#103: Riders of the Purple Blog

103.1  Dear Stolf: Do you remember that old TV western “Colt .45” starring Wayde Preston? Was he supposed to be Samuel Colt, inventor of the famous gun, or a relative, or what exactly? …from the Alamogordo Kid and his horse Nameless

103.2  Dear Kid: On the series, his name was Christopher Colt, and he was described as a federal agent investigating crimes and hunting down criminals. His cover was a traveling Colt revolver salesman. And that’s all the usual sources…both internet and resource books…have to say about it. I was beginning to wonder if maybe “Chris Colt” wasn’t the character’s real name, but an alias to make the gun drummer role seem all the more convincing. But I kept digging, and eventually a site called TV Acres came to the rescue, saying he was Samuel Colt’s nephew…


103.3  …and this is confirmed by an article in Billboard magazine on the Fall 1957 television season. The question then  is, did the real Samuel Colt actually have such a nephew? But before we answer that, there is one additional twist. Colt .45 was just one of the stable of oaters Warner Brothers TV division put out in the 1950s and early 1960s…Cheyenne, Maverick, Sugarfoot, Bronco, Lawman.  And in those days, studio head Jack Warner was a tough man to work for…

colts103.4  …what with draconian contracts, cutting corners at every turn, recycling scripts between series, all sorts of dubious business practices, all in the name of saving a buck. Thus, despite their respective series’ popularity, the stars of both Cheyenne and Maverick walked out on their roles…Clint Walker eventually returned, James Garner didn’t. And during the third and final season of Colt .45, Wayde Preston also took a hike…he was replaced by Donald May in the role of Christopher’s cousin “Sam Colt Jr.” That’s him bottom left…the other 3 are Preston, unable to decide about the ‘stache.

103.5  Now “Sam Colt Jr.” doesn’t leave much room for interpretation, does it? The son of Samuel Colt, pure and simple. But again, does this jibe with historical fact? And to place this whole deal chronologically, Chris and Sam were said to be operatives of President Ulysses S. Grant (presaging The Wild, Wild West)…putting the time period between 1869 and 1877.

chart 359

103.6  As you can see in Chart 359, Samuel Colt did have a son named Samuel, but he died in infancy. His only child who survived to adulthood was Caldwell Hart Colt…it was hoped that he’d take up the reigns of the family gun business, but he was more of a sportsman…hunting, fishing, yachting…and died of tonsillitis at age 36. Curiously enough, Samuel Colt’s father was named Christopher, but that doesn’t help either.chart 360 new re.png


103.7  So we move on to Chart 360…Samuel Colt’s brothers and nephews. Here we find 2 more Christophers…Sam’s brother and a nephew. Unfortunately, the nephew died in 1844 at age 2. There are also 2 Sams…one, brother John Caldwell Colt’s son, was rumored to actually have been Samuel’s son…but he was a New England farmer, not a western secret agent.The other, known as “Pom” Colt, was an industrialist and politician in the state of Rhode Island…and he would have been just 16 at the start of the Grant Administration.

103.8   And there you have it…Chris and Sam Jr. were complete fabrications. And it’s ironic when you consider that the WB westerns…all of which took place in the same TV “universe,” with numerous crossovers where the characters from one series would pop up on another…included appearances by real historical figures…Billy the Kid, Belle Starr, Buffalo Bill Cody, Doc Holliday, you name it.

103.9  Dear Stolf: I read somewhere that Margaret Mitchell, author of “Gone With the Wind,” was related to the real Doc Holliday. Truth or crap?  …from Wilkes Ashley, no fixed address

103.10  Dear Wilkes: Definitely not crap. As a child, Margaret Mitchell would spend summers at the home of her great grandfather Philip Fitzgerald in Fayetteville, Georgia…and “Rural Home” as the family called it was the inspiration for the famous Tara plantation. Philip’s niece did in fact marry Doc Holiday’s uncle, as you can see in Chart 361. 

chart 361

103.11  You’ll often read that Mitchell and Holiday were “related by marriage.” To many people, that means brother/sister-in-law…but in the wider sense, it can simply mean someone from one family married someone from the other family, and that’s the case here. I also came across the statement that they were “2nd cousins by marriage”…altho as shown in Chart 361, the link is Mattie Holliday, who was Doc’s 1st cousin on one side of her family, and Margaret’s mother’s 2nd cousin on the other side…making her Margaret’s 2nd cousin once removed…even so, Margaret is definitely no blood relative to the famous gunfighter.

