(The first year of the Republic of Texas.
Samuel Colt patents his first revolver)
With New York investors behind him, Samuel Colt was able to establish the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, NJ, chartered by act of the Legislature of New Jersey on March 5, 1836. Though Colt was “in business” he was hardly ready to begin manufacturing guns. Aside from the time necessary to set up machinery in the new facility, Colt’s prototype designs needed refining. Colt’s main hope was to sell large quantities of his guns to the U.S. military. Failing to do that, six years later he is bankrupt and out of business.
One of the largest orders Colt received before his business failed came from the Republic of Texas, which ordered enough Paterson pistols and revolving rifles to arm the Texas Rangers and a good many officers and men of the Texas Navy. By 1842 Texas had purchased 180 Holster Model pistols, 180 Model 1839 Carbines, and 100 Paterson Ring Lever Revolving Rifles.
(Captain Samuel Hamilton Walker, Texas Ranger)
Samuel Walker arrived in Texas six years after Texas had won its independence. In five more years, in 1847, he would be dead. But in those five years he would defend San Antonio from Mexican forces, invade Mexico four times, escape from a Mexican prison, and help design one of the most famous guns in history, the Colt Walker six-shooter named for him.
In May of 1844, Texas Ranger leader Jack Hays had acquired enough Colt Paterson five-shot revolvers and revolving rifles from the Texas Navy (which was closing down) to arm a small company of Rangers.
That same year, the Rangers fought the Battle of Walker Creek. Jack Hays and Samuel Walker were leading about half of the Ranger Company, looking for Indians northwest of San Antonio around a creek near the Guadalupe River. They got into a battle with a band of Comanches three times their number. Because they now had the Colt Patterson guns, they drove the Indians off against great odds and made it back to San Antonio alive. This battle made Jack Hays, Samuel Walker, and the Colt pistol famous.
(Texas joins the United States)
Zachary Taylor was sent to Texas to start a war with Mexico. Taylor called for local volunteers in Texas, and Walker, with some of his Rangers, joined up. They traveled with Taylor until he got to Monterey and joined in the first big battle of the Mexican War at Monterey. During this expedition, Walker told General Taylor they needed more Colt guns.
After the battle, Walker was granted leave to go to Washington to try to get the war department to buy more Colt guns for the army. Walker started correspondence with Samuel Colt and told him that he was working on an order for 1,000 guns, with more to come, for Taylor’s army. The order was conditional that Colt make some changes Walker wanted to the gun.
Walker traveled to New York to work with Colt on the new design. They worked out the design and the U.S. secretary of war issued a contract to Colt to buy 1,000 guns.
Colt, not having a new factory yet, negotiated with Eli Whitney Jr. to build the guns for him with a delivery time of three months. Whitney said nobody on earth could deliver that many guns starting from scratch in three months, but he would work on it.
With this as a new start in life, Colt built a new factory in Hartford CT that will turn out 150 guns a day.
Even though Colt’s patented revolver was a historically important invention, historian Eric Hintz wrote, “His truly groundbreaking innovation was the perfection of a manufacturing process that enabled production of 10,000 identical copies of that revolver.”
Rather than relying on skilled gunsmiths to produce individual weapons that had to be repaired on their own, Colt and his workers came up with precise molds for forging the basic metal pieces, and specialized finishing tools that would make the pieces exact replicates of one another.
Colt’s machining techniques also put Hartford on the map as he trained ambitious mechanics who went out and started their own enterprises, building such implements in peacetime as sewing machines and bicycles.
Walker next joined up with General Winfield Scott’s campaign to capture Mexico City. Though he was officially made a U.S. soldier, everybody still thought of him as a Texas Ranger and called him Ranger Walker. Scott’s army invaded Mexico at Vera Cruz and advanced from there toward Mexico City. On the way Walker was shot and killed in a battle with Santa Anna’s army.
James W. Byrne had come to Texas from Ireland sometime in 1835 or 1836 and fought in the Texian army.
In 1838 Byrne acquired a tract of land on Lookout Peninsula, and with partners established the town of Lamar.
Twenty years later, among other land promotions, Byrne sent a letter to Samuel Colt urging him to establish a gun factory in Lamar. Colt was evidently interested, and put together some partners, including his brother James Colt, to buy land in Lamar.
Hobart Huson published a book about Refugio County history in 1956. In researching the Refugio County deed records for his book, he found and foot noted the deed records for real estate transactions by Byrne. Byrne and his partners conveyed several tracts of land to Colt and his partners for an unknown amount to be paid later. It was not clear what Colt’s intentions were for the land.
According to a reference from the Connecticut Historical Society, the last communication Colt had with the group at Lamar was in 1861, 10 days before the start of the Civil War. They also say, “Colt died the next year (1862) without ever visiting Texas.”
Colt’s heirs quitclaimed the land back to Byrne’s heirs and his partners in 1870.