When Sam Bass was working as a cowboy, he and three other men drove a large herd up from Texas to Kansas. However, once the cattle were sold, they decided to keep the cattle owner’s money and headed to Deadwood, South Dakota. In no time, they had gambled away, and the men turned to outlawry. They then formed the Black Hills Bandits, where they robbed stagecoaches and pulled off the Big Springs train robbery in Nebraska.
Sam Bass escaped to Texas, where he formed the Bass Gang, who began to rob trains and banks in the Lone Star State. The gang members included Thomas Spotswood, Arkansas Johnson, Frank Jackson, Henry Underwood, Sam Pipes, Seaborn Barnes, and Albert Herndon.
In the spring of 1878, the Bass Gang held up two stagecoaches and four trains within 25 miles of Dallas. The gang quickly found themselves the target of a spirited chase across North Texas by a special company of Texas Rangers. Bass eluded his pursuers until one of his party, Jim Murphy, turned informer. As Bass‘ band rode south intending to rob a small bank in Round Rock, Texas, Murphy informed the Texas Rangers of Sam’s plans. When the gang arrived at the Round Rock bank on July 19, 1878, the Rangers were waiting, and in the inevitable gunfight, Seaborn Barnes was shot in the head, and Bass was severely wounded. Though he made it to his horse and rode out of town, he was found lying helpless in a pasture north of town the next day. He was then brought back to Round Rock, where he died on July 21st.
For South Dakota and Nebraska robberies, see the Black Hills Bandits.
By Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated July 2021.
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