James D. Julia Auctioneers, of Fairfield, Maine, announced that they are donating to the Museum of Northwest Colorado, in Craig, Colo., an exact replica of the famous gold inlaid and engraved presentation Colt revolver which was once owned by infamous lawman Robert D. Meldrum.
Not a great deal is known about Meldrum. There are no books written about him. There was never a movie made about him. But most certainly, his life and his character would be the grounds for a most interesting Western movie. The Meldrum presentation Colt is an exceedingly rare presentation Colt given to him by the Tomboy Mining Company of Telluride, Colo.
What is known about Meldrum is that sometime around the turn of the century he was hired as a mining guard for the Tomboy Company to assist them with two major problems: the first was to rid them of activists that were attempting to organize their miners to strike. The second problem was claim jumpers stealing minerals from their site. Although it’s not known exactly what Meldrum did, it was obviously very important for the mining company. A gun of this nature around the turn of the century was very, very expensive, so expensive in fact that of the vast number of Colt revolvers produced by the world renowned Colt industries, only 16 first generation Colt single action revolvers ever had any gold inlay at all.
Meldrum was the epitome of a tough western character. He was hard as nails, fast as lightening and had an unquestionable mean streak. As a lawman, it is known that at the time that he was a guard for the Tomboy Company he also was a deputy in the village of Telluride. The Tomboy Mining Company was located high up in the mountains above Telluride. It was literally a small village near the peaks of some of the taller mountains in the area. The village sported a small general store, a school, and even a bowling alley where the miners lived and worked. According to one source the Tomboy Mining Company, desperate to deal with their problems, had originally contacted Tom Horn. Horn was a range vigilante and had worked for the Cattlemen’s Association, ridding the range of cattle rustlers. At the time that they contacted Horn, supposedly he was too busy, but he apparently referred them to Meldrum and they later hired him.
He established his reputation early on in the village of Telluride. Just after being sworn in as a deputy sheriff, he brazenly walked into a busy local saloon and announced in a loud voice that he was the new deputy sheriff in town, and he would not tolerate any funny business. If anybody had any issue or problem he would be glad to step outside with them, then stepped up to the bar and had a drink.
He dealt with problems in a very direct way but his mean streak apparently was exhibited whenever anything didn’t go quite his way. During his lifetime he killed a number of men, at least two were unarmed. In one incident while in Telluride a large Scandinavian miner had gotten drunk in one of the local saloons and was creating a disturbance. Someone sent word to Meldrum. The small, slight of build Meldrum announced to the miner that he was taking him to jail. However, the large miner responded he would do no such thing, and would beat Meldrum severely if he tried. Meldrum simply drew his gun and shot him dead. The matter eventually went to court, but Meldrum was acquitted. Later in life as a deputy sheriff in Wyoming, a similar incident did not work out so well for him. He attempted to arrest a young cowboy who had gotten drunk in a local saloon. The cowboy defied him and once again, Meldrum pulled his pistol and shot the man dead. Unfortunately for Meldrum, the unarmed dead cowboy had a lot of friends in the community and Meldrum was taken to court. A lengthy court battle ensued in which he was finally sent to the penitentiary.
Some years later, after Meldrum was released from prison, it is known that he moved to a small community in Wyoming, started a saddle shop and apparently was an excellent leather worker. His saddles and holsters were of excellent quality (some of these exact creations are on display at the Museum of Northwest Colorado). One night his saddle shop mysteriously burned down and Meldrum himself was never seen alive again by anyone. To this day, it is still unknown what happened to him, although it is suspected that a relative or a friend of one of the various men that he killed eventually had their revenge.
The story of the Colt is almost as interesting as the man himself. Many years ago a Montana rancher negotiated a deal with a fellow rancher. The fellow rancher wished to purchase bull sperm from a top-of-the-line bull but the asking price from the Montana rancher was a little steep. In lieu of cash, the rancher friend offered an interesting old Colt revolver he had. Even more unusual is the fact that the name of the sperm-donating bull was “Colt”. The Montana rancher thought the gun simply an interesting sidearm and wore it in a holster frequently when he worked on horseback. On other occasions, he left it in the glove compartment of his pickup truck and frequently shot it. Over the years it sustained a fair amount of use and abuse.
The inscription on the gun, however, intrigued him. It read, "From The Tomboy Gold Mine Co. Lt'd / Telluride Colo to Rob't. D. Meldrum". He always wondered who Robert Meldrum was and one day he discovered that the museum in Craig, Colorado had an outstanding collection of outlaw items, which included objects that had belonged to the nefarious lawman, Robert Meldrum. A visit to the museum and various conversations with the very affable curator, Mr. Dan Davidson, eventually led the Montana rancher to loan his Colt to the museum for exhibit. The Colt was an outstanding addition and was featured in their Meldrum presentation.
Then 2008/2009 came and the rancher’s fortunes began to decline. He was in desperate need of money and around the same time he learned that his Colt, left on loan was, in actuality, a very valuable object. He also discovered that the James D. Julia Auction Company had just sold a similar gold-inlaid Colt revolver in pristine condition for an enormous sum of $747,500. He contacted Julia’s and after various discussions, made arrangements to consign the gun to an upcoming auction.
At the same time, Julia’s learned that the gun was currently on loan to a museum so Julia made a personal call to the curator of the museum. During his various discussions, he was impressed with the curator and what the museum had done. The Meldrum Colt was obviously a significant addition to the museum and he felt badly about the circumstances. However, he realized that the rancher, desperate for money, was going to sell the gun, regardless of whether it was in a Julia auction or somewhere else. So, if Julia elected not to take it for auction, it was still going to be pulled from the museum and sold. After Julia thought about the matter, he called the curator back and told him that although the gun was being removed, if he was successful in selling it at auction, he would personally, at his own expense, have a special exact, hand-made recreation of the famous Meldrum gun made and personally donate it to the museum and this is exactly what he did.
Before offering it at auction, Julia contacted Doug Turnbull Restorations. Mr. Turnbull is considered one of the finest gun restorers in the world today. His specialty is in Winchesters and Colts. Doug told Julia that he could produce an exact re-creation of the pistol without any problem at all and arrangements were made. An order like this involves a tremendous amount of artistry. From the time of the order, it took literally many months for Turnbull’s master craftsmen to create the replica gun. The final product was expensive, but the result was exact in every detail. It can now be seen on permanent display at the Northwest Museum along with a selection of other Meldrum items as well as a great number of other very historic old western items.
The museum is located in Craig, Colo. Its business hours are Monday thru Friday 9-5 Saturday 10-4 (year round).
James D. Julia Auctioneers, the world’s leading auctioneer of rare, historic and expensive firearms can be contacted via their website: www.jamesdjulia.com, by phone at 207-453-7125, or at 203 Skowhegan Road, Fairfield, ME 04937.
As a side note, the original Meldrum Colt, by the way, sold at public auction to one of the world’s largest collectors of western artifacts for $258,750. With antique firearms, history is very important. But of equal importance is condition. Had the rancher never distressed the gun, and had it been in its outstanding original condition, the gun would have likely brought a multiple of what it realized.
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