Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 49: James B. Hume 1864 Inscribed New Haven Arms Co. Henry Rifle

Auction Date: September 10, 2021

Historic and Well-Documented Inscribed New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle Owned and Carried By One of the Old West’s Premier Lawmen, California Sheriff, Wells Fargo Detective, and Captor of Black Bart, James B. Hume, Formerly on Display at the Wells Fargo Museum for 33 years, Accompanied with Full Documentation

Estimated Price: $75,000 - $130,000

Historic and Well-Documented Inscribed New Haven Arms Co. Henry Lever Action Rifle Owned and Carried By One of the Old West’s Premier Lawmen, California Sheriff, Wells Fargo Detective, and Captor of Black Bart, James B. Hume, Formerly on Display at the Wells Fargo Museum for 33 years, Accompanied with Full Documentation

Manufacturer: New Haven Arms Co.
Model: Henry Rifle
Type: Rifle
Gauge: 44 Henry RF
Barrel: 24 1/4 inch octagon
Finish: blue/brass
Stock: walnut
Item Views: 2722
Item Interest: Very Active
Serial Number:
Catalog Page: 52
Class: Antique

This Henry rifle is boldly inscribed with "James B. Hume" in script on the top of the action between the hammer and ejection port and "1864" on the top of the receiver at the breech. It also has a nickel-silver blade front sight, "HENRY'S PATENT OCT. 16 1860/MANUFACT'D BY THE NEWHAVEN ARMS CO. NEWHAVEN. CT." marked on the barrel ahead of the notch and ladder rear sight, sling bar affixed by two screws on the left side of the barrel/magazine tub, corresponding sling swivel mounted on the left side of the buttstock, and matching serial numbers marked on the barrel on top at the breech, the left side of the lower tang, the upper stock mortise, both buttplate screws, and inside of the buttplate. An original four-piece cleaning rod is in the stock. This rifle is shown along with Humes magnificent gold and enamel badges from lot 50 on El Dorado County's website and also shown in the article "Black Bart: The Bloodless Bandit" by Lee Silva. In the article it is captioned as "One of Hume's favorite rifles was his .44 Henry. It is engraved on the top of the receiver 'James B. Hume 1864.' A copy of the article is included. Also included is an old typed document identifying the rifle as owned by Sheriff James B. Hume of El Dorado County. It indicates the rifle was sent by Hume to George Nail of the Somerset district because they did not have repeaters in the county at the time of the Bullion Bend robbery. Nail drowned in December 1884, and the document indicates the rifle was then owned by a man identified as McAfee. The writer indicates he got the gun from that man's son, Ernest McAfee. It is not signed. An included Geo. Rieber & Son Hardware receipt from January 19, 1921, notes $20 "Received of George Rieber on Acct of Gun. J.B Hume Gun. Ernest McAfee Send check to George Rollers. Very truly yours George Rieber. I am glad that I was able to get the gun for you." A December 14, 1950, dated letter from a Mrs. Sybil S. Jones to Wells Fargo Bank Historical Collection states that her uncle, H.P. Blanchard had loaned the rifle to the historical collection in 1943 and that her son Robert Blanchard Jones was authorized to claim and receive the rifle. A 1994 dated letter from Assistant Vice President Robert J. Chandler of Wells Fargo Bank states: "The History Department had on loan Jim Hume's Henry rifle, Serial #4905 from 1949 to 1982. In 1850, James Bunyon Hume (1827-1904) came to California with his brother John in search of gold. He started his career as a peace officer when he became a deputy tax collector in El Dorado County in 1860. In 1864, he was appointed the City Marshal of Placerville, California, and also hired as under sheriff of El Dorado County. He fought and killed members of the Confederate Bushwhackers known as the Ingram’s Rangers after they committed the Bullion Bend Robbery on June 30, 1864 and had also killed El Dorado County Deputy Sheriff Joseph Staples in a shootout at the Somerset House. In 1868, Hume was elected as El Dorado County sheriff. He was hired as a private detective by Wells, Fargo & Company in 1871, and worked for the company for the rest of his life with the exception of 11 months leave to serve as the deputy warden of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City after the warden was wounded when 29 inmates escaped. In 1873, Hume was promoted to Chief Special Officer and head detective of Wells, Fargo & Company and tasked with protecting their stages. Stage robberies were all too common despite the company's security measures. He employed state of the art techniques, including keeping an album of photos and detailed descriptions of robbers. The company offered $250 for the arrest and conviction of a robber in addition to 1/4 of the value of any valuables recovered. He became known as “the Sherlock Holmes of the Wild West” and continued to work for Wells Fargo until his death in 1904. By far Hume’s most famous case was his long pursuit of the famous stagecoach bandit Black Bart. During one of his robberies in 1880, Bart