head

History & News

Museum researches Old West Colt

.45-caliber Colt Single Action Army, manufactured in 1874. The front sight and ejector rod and housing are missing. They were possibly removed intentionally to improve the shooter’s draw.Single-Action Army revolver on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, once the property of Sheriff William Johnson. Pictured pointing left mounted on exhibit next to it's label. The label reads: 'Adopted by the United States Army in 1873 in .45 caliber, the Single Action Army remained the army's official sidearm until 1892. It fired a cartridge that is still in production today as the .45 Long Colt. In addition to its use by army units stationed on the frontier, the Single Action Army was hugely popular among lawmen, outlaws, and the general public. This single Action Army was owned by William A. Johnson who served as Sheriff of Sweetwater County from 1879 to 1880.'Pictured left: Famed Old West lawman Bartholomew William Barclay 'Bat' Masterson and pictured right his .45-caliber Single Action Army Colt, which recently brought over $375,000 at auction.

Photo #1 - .45-caliber Colt Single Action Army, manufactured in 1874. The front sight and ejector rod and housing are missing. They were possibly removed intentionally to improve the shooter’s draw.

Photo #2 - Single-Action Army revolver on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum, once the property of Sheriff William Johnson.

Photo #3 - Famed Old West lawman Bartholomew William Barclay "Bat" Masterson and his .45-caliber Single Action Army Colt, which recently brought over $375,000 at auction.

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - November 9, 2021)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River recently researched a classic Old West handgun through its Vintage Firearms Research Program.

Museum staff determined the handgun to be a .45-caliber, six-shot Colt Single Action Army single-action revolver, perhaps the most iconic handgun in American history. Museum staff assessed that it was manufactured in 1874.

In 1872, needing to replace its percussion revolvers and cartridge-converted percussion revolvers, the U.S. Army held revolver trials. The design selected was that submitted by Colt, created by William Mason and Brinkeroff Richards. As adopted, the new handgun, officially designated the  “New Model Army Metallic Cartridge Revolving Pistol,” was chambered for the then-new .45 cartridge, and fitted with a 7½” barrel. It was formally adopted in 1873, remained the official Army issue until 1892 and a substitute standard for a good many years thereafter. It became available for civilian purchase not long after the Army adopted it, and was a favorite with the shooting public, coming to be known as the “Peacemaker Colt.”

The standard barrel lengths for the Single Action Army were 3", 4¾", 5½", and 7½”; this SAA features a 4¾" barrel. The front sight and the ejector rod and its housing are missing. It is possible they were removed intentionally, as, reportedly, some owners did so to - in theory, at least - facilitate a faster draw, especially from a pocket.

The Colt’s owner believes it may have belonged to a famous western gunfighter. While such claims are usually very difficult to confirm, Cinderella stories with happy endings do exist. In 1962, for instance, an Illinois man named Paul Pasko bought was thought to be a run-of-the-mill SAA that turned out to be a bonafide Bat Masterson gun that sold at auction this year for just over $375,000. (For details, including an image of Masterson’s handwritten 1885 order to Colt, go to  https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/27262/lot/14/ .)

The museum has a Single Action Army currently on exhibit, a nickeled .45 that belonged to William Johnson, who served as Sheriff of Sweetwater County from 1879 to1880.

People with a vintage firearm (or firearms) who would like to learn more about them are encouraged to contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. There is no charge for the museum’s firearms research service.

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.

A Wild Bunch Winchester at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum

Henry Rhodes 'Bub' Meeks, Inmate #574 at the Idaho State Penitentiary wearing the striped prison uniform and his number (Idaho State Archives Photo)Bub Meeks’s .25-35 Model 1894 Winchester rifle, on a wooden background, currently on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)

Henry Rhodes "Bub" Meeks, Inmate #574 at the Idaho State Penitentiary (Idaho State Archives Photo)

Bub Meeks’s .25-35 Model 1894 Winchester rifle, currently on exhibit at the Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River (Sweetwater County Historical Museum Photo)

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 29, 2021)     WyoHistory.org, the Wyoming State Historical Society’s online encyclopedia, recently posted “Bub Meeks and a Wild Bunch Winchester,” by Dick Blust of the Sweetwater County Historical Museum staff.

The article covers the story of Henry Rhodes "Bub" Meeks, a lesser-known member of the loose network of outlaws known as Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch, or the “Hole in the Wall Gang.”

In its collection, the museum has a rifle believed to have been Meeks’s:  a Model 1894 Winchester lever-action carbine chambered for the .25-35 cartridge.

