before in a Western. Thomas Stuart (1839-1915) was cut from much of the same cloth as his two eldest brothers and was also an influential pioneer in the Montana Territory, especially in Deer Lodge. He may have been the better marksman based on his performance in the two historic matches in 1875, the same year this rifle shipped. On October 8, 1875, the New North-West reported the scores from the match between the Deer Lodge team led by Granville Stuart and Samuel T. Hauser's Helena team. In the 1,000 yard match, Thomas shot the best with a score of 28 to Granville's 24. The best score on the Helena team was 22. In the 500 yard match for the Creedmoor rifle, Thomas was again the best marksman with a score of 56. Granville and the best competitor on the other team each scored 51. With the Stuart brothers' marksmanship, the Deer Lodge men brought home both prizes from the territorial fair. In a match the following year between the two teams, Granville bested Thomas by two points and their team again beat the Helena marksmen, although by this time Granville is noted to have been shooting a Sharps Creedmoor Rifle while Thomas was using a Sharps sporting rifle and is noted as having two defective cartridges resulting in two zeros. Of the shots fired, if you drop those two shots, he again out shot Granville, and that becomes clear when you see the targets. Two of the Helena marksmen shot it out for the individual win and prize. Thomas was the son of Robert and Nancy Stuart. He was born in Iowa and grew up in Muscatine County just to the West of our Rock Island, Illinois, facility with his older brothers James (1832-1873), Granville, and Samuel (1836-1909). Robert, Granville, and James went to California in search for gold in 1852, and Thomas didn't see Granville or James again for more than a decade. Thomas headed to the West in the early 1860s and mined in Colorado. Granville wrote to tell Thomas of his gold discoveries in the Alder Gulch which induced Thomas and his other mining friends to move to Montana leading to a gold rush in 1862. Some sources say he was met with hostile Indians during his journey which caused him to end up temporarily in Boise, Idaho. Others say he headed to Boise first intentionally to mine there and then left the following spring. The Society of Montana Pioneers indicates he then traveled across the mountains via Camas Prairie and Lava Bed trail and arrived at the Alder Gulch in May of 1864. After arriving in Montana, he worked in the Dance, Stuart & Co. store with James and also prospected with Granville and continued to work as a miner. He married the following November to Ellen Armell (1853-1934) of French-Canadian and Piegan ancestry whose father was the agent at the Big Timber Indian Agency. In 1870, they were living southeast of Deer Lodge, likely on one of his claims, and soon made good money from high grade ore at Lower Boulder and Pioneer and was doing well-enough to loan Granville $1,000 and to hire servants and expanded into horse breeding. When James died in 1873, Granville and Thomas traveled 500 miles to bring James back for burial in Deer Lodge. With the loss of the eldest brother, Granville became the family patriarch and became even closer with his youngest brother Thomas as demonstrated by this rifle and their continued business connections although some have also hinted at Granville's jealousy and disapproval of some of his brothers choices. Given Thomas' loan to Granville, perhaps the rifle was a thank you gift, but it may have also been paid for by Thomas himself given he was the more financially stable of the brothers. That same October, they also opened the 5-Stamp Stuart Mill with Rezin Anderson per the New North-West. That venture was ultimately a failure, but together, they continued to buy and sell mining claims to make a profit in the 1880s and 1890s. In 1875, Thomas was one of the members of Pioneer Co. which owned the Pioneer Ditch and the Keystone Ditch and mined for gold. Like his older brother, he served in various local civic offices and organizations, including the Masons and as the secretary and a board member of the Montana Collegiate Institute, and donated $5,000 for the building of St. Mary's Catholic School despite being a Presbyterian. In 1877, he led the Deer Lodge Volunteers during the Nez Perce War in defense of the territory which also led to some controversy in the newspapers over General O.O. Howard's criticism of the volunteers. Thomas purchased land in 1880 from Colonel J.C. Thornton and established a homestead near the north of town. On November 9, 1883, the New North-West ran an advertisement for his horses and separately noted that "One of the best Horse Farms in the Territory is that of Thomas Stuart, Deer Lodge. His stock is unexcelled, Live Oak and his progeny having first rank wherever known." It also noted that a couple of Conrad Kohr's horses along with several of Granville Stuart's had been stolen. The next summer, Stuart's Stranglers meted out frontier justice to suspected rustlers, killing at least 20 in extra-judicial gun fights and lynchings. Thomas Stuart's involvement in the vigilante activities of his brother aren't clear. He was an actual lawman as Deer Lodge's night marshal for a decade, so he might have stayed out of. 1884 was also a terrible year for his family in a fashion all too common on the frontier: he and his wife lost three of their children to diphtheria within one month early in the year. On April 5, 1884, he sold his 160 acres to Conrad Kohrs and John Bielenberg and then moved into a house owned by Granville in Deer Lodge. Kohrs and Bielenberg had previously purchased 2/3 of his brother's DHS Ranch. He worked for Kohrs & Bielenberg, the biggest cattle ranchers in the territory. In 1885, the Montana Stock Growers Association was formed and headed by Granville, and Thomas was appointed to the position of territorial veterinary surgeon despite lacking the qualifications although he was certainly experienced with livestock. He resigned to allow an Dr. George H. Keefer to take the role. He was later appointed deputy surgeon in 1887. He died suddenly in 1915 while caring for his horses, and his funeral was held at the local Masonic hall. He was survived by two sons and three daughters as well as his wife. Provenance: The Mac McCroskie Collection
Extraordinarily fine. The engraving, distinctive "Third Style" One of One Thousand inscription, and historic inscription for Thomas Stuart all remain crisp, and the markings are all distinct. The loading gate displays 90% plus of the bright original niter blue. The barrel and magazine tube retain 90% plus of the original blue finish, and the silver inlaid bands exhibit dark aged patina. The front sight blade is a period installed replacement. The casehardened frame and furniture retain 80% plus of the original case colors which have only lightly faded. The forearm and buttstock are both exceptionally fine and retain crisp checkering, smooth oiled finish, stunning figure, and have a few scattered minor dings and scratches. Mechanically excellent. This is an absolutely incredible rifle. It is truly one of a kind. The only historically comparable One of One Thousand Winchester Model 1873 would be the mate, Granville Stuart's own rifle. If re-united, they would be tough to beat!
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