Barton Using Material From Novels Now

Chris Rodda catches David Barton using a story out of a Louis L’Amour novel in arguing that not only should teachers in schools be armed, but so should students. Because a character in a Louis L’Amour book tried to kill a teacher, but all the armed students in the old west stopped him with their six-shooters.

I assumed that Barton was either exaggerating a real story or just making the whole thing up, but since he didn’t give any source for the story or enough specifics to fact check it, I thought it would be impossible to find out whether or not there was any truth to it. I didn’t even consider that it might have come from a novel, but when a commenter on my previous post noted the striking similarity between Barton’s story and a story from the Louis L’Amour novel Bendigo Shafter, I downloaded the Kindle version of the novel and checked it out.

I wasn’t about to read an entire Louis L’Amour novel, but read enough to get the gist of the story:

The teacher in L’Amour’s novel was Drake Morrell, a gambler and gunfighter who had killed five men. Morrell was sentenced to be hanged in San Francisco, but somehow escaped and ended up in a town in Wyoming, where he became a respected citizen and, of course, the school teacher. But he was still being pursued by a character named Stacy Follett. Years earlier, Morrell had exposed that Follett and his friends were cheating at cards. Two of Follett’s friends had confronted Morrell with guns, and Morrell had shot and killed them. Follett caught up with Morrell and went to the school where he was teaching to kill the now respectable school teacher, who was defended by his gun-toting students.

She sent an email to him asking to document a real story like that. I’m quite certain she’ll get no answer in return.

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  • David Barton fabricating stories? Now I’ve seen everything.

  • Armed students will also be a bit help if a hoard of orcs assaults the school.

  • Or a big help. Whatever…

  • jnorris

    It is possible that Barton and L’Amour used the same source for the story. If so, then Barton has no reason not to supply that source. If, i said, if. As in “If that will ever happen”.

  • sbh

    As far as I can tell David Barton never responds to requests for documentation. (That’s been my experience, anyway, and while I may be generalizing from an inadequate sample, it’s what I’ve got.) I was more astonished by his statement that in all his extensive research in the founding era he’d only come across two examples of gun accidents. In my casual reading of documents from the time I must have run into at least a dozen examples, though I’ve never had any occasion to note them. A few days ago J. L. Bell, who does actual research in founding era documents, noted some half-dozen gun accidents in eastern Massachusetts in a little over a single year (1774-5) at his Boston 1775 blog.

  • @ sbh … One of my next posts is going to be about his ‘no gun accidents in the founding era’ claim. He actually contradicted that claim on the very same Beck show that he made it on in quoting one of the letters he quoted on that show. I just need to get my sources for my post about that together so I can post it. (It takes longer to write posts when you use real sources and not novels!)

  • sbh

    Chris Rodda: I’m looking forward to that one. Research is always harder than just making things up–or, for that matter, making unsupported statements based on one’s own hazy recollections (as I just did, and as David Barton seems to do all the time).

    I just went back to the Boston 1775 site to get the link ( and I noticed that Bell’s readers have supplied still more examples of gun accidents.

  • Sastra

    This reminds me of an incident years ago where President Reagan told a war story to illustrate some political point he was making and journalists figured out that he was re-telling the plot of a movie. Given that it was Reagan, it’s possible that this was another example of his muddled memory.

    And given what I’ve read concerning how easy it is for our memories to muddle, it’s possible that David Barton has made an honest mistake.

    But given that it’s David Barton we’re talking about here, it’s not very likely.

  • Doc Bill

    Barton also appears to draw from episodes of Gunsmoke and the Wild, Wild West!

    Batton’s story, set in the 1850’s, would have had the kids packing Colt .44 Dragoons that fired lead balls having packed the cylinders with powder. Unlikely that a kid would either be packing such a piece or be able to fire it without knocking himself down or out!

    Also, “historian” Barton fails to know what settlers in the west most likely had: shotguns, muskets and some rifles. Not handguns which were mostly used by the military.

    Barton, the TV “historian.” What a fool!

  • So-called “fiction” books count! If it didn’t have a gun, how would the very hungry caterpillar defend itself from rampaging ruffians, hmmm?

  • Scott Hanley

    Wow. How … mmm … Reaganesque!

  • In another book, Thor defeats Geirröd and a number of other frost giants because he had iron gloves as well as a magical belt and a magical staff.

    How can school children adequately defend their teachers from frost giants without these items?

  • LightningRose

    A few weeks ago I viewed an early episode of the old TV show “The Rifleman” where Lucas (Chuck Connor) McCain’s son (approximate age 12) asked to wear a side arm to school. Lucas gave him a resounding “NO!”.

    Probably a lot more historically accurate than Louis L’Amour’s version of the Olde West.

  • yoav

    My guess is that Barton’s claim about accidental shootings will be a result of his trademark rigorous data manipulation methodology. He would likely equate lack of records, caused by less widespread record keeping and loss of some records from the time, as meaning that accidental shooting never happened rather then not recorded. Also he would probably won’t count accidents such as Dick Chaney shooting his friend and only count cases where a child pick up a gun and it goes off which are much more likely with modern guns, that are often stored loaded and have a safety that can easily be flipped by someone picking them up, then with a muzzle loaded muscat that require quite a complicated process to get it ready to fire.

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