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Aug 28, 2011
To follow is an account of his 27-year life, focusing mostly on his final days in Round Rock.-
As a legend, the accounts of Sam's life are as varied as the number of individuals telling the tale. For the events during and after the shootout, all of the stories have been gathered for the reader to examine; thus, throughout the narrative, differing views are presented. The basic story line remains; the differing accounts are offered to allow the reader to appreciate the full extent of the legends and lore that have grown up around Sam Bass. Sam Bass was born in Indiana on a farm two miles from Mitchell, on July 21, 1851, he was soon orphaned and he and his brother and sisters moved to a nearby farm to live with their uncle and his nine children.
As a child, Sam received no formal schooling and he chose to strike out on his own in 1869. Sam traveled down the Mississippi, to Rosedale, Mississippi, where he worked for a year in Charles' Mill. It was here that Sam learned how to handle a pistol and honed his card playing skills. In 1870, Sam met up with Scott Mayes, a teamster headed to Denton, Texas. Sam had always been taken with the idea of moving to Texas and becoming a cowboy, and this looked like his chance.
The two arrived in Denton, and Sam found employment with Sheriff W. F. "Dad" Eagan (who would later spend much effort searching for the outlaw Bass). Sheriff Eagan employed Sam not as a deputy but as a farmhand; he curried the horses, milked the cows, cut firewood, but, most importantly, 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 that he would later use to elude the Texas Rangers.
In Denton, Sam was considered to be a hard worker and was known for his thriftiness. It was here that he also met many of his friends, with whom he would later engage in unlawful activities. Saving his earnings, he was able to purchase a 15-hand mare, referred to as the "Denton Mare". This racehorse was fast and soon earned Sam enough money for him to quit his job with Sheriff Eagan and retire to a life of horse racing, gambling and saloon patronizing.
After 1875, Sam never again held a permanent job, living instead on his gambling proceeds and eventually on thieving. In December of 1875, Sam met Joel Collins in San Antonio. Together they decided to run a herd of cattle to the northern markets. This eventually took them to Nebraska, where they sold the herd and used the money to take up gold prospecting in the Black Hills. This venture left the two broke. To offset their losses, they turned to robbing stages. In association with Jack Davis and another man known as Nixon, they held up seven stages over the next few months. The "Black Hills Bandits", as the gang was known, tired of the puny payoffs from the stage robberies, turned their attention to the more lucrative crime of train
The bandits divided the gold coins six ways and then in pairs split up, each pair heading in a different direction. Joel Collins and his partner were shot and killed a week later. Another pair, composed of James Berry and Nixon, was split up and Berry was captured; Nixon, it is assumed, escaped with his share to Canada. The third pair, Sam and Jack Davis, rode south in a one horse buggy-- their share of the haul stowed under the seat.
At some point on their trip back to Texas, Sam and Jack Davis were joined by a company of soldiers and detectives who were searching for the train robbers. Sam and Jack Davis convinced these men that they too were searching for the bandits in the hopes of receiving a large reward. After four days, Sam and Jack Davis split from the other men and rode back to Denton. Once in Denton, Sam explained his new found wealth from a strike he had made prospecting in the Black Hills. His money and good spirits attracted many people, some of whom would later become a part of the "Sam Bass Gang" when he took to robbing trains in Texas.
It is assumed that Sam would have reached Denton by late autumn; yet, by February of 1878, Bass had begun to rob trains again. Why? How could he have spent $10,000 in less than four months? Many people have believed that there was no way that he could have spent the money; so they have speculated that Bass hid his gold. Stories abound of individuals searching for the Bass gold. One story places the hidden gold in a cave in East Mountain at Mineral Wells (Grigsby). Another legend speculates that Bass held on to his gold until he headed to Round Rock to rob the bank, hiding the gold in a cave west of Prairie Dell near Big Blue Spring for safekeeping during the robbery ("Amazing Story"). If anyone ever found the Bass Gold they never reported it. Since it is hard to imagine that Sam could have used up all of his gold before he started train robbing again, it lends credence to the story that Sam robbed for sport more than for profit.
Whatever the reason, the "Sam Bass Gang" stood up the Texas Central train at Allen Station on February 22, 1878. This holdup netted the gang $1,300 and on March 18th they again held up the Texas Central, this time at Hutchins. The Texas and Pacific Railroad was hit on April 4th at Eagle Ford and again on the 10th at Mesquite.
Only the first robbery resulted in any significant payoff for the gang and the style of these robberies was highly amateurish; prompting some observers to speculate that the robbers were either extremely nervous or drunk at the time of the holdups due to the fact that during two of the holdups the gang missed large stashes of money that had been hurriedly hidden by the express messengers.
During the time of these Texas train robberies, the "Sam Bass Gang" was staffed by Frank Jackson, Seaborn Barnes (who was shot in the legs during the Mesquite job), Thomas Spotswood, Arkansas Johnson, Henry Underwood, Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon; Bass and Barns took place in all four of the robberies, Jackson participated in three, Johnson in two and the others in one. After the Mesquite Robbery, a cry of indignation went out from the people of North Texas. The Governor decided that the time had come to call in the Texas Rangers once again.
Sam Bass ultimately met his fate by the barrel of a gun in Round Rock, as for the freshly minted $20 dollar Liberty Gold Coins? Your guess is as good as mine.
There's a story that Bass was allowed to stay at a farm, where he was sheltered in an outbuilding and may have buried a substantial amount of gold coins on their property, telling his protectors that he intended to come back for his buried treasure. “The money was never found" ..
Aug 23, 2011
Video from 06/28/2010 As hurricane Irene looks likely to track through the Bahamas, I can't help but think about the possibility of some fresh treasure finds that will almost certainly be deposited in the sands along the treasure coast of Florida.