Friday, July 10, 2015

How About Those Famous Relatives?

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. She was born in 1874, to William Edward  and Sarah Hardison Bass 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 let him in and 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.

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.
Bass formed a gang and robbed the Union Pacific gold train from San Francisco. He and his me n 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.

Hope you're having a great summer!



  1. This is one of those situations where I can really sympathize with some of the criminals in history. Poor Sam to be orphaned so young and then mistreated by his uncle. Boy oh boy, the law would never get away with holding an innocent person and withholding medical treatment to force a criminal to talk in today's world. Now I guess they might lie and say they did, but no one would believe them. Really cruel.
    Sorry about all those no's. I learned the hard way about digging into family histories. My ancestors were pirates (no kidding). They got kicked off their island (Barra in the Scottish Hebrides) for sinking an English ship in 1746 (Culloden). Figures, the one good thing they ever did got the maximum punishment. LOL
    Are you still researching your ancestry?
    Enjoyed this very interesting blog about Sam Bass. All the best to your corner of the earth, Carra...

    1. Glad you enjoyed reading about Sam. I love the romance of my Great grandmother's tale whether true or not. I get tickled nowadays when someone mentions a family story. Love the research! Thanks, Sarah, for commenting!

  2. Researching ancestry is intriguing, but I want someone else to do it. My sisters are very good at genealogical research, but they've never found any famous person in our history--on either side of the family. They went back enough to find a relative who was in the Civil War on the Southern side.
    I was a Davis, and of course we have thought we came through Jefferson Davis--but no proof of that. The Davis name is very common in the South.
    Thanks for a good post--I love your stories of family members believing they descended from so many famous people.

    1. Lol, Celia. That's what makes it such fun. I happen to love the research. All the digging carries me down so many trails. Thank you.

  3. Great post, Cara! I love the Sam Bass stories.Genealogy research is fun and addictive. I once spent a solid year digging into my ancestral roots and learned some interesting facts. Way, way back I'm related to Wyatt Earp's forbearers. Like you, I'm also supposed to have Cherokee or Choctaw blood. This is all on my dad's side. His ancestors came to America from England, Ireland and Scotland in colonial times. Some of them migrated west from Virginia, eventually settling in Texas. My gr gr gr grandfather possibly fought under Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, during the Revolutionary War (not proven yet). Some of Daddy's ancestors owned slaves and fought for the Confederacy, which came as a shock. I was raised a Yankee in my mother home state of Minnesota. Although I got to Texas as soon as I could! :-)

    If we go back far enough, we are all related and we all have a few skeletons in our family tree.

    1. Amen to your final statement, Lyn. You and I have talked before how my husband and myself are related through five different lines on both sides of our families. That was an interesting discovery!


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