Sam Brown (outlaw)

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Sam Brown (6 July 1831?, Ohio? – 6 July 1861, Nevada) was an American outlaw, reputed to have killed eleven men and often accused of being a coward and a bully, inclined to unprovoked violence when intoxicated.[1][2]

Mark Twain mentions "Sam Brown" among 11 names of notorious killers in Nevada during the 1860s.[3]

For a brief time, Sam Brown is alleged to have been the most notorious desperado in Virginia City.[4] In the American West of that time, outlaws often used aliases and their exploits were often exaggerated by themselves and by tellers of tall tales. Newspaper accounts might have subordinated the truth to telling a good story, selling newspapers, and maintaining a good image for influential people, such as saloon keepers and lawyers.

According to Mark Twain,

In Nevada, for a time, the lawyer, the editor, the banker, the chief desperado, the chief gambler, and the saloon keeper, occupied the same level in society, and it was the highest.[5]

According to Myron Angel's history, in defending his claim in Fiddletown, California in 1854, Sam Brown was convicted of killing three Chileans and wounding a fourth and served two years in San Quentin State Prison.[1]

How Sam came to his end is a tale with many versions.[6]

The accounts of Brown's death suggest that in celebrating his 30th birthday he became drunk and started a fight with Henry Van Sickles, who chased him on horseback and then shot him dead.[1][7]


  1. ^ a b c Angel, Myron, ed. (1881). "Sam Brown". History of Nevada with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Thompson & West. pp. 355–357.
  2. ^ Convis, Charles (22 November 2011). "Sam Brown". Outlaw Tales of Nevada: True Stories of the Silver State's Most Infamous Crooks, Culprits, and Cutthroats. Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 1–11. ISBN 978-0-7627-7587-3.
  3. ^ Twain, Mark (1872). Roughing it. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company. p. 344.
  4. ^ Wright, William (1876). History of the Big Bonanza: An Authentic Account of the Discovery, History, and Working of the World Renowned Comstock Silver Lode of Nevada, Including the Present Condition of the Various Mines Situated Thereon; Sketches of the Most Prominent Men Interested in Them; Incidents and Adventures Connected with Mining, the Indians, and the Country; Amusing Stories, Experiences, Anecdotes, & C., &c., and a Full Expostion of the Production of Pure Silver. American publishing Company. p. 131.
  5. ^ Roughing It. p. 339.
  6. ^ Fisher, Vardis; Holmes, Opal Laurel; Fisher, Opal Laurel (1968). Gold Rushes and Mining Camps of the Early American West. p. 401. ISBN 9780870040436.
  7. ^ Lyman, George Dunlap (1934). ""Fighting Sam Brown" (1860–1861)". The saga of the Comstock lode: Boom days in Virginia City. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. pp. 156–159.