My Son Jesse's Pistol

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One-armed Zerelda Samuel had a hard time filling out a receipt. Yet to the delighted man who stood nearby, his long journey to meet this woman was just about to become worth the effort. After a pleasant afternoon spent with conversation and lemonade, he was going to make the purchase of a lifetime - buying a family heirloom of a boyhood hero. And it came with a receipt from his mother!

Exactly 100 years later, the staff at the National Firearms Museum opened a box recently arrived from Old Town Station in Lenexa, Kan. Wearing white gloves and in an environmentally secure and controlled room, they carefully unwrapped layers of bubble wrap that held a large frame revolver. Accompanying the gun was a small yellowed receipt that read: "Received $39.00 from Mr. C.B. Parsons of Lexington, Kentucky for my son Jesse's pistol, Smith & West #1984 size .44. Signed, Zerelda Samuel, James Farm, Kearney, Missouri."

In the world of firearms collecting, few guns have associated excellent provenance - provenance being a clear and provable chain of custody from the original owner to the present. Jesse's mother, "Zee" Samuel, lived another 30 years after Jesse's death, selling his guns, and even pebbles from his grave, almost until the day she died. But having this receipt and the gun together brings one that much closer to the widow Samuel's pistol - a Smith & Wesson .44 revolver she asserted belonged to her son, the infamous outlaw Jesse James.

Reprinted from America's 1st Freedom, July 2008.