Descendant of Green River pioneer visits county museum

An older gentlmen with a beard in a three piece suit sits on a doorstep with a younger women in a top and long skirt.A woman stands holding a firearm with David Mead the Museum Director in front of a museum display.John Wayne in costume holding a firearm left and Chuck Connors in costume holding a firearm right.Several people of different ages in suits and dresses stand in front of a saloon, Judge Payne the owner is in seated in the center in a chair.

Photo 1 - Judge Joseph Payne and his daughter Jessie on the stoop of his Justice of the Peace Office in Green River, circa 1915


Photo 2 - Leilani Aubry Niswander and County Museum Executive Director Dave Mead with Judge Joseph Payne’s Model 1892 Winchester carbine


Photo 3 - John Wayne in True Grit (1969) and Chuck Connors in a publicity still from The Rifleman (1958-1963), two of many film and television productions featuring 1892 Winchesters

Photo 4 - In the late 1880s, Judge Payne owned a saloon and restaurant on Railroad Avenue in Green River. He is the man seated at the center of the photograph.


(Sweetwater County, Wyo. - October 28, 2022)      The Sweetwater County Historical Museum had a special visitor recently. Leilani Aubry Niswander of Selma, California, is the direct descendant of Judge Joseph Payne, Sr., a distinguished Green River pioneer.

Born in Kentucky in 1838, Judge Payne came to Wyoming after his Civil War service with the 3rd Regiment, Colorado Cavalry. He became Green River’s Town Marshal, a post he held from 1896 to 1898 and again from 1900 to 1901. He went on to serve for many years as Town Judge and Justice of the Peace and died in Green River at the age of 80 in 1918.

A highly-prized item in the museum’s collection is Judge Payne’s rifle, a lever-action Model 1892 Winchester carbine in .44/40 (.44 Winchester Center Fire), manufactured in the year the rifle was introduced, 1892.

The Model 1892 was chambered for pistol cartridges, including  the 32-20, .38-40, .44-40, and .25-20 Winchester. (Late in its production, is was also made in .218 Bee, though in very limited numbers.)  The original Winchester company made well over a million of the very popular rifles from 1892 to 1945; the Royal Navy even bought about 21,000 of them in .44/40 during World War I.

Though a fine firearm in its own right, the Model 1892 has a unique distinction. In hundreds of western films and television programs from the 1930s onward, it was prominently featured in the hands of cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, ranchers, Native Americans, settlers, and soldiers of the 1870s and 1880s, well before it was actually available. The large-loop Winchesters so often carried in movies by John Wayne, (including 1969's True Grit), and the centerpiece of the popular television series The Rifleman, which ran from 1958 to 1963, were Model 1892s. 

The museum offers a Vintage Firearms Research Program. Those with a 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 research service.