“There was no doubt he was going to get it,” Jay said.
It was a Fox “F” Grade shotgun, owned by former president Teddy Roosevelt. It was presented to Roosevelt by the president of the Fox Gun Company, and one that was used on his 1909 African safari, the most famous of all African safaris of American’s most accomplished hunting president.
There was a time when he was a kid and his family had a summertime fireworks stand outside Panhandle, Texas, that Jason Roselius would be giving away assorted firecrackers and pop bottle rockets out the back of the stand to his friends.
In some ways he changed over the years, and in some ways, he didn’t. Roselius was always looking for ways to help friends and others, but eventually he did learn the value of money and the price that went with it.
Jason’s father, Jay, said he didn’t scratch his nose, and didn’t so much as twitch as the auction soon dwindled to his son and one other determined bidder.
In the end, the gun that Roosevelt once said “there was no better ever made,” was Roselius’. The cost was steep. Including the buyers premium, it went for $862,500.
It was the most expensive shotgun ever sold at auction, and most expensive by a long way.
Jason purchased “Just about anything connected with history.” said Reva, his mother.
But this purchase was different. Teddy Roosevelt’s “F” Grade shotgun was his Holy Grail. A Japanese buyer offered Roselius $1 million for it, but he politely turned him away.
This shotgun was really not Roselius’ – at least that’s the way he saw it. It was the people’s. And he was determined to see that it one day come to the Texas Panhandle, that place that was home.
Jason Roselius died much the way he lived – by putting himself second, by helping others.
In January 2018, Roselius was talking on the phone with law partner Jack Mattingly, Jr., from his ranch home in Guthrie. Then Mattingly recalls that Roselius abruptly said, “Hey, I gotta go.”
Law enforcement authorities believe that Roselius saw his two dogs struggling to get out of an adjacent icy pond. Further, authorities believe Roselius entered the cold water to rescue his dogs. Neither the dogs nor Jason survived. He was 48.
“Jason latched on to history in high school,” said Liz Hughes, his sister. “That was his passion.”
So was the outdoors. Jay and his son hunted as much as they could. He developed an appreciation for wildlife and guns.
Roselius followed some scholarships to West Texas A&M, 45 miles away in Canyon. He threw himself into just about any organization that would have him. He followed his passion with a double major of history and political science.
“Jason always said that if you wanted to know about the future, just look at the past,” Jay said.
“Jason could never tolerate a bully, going back to high school,” his sister said. “That’s why he was drawn to the law. He always wanted to speak for those who couldn’t speak for themselves.”
Roselius found his role in representing the little man, the oppressed. He led and won numerous record-breaking state and national class-action lawsuits. He was the youngest attorney in the state of Oklahoma to win a class-action lawsuit.
A shotgun for the people
In 2010, when Roselius saw the catalog of the James D. Julia, Inc. firearms auction and saw the Teddy Roosevelt’s prized shotgun was one of the items, he grabbed his dad and told them they were going on a trip to Maine.
“He loved Teddy Roosevelt,” said Reva. “He was absolutely one of his favorite men in history. He loved the lessons Roosevelt tried to portray to everybody.”
Roosevelt described the shotgun to friends as the finest and most beautiful gun he’d seen. The gun features intricate scroll work, oak leaves and a gold inlaid hunting dog on each side of the frame.
But Roselius bought it not so much for himself, but so he could share it with those who had that same love of history and firearms that he did.
For the last seven years, Roosevelt’s shotgun has had a home at the Cody Firearms Museum at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo.
But in October, the shotgun made the trip 932 miles to the south from Cody to Canyon, Texas and West Texas A&M, Roselius’ alma mater. On May 28th and going forward, it will be on display at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum where it now resides.
For Carol Lovelady, the executive director of the PPHM, having the shotgun as an exhibit, she said, is incalculable.
“We are just extremely excited,” she said. “PPHM has long been known for having the best gun collection in Texas, but with the arrival of Teddy Roosevelt’s shotgun – considered a national treasure – the museum has become a destination for history buffs, gun collectors and Roosevelt scholars.
“Receiving the gun under any circumstances would be a coup, but knowing a graduate of WT purchased this shotgun with the intention of having it displayed at the museum makes its arrival more significant.”
All of those with a personal stake know the Roosevelt shotgun finally coming to Roselius’ home area is a fitting tribute.
“This is an extraordinary thing,” Jay said. “This is his home and where he started to college, and he just thought it would help the museum. That’s just the way he was.”
The man who paid more than $850,000 for the most expensive auctioned shotgun in U.S. history never touched it. He never laid a hand on it, and his family knows he was just fine with that.
Located on the campus of West Texas A&M University, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum is the largest history museum in Texas, with more than 285,000 square feet—and over two million artifacts—dedicated to preserving this area’s past. PPHM offers visitors a chance to step into panhandle history with special exhibits, a permanent collection, Pioneer Town, cell phone tours, educational tours and special events. For more information about PPHM please visit www.panhandleplains.org .