Marshall Trimble Schoolteachers Old West True West Magazine

Were schoolteachers armed during the Old West era?

Dave Fuller
Lisbon, Connecticut

Most schoolteachers were women, and the good ones knew how to command respect. In general, they did not carry or take arms into the classroom.

Many youngsters, however, combined school with ranch work and came to school carrying pistols or rifles. The teacher usually checked in the students’ guns and returned them when school was dismissed for the day.

One teacher confiscated a pistol and tossed it into a potbelly stove. She failed to remove the bullets. You can imagine what happened next.

When students had a beef with one another, they usually settled things with fisticuffs. In fact, most people in the West rarely, if ever, resorted to gunplay. The movies make it seem as if everyone walked around with an itchy trigger finger.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book is Arizona Outlaws and Lawmen; The History Press, 2015. If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or email him at

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