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HOLDUPS RECALL
SAM BASS GANG

________

NEW AND OLD METHODS OF
BANDITRY IN THIS SEC-
TION ARE COMPARED.

BY W. S. ADAIR

    It is, by no means, a new thing for men to go after what seems to be easy money, and there was plenty of excitement in and about Dallas in the latter part of June, 1878, when four train robberies were perpetrated in rapid succession in this vicinity, two on the H. & T. C., and two on the Texas & Pacific railroads.  The first robbery was at Allen, the second at Hutchins, the third at Eagle Ford, and the fourth, at Mesquite.  The officers and State rangers scoured the country for the bandits, but did not arrive at even a suspicion as to who they were, until after the Mesquite holdup.
    The clew was given by a man who knew some of the bandits, and by the arrest of one of the gang who had been shot in the leg at Mesquite, and, who had stolen into Dallas for surgical aid.  Then, it became known that the band was headed by Sam Bass, who had, up to that time, enjoyed the reputation of being a law-abiding farmer and stockman of Denton County, and whose followers were mostly country boys of Dallas and Denton Counties, who had become fired with the spirit of adventure.
    The holdups at Allen, Eagle Ford and Hutchins were without specially romantic features, the bandits simply boarding the trains when they stopped at the stations, as was their method, and taking what they found in the express car, and leaving the passengers undisturbed.  They usually announced themselves by firing a few shots, in order to give the requisite blood-and-thunder setting to their performance, but avoiding wanton bloodshed.  But, at Mesquite, their exploit took on more picturesque accessories.

Picturesque Holdups.
    In the first place, Conductor Alvord, who had charge of the train, when told to throw up his hands as he stepped on the platform, pulled a small pistol and began to shoot, thereby making himself the target for such a fusillade of shots that he scrambled aboard the train with the bone of his left arm shattered by a bullet, and his hat carried off his head by a charge from a sawed-off shotgun.  The shots attracted the attention of the guards of a convict train standing near the station, and one of the guards took a shot at the nearest bandit, but he was obliged to retire under a rain of bullets and buckshot.
    The three guards of the convict train, J. T. Lynch, now of the Dallas police force; Fluellen, who had shot at the bandit, and Henning, with their guns in hand, approached the train from the side opposite the station, but were told by the two bandits on that side to stop where they were.  They replied that they had no intention of interfering, but merely wished to see what was going on.  The bandits told them there was no objection to their presence, if they would keep quiet.

