Brothers Jim and Rube Burrow were members of the Burrow Gang, of which Reuben was the leader. Robbing trains throughout Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, and Alabama. Jim would be imprisoned where he died, and Rube was killed on October 7, 1890.
Jim Burrow (18??-1888) – Jim Burrow, originally from Alabama, grew up to rob trains with his brother Reuben “Rube” Burrow in 1886. Robbing their first train on December 1, 1886, in Bellevue, Texas, they only netted a few hundred dollars. Adding members to their gang, they robbed so many trains by early 1888 that they had become the most infamous train robbers since Jesse James and were pursued by hundreds of lawmen throughout the south and southwest. But for Jim, his life as an outlaw was to be short-lived. In 1888, a conductor recognized the brothers on a train pulling into Nashville, Tennessee. Notifying authorities, lawmen trapped Rube and Jim in a passenger car. Rube shot his way to freedom, but Jim was taken into custody and jailed in Texarkana. Later that year, he died in prison of consumption on October 5, 1888.
Reuben “Rube” Houston Burrow (1854-1889) – Born in Lamar County, Alabama, on December 11, 1854, he grew up to be a farmer in Arkansas. However, in 1872 he moved to Stephenville, Texas, to maintain a ranch. In 1876, he married, and the couple had two children. He was known as an upstanding citizen and a Masonic Lodge member. After his wife died of Yellow Fever in 1880, he was left to care for his two small children. He remarried in 1884 and bought a farm near Alexander, Texas. However, when his crops failed, he turned to robbing trains with his brother Jim in 1886.
The brother soon collected a couple more hard cases, including brothers William L. Brock and Leonard Brock, Henderson Brumley, and Nep Thornton, forming the Burrow Gang. On December 1, 1886, they robbed their first train in Bellevue, Texas. However, they only netted a few hundred dollars. The gang, taking on new members here and there, continued to rob so many trains that by early 1888, they had become the most infamous train robbers since Jesse James and were pursued by hundreds of lawmen throughout the south and southwest.
When they were spied by a conductor on a train pulling into Nashville, Tennessee, lawmen trapped Rube and Jim in a passenger car. Rube shot his way to freedom, but Jim was taken into custody and jailed in Texarkana. Later that year, Jim died in prison of consumption on October 5, 1888. With wanted posters hanging everywhere, Rube became the subject of one of the most widespread manhunts in American history. But, unafraid, the outlaw continued to rob trains, often returning to Alabama where the locals would protect him.
On October 7, 1890, that all changed when Rube was recognized by a store owner named Dixie Carter in Linden, Alabama. As Burrow looked at some rifles, Carter pointed his shotgun at the outlaw and marched him to a storeroom where he locked him up. However, while Carter went for the authorities, Burrow was able to escape, later returning to the store, planning to kill Carter. When Rube spotted the shopkeeper at the train depot, he opened fire, sending a bullet into Carter’s Arm. Carter, drawing his revolver, returned fire and hit Burrow in the stomach. The outlaw later died in the street, and Carter recovered the reward.
©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated December 2021.
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