Saturday, September 22, 2012

SAM BASS, FAMOUS TEXAS OUTLAW AND FAMILY HISTORY


By Guest author, Carra Copelin

Sam Bass
Through the genealogy research of our family history, I continually search for the validity of stories passed from one generation to the next. So far I'm 0 for 0. A few of these are:
1.  A great grandmother was Cherokee or part Cherokee. No.
2.  A great-great grandfather came to Tennessee from Germany, then to Texas. No, it appears he was possibly an Englishman from Illinois
3.  My Pike ancestors were related to Zebulon Pike, explorer and discoverer of Pike's Peak. No.
4.  We are related by marriage to Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy. You guessed it, No.
 Now, in all fairness, it is possible I haven't gone down the right trail or all evidence for the right trail no longer exists. Maybe there's a left turn out there I will find someday.

The biggest story we haven't proven yet is that we are related to Sam Bass, the outlaw. My great-grandmother, on my father's side, was Anna Bass Carr, born 1874 in Clifton, Bosque County, Texas. She told the story of how, when she was a little girl, a man came to their home late one night. Her mother, Sarah Hardison Bass, let him in, gave him food and lodging. The next morning, when she awoke, the man was gone. Granny said, her mother told her that man was her cousin, Sam Bass.

Another story involving, Sam Bass, happened on my mother's side of the family. This tale says the outlaw was headed south from Denton by way of the Garland - Mesquite area, North of Dallas. Sam stopped at the McCommas farm, the home of mother's great-great uncle. Sam bought fresh horses and left his own for the farmer. Once again, there is no proof, but I want to believe.

Young Sam Bass


Sam was born on July 21, 1851on a farm in Mitchell, Indiana. He was orphaned at the age of ten. He and his brother and sisters lived with an abusive uncle and his nine children for the next five years. In 1869, Sam lived on his own in Mississippi at Charles' Mill where he learned how to handle a pistol and sharpened his card playing skills. In 1871, he moved to Denton in North Texas.

He went to work for Sheriff W.F. (Dad) Eagan. Sheriff Eagan employed Sam as a farmhand where he curried horses, milked the cows, and cut firewood, but more importantly, young Sam spent some time as a teamster. It was at this position that he became acquainted with the country and learned all the trails, back roads and thickets he would later use to elude the Texas Rangers.

Sam Bass Gang, Jim Miller on left back
Bass formed a gang and robbed the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco. He and his men intercepted the train on September 18, 1877 at Big Spring, Nebraska, looting $60,000. To this day it is the largest single robbery of the Union Pacific. Sam and his gang staged a string of robberies after this, never netting over $500 at any one time. In 1878, the gang held up two stagecoaches and four trains within twenty-five miles of Dallas and became the object of a manhunt by Pinkerton agents and a special company of Texas Rangers headed by Captain Junius Peak.

The Bass gang eluded the Rangers until one 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 his condition rapidly worsened. Law officers then sent a message to Murphy informing him that they had his father in custody, and they would continue to withhold medical treatment. Murphy, knowing how sick his father was, agreed to the meeting, which resulted in him reluctantly agreeing to become an informant. That is the tactic that had to be employed to catch the wiley Sam Bass. Major John B. Jones, Texas Ranger, 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 Deputy Sheriff A. W. Grimes. When Grimes approached the men to request that they surrender their side arms, he was shot and killed. As Bass attempted to flee, he was shot by Ranger George Herold and then by Texas 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." Bass was found lying in a pasture by a group of railroad workers, who summoned the authorities. He was taken into custody and died the next day on his 27th birthday.

Bass was buried in Round Rock, some fifteen miles north of Austin, Texas's state capitol. Today, his grave is marked with a replacement headstone, the original having 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.

After Sam died his legend grew, helped along by a song.♫ "The Ballad of Sam Bass" ♫, written by John Denton of Gainesville, Texas, was sung by many cowhands in an attempt to sooth the herd on stormy nights. Sam's fame spread to Great Britain in the late 1800s, culminating in a wax statue of him in Madam Tussaud's Waxworks in London (Ibid.).

