Bob Hayes- Riding With the High Fives Gang

Bob Hayes, aka Sam Hassell, John West was an outlaw; he began his criminal career as a horse thief before becoming a member of the High Fives Gang.

Born in Laporte, Iowa, as Sam Hassell, he headed westward as a young man. He began his criminal career in Texas, where he was associated with several outlaw gangs. The law finally caught up with him in Gonzales County, Texas, and he was convicted, in about 1889, of horse rustling and sentenced to a five-year prison term in Huntsville. However, just four months shy of completing his term, he escaped.

After fleeing to New Mexico, he worked as a cowboy for a time in Chavez County under the alias of John West. There, he met George Musgrave and Code Young.

Black Jack Will Christian

Black Jack Will Christian

The three men would soon join up with Black Jack Christian’s High Fives Gang, at which time Sam Hassell began to use the name of Bob Hayes.

Hayes and other members of the gang attempted to rob the International Bank of Nogales, Arizona, on August 6, 1896. Though the gang’s bank robbery attempt was unsuccessful, the men were quickly pursued.

On October 2, 1896, Hayes was with the gang during an attempted train robbery of the eastbound Atlantic and Pacific train in Rio Puerco, New Mexico. The plan was foiled when U.S. Deputy Marshal Will Loomis emerged from a passenger car and killed Code Young with his shotgun. The rest of the gang scattered without so much as a dollar from the train.

He was with gang member George Musgrave on October 19th at the shooting of George T. Parker southwest of Roswell, New Mexico.

The next month, a posse caught up with the men at the Diamond A Ranch in the San Simon Valley of southwest New Mexico. In the inevitable gunfight that ensued, Hayes was killed by lawman Fred Higgins. One of the ranch cowboys who went by the moniker of “Sammy Behind the Gun” transported Bob Hayes’ dead body to the railroad station at Separ.

In the meantime, Black Jack Christian and George Musgrove escaped. Still on their tail the following April, they tracked the fugitives to a cave near Clifton, Arizona, and yet another gunfight erupted. Christian was killed, but two others were able to flee.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated January 2024.

Also See:

High Fives Gang of Arizona

Will “Black Jack” Christian – Leading the High Fives Gang

Outlaws on the Frontier

Outlaw Gangs


Hayes, Alden, C.; A Portal to Paradise; University of Arizona Press, 2000.
hrapp, Dan L.; Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography: G-O, Arthur H. Clark Company, 1988.
Tanner, Karen and John D.; Last of the Old-Time Outlaws: The George West Musgrave Story, University of Oklahoma Press, 2002.