Along the Way: Samuel Colt

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The Colt Monument, Cedar Hill Cemetery, Connecticut. The stone on the left is shared by Samuel Colt (his name is on the top of it) and his daughter, Henrietta

Note: More about Cedar Hill Cemetery can be found here at the beginning of the article on Katharine Hepburn. It can be found here: Katharine Hepburn

Driving slowly on the roadways of Cedar Hill Cemetery, located in Hartford, Connecticut, I marveled at the large monuments marking the resting places of former residents of the area. The massive memorials definitely caught and held the attention of those visiting the cemetery. Although I wished I had time to stop and photograph them all, I knew my time here was limited, so I consulted the map for directions to the next grave I sought.

I wound my way through the maze of stone and the moment the grand memorial came into view, I instinctively knew it was the one I sought. The massive column, with its figure on top, stood guard atop the knoll overlooking this portion of the cemetery. I pulled off to the side of the roadway and made my way slowly up the hillside to the memorial. Near the base were three smaller stones, one of which was marked with the name of the man who revolutionized the manufacturing of the firearm that still bears his name: Samuel Colt.

Colt was born July 19, 1814 in Hartford, the son of a textile mill owner. He grew up working on the family farm and also in his father’s mill, where he began experimenting with explosives. In 1830, Colt was admitted to the Amherst Academy in Massachusetts, but was expelled later that same year for setting a building on fire while setting off explosives for his classmates.

His father sent him to sea to learn a trade and it was during his time at sea that Colt came up with the idea of a revolving cylinder to be used to improve firearms. He patented his idea and in 1836 built his first factory – known as the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company – in Paterson, New Jersey. The weapon produced would be known as the “Colt Paterson” firearm. Poor sales caused him to close the factory in 1842, even though the weapons were popular with soldiers fighting the Seminole War in Florida.

Colt left the firearms industry behind and began marketing some of his other inventions. In 1847 Colt was contacted by Captain Samuel Walker of the Texas Rangers with a large order for weapons. Walker was originally a soldier during the Seminole Wars and credited Colt’s weapons as a means of winning their battles. Colt had no factory to manufacture the order, so he contacted Eli Whitney, Jr., to assist him in production. The result of this demand  was the creation of the “Colt Walker” firearm.

This order would change Colt’s life and he returned to the production of firearms. He would erect the Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Plant along the Connecticut River in Hartford.

In 1856, Samuel married Elizabeth Jarvis and as a wedding present, he had a new house, Armsmear, built for her next to his factory. The couple had only been married for five years when Samuel died January 10, 1862. He was originally buried on the grounds of Armsmear where he rested until 1894. When the last of their children died, Elizabeth had him, along with their four children who were buried on the estate, moved to the grounds of Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Eleven years after his death, the company he founded would begin manufacturing what is possibly the best-known firearm in the world, the “Colt .45 Peacemaker.” The weapon would soon find its place in history with the westward movement, becoming the weapon most would identify “The Wild West” with.

I finished paying my respects and headed back down the hillside, leaving Colt to rest beneath the simple stone in the shadow of the grand memorial erected to his honor.

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