otherwise unremarkable evening in 1892, a group of rowdy and possibly
intoxicated young men tried to board a Missouri, Kansas and Pacific
train in Troy without tickets. A bouncer came along and tossed them
off the train, pleasing the delinquents not at all. They whipped out
pistols and fired off a few rounds at the train as it left the station
and probably called it bad names.
The incident was still fresh in engineer J.W. Pepple's mind when about
three miles north of Temple he spotted what appeared to be lanterns
on the tracks. Pepple's common sense warned him there might trouble
ahead, so he wasn't surprised to see six or seven men with masks and
guns standing on the tracks, brandishing firearms and commanding the
train to stop.
If they thought Pepple would comply, they were wrong. The engineer
rammed the throttle forward, scattering bandits to either side of
the tracks like tenpins. The men fired off several shots and probably
yelled variations of "Stop or I'll yell stop again" as the train once
again sped away without them.
A week later, three men trying to sneak aboard an open baggage car
on a Missouri, Kansas and Pacific train found two other men already
occupying the car. One of the men had a mask, a pistol and an axe.
The second man carried a pistol in one hand and a bottle of whiskey
in the other. Their cover blown, they stashed the mask and axe but
kept the pistols so they could once more shoot at the train as it
pulled out of the station without them.
Why they would employ the same MO a few nights later isn't hard to
figure out. Like the majority of criminals we never hear of and most
of the ones we do, these guys weren't smart enough for work that didn't
include incarceration and violent death as occupational hazards.
However, Pepple, the engineer, was plenty smart. When his train pulled
around a bend a few days later and he perceived two men with rifles
set up in a sharpshooting position, he knew just what to do. He pushed
the throttle down and ducked as bullets ricocheted off the train and
rattled around the inside of a passenger car, causing great alarm
but only two minor injuries. Pepple said it sounded like the bullets
came from six or seven guns. But the law was closing in.
Greatly annoyed by this motley group of trigger-happy goofballs, the
railroad and local law enforcement conducted an investigation that
resulted in the arrest of seven men: the Seven-Up Gang.
The gang's namesake was a gambler named Henry Russell, or Seven-Up
Russell to a group of cohorts that included Charles Franklin, a.k.a
Deadeye Dick, Bud Miller and three Ward brothers-Charles, Will and
When the lawmen charged Temple saloonkeeper O.P. "Jack" Buchanan with
harboring the gang, he found the inspiration for a full recital of
everything he knew about robberies that six of the men-he claimed
Miller was innocent-had committed in Waco and Temple.
In jail, Seven-Up Russell and Deadeye Dick met two men named Griffin
and Dillard who were charged with robbing a Chinese laborer named
Wah Sing of forty dollars. Griffin and Dillard promised to bust Seven-Up
and Deadeye Dick out of jail if they would just take the fall for
robbing Wah Sing. Why this sounded like a good idea is anybody's guess,
but Dead-Eye Dick went ahead and confessed to the robbery and got
ten years in prison.
Griffin and Dillard, of course, forgot all about busting Deadeye Dick
or anybody else out of jail once they were released. But here's a
weird thing. They were arrested and charged a second time with Wah
Sing's robbery, but the courts never bothered to reverse Dead-Eye
Dick's conviction; he served the full 10 years.
Seven-Up Russell and the other members of the gang went to prison
for varying amounts of time. Seven-Up escaped once but not for long.
After his release, he turned up in Bell County in 1897, charged with
rape but acquitted when the alleged victim changed her story on the
stand. Buchanan's charges were dropped in exchange for his testimony.
Will Ward's trial resulted in a hung jury.
That ended the escapades of the Seven-Up Gang, hardly remembered now
except as an Old West version of an early Texas version of The
Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight. Like so many other their criminal
counterparts, they didn't think straight, either.