Sam Bass (outlaw)

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Sam Bass
Photograph of Sam Bass
Born (1851-07-21)July 21, 1851
Mitchell, Indiana, U.S.
Died July 21, 1878(1878-07-21) (aged 27)
Round Rock, Texas, U.S.
Occupation Armed robbery

Sam Bass (July 21, 1851 ‒ July 21, 1878) was a 19th-century American Old West train robber and outlaw.

Outlaw years[edit]

Union Pacific Big Springs robbery[edit]

After failing at a series of legitimate enterprises, Bass turned to crime. He formed a gang and robbed the Union Pacific Railroad gold train from San Francisco, California. Bass and his men intercepted the train on September 18, 1877, at Big Springs, Nebraska, looting $60,000. To date, this is the single largest robbery of the Union Pacific.[citation needed]

Bass and his gang staged a string of robberies, yet never netted over $500 at any one time.[citation needed] In 1878, the gang held up two stagecoaches and four trains within 25 miles of Dallas, Texas, and became the object of a manhunt by Pinkerton National Detective Agency agents and by a special company of the Texas Rangers headed by Captain Junius Peak.

The tombstone of the grave of Sam Bass in Round Rock Cemetery located in Round Rock, Texas
A Sam Bass Road exit sign on Interstate 35 in Round Rock, Texas

The "Sam Bass Shootout"[edit]

Bass was able to elude the Texas Rangers until a member of his gang, Jim Murphy, turned informant. Mr. Murphy's father, who was very ill at the time, was taken into custody and held for questioning. He was not allowed to see a doctor and was prevented from receiving medical treatment causing his condition to rapidly worsen. Law officers then sent a message to Murphy informing him that they had his father in custody, and that if Murphy did not agree to meet with them, they would continue to withhold medical treatment from the father. Knowing how sick his father was, Murphy agreed to the meeting where he reluctantly agreed to turn informant. John B. Jones was informed of Bass's movements and set up an ambush at Round Rock, Texas, where Bass planned to rob the Williamson County Bank.

On July 19, 1878, Bass and his gang were scouting the area before the robbery. When they bought some tobacco at a store, they were noticed by Williamson County Deputy Sheriff A. W. Grimes. When Grimes approached the men to request that they surrender their sidearms, he was shot and killed.[1] As Bass attempted to flee, he was shot by Texas Ranger George Herold and then by Ranger Sergeant Richard Ware. Near Ware, were Soapy Smith and his cousin Edwin who witnessed Ware's shot. Soapy exclaimed, "I think you got him."[2]

Bass was found lying in a pasture west of Round Rock by Williamson County Deputy James Milton Tucker.[citation needed] He was taken into custody and died the next day on July 21, 1878, his 27th birthday. Bass was buried in Round Rock in what is now known as Round Rock Cemetery on Sam Bass Road. Today, his grave is marked with a replacement headstone as the original suffered at the hands of souvenir collectors over the years. What remains of the original stone is on display at the Round Rock Public Library in downtown Round Rock.


As with many figures of the American Old West, Bass captured the public's imagination and has since been portrayed in countless books, radio programs, television shows, and movies, including the following:

  • In a 1936 episode on the syndicated radio drama, Death Valley Days, Bass's last days are portrayed before his death in Round Rock, Texas.[3]
  • In the April 24, 1944 episode of the radio series "The Lone Ranger", there was a fictionalized story about Bass' death. In this episode, Bass' son is supposedly the sheriff of Round Rock, Texas.
  • In the 1949 Western movie, Calamity Jane and Sam Bass, Bass is portrayed by Howard Duff.
  • In 1954, Bass was portrayed by Don Haggerty in an episode of the syndicated Western television series, Stories of the Century. Haggerty was 40 when he played the doomed 27-year-old Bass.
  • In 1955, though not the central focus, the story of Bass was incorporated into an episode titled "The Shooting of Sam Bass" on the CBS television series, Tales of the Texas Rangers.
  • In 1959, the actor Alan Hale, Jr., best known for his role on Gilligan's Island, played Bass in the episode entitled "The Saga of Sam Bass" on the ABC/Warner Bros. Western television series, Colt .45. Hale was 38 when cast as the 27-year-old Bass.[4]
  • In 1961, Bass was portrayed by Jack Chaplain in an episode of the NBC Western television series, The Outlaws.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Officer Down Memorial Page on A. W. Grimes
  2. ^ Smith, Jeff (2009). Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, Klondike Research. pp. 30-32. ISBN 0-9819743-0-9
  3. ^ Free Old time Radio Shows - Death Valley Days
  4. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012. 

External links[edit]