Holdup On Highwayman's Gun?

April 07, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

In a prelude to formal legal action, a Towson lawyer yesterday asked an English auctioneer to cancel the April 28 sale of the pistol used to kill outlaw Jesse James and hold it until legal ownership can be established.

The .44-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver, No. 3766, was allegedly stolen in 1968 from a Jesse James Museum in Sullivan, Mo. The owner, the late Henry G. Lingenfelder, of Towson, had lent the gun for exhibition.

On behalf of the owner's son, Henry A. Lingenfelder of Carroll County, and with the approval of the Firemen's Fund Insurance Company, which paid the $9,000 claim, Robert L. Preller, the lawyer, wrote Wallis & Wallis, the English auctioneer, asking that the sale be canceled.

"In the event you proceed, you can rest assured that all parties involved in this illegal sale will be held accountable."

The lawyer said affidavits attesting to the pistol's provenance and the circumstances of its theft during a burglary are being prepared and will be sent to England.

Last week Roy Butler, senior partner of Wallis & Wallis, said the sale would proceed unless the seller, an anonymous American, said otherwise. The auctioneer said the man is aware of the controversy and said he would call Mr. Lingenfelder. The pistol is expected to fetch at least $150,000.

However, neither the seller nor Mr. Butler has called, Mr. Lingenfelder said yesterday.

Last week, Mr. Lingenfelder sent the documents he has found to Scotland Yard. Yesterday, he discussed the situation with a representative of the Lost Art Registry of the International Foundation of Art Research in New York. The foundation maintains an international register of stolen antiques.

Henry G. Lingenfelder bought the revolver in 1952 from the estate of E. Stanley Gary, a Baltimore businessman. Mr. Gary bought itin 1904 from Corydon F. Craig, son of the jailer at St. Joseph, Mo., where Bob and Charley Ford were held during their trial for the April 3, 1882 murder of Jesse James.

The Fords were sentenced to hang but the Missouri governor pardoned them. Bob Ford, the actual killer, gave the gun to Mr. Craig's father for his kind treatment during their incarceration. Mr. Gary and then Mr. Lingenfelder had Mr. Craig's affidavits of the pistol's history.

Recent reports of the James pistol stirred memories for Benjamin F. Lucas II, 51, also a lawyer in Towson.

"I used to twirl that gun on my finger when I was a child," Mr. Lucas said yesterday. His family lived across the hall from the Gary flat. Mr. Gary had "been all over the world and he had all kinds of memorabilia, neat stuff for a kid."

The Jesse James pistol hung on the wall, Mr. Lucas said. "I hadn't thought about it for God knows how long, until I read in the paper about it last week."

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