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    Traveled for five seasons with Buffalo Bill's Wild West

    William "Uncle Kit" Carson: Massive Archive of the Eccentric Indian Scout and Wild West Show Performer, Includes His Rifle, Pistol, Knife, Trunk, Buckskin Outfit, and a Lifetime of Personal Memories. Without a doubt, "Uncle Kit" was one of the most interesting, colorful, and enigmatic characters symbolic of the "Wild West" that we've come across. The more research we did, the more difficult it became to separate fact from fiction. The easiest portions to verify are that: he did perform in a number of Wild West and Circus shows in the 1900-1930 period including five seasons with Buffalo Bill; he was close personal friends with Pawnee Bill and Diamond Dick; he knew Geronimo personally, and he lived from 1931 until his death in 1957 at age 99 in Roswell, New Mexico as a local folk hero and celebrity, making appearances at local events and parades dressed up in the very buckskin outfit included in this lot. He represented himself to those townspeople as Kit Carson's nephew William Kit Carson. This older gentleman told amazing stories about his birth in New Mexico in 1858 to Kit Carson's half-brother William and his wife Maria, about being an Army scout, a cattle drover for John Chisum, a personal friend of Billy the Kid, a participant with Teddy Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War, appearing with Buffalo Bill and Pawnee Bill Wild West shows, and the list goes on. He was a treasured member of the Roswell community and no one ever doubted that all his stories were true. He was greatly mourned when he died just short of his (claimed) 100th birthday.

    It was not until sometime after his death that the known story of Uncle Kit's life started unraveling. Genealogical research proved that the actual William Carson died in 1853, five years previous to Uncle Kit's supposed birth date of 1858 and "Uncle Kit" was in no way related to the original Kit Carson. Through the years Uncle Kit had also been known as Tommy Stringfield, Two Braids, Ora Woodman, and even Kit Carson himself. Let's take a look at some of the personas he took on through the years and their individual "life stories."

    "Two Braids": In a 1906 book by J. L. and Ellen Puckett titled History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseekers' Guide, we find the first account of the life of his life, a quite imaginative tale told partly in his own words. The story says that he was captured by a Comanche warrior named Toey during a raid and raised in the Comanche culture learning their language, religion, crafts, and skills. He claimed that he was given the name "Two Braids" by Toey and then, when the Comanches went to Fort Sill, the soldiers gave him the name "Ora Woodman." He then worked as a scout at Fort Reno and Fort Sill and then returned to the reservation. He was hired by Buffalo Bill for the Wild West exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. After that, he became a deputy marshal of the Oklahoma Territory. In 1895, he claimed to be elected city marshal in Chandler where he had a shootout with the Bill Cook gang. Next, he toured the northeast in a "buffalo show" before coming back to the reservation. In 1904, he played in the Cummings Wild West Show at the St. Louis World's Fair before joining the Younger Brothers' Oklahoma Wild West Show in Dallas, circa 1906. The story ends there at the date of the book's publication.

    Tommy Stringfield: About this time (1906), he heard the story of the Stringfield Massacre, possibly while he was performing in Texas. It had happened in 1870; the Stringfield family was traveling through Texas with their three children. A mixed band of Mexicans and Indians attacked and murdered the parents. The girl, Ida, was lanced and left for dead while the two boys were taken away. One of the boys was found dead and the other was lost, so Two Braids took up the identity of Tommy Stringfield, probably in hopes of cashing in on the estate. Eventually, he met Ida and lived with her for several months before being exposed as a fake.

    In 1910, Tommy Stringfield wrote a booklet titled Captured by the Apaches: Forty Years With This Savage Band of Indians, A True Story by "Two Braids". He sold them wherever he performed. This account of his life follows the Stringfield myth and is somewhat similar to the 1906 book except that this time he was raised by Apaches (not Comanches), in Geronimo's band. In 1886, he was captured with Geronimo, but escaped and spent time as a missionary to Indian tribes. He was introduced to the Woodman family who became his foster parents, naming him Ora Woodman. This life story has many discrepancies and disconnects, as does his others.

    Kit Carson: In looking through this archive, there was a period of time that Uncle Kit made personal appearances as the original Kit Carson. One of several undated clippings in this archive reads: "Great Coleman's Circus Presents/ Kit Carson/ Himself/ First Public Appearance in 17 Years." Apparently he assumed that not everyone was cognizant of the fact that Carson had died in 1868.

