A one-time opportunity to view and handle the famous historic Sharps rifle, which ended the historic exploits of the McCarty gang in 1893 took place on Saturday, July 9th, at the museum. The 1874 Sharps rifle was on special display and was available for close-up viewing and, under close supervision, we also allowed the rifle to be handled by the public. Appropriate protective gloves provided by the museum were required, and we did not allow anyone to dry-fire the rifle. A photographer was on hand to take photographs of anyone wishing to have a permanent memento of handling the rifle.
The Sharps rifle was temporarily removed from the permanent bank robbery exhibit so that close-up, detailed photographs could be taken of the markings on the rifle. This had been done years ago, but with photographic quality so much better now, we decided to update our documentary photos. With the rifle out of the exhibit, the Board of Trustees decided to use it as a draw for an open house, and a $10 admission fee was established for the event.
The robbery of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Delta took place on September 7, 1893, when brothers Tom and Bill McCarty, along with Bill’s son, Fred, encountered the marksmanship of W. Ray Simpson, a hardware merchant who was in his store across Main Street from the bank, when he heard two shots inside the bank, one of which killed bank cashier, Andrew Blachly. Simpson, with his single-shot Sharps rifle in hand, ran over to Third Street and was approaching the alley when the three McCarty outlaws galloped past him as they sought to escape toward Second Street through the alley. Tom McCarty was in the lead, followed by Fred and his father, Bill. Simpson’s first shot removed the top of Bill’s head, and he dropped just behind where the present-day museum is today. Fred made it to the end of the alley when Simpson’s second shot hit him in the head, and he died against a fence then at Second Street. Tom McCarty escaped from Delta only to disappear into history. When, where or how he died is a mystery to this day.
Also present at the open house were four descendants of Tom McCarty, the great grandfather of all of them. Tom McCarty was the only McCarty who escaped the marksmanship of Ray Simpson that day in 1893. The four McCarty descendants, all cousins today, took the occasion to have a small McCarty reunion in Delta, since they had traveled from distant homes in Utah and Texas for the occasion. Only Kristi Johnson, from Utah, great granddaughter of Tom McCarty, had ever been to the museum.
All brought photos and other family memorabilia relating to the McCarty legacy which few have ever seen. This was a unique opportunity to visit with related family members of the (outlaw) McCarty lineage, and it was truly a momentous occasion.
The Sharps rifle, along with the pistols carried by Bill and Fred McCarty, are on permanent exhibit at the museum. A book about the bank robbery, Banks, Bullets and Bodies; a Failed Robbery in Delta, Colorado, written by curator Jim Wetzel, is also available at the museum.
The bank robbery guns. Ray Simpson’s 1874 Sharps rifle on top, Bill McCarty’s Colt 44 Peacemaker at left, and Fred McCarty’s Colt 41 New Navy pistol at right.
MUSEUM DIRECTOR / CURATOR: Jim Wetzel 835-8905
MUSEUM: (970) 874-8721 firstname.lastname@example.org
DELTA COUNTY MUSEUM Delta County Historical Society
Quarterly Newsletter Issue No. 87 July – September, 2016
NEWSLETTER EDITOR: Jim Wetzel