Threatens to Burn Car.
    According to J. T. Lynch, who said he saw and heard everything, the robbers made Jake Zern, station agent, throw up his hands as he came out of the station, and stood up beside him, J. M. Gross, a local merchant who happened to be on the platform.  The express messenger closed his car and refused to open.  The bandits saturated the sides of the car with kerosene and told the messenger that they were going to count to fifty, and that if the car was not open by that time, they would apply a match to the kerosene.  When the counter got to "forty," the door of the car flew open and the messenger stepped out with hands above his head.
    "I heard what the bandits said to the express messenger, saw them throw kerosene against the car, and heard the man counting," said Lynch.  Meantime, Jake Zern and Mr. Cross held their hands up as faithfully as any old saint on his pillar.  After the robbers had looted the car, and were about to depart, the express messenger coolly said to them: "Would you gentlemen object to giving me a receipt for what you have taken from the car; you see, I shall have to make a report to the company?"  The messenger's request was such a surprise that we guards were moved to laugh to ourselves, but it was even funnier to Jake Zern, who laughed aloud, and was reproved by one of the robbers for the untimeliness of his mirth.
    "Jake Zern lived on the second floor of the station, and while the robbers were busy with the express car, Mrs. Zern slipped downstairs and secured what money there was in the station drawer.  The robbers did not molest the passengers on the train, but they took a watch and some money from the messenger.  They were, however, so well pleased with the nerve he displayed by asking them for a receipt, that they returned to him all that they had taken, with the remark that he was all right.
    Having looted the car, the robbers made a run for their horses, taking with them, the man whom our guard, Fluellen, had wounded, when he fired a charge of buckshot at him at the beginning of the proceedings.  But, before they started away, one of the number proposed that they go and liberate all the convicts, because Fluellen had fired.  The convicts, who heard this proposal, became very unruly, and we were obliged to shoot three of them within the next few days. The wounded robber was sent to Dallas, or, came of his own accord, to consult a surgeon, and was arrested along with another of the band, and, in this way, the personnel of the band became known to the officers and rangers."
    A company of rangers, reinforced by civilians and officers, under command of Lieutenant June Peak of the rangers, went in pursuit of the bandits.  In the pursing party, besides the rangers and officers, were Alex Cockrell, Tom Floyd, Tom Gerren, Jim Curry, John and William Work, and many more.  The posse followed the bandits into Denton County, and thence, into Wise County.  In their flight, the robbers killed one of their number whom they suspected of bad faith, saying that he snored in his sleep.
    At Salt Creek, in Wise County, the posse surprised the bandits in camp.  Their horses were staked out to graze in a glade, while the men were taking a much needed sleep in a grove.  Underwood was the only one of the bandits who got to his horse, on which he got away, but seeing that Lieutenant Peak was the only one in charge of the horses, he boldly rode back to dispute Peak's claim to the stock. He charged Peak, shooting as he came.  But, Peak shot him out of his saddle, but was unable to prevent him from escaping into the timber on foot.  In order to render it impossible for the fugitives to regain possession of the horses, Lieutenant Peak ordered the animals shot.
    In the running fight which ensued, Alex Cockrell and John Work had their horses killed under them, and Arkansaw Johnson, one of the bandits, was killed.  Eluding their pursuers, the rest of the gang secured other mounts and struck across Denton and Dallas Counties, making their way into East Fork bottom in Kaufman County, with the rangers and posse in pursuit.  In the meantime, Lieutenant Peak had secured the services of a spy in the camp of the fugitives.  Having followed the bandits out of Kaufman County, and as far south as Porter's Bluff on the Trinity River, he received word from his spy that the bandits had planned to raid a bank in Waco on a certain day. Acting on this information, Lieutenant Peak made arrangements to be on hand at the robbery.  But before the day arrived, a second message from the spy informed the officer that the Waco enterprise had been abandoned in favor of a raid on a bank at Round Rock, where the chances of getting away with the holdup were considered as being more favorable.
    Realizing that it would be impossible for him to reach Round Rock in time to be present at the robbery, Lieutenant Peak telegraphed Major J. B. Jones, commander of the rangers, who dispatched a company of rangers to the scene.  The rangers engaged the bandits on the streets as they entered the town, and, in the running fight which followed, Sam Bass, the leader, was killed, and his band, scattering, never again operated as an organization, though, some of the individuals figured for several years in lone holdups.
    Just what amount of loot the Bass gang secured in their various holdups, no one seems to know.  As stated, they never undertook to rob the passengers on the trains which they stopped, but were content with what they got out of the express cars.  Bass is said to have been a native of Illinois.  He came to Texas when he was a mere boy, settling in Denton County, where his people engaged in farming and stock raising.  His band consisted of about ten men, mostly boys of respectable families in Dallas and Denton Counties.  Arkansaw Johnson, who was killed in the Salt Creek fight, was the only one of the number whose antecedents were unknown.  Nobody seems, to this day, to know who he was.
    One of the number was killed in Grayson County, another by United States soldiers in Kansas, a third by a United States Deputy Marshal in Dakota, two were convicted and sent to the penitentiary, and two, Bill Underwood and Frank Jackson, have never been accounted for.
    Early day bandits were usually frontiersmen, who regarded railway trains, which began to make their appearance in their solitudes, as a species of larger game, and who were prompted as much by adventure, as they were by cupidity.  They knew little or nothing of commercialism or industrialism.  After an exploit, they fled into some natural wilderness, the mountains or woods, their superior knowledge of the country giving them a great advantage over pursuing officers.

Up-to-Date Bandits.
    But, bandits, nowadays, are right up-to-date in the affairs of the world, court danger, and rather prefer that the police, Deputy Sheriffs, detectives and secret service men will see proper to appear on the scene, than not, as calculated to give zest to their operations, and since the telegraph and telephone wires, automobiles and interurban cars have transferred the wilderness from the mountains and woods to the cities, they no longer figure on a 100-mile chase and the chances of eluding it.  They simply turn a few corners, lose themselves in the crowd, and turn up the next day for a new adventure, just a few blocks removed from the scene of the sensation of the preceding day.  The old-time bandit took life only when it was necessary; the modern shoots promiscuously.

- January 23, 1921, The Dallas Morning News, Sec. 3, p. 4.
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