- Sep 1, 2019
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I don't have the citation for Tobin as a scalp hunter. The information comes from a friend who is a better researcher than I and his take was that Tobin was not all that upright. But he gave not details it came up in a discussion of "My Confession" and the fictionalized "Blood Meridian" that used it as a basis. However, into the 1890s or even later there were people in the west that killed every native American they could. So getting paid for it would have been a plus for some.Wow, I'm gone for a little under a week elk hunting and this thread comes back to life.
I agree with Dan's assessment of those three Hawken rifles--the Peterson, the one in the Montana Historical Society collection, and the Atchison. Those three are important early J&S Hawken rifles. All three have related characteristics as Dan mentions. The Atchison Hawken is the only undisputed dated Hawken with the "1836" date included in the inscription on the cheek inlay. Most students of the Hawken would consider the Peterson Hawken the earliest of the three. I think the MHS J&S Hawken may fall in between the Peterson and Atchison rifles.
Dan doesn't mention the Orville Dunham J&S Hawken which may also be another early rifle.
There is another rifle that has recently come to light that may be another early J&S Hawken rifle. It hasn't been published or vetted and inspected by experts yet, so I can't say it is an authentic Hawken. Time will tell. Don Stith has inspected it and thinks it's credible, so much so, that he has created a parts set for replicas of it. Roger Sells has posted pics of a rifle he built from Stith's parts on another forum. The most important aspect of this new rifle is that it appears to have been flint originally and converted to percussion.
Dan, I believe you may have Tom Tobin confused with someone else. Charles Autobees brought his younger half-brother, Tom Tobin, out to Taos from St. Louis in 1837. Tobin was only 14 years old at the time. Autobees had started working for Simeon Turley the previous year, and both Autobees and Tobin continued to work for Turley until the 1847 Taos Uprising when Turley's establishment was attacked. Tobin was present, but he and another person were able to escape. The rest were killed, including Turley.
After the Taos Uprising, Tobin farmed at times and at other times served as scout and guide on several military operations. Tobin was a friend of Kit Carson and served with Kit on some of these expeditions. One took Tom all the way to California in 1853. Tom Tobin is best known for ending the murder spree of the Espinosas by tracking them down and killing them with his Hawken rifle in 1863. The biography on Tom Tobin makes no mention of him hunting Apaches for scalps, though he did cut off the heads of the Espinosas as proof of their demise.
The mountain man that I am familiar with that hunted Apaches for their scalps and carried a Hawken rifle was James Kirker. Could this be the person you were thinking of?
There are other early J&S "plains" rifles both full and 1/2 stock that are early. At least they share the breech design of the Helena rifle. It is obvious that the Petersen rifle, the Atchinson rifle and this rifle were stocked by the same hand. but we will never really know if they are Jake or Sam rifles. But the stock ourlines seems to have died when same did. If not before. Also the rifle in Helena has intials on the cheekpiece inlay that match those of Edmund Christy. And the rifle has extensive engraving so it was not a run of the mill rifle. It's tantalizing but cannot be traced since Christy died without issue. But the rifle was, according to the Museum staff originally collected in or near St Louis in the 1930s or 40s IIRC. The one with the sliver and mother or pearl is the Atchinson rifle the other the rifle in Helena. The Atchinson has what we call a "patent breech" for the nipple seat. The other the nipple seat was formed on the barrel when it was forged. The accent line on the Helena rifle runs over the wrist and terminates on the lock side of the stock.