At a recent gun show in San Antonio, Texas, a gentleman approached me because my tables contained mostly antique or collectable guns, swords, and military relics. He thought I would like to purchase a Colt .38 Caliber US 1901 marked revolver that he had for sale. After examining the revolver for a few minutes, I inquired as to what he was asking. He quoted me a fair price. Since I had sold nothing yet, I asked him to go ahead and take it around the show and see if there would be any buyers. He came back an hour or so later and again offered me the Colt. I passed. He took my card before leaving.
A few weeks later, the gentleman with the 1901 Colt called me and said he had to leave town. He offered me the revolver for about half of his original price. I could not refuse, so we arranged to meet. I purchased the Colt 1901 pictured in this article. I also learned that he had recently purchased it from the grandson of the original owner and was told that the grandfather had served in the Spanish American War. I paid him, thanked him, and got his cell phone number just in case I had to contact him.
A few weeks later, I thought I would pull out the Colt 1901 to clean and oil it. While wiping it down, I discovered what I thought was another inspectors marks in the frame just above the left grip. It was the initials “L.E.B.” After researching, I found no inspector with those initials (see "Errata," below). After closer examination, the initials actually appeared to be engraved in the frame rather than die-stamped.
Who was "L.E.B.?"
I called the gentleman and asked if he could provide any more information on the Colt. He recalled that the grandfather had the same last name of “Boren,” and that it was said that he served in the Philippines during the Spanish American War. Wow! I remembered running across the name “BOREN” before with the Philippine Constabulary — an area I have collected for many years.
There was a “Boren” on the staff of Col. Wallace Cadet Taylor, one of the commanders of the Philippine Constabulary (and whose officer’s tunic I have in my collection). I pulled out my rare reference book, The Story of the Philippine Constabulary, by Lt.Col. Harold Elarth, and there he was listed — Major Lemuel E Boren!
Well, that was just the beginning. Using my computer, I discovered that Boren had sent his Constabulary records to the University of Oregon where many American officers who also served in the Philippine Constabulary had given their records. I ordered copies of his file and found a picture of him as well as his service record. This totally convinced me that the Colt was his service gun while at the Constabulary.
His records showed that he was born in Tennessee, went to the Philippines with the Tennessee Guard. In 1901, after Spain surrendered in the Philippines, he was mustered out and joined the Constabulary and served for 9 years.
Boren met and married a Texas gal and moved to Texas where he joined the Texas National Guard. He fought in the Mexican Border war, joined the US Army, and served in WWI before retiring in 1934.
Lemuel Boren died in Kerrville, Texas, in 1961 (20 miles from my home) and is buried at Ft. Sam Houston National Cemetery (10 miles from my home) along with two of his sons, one of whom was killed in WWII and the other wounded during the Korean war.
With all the evidence I have found, I have no doubt this Colt revolver was carried by Lemuel Evans Boren while serving in the Philippines — and apparently meant to be in my personal collection!
Errata: Since this article was published in 2018, it has become obvious that the "L.E.B" marking is, indeed, an inspector's stamp and does NOT indicate ownership by Lemuel Evans Boren. According to Antique Arms Inc web site, the LEB-marked revolvers were refurbishments done under contract by Remington. Capt. Leroy E. Briggs was the Remington's inspector of these refurbished arms. Most, if not all, went to the US NAVY.
This is from their web site: "As many of you know, most of these early 1894 Models were upgraded to the Model 1901. This one managed to escape all the modifications and improvements which means it never had a lanyard installed and still has all matching numbers including the barrel with the early 1884 and 1888 patent dates intact. These revolvers served in cavalry units in the American West, the Spanish American War, Philippines, and the Chinese Boxer Rebellion."
"When the US entered WW1 in 1917, the Army contracted with Colt to have approx. 19,500 of its DA revolvers (Models 1892 through 1903) repaired and refinished. Unfortunately, Colt was too busy building 1911 Autos to perform extra work so the contract was awarded to Remington Arms-UMC which carried out the work at their Bridgeport plant in 1918."
"In Robert Best's book, A Study of Colt's New Army and Navy Pattern DA Revolvers 1889-1908, the author points out that these revolvers were not upgraded, simply refinished and repaired if necessary. The Ordnance Dept. assigned Captain Leroy E. Briggs to inspect the work until August 1918. If you look closely on the left side of the frame, you will see Captain Briggs' inspection mark, "LEB" just above the left grip panel. Interestingly enough, nearly all of the revolvers refurbished in this contract were sent to the US Navy. Mr. Best notes that no Navy property stamps or inspector markings were applied."
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