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 criminal

Sam Bass (July 21, 1851 ‒ July 21, 1878) was a 19th-century American Old West train robber and outlaw. He was part of a gang that robbed a train of $60,000. After forming his own gang, however, he never had similar success. He died as a result of wounds received in a gun battle with Texas Rangers.

Early life[edit]

Samuel Bass was born in Mitchell, Indiana, on July 21, 1851.[citation needed]

Life of crime[edit]

After failing at a series of legitimate enterprises, Bass turned to crime. He joined a gang that robbed the Union Pacific Railroad gold train from San Francisco on September 18, 1877. The gang intercepted the train at Big Springs, Nebraska. The robbery netted the gang $60,000.[citation needed] Shortly afterward, Bass formed his own gang (in Texas), which staged a string of robberies. In 1878, the gang held up two stagecoaches and four trains within 25 miles of Dallas. They became the object of a manhunt by Pinkerton National Detective Agency agents and a special company of the Texas Rangers headed by Captain Junius Peak. One of the train robberies occurred in Allen, Texas, just outside Dallas.[citation needed]

A trap is set[edit]

Tombstone marking the grave of Sam Bass, Round Rock Cemetery, Round Rock, Texas

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, had been taken into custody and held for questioning. He was not allowed to be seen by a doctor and was prevented from receiving medical treatment, which caused his condition to rapidly worsen. Lawmen 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. There, he reluctantly agreed to turn informant. John B. Jones was subsequently notified of Bass's movements and set up an ambush at Round Rock, Texas, where Bass and the gang planned to rob the Williamson County Bank.[citation needed]

Shootout and death[edit]

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.[citation needed] As Bass attempted to flee, he was shot by Texas Rangers George Herold and Sergeant Richard Ware. Soapy Smith and his cousin, Edwin, witnessed Ware's shot. Soapy exclaimed, "I think you got him!"[1]

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


There is a Sam Bass Road in Round Rock, Texas.

During Round Rock's Frontier Days celebration each year, performers re-enact the famous shootout in the old downtown.[2]

Dramatic representations[edit]

Bass has since been portrayed in several books, radio programs, television shows, and movies.[citation needed]

  • In a 1936 episode on the syndicated radio drama, Death Valley Days, Bass's last days are portrayed.[3]


  1. ^ Smith, Jeff (2009). Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, Klondike Research. pp. 30-32. ISBN 0-9819743-0-9
  2. ^ Syers, Ed; Hodge, Larry (2000). Backroads of Texas: The Sites, Scenes, History, People, and Places Your Map Doesn't Tell You About (4th ed.). Taylor Trade Publishing. p. 104. ISBN 978-0891230533. 
  3. ^ Death Valley Days; Radio Lovers website; "Free Old time Radio Shows"; accessed July 2017
  4. ^ >Calamity Jane and Sam Bass
  5. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012. 


External links[edit]