Serial no. 903, circa 1880, 10 gauge 25 1/4 inch round brown Damascus twist pattern. One line Whitney address. Scroll engraved action and hammers. Trigger lever release. Double trigger. Checkered walnut stock with steel buttplate. No. 19 stamped on left barrel at breach. Condition: Good to Very Good. Traces of twist pattern. Action cracked near triggers. Large chips to fore-end. Worn checkering with areas of remaining varnish. Grip with copper wire wrap an old repair to crack at wrist.
Provenance: Robert Olinger; stolen by Billy the Kid during his escape, and broken after killing Olinger, left with Olinger's body; retrieved by Pat Garrett (appears, identified by serial number, in Olinger's probate, signed by Garrett); given to Joseph C. Lea (signed and notarized statement, January 18, 1897, and signed handbill, November 15, 1903); EXHIBITED, New Mexico Military Institute, 1898-1925; by descent to cousin Joseph Smith Lea, also bookkeeper to John Poe; to John Bunting (photocopy of a letter from Hiram Dow, executor of Lea's estate, giving the history); to Fred Zaffley; sold by his estate to Robert E. McNellis, El Paso, TX (signed and notarized statement); sold to Jim and Theresa Earle, Fall, 1975; EXHIBITED: Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum, c.1990-2000.
BOB OLINGER'S WHITNEY SHOTGUN USED BY BILLY THE KID TO KILL OLINGER WHILE ESCAPING FROM THE LINCOLN COUNTY JAIL—THE ONLY IDENTIFIED BILLY THE KID GUN KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN USED, AND IN HIS LAST GUNFIGHT.
After the events at Stinking Springs, with Tom O'Folliard and Charlie Bowdre dead, Pat Garrett took Billy the Kid, Billy Wilson, Rudabaugh and Pickett to jail in Santa Fe. Billy the Kid was convicted in District Court at Mesilla on April 13, 1881, for the murder of Sheriff William Brady, who had been suspected of siding with James Dolan in the so-called Lincoln County War. He was to be hanged on May 13th. However, in his last and greatest escape on April 28th, he seized an opportunity, killing Deputy James W. Bell, before stealing Olinger's own shotgun from Garrett's office and shooting Olinger.
Lincoln County had never had a jail up till two weeks before Billy the Kid's arrival, and even then the most notorious outlaw in the West was housed in the old Dolan-Murphy Mercantile House, now converted into a makeshift jail. Garrett appointed Olinger and Bell to guard the Kid. Bob Olinger and Billy the Kid had been in opposite factions during the earlier Lincoln County Wars, and there was a deep mutual animosity. As his jailer, Olinger taunted the Kid, who told him, "Careful Bob, I ain't hanged yet." Olinger had a reputation as a mean and petty killer, not beyond shooting unarmed prisoners. His own mother would say, "Bob was a murderer from the cradle, and if there is a hell hereafter then he is there." With Garrett in White Oaks on business, Billy the Kid seized his opportunity. When Olinger took the other prisoners across the street for dinner, the Kid asked Bell to use the outhouse, located out back of the building. Upon returning, the Kid used a long staircase to bound ahead of Bell, breaking into the armory at the top and grabbing a pistol. He turned the pistol on Bell, killing him, and the went back to the armory and grabbed Olinger's shotgun from against the wall. Olinger had loaded it that morning in Kid's presence, remarking as he poured 18 buckshot in each barrel, "The man who gets one of those loads will feel it."
When Olinger heard the shots, he came back across the street, but the Kid was waiting on him from the second floor and fired the first barrel hitting him full in the chest. Kid then came out on the balcony, and fired the second barrel hitting him in the same spot, then he broke the gun across the balcony railing, colorfully throwing it down at Olinger, reportedly saying, "Take it damn you, you won't follow me anymore with that gun." He then returned inside and grabbed a Winchester 1873 (see lot 10) and two revolvers, before stealing a horse and leaving town. Garrett received news of the escape the following day, and returned to Lincoln to search for any trail that might lead him to the Kid. He was still in Lincoln on May 22, when acting as the executor for Olinger's estate, he noted his possessions, including "one shotgun, Whitney patent (serial #903), broken, no value," as well as his pocket watch (see lot 190), and very little else.