Brown County Historical Scrapbook: Sam Bass Part 2

Brownwood Bulletin
Ronnie and Donnie Lappe

Continuing the story of legendary outlaw Sam Bass the Sam Bass gang started out robbing trains, but the companies started putting security on the trains, and sending the gold payroll in small shipments.  After trains became riskier to rob, they started robbing banks.  The Texas Rangers were dispatched to stop the Bass gang.  Major Jones was sent to arrest Bass.

James Murphy, who rode with the gang, was tired of being an outlaw on the run.  He had a family. Law enforcement had filed a charge on his Dad. He and his Dad believed to be trumped up charges. He made an agreement with Major Jones to help him find the Bass gang in exchange for clearing him and his Dad from all charges. He requested that the charges on his Dad be dropped before he gave information because of his Dad’s age and health. The charges against him were to remain pending until the Bass gang was rounded up, based on information from him.

While Murphy rode with the gang, it was hard to leave or write a note to let the Rangers know where the robbery was planned. It could cause him to be discovered as the informant.

One time, one of the gang discovered Murphy appearing to give information to law enforcement. They brought him to Sam Bass, who was going to hang him, but Murphy convinced them that he had not betrayed them. He said they were going to arrest him and he lied and pretended to give the information when he did not give them any good information. One of the men was a friend of Murphy’s and convinced Bass he was telling the truth.

The Bass gang planned to rob a bank in Round Rock. Murphy managed to get information to the Texas Rangers about the date, time and place of the robbery. On the way into town, Murphy made some excuse to stay in one of the towns they passed, and did not go into town. Some gang members came into the bank individually to look over the bank to see where the doors and exits were and how many people worked there.

They planned to rob the bank on Saturday. Three of the men came into town Friday afternoon to look over the bank one more time and make sure they had exit plans and plans for paths to ride out of town.

The men hitched their horses in an alley on a side street and went into Kopperel’s General store, next to the bank, to buy tobacco and other supplies.

Major Jones, the Texas Ranger division commander, had received the plan of the robbery from Murphy. They stationed three Rangers in a building close to the bank to keep watch. Deputy Sheriff of Williamson County and Travis County Peace Officers, and former Ranger Morris Moore were also alerted.

Grimes and Moore saw the Bass men go into the General Store. They went inside and asked one of the gang why he was carrying a gun. He drew and killed Grimes instantly. Moore was shot in the lungs and seriously hurt.  Gun fire between the Bass gang and the Rangers started

Sam Bass was shot, but the rest of the robbers were not hurt. When the gang ran out of the mercantile store, the Rangers started shooting from the building where they were keeping watch.  Major Jones was at the telegraph office and came running to help with the fight. A bullet nearly missed his head.

Before the Bass gang reached their horses, one of the men was killed. Sam Bass was shot in the head and badly wounded. None of the other robbers was seriously wounded. Most of the men got on their horses and rode out of town.

Sam Bass was hurt too badly to ride. The Rangers found him sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree. They took him into town to a doctor. He lived a few days and then died. Major Jones tried to get him to describe which banks he had robbed and who was with him, but Sam Bass said that he would not break “the code” that an outlaw did not give information about a fellow gang member. Some people think that he buried stolen gold coins in the Central Texas area.

Brown county men, including Warren Mcghee served in the Texas Ranger division that fought Sam Bass.