Bill Whitley Gang – Train Robbers of Texas

Brack Cornett, outlaw

Brack Cornett, outlaw

The Bill Whitley or Brack Cornett Gang comprised about 12 outlaws; was led by Texas desperadoes Bill Whitley and Brack Cornett, robbing Texas banks and trains in the late 1880s.

In June 1887, the gang robbed a train near Flatonia, Texas, making off with about $600 in money and $1000 worth of jewelry from passengers. The Wells Fargo Company quickly offered a $1,000 reward for capturing the outlaws and their conviction, and the State of Texas upped the ante an additional $500. Though heavily pursued, the outlaws fled and evaded the lawmen.

The gang robbed a bank at Cisco, Texas, the following year, making off with some $25,000. They robbed the International-Great Northern Railroad several days later, escaping with $20,000. Later that year, they planned to rob a Southern Pacific train out of Harwood, Texas, on September 22. However, their plans were foisted when U.S. Marshal John Rankin somehow found out about the scheme. On the day of the planned robbery, Rankin, along with Deputy U.S. Marshal Duval West, and several Texas Rangers hid on board the train. Just three miles outside of Harwood, the gang predictably stopped the train but were effectively driven off by the lawmen. Though pursued, the would-be robbers were able to escape.

Train Robbery

Train Robbery

Hunted more than ever by numerous posses, the gang was finally run to ground by U.S. Deputy Marshals just a few days later, on September 25, 1888, in Floresville, Texas. When the law caught up with them, the inevitable gunfight occurred, in which Bill Whitley was killed, and another gang member was taken prisoner. Brack Cornett was able to escape and fled to Arizona. However, one Texas Ranger, Alfred Allee, doggedly pursued Cornett to Frio, Arizona, where he caught up with him. Gunplay erupted once again, and when the smoke cleared, Cornett was dead.

© Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated December 2021

Also See:

Adventures in the American West

Outlaw Gangs

Outlaws Across America

Outlaws & Scoundrels Photo Gallery