Today, Sam Bass is not as well-known as he was in the past. However, Round Rock maintains its historical legacy as evidenced by the street markers identifying the events in the celebrated shootout.

My family's connection to Sam, while not yet proven, may still be true. I have traced our Bass ancestors back to Gibson County, Indiana. I'm ever hopeful that one day a distant relative will stand up and say 'Howdy', so to speak, and we'll have our documentation.



Carra Copelin, Author

Carra was born in Dallas, Texas and raised a few miles away in Arlington just a stone's throw from where the Dallas Cowboys now call home. Unlike other authors, she didn't write from childhood or read long into the night, but discovered romance novels as an adult. In addition to relieving stress, she found there were many people residing in her head, all looking for a way onto the printed page, so she decided to give writing a try. From that day she was hooked, and, even though life took over for a while, Carra is busy bringing her characters to life. Now retired from the Medical Technology field, Carra writes contemporary and historical romance and is collaborating on a time travel.

Carra can currently be found:
http://carra-copelin.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Carra-Copelin-Texas-Skies-Author/233861816666958
https://twitter.com/#!/CarraCopelin







13 comments:

  1. Carra, wonderful post. I hope one of your Bass relatives reads the post and contacts you. Wouldn't that be great?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Carra--fascinating. And welcome to Sweethearts of the West. Caroline and I have several connections and coincidences in our lives that we call ourselves cousins.
    So were happy to see another Texan on the scene. I was born near Mineral Wells, and my grandfather was born in Bosque County.
    Our family has a few of these kinds of beliefs--that we're related to Jefferson Davis (maiden name), and that Mother was part Blackfoot. Neither of those is true, though.
    I enjoyed the information about Sam Bass--thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Caroline and Celia, Thank you so much for having me today. This is my first guest post and I am so excited.
    Celia, my husband and I have found in our genealogy search that our families are related several times through the generations, so i have no doubt you and Caroline are related in some way. I love that.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Carra, what a wonderful family mystery to pursue! Nothing exciting in our family but my good friend's cousin owns property that contains a (Cole) Younger family graveyard. So I'll have to live vicariously. Thanks for the great post.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Carra, great post! Isn't it amazing what we find out when we dig into our ancestors' past. I hope you prove your connection to Sam Bass.

    What really amazes me is your family history in Bosque County, and Celia's as well. I chose that county as home base for my Texas Druids a long time ago, before you and I met. How is that for coincidence?!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Tanya, it is fun. Because of that, I hope we never disprove the connection. A cousin reminded me today that Sam supposedly buried the gold somewhere around, Round Rock, TX. He said, if true, there's probably a Costco covering it up. Fun stuff!
    Thanks for stopping by today!

    ReplyDelete
  7. We've had fun researching Bosque County together. Traveling to Cransfill Gap, where some of my cousins still live, and the surrounding area taking pictures is a great memory.
    Thanks for visiting with me today. I will talk to you soon!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Our family stories include royal bastards, and a wobbly line of descent to Robert the Bruce of Scotland.

    The connection to Robert the Bruce is based solely on a common name. The royal bastard story has some facts to back it up. There was a bastard that brought a fair-sized chunk of property in London to the family (which was bombed to the ground in WWII). Considering the royals at the time, almost anyone could have a royal bastard in the family.

    ReplyDelete
  9. PS: The property, not the family, was bombed to the ground. :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Alison, you always make me laugh. Where would any of us be without a wayward bastard or two.
    One of the lines on my dad's side teeter-totters back to the Stewarts of Scotland.
    p.s. I'm glad to hear it was the building and not the family. Oh, and thanks again for liking my page!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Knowing nothing about Texas geneology, I ask this in ignorance. Wonder if Sam Bass is somehow related to the Bass family of Fort Worth/New York?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Ruby, Anything is possible. I have wondered that myself and for my line as well. I just haven't made any concrete connections. Someday...
    Thanks for visiting!

    ReplyDelete
  13. My name is jacob bass and ive heard the story as well from my dad if you would like to contact me at jjbass1980@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting Sweethearts of the West!