    William "Uncle Kit" Carson: During the 1930-1957 period, he claimed to be Kit Carson's nephew, son of Kit's half brother, born in New Mexico in 1858, etc. (see above). During this period he lived in Roswell, New Mexico, where everyone accepted the identity as fact. We note in the archive a 1946 Marriage License for him and Frances Stout where his name is given simply as "Kit Carson." His last years were lived out as a former Wild West performer and Indian scout and expert. Those claims were true. Not so though with the name and lineage.

    Ora A. Woodman: Finally, we come to the actual and true identity of "Uncle Kit." In 1998, a book was published by Eloise Woodman titled Descendents of Captain John Woodman that revealed without a doubt the actual life story of this colorful character. He was born Oran Ardious Woodman on December 30, 1870, in Zanesville, Illinois, child of Hiram and Samantha Woodman. The family moved a lot. The 1880 census showed them in Bourbon County, Kansas and the 1890 census in Chandler, Oklahoma. Ora met Maud Garner and they were married on February 16, 1896. They had their first child Pansy in January 1897. Circa 1902, they moved to Lawton, Oklahoma, and bought a quarter section of government land in 1906. Two more children were born. Ora was not home much as he was traveling with various Wild West shows. In a 1906 visit home, he took his oldest daughter Pansy with him against his wife's wishes. She would perform with her father in the shows as "Nucki Two Braids" dressed in buckskins and doing trick riding. Woodman claimed she was an Indian. In different interviews as his alter-egos, he variously claimed that she died in school or when she was fourteen. In reality, "Nucki" a.k.a. Pansy went back to live with her mother, grew up, married and lived a long life, bearing thirteen children. She is the one person that ties all his personas together as she appears as Nucki in all the other life stories.

    Whichever identity captures your fancy, several facts remain. "Uncle Kit" was definitely knowledgeable and experienced with Indians, frontier life, and was a regular performer in various Wild West shows, circuses, and rodeos, including Buffalo Bill's Wild West. The ultimate performer, he actually became the character he was playing at the time and was able to fool a lot of people, even after his death.

    We offer an amazing collection comprising "Uncle Kit's" estate. This material, as a whole, would make an incredible display of the Wild West period of history for any private collection or museum. Below is a list of the contents of this trunk with "Kit Carson" in beads on the top.

    Colt Single Action Army Revolver. Back strap inscription reads: "Uncle Kit Carson," Serial #195264, 41 Colt Caliber, 5½" barrel with Single-line Hartford address. Condition: Blued finish with case-hardened frame. Front sight has been cut down. Retaining 10-15% blued finish on barrel and cylinder. Faint traces of case hardening on frame. Mechanically sound.

    Holster and Cartridge Belt. A tooled leather belt of 3" width, length 46", overall size "38" stamped, well-worn. Attached decoratively tooled holster

    Brass-Tacked Leather Belt. Width of 3". Length (overall) of 45".

    Winchester Model 1873 Rifle. Serial #250538-B, .32 caliber, bone sight, gouge in bottom of stock at butt plate, 23.75" barrel, 42½" overall.

    Leather U.S. Army Saddle Bag. Overall dimensions 14" x 12.75" plus strap. Three strap and buckle closures on flap, with "U.S." blind stamp on flap.

    Bowie Knife with Leather Sheath. Knife marked: "Challenge/ Cutlery Co./ Sheffield/ England." Length 11" overall, 6.75" blade, carved antler handle. Handmade painted and carved leather belt sheath is 10" x 4" overall, with "UNCLE KIT" carved into the front. The initials "L. A. W." are blind stamped into the back.

    Beaded Blanket Strip Belt. Size 36, white metal buckle.

    Buckskin Jacket and Pants. Metal studs, imitation stones, decorative shell buttons, fringe, hook fasteners. Many photos in this archive show him wearing this outfit.

    Carved Powder Horn. High relief with floral and bird design. Overall 14" long.

    Beaded Moccasins and Arm Band.

    Cowhide Coach Trunk. Decorative stud work, "Kit Carson" in beadwork on rounded top. Overall 39" long x 18.5" deep x 18" tall. Missing hasps.

    Archive of Personal Photos, Clippings, Letters, etc. Hundreds of original photos, clippings, letters, postcards, manuscripts, and legal documents.

    Everything is in generally fine condition with honest wear and use. The legend of "Uncle Kit" needs to live on. Shouldn't it be a part of your collection?

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    Auction Dates
    June, 2013
    22nd-23rd Saturday-Sunday
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