Jim Murphy (1861-1879)
– A member of the
Sam Bass Gang
Murphy got involved with the
through Frank Jackson, who worked on the Murphy Ranch in Denton, Texas. Joining up with the gang, the
got into a fight at Salt Creek in Wise County, where Captain June Peak and
Texas Rangers killed Arkansas Johnson,
Sam Bass' most trusted lieutenant. Either just before or soon after this
battle, the Rangers captured Murphy and another gang member named Pipes Herndon
and drove Bass and his two remaining companions out of North
After the fight
on Salt Creek only Sam Bass,
Seaborn Barnes, and
Frank Jackson were left of the once formidable gang. These men had
gained nothing from their four train robberies in North
Texas, and were so hard pressed by the officers of the law on all
sides that Bass reluctantly decided to leave the country and try to make his way
Through some pretended friends of
Bass, General John B. Jones,
Commander of the Texas Rangers, learned of the contemplated move. He, with Captain Peak
and other officers, approached Jim Murphy, who was awaiting trial by the
Federal authorities for train robbery, and promised they would secure his
release if he would betray
Murphy then joined
Bass in the Elm Bottoms. However, some of
Bass' friends, suspicious of Murphy's release and bondsmen, wrote
Sam that Murphy was playing a double game and advised him to kill the
traitor at once.
Bass immediately confronted Murphy with these reports and told
Murphy plainly if he had anything to say to say it quickly. Barnes agreed with his chief and urged Murphy's death.
The plotter denied any intention of betraying
Bass and offered to take the lead in any robbery
Bass should plan and be the first to enter the express car or
climb over the bank railing.
were angry and decided to kill the liar at once. Frank Jackson had taken no part in the conversation, but, he now
declared he had known Murphy since he was a little boy, and he was
sure Murphy was sincere and meant to stand by them through thick and
Barnes that they could not kill Murphy without first killing him.
Although the youngest of the party at just 22 years old,
Jackson had great influence over his chief.
Barnes made a fatal mistake when they allowed
Jackson to change their minds.
Frank Jackson, and Jim Murphy left Denton County early in July,
1878. Though he was watched almost constantly by
Barnes, Murphy seized a rare opportunity to dash off a short note
to General Jones letting him know they were headed to Round Rock, Texas
to rob a bank.
When the gang arrived the
were waiting. While Murphy stopped into a store, supposedly to quiz
locals about the presence of lawmen,
Jackson hitched their horses in an alley just back of the bank
then went to buy some tobacco. As the three bandits passed into the
store, Deputy Sheriff Moore, who was standing on the sidewalk with
Deputy Sheriff Grimes, said he thought one of the newcomers had a
Bass and trying to search
him, Sam said, "Yes, of course I have a pistol." At the words, the
robbers pulled their guns and killed Grimes as he backed away to the
door. He fell dead on the sidewalk. They then turned on Sheriff Moore
and shot him through the lungs as he attempted to draw his weapon.
then fled. Seaborn Barnes
was shot and Killed, while
Bass was wounded but, fled with
Frank Jackson. However, he was badly injured
and died the next day.
made his way back into Denton County and hung around
some time hoping to get an opportunity to murder the betrayer of his
chief, declaring if he met Jim Murphy he would kill him, cut off his
head and carry it away in a gunny sack.
Murphy returned to Denton, but learned that
was hiding in the Elm Bottoms awaiting a chance to kill
him. He then asked permission of the sheriff to remain about the jail
for protection. While skulking about the prison one of his eyes became
infected. A physician gave him some medicine to drop into the diseased
eye, at the same time cautioning him to be careful as the fluid was a
deadly poison. Somehow, he swallowed a large portion of it and died.
Most accounts say it was suicide.
of America, updated December, 2015.