Heritage, 2009, Volume 2 Page: 26
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Recreating His Family History, One Gun at a Time
the early 1890s, Henry Harrison Schwend, who
served as deputy sheriff of Clay County and city
marshal in Henrietta, Texas, started collecting
firearms, particularly from famous lawmen and some of the most no-
torious outlaws of the time. When he died in 1924, his brother, Bur-
ton P? Schwend, spent the next 23 years adding another 175 firearms
to the original 125 pieces of his brother's collection. Unfortunately,
after Burton's death, his widow, unbeknownst to her husband's fam-
ily, sold the entire 300-piece collection to a pawn shop in Wichita
Falls for a mere $3,000. Ownership of the Schwend Gun Collection
then changed hands several times, and in 1965 a group of business-
men purchased the collection and built the Southwestern Historical
Wax Museum in Grand Prairie, Texas, to showcase the historic pieces.
In 1988, the wax museum burned to the ground, and the entire
Schwend Gun Collection was thought to have been destroyed. Two
years after the fire, Selby Schwend, Harrison and Burton's grandneph-
ew, learned that a large number of weapons had in fact survived, and
he talks about his mission to reassemble the remaining pieces of the
original Schwend Gun Collection.
I grew up hearing stories about the old family gun collection.
I remember my father showing me the photos of the collection
that were taken in Burton's home, and I was truly amazed that all
this history had once been a part of our family. We had always
assumed that the collection would either go to Burton's two sons
or end up as a permanent exhibit at a museum in Henrietta. Af-
ter the guns were sold, my father said that he would have gladly
bought the collection for the price paid by the pawn shop, if he
had been given the chance by Burton's widow. My family visited
the Southwestern Historical Wax Museum on a few occasions,
and while we did regret that the collection had slipped through
our hands, we were impressed that the museum continued to ad-
vertise the exhibit as the "Schwend Collection."
Our family believed the news reports following the 1988 fire
declaring that the entire firearms collection had been lost. We lat-
er learned that the remnants of the fire became the property of the
Wax Museum's insurance company. It turned out that this busi-
ness hired the museum's firearms appraiser to clean up and sell off
as many surviving pieces as possible to help offset the settlement
paid to the museum's owners. In March of 1990, a man in Dallas
offered to sell a few surviving pieces to the Clay County Historical
Society in Henrietta, and my father's first cousin, who served on
the organization's board, wrote a letter informing us that some of
the guns had obviously survived. Since learning of their existence,
I've traveled all across Texas and the surrounding states looking for
leads on missing guns and purchasing the ones that I was able to
locate. Until his death in 1994, my father, Fred Schwend, joined
me in the search for surviving weapons. I later built an exhibit us-
ing recovered guns from the collection and have attended numer-
ous gun shows, museums, and historic functions as a way to find
folks who might provide leads on other potential surviving pieces.
Nineteen years later, I'm still chasing down weapons.
Here’s what’s next.
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, 2009, Volume 2, periodical, 2009; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth254213/m1/26/: accessed November 21, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.