Meeks was something of a “hard luck” outlaw. On August 13, 1896, he, Cassidy, and a third outlaw named Elzy Lay robbed the Montpelier Bank in Montpelier, Idaho, and got away with $7,000. The following year, with two different accomplices, Meeks robbed a store in Fort Bridger, but this time he was caught, found guilty at trial for the Montpelier holdup, and sentenced to 35 years in the Idaho State Penitentiary.

What followed for Meeks over the next seven years was a series of attempts at escape and suicide. During one attempted escape, a prison guard shot him in the leg, which was later amputated. Declared insane, he was committed to the Idaho Insane Asylum. In 1903, he stole his doctor’s horse and escaped to his family’s ranch in Uinta County, Wyoming. Idaho authorities, though, showed little interest in a recapture and left him unmolested.

In June 1911, Meeks was traveling in Wasatch County, Utah, with an ex-convict named Ab Murdock when Murdock was shot and killed by a deputy sheriff. Meeks fled north toward Wyoming, but his horse gave out in the Uinta Mountains. Walking north on a peg leg and carrying a heavy single-shot rifle, he encountered two sheepherders. One of them traded Meeks the museum’s Winchester for his single-shot.

Meeks was committed to the Wyoming State Hospital for the Insane in Evanston, where he died just over a year later. The rifle was recovered by Joe Davenport, who served as a deputy sheriff in Moffat County, Colorado, and Sweetwater County, Wyoming, and as a police officer in Rock Springs, Wyoming.

Currently on display at the County Museum, the carbine was donated in 1970 by Margaret Roe, the widow of Dr. T.H. Rowe, Mayor of Rock Springs from 1941 to 1945. Sweetwater County Historical Museum Director Dave Mead said the article - and many others devoted to Wyoming history - can be found on the WyoHistory.org website at

www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/bub-meeks-and-wild-bunch-winchester .

The Sweetwater County Historical Museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and admission is free.        

Museum carries on its annual Day of the Dead tradition

Museum volunteer Emilio Sanchez stands before the Día de los Muertos ofrenda he designed and built for the Sweetwater County Historical Museum. The special exhibit will remain up through the first week of November.

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 21, 2021)     The Sweetwater County Historical Museum in Green River is continuing a special autumn tradition with a Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) ofrenda. As featured in the animated Walt Disney film Coco, Día de los Muertos is a holiday for honoring the dead which originated in Mexico but is now celebrated in many countries and regions. Celebrants create ofrendas (offerings) using items such as food, flowers, photos, and sugar skulls.

Museum volunteer Emilio Sanchez of Green River created this year’s ofrenda exhibit at the museum.

Typically Día de los Muertos begins on October 31 and lasts through November 2. The Museum’s ofrenda, however, will be on display through the first week of November.

Anyone who would like to make an offering to deceased loved ones, friends, or celebrities may do so anytime during the museum's business hours. The offering can be as simple as a photo of your loved one or you may bring more elaborate items you have decorated for Día de los Muertos. Please keep in mind that this is a public display and the Sweetwater County Historical Museum is not responsible for lost or stolen items.

The museum is located at 3 E. Flaming Gorge Way in Green River. Hours are 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, and admission is free.

Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit in Green River Closing Soon

The Crossroads Change in Rural America Introduction Panel. The panel looks like a city welcoming sign with two large faux brick pillars holding a sign with the image of a fictional rural community. It says 'Crossroads Change in Rural Communities.'

(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 19, 2021)      The Sweetwater County Historical Museum’s special exhibit at the Green River Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center, “Crossroads: Change in Rural America,” will have its last day on Thursday, October 21.

Presented in cooperation with Wyoming Humanities / thinkWY and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, “Crossroads” examines the evolving landscape of rural America, including special display banners that feature Sweetwater County’s communities, including Rock Springs, Green River, Superior, Point of Rocks, Wamsutter, Little America, Granger,

McKinnon-Washam, Bairoil, Farson-Eden, and Reliance. There is no charge for admission.

Museum Director Dave Mead explained that “Crossroads” is a traveling exhibit and is closing two days early due to scheduling conflicts and shipping issues. The exhibit is set for display at five other communities in Wyoming through June 18, 2022; the Homesteaders Museum in Torrington, beginning October 27, 2021, the Laramie County Library in Cheyenne, in January 2022, the Nicolaysen Museum at Casper College, February 2022, the Homesteader Museum in Powell, March 2022, and the Converse County Library in Douglas, May 2022.

Over 1,300 people have visited the exhibit since it opened on September 11. The Visitor’s Center is currently on winter hours, which are Monday through Friday, 8:30 AM to 5:30 PM.