Gaines de Graffenried was born August 10, 1905 in Chilton, Falls County, Texas. His parents were Fleming Taylor de Graffenried and Lousie Gaines de Graffenried. A few words about the spelling of the last name: In the same family tree, we have seen it spelled degraffenried, degraffenreid and degraftenreid. These may not even be all of the variations in the name. Sometimes the first two letters are separated from the rest, sometimes they are not. The G may or may not be capitalized. Despite the variations, they all may be members of the same family. We note a few of the members of the extended family below.
The de Graffenried family tree includes Edna Beatrice DeGraffenreid Selman (1847-1879), a distant cousin of Gaines, who was the first wife of John Henry Selman (1839 – 1896). John Henry Selman was the person who killed John Wesley Hardin in 1895 and was himself shot and killed by George Scarborough the following year. Edna and John Henry had only been married for about thirteen years and together had a number of children when she passed away.
Next was James Irvin “Buster” Degraffenreid (1864 – 1941), a fairly well known cowboy and rancher in West Texas and New Mexico. Buster’s mother was Elizabeth Selman (1834 -1913), an older sister of John Henry Selman and the wife of Jasper Newton Degraffenreid (1834 – 1893). Their relationship was another connection between the Selman and Degraffenreid families. Buster had married the former Texas E. Rogers (1869 – 1932) and together they had a number of children, the oldest of whom was John Taylor Degraffenreid (1890 – 1965) who is said to have served as a Texas Ranger for a while.
In Roger Conger’s excellent 1987 book “Texas Collector: Gaines de Graffenried,” he told of Fleming Taylor (Gaines’ father) and his early days. Fleming Taylor de Graffenried began with nothing, materially speaking, and accomplished a lot in his lifetime. He started a cattle herd with five longhorn strays; he borrowed ten dollars and traveled from Chilton to Waco to propose to his future wife Lillian; he acquired a cotton gin with his profits from ranching. From these beginnings, they began to raise and support their family. Fleming Taylor also started a bank in Chilton which remained one of the few private banks in Texas for many years. The family had relocated to Waco by the time that Gaines was about fifteen years old. Gaines attended Waco High School. Upon his graduation he went into business and learned to be a cotton grader.
Gaines continued to work and live in Waco. He married Ola Bradley in 1935 and the couple began to raise a family of their own. Gaines’ interest in collecting likely originated when he was a youth, as he collected arrowheads and other artifacts around Chilton and later around Waco. When he began collecting in earnest, it likely started with Colt Single Action revolvers in early manifestations of what Conger referred to as Gaines’ “collecting fever.”
Gaines went on to expand his collection by buying and trading items over the years. Several of his lifetime Waco friends and been his friends since boyhood also were collectors and traders. Gaines is said to have placed an ad in the Texas Gun Collector magazine that listed his name and address in Waco and included the byline “Collector of everything good, will trade if pressed.” One of his Waco friends placed a similar add that said “I collect the things that Gaines overlooks.”
Gaines went on to accumulate a wide collection of artifacts which were not limited to guns. He was well known for his collection and exhibited portions of it from time to time, including showing some of it at the old Fort Fisher Museum just off the Brazos River in Waco. Gaines was appointed in the early 1970s to be a charter member of the commission created to found the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum at that location in Waco. Gaines went on to serve as the unpaid curator of the facility from the time it opened in 1975 until he died in 1991.
His entire adult life, he continued to collect and trade, and some of the items are noted below. There was once a shop in downtown Dallas called the Buckhorn Trading Post, located near the intersection of Commerce and South Ervay streets. This places it a few doors away from Jack Ruby’s night club. Likely because of his store’s location, the owner, A. D. Hodge, had been one of many local people who were interviewed by authorities in connection with the investigation of the assassination of President Kennedy, as they looked for information on Ruby and Oswald. Roger Conger’s book recounts how Gaines acquired a revolver there at Hodge’s Buckhorn store from Dallas Police Department Captain Will Fritz, the lead detective investigating the assassination for the Dallas P. D. Gaines had gotten to know Captain Fritz at some point and inquired as to whether Fritz’s hand gun might be for sale. On a day, Captain Fritz agreed to sell Gaines his .38 caliber Colt Police Special. Conger notes that it was nickel plated with pearl grips and was engraved with the Captain’s name.
In the late 1960s, Gaines also managed to acquire a percussion revolver that had once been the property of John Coffee “Jack” Hays. The Colt 1851 Navy revolver was a gift from Colonel Colt himself. Conger tells that Gaines had acquired it from a South Texas collector who had himself bought it from a descendant of Hays. Gaines also eventually acquired a Bowie knife from the estate of one of his friends to add to his collection. It was said that the knife had come from a descendant of someone who had picked it up on the battlefield at San Jacinto after the battle concluded.
Gaines also had owned a snub nosed revolver that was connected to the Barrow Gang. A Navarro County sheriff had found it in the glove box of a car abandoned by Barrow back in 1930. It was sold to Gaines in the late 1960s and displayed at the Texas Ranger Hall of Fame and Museum for a while before it was again sold by the family after Gaines’ passing.
Gaines’s collection also included a bell that was said to once have been at the Alamo. It was about twenty-two inches high, eighteen inches at the base and was made of copper, brass and silver. On it, the bell had a coat of arms, a cross, the name “San Antonio” and a date of 1722. These are just a few of the items in his collection.
Gaines passed away on March 21, 1991 and he was interred in the historic Oakwood Cemetery in Waco. He was survived by his wife and two sons. Gaines’ extensive collection is likely now widely dispersed after sales at fine auction houses and other selected sales.
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2 thoughts on “Gaines de Graffenried”
I knew Gaines. We met when I was Boy. He lived at 26 thank Washington. The most noted item to me was the Alamo Bell. He resisted selling for many years. If I remember correctly he sold the bell to a Tennessee collector. When asked about it he replied that it was only appropriate that it go to a Tennessee collector- An obvious reference to the brave men from Tennessee who gave their all at the Alamo. Very pleased to see this post. He was very nice to this poor South Waco boy and my parents. Would show up at our store several times a year.
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Thank you so much for this comment. I never had the privilege of meeting him, but I would have definitely liked to. I would have enjoyed asking him about some of the items in his collection and some of the people that he met.