A gun collector in Alabama recently acquired a shotgun that first belonged to a Mississippian more than 150 years ago.
And both the original owner of the gun, and the gun itself, have colorful histories.
Sam Gladden from Clanton, Ala., drove over to Madison County last weekend to show us a shotgun that has some deep Mississippi roots. We met at The Chapel of the Cross, out from Madison because those roots are buried there.
In the graveyard behind the church lies the man Helen Johnstone had intended to marry until he was killed in a duel in Mobile the week before the wedding, Henry Vick. Now, Sam has acquired Vick's English-made shotgun.
This fine creation cost Vick the equivalent of about $18,000 modern dollars to have it made 150 years ago. Sam first saw the gun 16 years before he actually got it. And then when he saw it with the same dealer again, he grabbed it.
"He pulled this gun out of the gun case and I recognized it immediately. And I asked him what he wanted for it and he told me and I didn't argue with him this time, I bought it," Gladden said.
It wasn't just the style of the gun and the craftsmanship and the almost non-existent wear on it that attracted Sam, but he also recognized the name engraved on the barrel, H.G. Vick, Vickland, Miss.
"I had known from studying Alabama history, I recognized the name and knew that he had been involved in a duel in Mobile, Alabama," said Gladden.
There is a gap in the history of the gun. It obviously was made for and delivered to Henry Vick in the 1850s in Mississippi. But the paper trail doesn't pick up again until the 1930s when a dealer in Louisville, Kentucky bought it. Sam is certain the gun left Mississippi before the time of the Civil War.
"If this gun had been in Mississippi in 1861, it would have been given to the Confederate forces. These barrels would have been sawn off and it wouldn't have survived the war."
And recently in contacting descendents of the Vick family, Sam found out about Helen Johnstone of Madison County and the thwarted wedding plans, and the Vicks found out that their relative, 150 years removed, had the wherewithal to pay that much for a shotgun.
"I didn't know how important the gun was until I started researching H.G. Vick and the duel. Of course, I realize what a piece of history it is now."
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