Sam Bass and His Train Robber Gang

Texas Rangers

Texas Rangers

The bandits had now reached their horses, and realizing their situation was critical fought with the energy of despair. If ever a train robber could be called a hero this boy, Frank Jackson, proved himself one. Barnes was shot down and killed at his feet, Bass was mortally wounded and unable to defend himself or even mount his horse while the bullets continued to pour in from every quarter. With heroic courage, Jackson held the Rangers back with his pistol in his right hand while he unhitched Bass’ horse with his left and assisted him into the saddle. Then, mounting his own horse, Jackson and his chief galloped out of the jaws of hell itself. In their flight they passed through Old Round Rock, and Jim Murphy, standing in the door of May’s store, saw Jackson and Bass go by on the dead run. The betrayer noticed that Jackson was holding Bass, pale and bleeding, in the saddle.

Lieutenant Reynolds, entering Round Rock, came within five minutes of meeting Bass and Jackson in the road. Before he reached town he met posses of citizens and Rangers in pursuit of the robbers.

When the fugitives reached the cemetery Jackson halted long enough to secure a Winchester they had hidden in the grass there, then left the road and were lost for a time. The fight was now over and the play spoiled by two over-zealous deputies in bringing on an immature fight after they had been warned to be careful. Naturally Moore and Grimes should have known that the three strangers were the Sam Bass Gang.

Lieutenant Reynolds started Sergeant Nevill and his Rangers early next morning in search of the flying bandits. After traveling in the direction the robbers were last seen they came upon a man lying under a large oak tree. Seeing the armed Rangers, the man called out to not to shoot, saying he was Sam Bass, the man we were hunting.

After entering the woods the evening before, Bass became so sick and faint from loss of blood that he could go no farther. Jackson dismounted and wanted to stay with his chief, declaring he was a match for all their pursuers.

“No, Frank,” replied Bass. “I am done for.”

The wounded leader told his companion to tie his horse near at hand so he could get away if he felt better during the night. Jackson was finally prevailed upon to leave Bass and make his own escape.

When daylight came Saturday morning Bass got up and walked to a nearby house. As he approached the place a lady, seeing him coming holding his pants up and all covered with blood, left her house and started to run off, as she was alone with a small servant girl. Bass saw she was frightened and called to her to stop, saying he was perishing for a drink of water and would return to a tree not far away and lie down if she would only send him a drink. The lady sent him a quart cup of water, but the poor fellow was too far gone to drink it. He was found under this tree one hour later. He had a wound through the center of his left hand, the bullet having pierced the middle finger.

Bass’ death wound was given him by Dick Ware, who used a .45 caliber Colt’s long barreled six-shooter. The ball from Ware’s pistol struck Bass’ belt and cut two cartridges in pieces and entered his back just above the right hip bone. The bullet badly mushroomed and made a fearful wound that tore the victim’s right kidney all to pieces. From the moment he was shot until his death three days later Bass suffered untold agonies. As he lay on the ground Friday night where Jackson had left him the wounded man tore his undershirt into more than one hundred pieces and wiped the blood from his body.

Bass was taken to Round Rock and given the best of medical attention, but died the following day, Sunday, July 21, 1878. While he was yet able to talk, General Jones appealed to Bass to reveal to the state authorities the names of the confederates he had had that they might be apprehended.

“Sam, you have done much evil in this world and have only a few hours to live. Now, while you have a chance to do the state some good, please tell me who your associates were in those violations of the laws of your country.”

Sam replied that he could not betray his friends and that he might as well die with what he knew in him.

Sam Bass Grave

Sam Bass Grave

Sam Bass was buried in the cemetery at Old Round Rock. A small monument was erected over his grave by a sister. Its simple inscription reads:

Samuel Bass

Born July 21st, 1851

Died July 21st, 1878

A brave man reposes in death here. Why was he not true?

Frank Jackson made his way back into Denton County and hung around some time hoping to get an opportunity to murder the betrayer of his chief. Jackson declared if he could meet 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 Jackson was hiding in the Elm Bottoms awaiting a chance to slay him. He thereupon 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. Murphy drank the entire contents of the bottle and was dead in a few hours. Remorse, no doubt, caused him to end his life.


By James Buchanan Gillett, 1921.Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated August, 2017.

About the Article and Author: This article was written by James Buchanan Gillett, a Texas Ranger, author, and rancher. It was included in a book he wrote in 1921 entitled Six Years with The Texas Rangers. Later the book was condensed under the title The Texas Rangers and was used as a textbook in the public schools of seventeen states. Gillett is a member of the Texas Rangers Hall of Fame. He died in 1937. The text as it appears here is not verbatim, as it has been heavily edited for corrections and clarity.


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