Shotgun John Collins

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Abraham G. Graham
Born (1851-11-22)November 22, 1851
Horry County, South Carolina
Died December 2, 1922(1922-12-02) (aged 71)
El Paso, Texas
Other names John Collins, "Shotgun" John Collins, John Graham, and George Graham
Occupation Gunfighter
Criminal charge Cattle rustling and Horse stealing
Spouse(s) Tabitha Cox
Children Henry C., Hosea Joe, Abraham, August K.,Tabitha Belle, and Jessie Jane Collins...later change name back to "Graham"
Parent(s) Hosea A. Graham and Martha A. Graham (first cousins)

"Shotgun" John Collins (November 22, 1851 – December 2, 1922) was a little-known, though well associated, gunfighter of the Old West.


Born Abraham G. Graham, in Horry County, South Carolina, Collins was born Nov. 22, 1851 on his grandmother, Jane Conner Graham plantation. His great grandfather, Captain Edward Connor, served in the South Carolina Militia during the American Revolution, under Francis Marion. His father, Hosea A. Graham, had married his first cousin Martha Ann Graham, and while Collins was still a child the family moved to Texas in covered wagons in 1859.

While living in Limestone County Texas teenagers Abe Graham, alias John Collins and John Wesley Hardin were partners, furthermore coming from stanch Confederate families. Hardin writes in his biography John Collins was once married to one of his cousins (Tabitha Cox born in Bonham, Fannin County Texas) and comments while he was in Austin jail he met some noted men naming John Collins, Pipes and Herndon of the Bass gang, John Ringo, Mannings Clements and Brown Bowen.

Collins was sought by lawmen for crimes including cattle rustling, and fled Texas for Mexico. After that time cattleman John Collins moved into Ulvade Texas and became one of the five glorious Uvalde Minutemen, including Captain J. J. H. Patterson, Henry Patterson, W. B. Nichols, Tom Leakey and John Collins. These five fearless Minutemen did what the Texas Rangers could not do! After that time John Collins migrated into the western part of Old Socorro County. As reported by the Grant County Herald John Collins ushered the year 1875 out with a bang! On December 27, John Collins undertook to make a cold moist body out of James "Jim" Smith. He was arrested by Sheriff Whitehill (Silver City) and put into jail, later he bailed himself out for $60, and was so inclined to migrate into Lincoln County.

Many small cattlemen ran together during that time. A number of events in the bloody Lincoln County War Abe Graham, aka John Collins was with his brother-in-law, Deputy Sheriff John "Jack" Long. Long was married to Delila Jane Graham, sister of Collins/Graham. Deputy Sheriff Long and wife Delila had 3 children, Buelah, Hosea "Judge", and John "Riley" Long named after John Riley, partner in Lincoln County War Murphy, Dolin and Riley, aka The House!! John Collins was in and around the area for about five years at the end of the Lincoln County War. He went to Uvalde Texas married his 4 TH wife, young Tabitha Cox, November 1, 1880 under name John Collins. They had (6) living children and (1) child still born. The family used the Collins name and later changed their name back to Graham. Oldest son Henry at age 27 married his wife Irene as Henry Collins but later changed to Henry C. Graham.

Outlaw John Collins became associated with William H. Bonney in Silver City. He rode the countryside with Billy the Kid and were pals. John Collins fought in and all during the Lincoln County War. When the war was over both sides were still up in arms. The people who fought in the war were being persecuted and backwashed. Collins moved to the western part of Old Socorro County New Mexico. "Collins Park" in the Elk Mountain of today's Gila National Park was in tribute to "Shotgun" Collins. Billy the Kid was wanted at the time, and moving around often, and for a time Collins accompanied him. April 1879 John Collins was in Rynerson's Territory court in Lincoln New Mexico for rustling cattle and stealing horses.

