Historical Details

Gibson, George: Army Rifle Hoax

Courtesy of The Lusk Herald, 06/05/1959

Indian Map Leads to Cache of 1876 Rifles

Twenty-eight U. S. Army rifles, stolen by Ogallala Sioux Indians about 1876, just after the Black Hills were opened to the white men, were found in a hole in the sandstone of the banks of Lance Creek in northern Niobrara County Sunday by Frank Sylvester of Lusk. The amazing historical find was the climax to an almost unbelievable tale of which is a genuine old treasure map was the key.

A telegram Tuesday from the Army verified that the rifles were stolen from a sutler named Bullock by a band of Indians lead by Chief Blackfoot. Bullock operated a store in western South Dakota. Just why the Indians cached the rifles is not certain, but it is deemed likely that they did not have ammunition. Some Indian drew up a map. The map was evidently passed down through Indian hands until it was obtained by Godfrey Broken Rope.

Mr. Broken Rope, an Indian preacher who is well known here, last summer told George Gibson, Lusk business man, about the map and said he would give him the map. Broken Rope left for the Southwest for the winter, and the map didn’t come. Mr. Gibson too, went south for part of the winter and the two men accidentally met on the streets of Show Low, Ariz., and the subject of the map came up again. Broken Rope again said he would send the map. He did.

Mr. Gibson turned the map over to Richard G. Pfister believing the rifles were on land owned by him. In turn Mr. Pfister, who was very busy at the time, turned the map over to a hired man, Frank Sylvester. Mr. Sylvester found the rifles by following the 83 year old Indian map.

The rifles were wrapped in Army blankets and are covered with a hard black coating. It is assumed that the black substance was once a type of protective covering. Considering that the rifles have spent 83 years in all kinds of Wyoming weather, they are in good condition. The rifles were originally stored in wooden cases, but the cases long ago mostly rotted away.

Mr. Gibson informed the Army of the find and the Army immediately wired back to hold the rifles for military authorities. Despite the fact that the rifles were stolen 83 years ago they are still government property and doubtless more valuable today than they were in 1876.
Some of the rifles, along with the cases they were in and fragments of the blankets in which they were wrapped are on display in the window of the Midwest Hardware. The window is locked.

We Were Took—Stolen Rifle Story Was Hoax
The Lusk Herald, July 2, 1959

The Lusk Herald and many people throughout America were the victims of a gigantic hoax. George Gibson of Lusk publicly admitted that the whole story of finding a cache of stolen rifles was a hoax to publicize the Pageant.

With both United Press International and Associated Press carrying the story on their wires, it spread from coast to coast and border to border within minutes after its release Wednesday night. The story was the main topic of conversation throughout this region as well as front page news in hundreds of large newspapers.

The story was that a cache of rifles which were stolen by the Indians in 1876 were found on the Richard G. Pfister ranch in northern Niobrara. It was said that an old Indian map led the searchers to the location.

Mr. Gibson master-minded the rifle hoax, which was probably the second greatest hoax in the history of the west—the first being the great diamond hoax which took place in San Francisco and Utah in the 1870’s when $35,000 was parlayed into $600,000.

Mr. Gibson and confederates, Mrs. Gibson, Richard G Pfister, Ambrose Kinney, Carl Brisco, Art Keller, Floyd Fraser, Dave Iliff, C. J. Stafford, and Miss Phyllis Johns, went to great trouble to perfect the details of the hoax. While Mr. Gibson was convalescing form a heart condition in Arizona last winter he conceived the idea. He bought ten 1871 and 1877 11 mm Mauser rifles in California.

The false Army verification telegram was sent by an Omaha relative. The men went to great lengths to get The Herald to take the bait which was first given out four months ago. Once hooked, an almost constant watch was put on The Herald to see that they stayed hooked. The Herald gathered its information from several different sources and all matched. The rifles were conveniently not available until after The Herald’s press time last Wednesday. The rifles were never on the Pfister ranch; in fact they never left the Gibson garage.

The oversized rifle cases were carefully constructed from the oldest boards available. The “army” blankets were dyed blue with gold lettering because those were the Army’s colors in 1876. They had been soaked with acid so that they would be rotted.

Army Ordinance and History Dept. Investigate Famous Indian Rifle Hoax
The Lusk Herald, July 30, 1959

The now famous Indian rifle hoax was investigated by the Army last week. George Gibson, the Indian rifle hoaxter, had some explaining to do to both the Fifth Army Ordinance and Army Office of the Chief of Military History.

When M. W. Grant, Fifth Army Ordinance Equipment Specialist from Camp Guernsey, first arrived at the Gibson residence last week he was met with a suspicious attitude, for both Mr. and Mrs. Gibson at first thought he probably was an imposter sent here by The Herald to even the hoax. He was genuine but later when he arrived at The Herald office he was again met with a suspicious attitude because The Herald thought Mr. Gibson was attempting another fast one. Despite the fact that Mr. Grant was asked to show his credentials, he learned what the Army Ordinance wanted to know--how the rifles could be so well preserved after 80 years in the Wyoming weather.

Colonel Gilbert of the Army Office of the Chief of Military History wrote Mr. Gibson and among other things asked four questions:

1. "Where were the rifles found?"
2. "What is their condition?"
3. "What is the caliber, serial number, and manufacturer's name?"
4. "Are the rifles for sale?"

Mr. Gibson had to go through the hoax story for the thousandth time in his answer but in answer to the fourth question he had to say that the rifles have already all been sold.

Images & Attachments

George Gibson

Related/Linked Records

Record Type Name
Obituary Gibson, George (09/22/1899 - 03/01/1960) View Record
Obituary Kinney, Ambrose (09/18/1916 - 02/06/2000) View Record
Obituary Lambert, Phyllis (05/03/1926 - 01/06/2001) View Record
Historical Gibson, George View Record