103.12  But the complete story is really quite fascinating. At the outbreak of the Civil War, Mattie and Doc’s families lived under the same roof for a year. He was 13, she was 15. He contracted tuberculosis from his mother and set out for the dryer climate out west. But they formed a deep bond during that time…some say there was a romantic involvement, altho the descendants have consistently denied it…and she was the only relative with which he kept up a correspondence during his relatively short life…he died at age 36. She died in 1939 at age 90 and burned some of their letters…the family burned the rest. But by this time…


103.13  …she was a nun, Sister Mary Melanie, having entered the convent 4 years before Doc Holliday’s death in 1887. She worked in a hospital in Atlanta until she eventually went blind and retired to live at Rural Home in Fayetteville, where young Margaret Mitchell came to know her. Now many times, your cousin’s “cousins on the other side” don’t have a lot of significance in your life, but in this case, that cousin was someone famous, and young Margaret loved hearing stories from Sister Melanie about the old days and Doc’s exploits…Margaret Mitchell was born 13 years after Doc Holliday died.

103.14  And yes, she based the character of Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind on her 2nd cousin once removed and even asked permission to use her name…”Only if she’s a good person” was the reported reply. Not for nothing, but recall that Melanie married Ashley Wilkes, her cousin…”The Wilkes and the Hamiltons always marry their own cousins” declares Stuart Tarleton in the book…and Ashley’s younger sister Honey was engaged to Melanie’s brother Charles, who of course eventually married Scarlett. The Imdb, God bless it, claims the Wilkes character was based on Doc Holliday…but they also say Sister Melanie was Margaret’s 3rd cousin

chart 362

103.15  You know, the Internet Movie Data Base (Imdb) is a truly wonderful resource, but it has its mistakes…I find them all the time. And I believe it is instructive to consider just how loopy your family tree can get when you don’t know what a 2nd cousin is…which is to say, you think it’s just “down one”…your 1st cousin’s child is your 2nd cousin. In Chart 362, it is said that Margaret Mitchell and Sister Melanie are 3rd cousins…why? Because Margaret’s mother and Sister Melanie are 2nd cousins.

103.16  And why are Margaret’s mother and Sister Melanie 2nd cousins? Because their mothers are 1st cousins, and their grandfathers are brothers. Trouble is, by the same reasoning that makes Margaret Mitchell and Sister Melanie 3rd cousins, their mothers would also be 2nd cousins. So from the point of view of Margaret’s mother May Belle, both Sister Melanie and Sister Melanie’s mother are May Belle’s 2nd cousins…oops! And had Sister Melanie had a child, that child and its mother would both be 3rd cousins to Margaret. Perhaps it’s May Belle and Sister Melanie that should be called 3rd cousins, making Margaret and Sister Melanie 4th cousins.  See how out of whack it all gets when you don’t know what’s what? ¡Ay chihuahua!…

103.16  One final thought…you can’t have cowboys without Indians…but count newly fauxminted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren o-u-t-OUT…at least for the time being. The Senate Historical Office keeps a directory of “minority” senators…and they say they’re not listing Warren as a Native American. They say they will if Warren’s people request it, altho Warren’s people say she won’t…otherwise, they base the list on a senator’s biography and “self-identification,” and they say Warren hasn’t self-identified. Well, that’s nonsense…she has throughout her life touted her supposed Cherokee and Delaware roots…what the heck was the big campaign controversy all about? Maybe this is just the Senate Historical Office’s gentle way of saying she hasn’t proved it…may be, may be….see you next week, pilgrim…


Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved


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