SUNDAY SPOTLIGHT: City has connection to rare Billy the Kid tintypes

Published on Saturday, 25 November 2017 20:23
Written by Bob Montgomery

Staff Writer

Frank Abrams, 57, an attorney from Arden, N.C. and old-time western history buff who visited Bristol in May of this year, has been written up on the national level in recent years, and most recently this month in having purchased five tintype photos for $10.00 at a flea market in Asheville, N.C. in 2011.

One of them, with Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, his killer, and three other hombres, has pretty-much been verified as being of great historic and monetary value, and the story behind this and the other four photos have connections to Bristol.

One of the tintype photos, after much research including the Bristol stop by Abrams, was found to be that of Florence Muzzy in her early 20’s. Most in Bristol are familiar with the Muzzy name, because of Muzzy Field. Adrian Muzzy, best known as a businessman on Main Street, donated the property to the town that is now known as Muzzy Field. His wife was born Florence Emily Downs, and she was the daughter of Franklin and Emeline Upson Downs of Bristol. Together Adrian and Florence Muzzy had two sons who died at an early age and in remembering them, the couple donated the land to Bristol to become known as Muzzy Field. They had a daughter, Adrienne, who would become a librarian at the New York Public Library.

Florence Muzzy had an uncle, Ash Upson, who was a journalist and he left Bristol and eventually ended up in New Mexico. Following his divorce, he moved in with the family of Pat Garrett with whom he would team up to publish a book on the outlaw Billy the Kid.

Upson and his favorite niece, Florence Muzzy from Bristol, who he called “Hurricane” because of her many endeavors, were very close and corresponded with each other.

The tintype of Billy the Kid and the three others posing together was taken sometime around 1880. One of the men is unidentified and the other two are Barney Mason and Dave Rudabaugh. Mason rustled cattle with Billy the Kid and Rudabaugh was known as Dirty Dave Rudabaugh, because he was a notorious cattle rustler, train robber and killer who rarely bathed and wore filthy clothing.

Besides both the Billy the Kid and Florence Muzzy tintypes, there’s one believed to be Upson on a horse, another of Eddie F. Root and the last of a young girl on a bike thought to possibly be a young Florence Muzzy.

The connection to Root comes from an Upson family member marrying into the Root family from Clinton, New York. This was mentioned at the flea market when Abrams purchased the tintypes. It was verified all the more when Abrams found a calling card with the name Eddie E. Root in back of one of the tintypes.

Now, how did the tintypes go from out west to possibly Bristol, to New York and then North Carolina? Following the death of Upson in 1894, Garrett wrote to Florence Muzzy and other family members here about the trunk of items her late uncle had saved, some of which included her letters. He was asking for directions on what to do with the trunk. Could it have been that it was sent east to a family member in Bristol and then to Adrienne Muzzy, the New York librarian, after her mother died in 1939, then went to Clinton, New York. before or after Adrienne’s death in being childless in 1949? Whatever its possible travels, it had to have ended up in North Carolina from Clinton, N.Y.

And what is the photo of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett and the other three men worth? To Abrams it’s not the money right now. As a historian he wants to fill in the gaps. It’s been said to be worth a possible five million dollars, but it’s under lock and key right now. And think about it in determining the dollar value, has there ever been a photo with both Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth in it together? No. How about JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald? No!

It also has a bit of Bristol in it as an interest to readers and historians here, as do all five of the tintypes, and with this, Abrams said he would come back to Bristol to do a program on the five tintypes one day.

And look at this way, too, the photos of Florence Muzzy and her uncle from Bristol have traveled and remained with that of the Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett tintype for 120-plus years!

To learn more on this subject go to your search engine and type in: Billy the Kid - Frank Abrams. And, stay tuned.

Contact Bob Montgomery at or by calling 860-973-1808.

Posted in The Bristol Press, Arts, Bristol, General News on Saturday, 25 November 2017 20:23. Updated: Saturday, 25 November 2017 20:25.