• Red Nichols, Holstorian

Tom Threepersons' famous holster reunites with his Colt revolver

Updated: Jan 23

(Tom's personal "Threepersons Style Holster" that is the progenitor of the Myres versions, has arrived at its new home in the hands of a collector friend who is the current owner of one of Tom's Colt SAAs. He's promised pictures of them together! We made the deal so that the holster could be in USA again and not be lost to all time here Down Under).

This single action Colt of Tom's is very special because it is heavily altered. From its serial number we know it was shipped 1909 to a New Mexico Territory gun dealer. The Colt medallion grip of ivory would have been fitted after 1911 when they appeared, then the grip on the opposite side of mother-of-pearl then would've replaced the damaged ivory mate. Or perhaps it was the other way around!

It was shipped in this barrel length and caliber but in blue; plating in nickle was a fairly common 'dealer add-on' in that period. Tom has scratched his full name through the plating, down the backstrap. The checkering inside the frontstrap, that extends into the grips, we believe is the source of the legend promulgated by writers Cunningham and Arnold that Tom had notched his grip for the number of men he had killed. Tom vigorously denied this in print.

Tom's first press appearance is in 1916 as a 'local Indian' of Arizona, then he appears as a Choctaw and then settles on being Cherokee. He imported his first wife, Susie, from Choctaw Nation although she was born in Colorado and was not Indian. His second wife Lorene was Cherokee and she had exported herself from Cherokee Nation into Texas well before their marriage (her third also, with the first being a farmer named Frank Nichols and the second a chap named Kirby).

Tom's third wife was Rose formerly Brownfield, a man who like Tom was an El Paso policeman and a friend of the Threepersons. She was b. in No Man's Land that was the panhandle of Oklahoma around the same year as Susie in Colorado (1900) and like Susie was not Indian; we've no pics of either Susie or Rose. They were married just the one year after Lorene d. in 1968 and then Tom in 1969. Lorene's children and grandchildren were all Nichols and eventually lived out their lives in San Diego including one grandson who lived in the nearby town of Fallbrook at the time I was living there. Their surname and mine are coincidences.

Fun fact: notice the significant cutaway in the top strap at the rear sight; and that the front sight has been made smaller. His 'other' Colt, a frontier sixshooter, also has special sights (a McGivern at the front), suggesting to me that this particular gunfighter aimed as he shot.

Tom's holster is in stout condition after its stitching was repaired by prior owners. "About 1933" turns out to be 1934 and the year of the card itself to be 1996:

It passed from Tom Threepersons himself in 1934 to future riflesmith Fred Wells when they encountered each other at the annual rodeo there in Prescott. Fred was mighty proud of the holster and impulsively gave it to a new friend who admired it, too, in 1996; Bob Olsen. First Fred d. in the same year as Jeff Cooper that was 2006 -- Jeff wrote his eulogy in Guns & Ammo just as he had done for Bruce Nelson ten years earlier -- and Olsen d. that next year, 2007.

In 2009 his son Jim Olsen announced that he was returning the holster to Fred Wells' widow who is a gun engraver in her own right, there in Prescott. When I learned of that return I reached out to Rachel wanting to know more about how the holster was constructed to see if it supported my expectation that the welts inside it were functional (to grip the revolver). It then joined my personal collection (turns out the welts indeed are functional) and it was the research about 'which Tom Threepersons?' that then led to the production of John Witty's and my book that is titled "Holstory - Gunleather of the 20th Century".

The leg thong mounted by a copper rivet through the muzzle of a 5-1/2" holster, which we believe to have been made by A.B. Egland in Douglas, is original and sits neatly beneath the muzzles of both/either of Tom's pair of 4-3/4" Colt SAs. "HW" was Fred Wells' younger brother Homer Wells. The double-thickness welts that retained his revolver:

At that very moment, which was very late 2016, a new friend named Andy Ebling acquired Tom's revolver and Tom's personal scrapbook at auction. Since then, earlier this year we decided to reunite Tom's holster with Tom's revolver (there are three other Threepersons guns that we know of). The virus slowed the postal delivery to Andy by months and we both feared it was lost. It wasn't :-).

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