GREEN RIVER — The Sweetwater County Historical Museum had a special visitor recently when Leilani Aubry Niswander of Selma, California, a direct descendant of Judge Joseph Payne, Sr., a distinguished Green River pioneer, stopped by the museum.
Born in Kentucky in 1838, Judge Payne came to Wyoming after his Civil War service with the 3rd Regiment, Colorado Cavalry. He became Green River’s Town Marshal, a post he held from 1896 to 1898 and again from 1900 to 1901. He went on to serve for many years as Town Judge and Justice of the Peace and died in Green River at the age of 80 in 1918.
A highly-prized item in the museum’s collection is Judge Payne’s rifle, a lever-action Model 1892 Winchester carbine in .44/40 (.44 Winchester Center Fire), manufactured in the year the rifle was introduced, 1892.
The Model 1892 was chambered for pistol cartridges, including the 32-20, .38-40, .44-40, and .25-20 Winchester. (Late in its production, is was also made in .218 Bee, though in very limited numbers.) The original Winchester company made well over a million of the very popular rifles from 1892 to 1945; the Royal Navy even bought about 21,000 of them in .44/40 during World War I.
Though a fine firearm in its own right, the Model 1892 has a unique distinction. In hundreds of western films and television programs from the 1930s onward, it was prominently featured in the hands of cowboys, lawmen, outlaws, ranchers, Native Americans, settlers, and soldiers of the 1870s and 1880s, well before it was actually available. The large-loop Winchesters so often carried in movies by John Wayne, (including 1969’s True Grit), and the centerpiece of the popular television series The Rifleman, which ran from 1958 to 1963, were Model 1892s.
The museum offers a Vintage Firearms Research Program. Those with a firearm (or firearms) who would like to learn more about them are encouraged to contact the museum at (307) 872-6435 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . There is no charge for the research service.