Shootin’ In the New Year

Jay Moore’s newest book, “Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home,” contains one or more
vignettes from Abilene’s history for each day of the year. Periodically, stories with some connection–however loose–to Abilene’s religious life will be featured in Spirit of Abilene. The book can be purchased at Texas Star Trading Co., 174 Cypress St. or call 325-672-9696. Books are $27.50.
Jay Moore

Following is an excerpt from Jay Moore’s book, Abilene Daily: Snapshots of Home, dated December 31, 1884.

Shootin’ In the New Year

A saloon on the corner of Chestnut and South First Street provided the original venue for an Abilene tradition that spanned 67 years. On New Year’s Eve 1884, a rowdy cowboy stuck his arm out of Walker’s Saloon and fired off a few rounds at the stroke of midnight. Police Chief John Clinton dashed inside, only to find a smoking gun on a table. One year later–as 1885 turned to 1886–Chief Clinton happened to be at South First and Chestnut again. Figuring “what the heck,” two years in a row on the same corner offered reason enough to begin a tradition. At the New Year, he pulled out his Colt .45 and fired three rounds into the midnight air, ushering in 1886 and signaling to the nearly two dozen local saloons that it was time to close.

Clinton returned on the final day of each year to shoot in the New Year, continuing the tradition until 1921. After the death of Chief Clinton in 1922, his annual ritual passed to Jinks McGee, who inherited the ivory-handled revolver, firing it off annally for the next 29 years. The tradition ended at midnight on Dec. 31, 1951, when Jinks McGee fired the old pistol for the final time. He died in his sleep eight days later. Clinton’s pistol is on display at the Abilene Police Department.

Top photo credit: “Happy New Year” by Beegee49 (Thanks for 12m views, my account is lock is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

One comment

  • I am enjoying the vignettes or factoids (not sure the genre) of Abilene history. As always, Jay’s style and humor are sharp.


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