The Gunhand – or Who Was George Frensley?
This carte de visite formatted tintype is the latest addition to my collection of Old West photographs. The six-shooter armed subject is identified on the mount’s reverse side as George Frensley. The style of the mount places the creation of the image most likely sometime in the late 1870s.
Above: Carte de Visite format tintype depicting a revolver armed George Frensley. If properly identified the photograph was probably taken in north Texas sometime in the 1870s. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.
Frensley’s clothing also fits into that same time period. He wears his revolver on his left hip is cross draw fashion – a style affected by many gunfighters during the period. Although little of his sidearm is visible, the grips of the pistol seem to be those of a Colt. The fact that the revolver’s ejector rod housing has left its impression on the holster seems to confirm the revolver being of Colt manufacture. It could be a Colt Single Action Army which would date the image no earlier than 1873. His sidearm could also be a Colt cartridge conversion which also dated from the early 1870s.
Above: Frontier era Colt revolvers of the type George Frensley appears to be armed with. At the top is a nickel-plated Colt Richards-Mason type cartridge conversion revolver circa the early 1870s. At bottom is a Colt 1873 Single Action Army revolver. Photos – Rock Island Auctions.
After an exhaustive search of historical records, the evidence seems to indicate that George Frensley may, in fact, be George Washington Frensley who was born on April 3, 1855, at Water Valley, Kentucky to Charles Alfred Frensley and Letitia Susan Draper. The family relocated to Texas sometime after 1860 and by 1870 Charles Frensley had died. The family was living on a farm in Cooke County, Texas along the border of Indian Territory (today’s Oklahoma).
Above: George Frensley’s tintype removed from its paper frame allowing the image to be viewed in its entirety. Source: Edward T. Garcia/www.soldiersofthequeen.com collection.
Frensley does not show up in the 1880 census and it is possible that he was employed as a roving cowhand. This photo seems indicative of that possibility. Little else regarding Frensley has come to light other than the fact that he died at Whitesborough (today’s Whitesboro) Texas on January 15, 1883. The town – also close by the border of Indian Territory – was so unruly in the 1870s that female residents were forbidden on the streets on weekend evenings due to the rampant random gunfire that plagued the frontier town.
Naturally, the question at hand is whether or not the George Frensley in the tintype is one and the same with George Washington Frensley. No definitive proof has been found indicating that they are the same man but at the same time no other suitable person by the same name has turned up in my repeated searches although the possibility of other likely candidates turning up cannot be discounted.