Favorite Firearms: A Hobo’s Lever-Action

posted on September 6, 2022
Marlin Model 1893 lever-action rifle

My father acquired this Marlin Model 1893 lever-action rifle in the summer of 1959 from a hobo living out of a boxcar in a rail yard in Schuylkill County, Pa. My father, a collector of historic guns, was concerned for the wellbeing of the firearm and wanted to keep it in a safe place for generations to admire.

As a child, I observed him loading the rifle and cycling it to eject the live cartridge. Being a 10-year-old knothead, I decided to try it myself, unsupervised. As I released the hammer, my thumb slipped, and the rifle functioned as intended. The room filled with a boom and smoke, and the .32-cal. bullet penetrated the floorboards, which resulted in a 6" hole. From then on, I was barred from my father’s gun room and never lived down the negligent discharge, which my parents recalled at family gatherings.

My father, who has since passed away, gifted the rifle to my collection. It was manufactured in 1894 and is engraved in the Ulrich family style. The original owner’s name, W. A. Burt Campbell, is proudly displayed on the upper-left side of the action. He was a well-known hunter, trapper and taxidermist from the Pacific Northwest. Burt and his wife, Mary, opened the Horn Saloon in The Dalles, Ore., which was filled with mounted animals from his hunting and trapping excursions.

I can only wonder if Campbell was in possession of the rifle on his noted trapping excursions, or perhaps he took that elk that stood in the Elks Lodge in The Dalles with this Marlin lever-action. Regardless, I’ll always be curious of how a hobo came to possess this rifle, which has provided me with a memorable moment from my childhood and curiosity regarding its past expeditions.

—H.B. Bensinger


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