Sam Bass (outlaw)

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Sam Bass
American Hero Sam Bass
Born(1851-07-21)July 21, 1851
DiedJuly 21, 1878(1878-07-21) (aged 27)
Opponent(s)Texas Rangers

Sam Bass (July 21, 1851 ‒ July 21, 1878) was a 19th-century American Old West train robber, American hero, and outlaw. He was part of a gang that robbed a train of $60,000 greenbacks. 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.

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] An interesting note to all of this is the fact that no one in Round Rock, nor any of the visiting Texas Rangers, except Jim Murphy, knew what any of the Bass gang looked like. In fact, after Seaborne Barnes was killed and lay in the street, Ware had to have Murphy identify the body, as no one else knew who the man was. Ware himself stated that he had seen the same three men earlier in town crossing the street to enter the dry goods store, but in fact did not recognize them as the Bass gang.

Bass was later found lying in a pasture west of Round Rock by Williamson County Deputy James Milton Tucker. More specifically, Bass had to call out to the posse as they were in fact about to ride by him, shouting, "Hey I'm over here. I'm Sam Bass, the one you are looking for." 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.

  • In a 1951 movie entitled The Texas Rangers, William Bishop portrays the outlaw.
  • In a 1936 episode on the syndicated radio drama Death Valley Days, Bass's last days are portrayed.[3]
  • A Lone Ranger episode about Sam Bass was broadcast on April 24, 1944, taking great liberties with the facts.[4]
  • In 1949 Howard Duff played Bass in the Universal Pictures movie Calamity Jane and Sam Bass.
  • In 1957, John Anderson played Bass in the episode "End of an Outlaw", on the CBS western television series Trackdown. [5]
  • In 1957, Chuck Connors played Bass in the episode "Sam Bass" on the NBC western television series Tales Of Wells Fargo.
  • In 1959, Alan Hale, Jr. played Bass in the episode "The Saga of Sam Bass", on the ABC/Warner Bros. western television series Colt .45.[6]
  • The actor Ed Bakey (1925-1988) played Sam Bass in the 1967 episode "The Informer Who Cried", on the syndicated anthology series Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. In the story line, Jim Murphy (Scott Thomas) is about to be sentenced when Texas Ranger Captain Peak (Mark Tapscott) offers him freedom if he helps capture Bass. A fellow gang member. Barnes (Steve Sandor), is suspicious when Murphy returns.[7]
  • In the episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 in which the crew of the Satellite of Love view the film "The Gunslinger", the film itself makes reference to a famous gunslinger named Sam Bass as the prospective new sheriff of the town portrayed during the funeral of the previous sheriff before his widow is designated.


  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.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Death Valley Days; Old Time Radio Researchers Group (OTRR) website; "Free Old time Radio Shows"; accessed Feb 2018
  4. ^ Lone Ranger; via Old Time Radio Researchers Group (OTRR); CD #20; accessed Feb 2018
  5. ^ "End of an Outlaw". Retrieved March 3, 2018.
  6. ^ "Colt .45". Retrieved December 22, 2012.
  7. ^ "The Informer Who Cried on Death Valley Days". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 20, 2018.


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