The Winchester Model 1873 One of One Thousand rifles were made to be the absolute best that Winchester were capable of making.
Montana pioneer Granville Stuart ordered Winchester One of One Thousand rifles for he and his younger brother Thomas.
When the first two rifles arrived they were not in compliance with Granville’s order so he sent them back and Winchester created two more, of exceptional quality, to meet Granville Stuart’s order exactly.
- Granville and Thomas Stuart, along with their brother James, were pioneers of Montana who were primarily based in the town of Deer Lodge.
- In 1875 Granville ordered two “One of One Thousand” Winchester Model 1873 rifles from the factory.
- The first two rifles were not exactly as Granville had ordered so he returned them and reiterated the details of his order. The next two rifles were exactly as ordered and both Granville and Thomas were delighted with them.
- The “One of One Thousand” Winchester Model 1873 ordered for Thomas Stuart has survived the years in beautiful condition and is coming up for sale by Rock Island Auction on December 8, 2023.
Granville Stuart is famous in the history of Montana. His role in the pioneering of the territory brought him a high public profile. Additionally he took on the role of head librarian of the Butte Public Library and worked diligently to document the history of Montana State. As a man who had been a pioneer part of that history he was exceptionally well qualified for that task.
He completed this work during 1917, the year prior to his passing away.
Granville’s life was characterized by adventure in the harsh and unforgiving early years of the “Wild West”.
His adventures began in 1849 when he and his brother James went to link up with their father Robert who had gone to the California gold rush to try his luck.
In 1857 they went to the Deer Lodge Valley in Montana and in 1858 struck gold in the mouth of the appropriately named “Gold Creek”.
That discovery brought rather a lot of prospectors hopeful of striking it rich, and James and Granville along with their younger brother Thomas established a general store to support not only the gold prospectors but also the people who had established agricultural related enterprises in the area.
They continued and expanded upon their business during the 1860’s and 1870’s.
James passed away in 1873 leaving Granville and Thomas to continue the family businesses and the family businesses expanded to include banking, freight and gold mining – both mining and claim trading.
Granville entered into an open range cattle business with Samuel T. Hauser and Andrew J. Davis and this business would provide some problems in the form of at least one gang of cattle rustlers.
Granville Stuart was instrumental in forming the Montana Stock Growers’ Association and became the president of both that association and the Montana Board of Stock Commissioners.
It was in that role as President that Granville Stuart was called upon to take action against the stock rustlers, and so in 1883 he formed the vigilante group known as “Stuart’s Stranglers” who took action against the outlaws and solved the stock theft problem the “Wild West” way.
Granville Stuart also pursued a political career and sat in the Montana Territorial legislature during the 1870’s, becoming President of the Council (i.e. the Senate) in 1883.
He was appointed US Ambassador to Uruguay and Paraguay from 1894 to 1898.
Thomas Stuart was born in Muscatine County, Iowa, in 1839, the youngest brother of the Stuart family. When his father Robert left for the California gold rush in 1852 he took his elder sons James and Granville with him leaving young Thomas to help his mother and younger sister Elizabeth.
In 1861 Thomas himself went gold prospecting in the Colorado gold rush. The course of his life set him on a path to be a pioneer of the early west and when he returned to the family at Deer Lodge, Montana he would become a respected and influential leader in that community.
The Stuart family, including James and Granville, continued to work in various occupations in Montana and the Deer Lodge area. James started a general store business and Thomas assisted him with that, and the family worked on building a solid financial base.
Among Thomas’s business ventures were prospecting, gold claim trading and horse breeding, and he seems to have prospered well.
He married Ellen Armell in 1865 and the couple had four children; Mary, James, Isabel, and Jessie.
At that time they were living in Deer Lodge, which was a new town that served as a business centre for the mining and other agricultural activities that were established in the area.
Thomas Stuart went on to work quietly and persistently for the development of the Deer Lodge community, its economic well-being, its culture. He was never famous in the way his elder brother Granville was, but he was respected and well remembered.
Thomas Stuart’s Winchester 1873 One of One Thousand Rifle
Granville Stuart was a pioneer and a man of the land. He appreciated fine rifles and was well able and experienced in their use. So when he saw Winchester’s advertising for their special production “One of One Thousand” Model 1873 rifles it captured his interest and, as he and his brother Thomas had the financial means to own examples of the finest rifles Winchester could make, he determined to purchase a couple of them, customized and personalized.
When these first two “One of One Thousand Rifles” were delivered Granville was disappointed with them and he decided to reject them: Granville was not a man to suffer compromise in this and in his letter to Winchester he wrote “The two 1 of 1000 rifles order by me arrived in good order but I am disappointed in them because you did not send such as I ordered, nor do you give any explanation why you did not follow the terms of the order.”
Granville then goes on to acknowledge that Winchester had initially said they could not send a One of One Thousand meeting his specification for some months but could send “a very fine gun, finished in accordance with his instructions.”
That just wasn’t good enough for Granville, and he wrote back to Winchester informing them that he wanted nothing but One of One Thousand Rifles and repeated that he wanted “’two of your very finest finished (not plated) one of a thousand rifles.”
In due course Winchester sent two new “One of One Thousand” rifles, one engraved for Granville and the other for his younger brother and business partner Thomas, and Winchester made sure that they provided rifles that were exactly as ordered.
These were the days when businesses understood that “the customer is always right” and set about ensuring that their customers were kept happy and loyal.
Winchester took up the challenge – understanding that there would be more sales to be had among the wealthy clientele of Deer Lodge and the surrounding Montana Territory and the replacement rifles that they created and sent were indeed of the finest standard, and both Granville and Thomas were well satisfied with them.
On September 6, 1875, he wrote to Winchester that the rifles “which arrived yesterday are perfect in every particular, they are far superior to any rifle made, except for very long range shooting, and I am not sure that I will not make even that exception for today at my first trial of my gun I made 45 out of a possible 60 at 500 yards, and I expect to be able to reach 55 at my next trial. When I get it down to a scratch, I will send you some of my scores.”
One of Granville’s friends was so impressed that he asked Granville to order one of these One of One Thousand” rifles for him, and Granville privately asked Winchester to make this new rifle even more luxurious than those supplied to he and Thomas.
When the rifle arrived his friend was overjoyed with it and Granville wrote an appreciative letter to Winchester saying that it “is a magnificent gun and exceeds any anticipations, as I had not expected any engraving or peep & combination front sights for which accept my thanks. It is indeed a beauty and the friend for whom I ordered it is in ecstasies over it ...”
The Winchester Model 1873 One of One Thousand rifle made for Thomas Stuart has survived in beautiful condition and is coming up for sale by Rock Island Auction at their Premier Firearms Auction to be held on December 8th, 2023.
Picture Credits: All pictures and video courtesy Rock Island Auction
Jon Branch is the founder and senior editor of Revivaler and has written a significant number of articles for various publications including official Buying Guides for eBay, classic car articles for Hagerty, magazine articles for both the Australian Shooters Journal and the Australian Shooter, and he’s a long time contributor to Silodrome.
Jon has done radio, television, magazine and newspaper interviews on various issues, and has traveled extensively, having lived in Britain, Australia, China and Hong Kong. His travels have taken him to Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan and a number of other countries. He has studied the Japanese sword arts and has a long history of involvement in the shooting sports, which has included authoring submissions to government on various firearms related issues and assisting in the design and establishment of shooting ranges.