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 .

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. The gang intercepted the train on September 18, 1877, at Big Springs, Nebraska, netting $60,000.

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 happened in Allen, Texas, north of Dallas.

The trap is set[edit]

The tombstone of the grave of Sam Bass in Round Rock Cemetery located in 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, 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.

The "Sam Bass shootout"[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. 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 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. Bass was buried in Round Rock in what is now known as Round Rock Cemetery on Sam Bass Road. 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.


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

Dramatic representations[edit]

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

  • 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.[2]
  • In 1959, the actor Alan Hale, Jr., played Bass in an 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.[3]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ Death Valley Days; Radio Lovers website; "Free Old time Radio Shows"; accessed July 2017
  3. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012. 


External links[edit]