John Collins also met Wyatt Earp, then working for Wells Fargo, as well as Pat Garrett. He later worked as a buffalo hunter, and a US Cavalry Scout during the Army's struggle with Geronimo and the Apache. Collins was closely associated with the famous W-S Ranch. Eventually he came to own four ranches in old Socorro County, New Mexico. 1903 Collins moves his family into Mexico, changes his name back to Graham. He work for Greene Gold and Silver in Mexico as a "guard" and own several ranches in Old Mexico until Mexican Revolution. 1910 Collins/Graham escorted his family back to Hermosa. At that time he sent his (2) little girls by train to live with his younger brother H. in Buffalo Texas so they would be safe, with family and get schooling. . Collins had changed his name from Graham to his great grandfathers name when he left Texas, going by John Collins, to avoid trouble with the law on the earlier cattle rustling issue, but sometimes went by John Graham. Collins also worked, for a time, riding shotgun for Wells Fargo, and during this time his bond with Earp became strong. It was during this period that he became known, due to the numerous shootings he was involved in associated with his work, and from which his nickname "Shotgun" came.

Collins drifted for a time, through El Paso, Texas, and later to Dodge City, Kansas. At times he took part in outlaw activities, while at others he served as a member of posses. In 1883 he came to Dodge City with Wyatt Earp to support Luke Short during what became known as the Dodge City War. In the famous photographs in which Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett, M.F. McClain, Neal Brown, William H. Harris, and W.F. Petillion are pictured, as well as a less circulated copy that excludes Petillion and includes Bill Tilghman, Collins was present, as well as Johnny Millsap, "Texas Jack" Vermillion, and several others considered part of the "Dodge City Peace Commission". However they chose not to be in the photograph.

John Graham, alias John Collins was with Uncle John at the Wig Wam Saloon in El Paso Texas when John Selman was shot by George Scarborough and later testified in the Selman murder trial. He was never involved in any well known gunfights, with most of his notoriety coming from his days riding shotgun for Wells Fargo, and his association with the other members of the "Dodge City Peace Commission." He died in a gunfight at the age of 71, in El Paso, during a dispute.

Ironically the Old Ghost Horseman wasn't a bad man or a good man. He was a product of the times! He was on census throughout the Old West as John Collins, John Graham and Abraham Graham with wives and children. Outlaw, gunfighter, and sometimes lawman "Shotgun" Collins was buried in an unmarked grave under his given name Abe Graham in the Catholic Section of El Paso's Concordia Cemetery in the same section as his old partners John Wesley Hardin and John Selman. Abe Graham, aka George Graham was cousin with Tombstones "Curly Bill," king of the outlaws. The outlaw cousins were sometimes partners, always pals and descendants of Scotland's Graham Montrose.

Grave Direction: {Gateway West Gate Entrance} Immediate to right by Concordia Wall to Jewish Wall, Section X, Lot 7, and Grave 6.}


External links[edit]


  1. ^ *[1] The University of New Mexico, University Libraries Center for Southwest Research(Tape #151 Microfilm #2, Tape #152, microfilm #2, Tape #153, microfilm #2)
  • Rynerson's Court Lincoln New Mexico April 1879
  • The Life and Death of a Lawman on the Closing Frontier By Robert K. DeArment
  • Concordia Cemetery (Catholic Section) El Paso Texas
  • {Collins Park,} Catron County New Mexico tribute to "Shotgun" Collins
  • Alias Frank Canton By Robert K. DeArment
  • Marriage License John Collins and Tabitha Cox, Uvalde Texas, Nov. 1, 1880
  • Whatever Happened to Billy the Kid By Helen Airey
  • The Life of John Wesley Hardin By John Wesley Hardin and Robert G. McCubbin
  • Bat Masterson: The Man and the Legend, By Robert K. DeArment [page #245]
  • The Place Names of New Mexico, By Robert Hixson Julyan, [Page #91]
  • Six-Guns and Single-Jacks By Bob Alexander, {Page 94}
  • Rasch Collection University of New Mexico by Phillip J. Rasch,

"identifies Abraham G. Graham as John Collins"

  • "These Also Served," By Susan E. Lee