notorious Old West bandit Sam Bass buried all the gold he is said to have buried
in Central Texas, he would have been a wealthy man indeed. He wouldn't have made
the fatal decision to rob a bank in Round
Rock in July of 1878. He would simply have stopped by one of the caves where
millions of his dollars are said to have been buried, and hightailed it to Mexico,
Likewise, if he stopped by every place he is said to have
been sighted on that ill-fated trip to Round
Rock, his route would have been most circuitous indeed.
- a hundred or more - people have talked about when Sam Bass dropped by The
Grove in Coryell
County en route to Round
Rock. W.J. Graham, who ran a store in The
Grove during Bass' heyday, recounted a day when Bass dropped by the store
and asked Graham what he would say to Sam Bass if he were to come into the store.
Graham said he would tell the outlaw to go straight to hell.
your chance because I am Sam Bass," the man said.
"Now, that's an altogether
different matter, isn't it?" Graham said.
Bass, or someone pretending
to be Sam Bass, might have made it over to the saloon for a little nip because
there is another story concerning Sam Bass at The Grove.
In this story,
some locals were hanging out at the saloon and heckling a young man who had come
in to quench his thirst. The object of their ridicule was the man's straw hat.
Apparently, no one in The Grove had made this particular kind of fashion statement
The man approached the hecklers and said he liked a good joke
as well as the next person and would be glad to join in if they would tell him
what was so funny. Before they told him, he introduced himself as Sam Bass, which
inspired everybody in the saloon to seek entertain-ment elsewhere.
and lore surrounding Sam Bass still exists today because facts never got in the
way of a good story, even during Bass' brief time in the spotlight. With the exception
of one big haul, when he and his gang got away with $60,000 in gold coins from
a Union Pacific train, Sam Bass and his gang weren't all that successful as bandits.
But oral history and folklore have been kind to Bass because of his enduring reputation
as basically a merry bandit, a Robin Hood of the Old West.
County Attorney and Old West historian Rick Miller probably knows more about Sam
Bass than anybody on the planet. His biography of Bass, "Sam Bass and Gang," was
named by True West magazine as one of the 50 best books ever written on the American
West. To give you an idea of the kind of company he's in with that award, Larry
McMurtry's "Lonesome Dove" is also on the list.
who want to believe that Sam Bass passed through Coryell County on his way to
Round Rock will find scant
support in Miller's book, which traces day-by-day the route Bass and his gang
made on that final fateful ride. |
Even if the gang did stop off in The
Grove, Sam Bass and his gang were in no position to announce their presence
in general stores and saloons. They were in a world of trouble, and getting away
unnoticed was a matter of life and death.
| Bass and gang did
stop in Belton and even considered
robbing the bank there, but Belton
spooked Bass. "I would hate for them Belton fellows to get after us for they are
bad medicine," Bass said. "These Bell County fellows are different material."|
Miller speculates that Bass might have heard some stories about Belton,
such as the time in 1874 when a mob took over the jail and shot do death nine
Or maybe he was thinking of more recent history, when
in June of that year another mob stormed a house near Troy and shot to death a
man and 14-year old boy, possibly over an elopement.
Bass wanted no part
of Belton or Bell
County. The gang soon moved into Williamson
County, where the saga of Sam Bass came to a bloody end. He was betrayed by
a member of his gang, who had wired the Texas Rangers from Belton
to inform them of Bass' plans to rob the Round Rock bank.
he been buried in Round Rock
before songs and biographies romanticizing the "Robin Hood of the West" began
Miller cut through the legend and lore to write his book on
Bass, and he cuts neither the man or the legend little slack.
Sam Bass was singularly unsuccessful as an outlaw except when he stumbled over
the gold coins during the Big
Springs robbery," Miller wrote in his epilogue. "Beyond that it is difficult
to attribute anything to him of a positive nature. He was an illiterate crook
who sought easy riches, but by being the focus of a manhunt unparalleled in the
history of Texas then or since, Bass indirectly reinforced the need for an organized
state police force.
"Bass' exploits have been glamorously but untruthfully
distorted to give him more credit as an outlaw than he deserves, but his is nevertheless
an exciting tale that has become a significant footnote in Texas
13, 2006 column
from Central Texas"
Related Topics: Texas
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