asked the stage driver to give James Hume his compliments. In 1882, he completed his 22nd holdup. During his 23rd, he was grazed by a shot fired by George Hackett, the man riding "shotgun." He kept on holding up stages nonetheless. On November 3, 1883 he held up the same stage, on the same route, at the same spot he had first robbed back in 1875. He watched Jimmy Rolleri exit the stage with a Henry rifle and then approached, demanded that stage driver Reason McConnell dismount and unhook the horses and take them over the hill. McConnell circled back and shot twice at Black Bart with Rolleri’s Henry, and Rolleri then took the rifle and hit Black Bart in the hand. Bart nonetheless escaped but left behind his derby hat, opera glasses, a belt, a razor, a bloodstained handkerchief filled with buckshot, three shirt cuffs, and two of the empty flour sacks he had been using to haul away the loot from his holdups. After a complete investigation, Hume noticed the handkerchief had a laundry mark. After over a week of visiting over 100 launderer’s in the area, the handkerchief led Hume and his special detective Harry Morse to Ferguson & Bigg's California Laundry. Launderer Thomas C. Ware identified the mark as for Charles E. Bolton. Ware took Detective Morse to meet Bolton who he had identified as a "semi-wealthy mining man." Ware was led to believe Morse was also a miner and wanted to talk business. Morse brought Bolton back to Hume's office at Wells Fargo for questioning. He had a tell-tale wounded hand but claimed he hurt it in an accident. Hume then brought Captain Appleton Stone of the San Francisco Police Department, and they searched Bolton's rooms. They found clothes that matched the robbery suspect, another handkerchief with the same laundry mark and scent, a letter in the same hand as Black Bart's taunting notes, and a Bible inscribed to Charles E. Boles. The recovered derby hat fit him perfectly. Bolton, now known to be Boles, jokingly offered to buy the hat. He later confessed to the earlier robberies but denied the more recent ones. He was sentenced to 6 years for his final robbery. He admitted to 29 robberies and being Black Bart once in prison at San Quentin. He had been wounded twice but had never fired a shot himself. He said he had never even loaded his shotgun because he didn't want to hurt anyone. He was released on January 21, 1888, and shortly thereafter, "Black Bart disappeared, but he remained a legend”; a Robin Hood of the West. Included in this lot are; A) Letter from Wells Fargo Bank's Historical Services Vice President. B) Letter written by George Rieber. C) A circular from Wells Fargo, given personally to local and county officers and reliable citizens, offering an $800 reward for the arrest of stage coach robber Black Bart, complete with a copy of original poem written by him. D) Original Wells Fargo Archives 8x10" photograph of the rifle's inscription. E) Letter dated 1950 from Sybil Jones. F) A transcript of the historical marker "In Memory of the Bravery of our Pioneer Officer's." G) An article about the capture of Black Bart, a reproduced 8x10" photo of Black Bart aka Charles Boles, and a reproduced 8x10" image of James Hume with others. H) An original Confidential Wells, Fargo & Co's Express Special Instructions In Regard to Stage Robberies, dated September 5th, 1883 from San Francisco signed "J. B. HUME/Special Officer W.F. & Co." I) All in an envelope from Wells Fargo Bank's Historical Department. Complete with three books: "Black Bart: Boulevardier Bandit" by George Hoeper, Black Bart: The Search is Over" by Robert E. Jernigan and Wiley Joiner, and "Wells, Fargo Detective- A Biography of James B. Hume" by Richard Dillon, featuring a photograph and description of the rifle on page 164, courtesy of the Wells Fargo Bank History Room. Provenance: James B. Hume, Father of Ernest McAfee, Ernest McAfee, George Rieber, H.P. Blanchard, Robert Blanchard Jones, On Loan to Wells Fargo Museum from 1949 – 1982, Greg Martin, Michael Worley, Michael Simens, Private Collection

Rating Definition:

Very good with crisp inscription, distinct barrel markings, mix of gray and brown patina and traces of original blue visible on the barrel along with patches of mild oxidation, similar dark brown patina on the hammer and lever, the classic attractive natural aged patina on the frame and buttplate, and mild overall wear consistent with use by a lawman in the Old West. The stock is also very good and has numerous light scratches and dings expected on a firearm used in the field, some wear at the nose of the comb, slight flaking at the toe, and smooth finish. The magazine spring needs some attention; otherwise, the rifle is mechanically fine. A Henry inscribed for a western lawman is an incredible rarity. Given his status, the quality of this rifle and the documented provenance, James B. Hume's Henry Rifle would be a valuable addition to any Winchester, western, or antique arms collection. Hume’s original badges presented in the next lot would sweeten the archive.

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