The “Rose of Cimarron” / Bitter Creek Newcomb Winchester Rifle


S/N 202799B, .44-40 cal, Model 1873, 20" octagon barrel, shipped from the factory 4/19/1886. Later name plate added, engraved “ROSE OF CIMARRON”.

An incredibly interesting rifle with complicated history and provenance.

“Rose of Cimarron” was an alias for a friend of Doolin-Dalton Gang and sweetheart of gang member, George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb.

There is a popular and often-quoted story about the battle at Ingalls, O.T. in which Rose carries this Winchester to Bitter Creek in the midst of a “hail of bullets,” before she and one of the gang members (thought to be Bill Dalton), hoist the injured Newcomb on his horse, with Dynamite Dick leading it away, and all leaving the rifle behind to be confiscated by the authorities.

There is another version of the story in which Newcomb rides off of his own accord, but the rifle is left behind when he is killed at the Dunn Ranch in May 1895, leaving the rifle behind to be confiscated by the authorities.

Some people say Rose of Cimarron never even existed, and some know for a fact that she did.

Included in the lot are a number of original documents related to the rifle and the legend. Of note is an original 5-page letter from Zoe Tilghman to collector James D. Horan. She writes in the letter, “Bitter Creek with the others had reached the livery barn where their horses were. He lay on the ground in front of it when Rose reached him. One, I think Bill Dalton brought his horse and she held it while he put Bitter Creek on. He held to saddle horn and rode off with others but fell near the wire fence. They saddled their horses and rode out the back door of livery barn, along a draw, not deep, just a low swale. Rose went back to the hotel…”

Also included is a typed and signed document from E.D. Nix, U.S. Marshal, dated July 17, 1895: “Received of J.D. Sims, $35.00, in payment for Bitter Creek's rifle, abandoned where they put him on his horse, making their escape, during the fight at Ingalls. It is also filed as, Rose Dunn Rifle. This is a 44 cal. Winchester. No. is 202799B. It was picked up by Marshal Jim Masterson. E.D. Nix [signature] U.S. Marshall." With “Department of Justice” stamp. Also included is an unrelated letter with Nix signature for comparison.

An included letter from Glenn Shirley, dated 1993, disputes the existence of Rose of Cimarron, but authenticates the Nix letter and U.S. DOJ stamp.

The rifle is clearly of the era. The name plate in the stock was obviously added at a later date, most likely by a collector for display purposes.

Lot 636, Brian Lebel's Old West Auction - January 25-26, 2019. Mesa, AZ.
Sold $11,800.