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Life and adventures of Sam Bass, the notorious Union Pacific and Texas train robber : together with a graphic account of his capture, and death, sketch of the members of his band, with thrilling pen pictures of their many bold and desperate deeds, and the capture and death of Collins, Berry, Barnes, online

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Online Librarypublisher Dallas Commercial Steam PrintLife and adventures of Sam Bass, the notorious Union Pacific and Texas train robber : together with a graphic account of his capture, and death, sketch of the members of his band, with thrilling pen pictures of their many bold and desperate deeds, and the capture and death of Collins, Berry, Barnes, → online text (page 2 of 9)
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the robbery at Ogalalla, Neb., gambling and associating with desper-
ate men, from whom he organized the gang. It has also been said
that he had a cattle ranche near Big Spring Station, and thus
became acqainted with the habits of the station men, the operations
of trains and the surroundings of the office. But mis i;as been

The time selected for the robbery was Tuesday night, the 19th of
September last. As Big Spring was only a water station, the plan
evidently was, to capture the few men employed about the station
and keep them under guard until after the train was robbed.

At the appointed hour the bandits boldly rode down towards the

ofSamBass 13

station, hitched their horses conveniently near, and at once proceed-
ed to business. With a small flourish of revolvers and the well
known command, "throw up your arms," the station agent and as-
sistant were soon made secure.

As train time, 10 o'clock, drew near, the bright rays of the head-
light were seen falling upon the distant track. Then came the long
sound of the whistle, the rushing train checked its speed and in a
moment more stood still upon the track. It was but the work of
an instant for one of the gang to mount the engine, command the
engineer and fireman to throw up their hands and there hold them
helpless under the muzzle of a cocked revolver. But even before
this had been accomplished, two of his confederates had boarded
the express car and were ransacking its contents. They soon found
a large quantity of gold in one of the safes, but the other could not
be opened. It was in vain that they ordered the messenger to open
it. He assured then that he had no key, that it was a time lock and
could only be locked or opened at each end of the route. Jack Davis
cursed and raved, beat him over the head, thrust his revolver into
his mouth kno.cking out one of his teeth and lacerating the flesh, and
threatened to blow the top of his head right off if he didn't open it.
But Bass said he reckoned the messenger was telling the truth, and
that theiy had better give it up.

After going through the coaches and robbing the terrified passen-
gers the bandits slowly backed away, keeping their arms presented
until they were lost to view in the darkness.

A number of shots were fired during the transaction and a few
wounds were inflicted, but no one was killed.

The gold taken from the express car amounted to the sum of
$60,000, no small weight for the robbers to handle under the circum-
stances. It consisted entirely of twenty dollar gold pieces, of the
coinage of 1877, a fact which was afterwards of material assistance
in ferreting out the perpetrators of the crime.

Shortly after the robbery, the gang divided the money and
separated, going two together by different routes. Bass, Davis, and
Nixon, for a time vanished from view. Of the others we shall speak
in the succeeding chapters.

14 Life aiTd Adventur e s



Great Excitement Among Railroad Officals. On The Trail Uncle
Sam's Soldiers to the Front. Two Travel Stained Cow Boys.
Heavily Laden Pony. Capture of Collins and Heffridge. They
Die With Their Boots On. Subsequent Doubt. Collins Defend-
ed. Short Sketch of His Life.

The Big Spring robbery created intense excitement among railroad
officials and caused a general sensation throughout the country.

The large amount of money secured was looked upon as a temp-
tation which would soon lead to another like attempt. This in con-
nection with the heavy shipments of gold over the line would be
likely to excite the cupidity of every bandit in the West, at the
same time the long stretch of road through waste and desert regions,
with here and there a lonely station, made it very difficult to afford
adequate protection. It was determined, therefore, to capture
the robbers at any cost and hazards. Large rewards were at once
offered by the State authorities of Nebraska and by the railroad
companies. This brought forward detectives from almost every
quarter. Telegrams were sent to all officers along railroad lines, to
sheriffs and officers in command of U. S. troops.

At first it was not wholly known who the robbers were or whence
they came. But it so chanced that among the passengers on the
plundered train was a young man named Andy Riley, a resident
of Omaha. During the attack upon the train, Riley stood upon
the platform and received a wound in the hand from one of the
flying bullets, he was also robbed along with the rest of the pas-
sengers. He had traveled with Joel Collins on the way to Deadwood
and knew him well. He had also seen him and conversed with
him only a few days before, while on a visit to Ogalalla. Great
was his surprise, therefore, when the robbers came through the
train, to find Joel Collins among them. Immediately upon his
return to Omaha he notified the officials of the fact and Collins*
name and description of his person were accordingly telegraphed
in all directions.

It was shortly learned also that after leaving the railroad, the
robbers crossed the Platte river, in Nebraska and were next heard

of Sam Bass 15

of at Young's ranche on the Republican river in Kansas.* This was
on the 23d, the next Saturday after the robbery. Intelligence ol
this fact having reached Sheriff Bardsley, of Ellis county, Kansas,
he at once started from Hays City, on the Kansas Pacific road, with
a squad of ten cavalrymen and a detective from Denver and made his
headquarters at Buffalo Station, on the Kansas Pacific. This is sixty
miles west of Hays City, in the center of a wild and dreary waste.
Nearby is a large ravine, in which the Sheriff and his posse camped.
While there, about nine o'clock in the morning of the 26th, Joel Col-
lins, the chief of the train robbers, and a single adherent, rode up to
the lonely station.

The following account of their capture and tragical death we take
from a Western daily of the 28th:

When first seen they were riding from the north, coming boldly
over a high ridge of open prairie. They led between them a pony
heavily laden with something which, while it was not bulky, seemed
to tax the strength of the pony to carry it. The men were dusty
and travel stained. They appeared to be and might have been taken
for two Texas "cow boys" out on a hunt for cattle or on their way
to join a herd. Had they rode straight across the track and continued
their journey without stopping, no suspicion would have been aroused;
but they were led instinctively to their death. They rode their jaded
horses to the shady side of the principal building of the station, and
one of the two dismounted, leaving his partner in charge of the
horses and the pack pony. The man left in charge of the horses said
they were Texas cattle men on their way home, and enquiring the way
to Fort Larned. The dismounted man walked up to the station agent
and enquired the way to Thompson's store. The building was pointed
out to him, but as he stood conversing he took out his handkerchief,
which revealed a letter in his pocket upon which was plainly visible
he superscription "Joel Collins." This was the name of the leader
of the Union Pacific train robbers, and the brands upon their horses
assured the station agent that these were the men wanted by the
Sheriff and his soldiers encamped a few hundred yards away. Sheriff
Bardsley was notified at once, and he came up to the station and
e:\amined the horses and made other satisfactory observances. He
conversed with the robber chief for some time, and asked many
questions, which were freely answered. They walked together to the
station and took a drink, and conversed upon various unconsequental
subjects. Collins made no effort to conceal his real name. He had

*Detective Leech, of Ogalalia, afterwards claimed that he was in the camp of
the gang on the night they divided the money, and that he knew by sight all
the robbers. He said that he escaped capture at their hands only by hasty flight
on his horse

16 Life and Advent u r e s

no suspicion whatever that the telegraph had given his name and
description at that little station in the middle of the buffa'o plains.
Bardsley then left his prey and started back to the camp of the
soldiers, who were under the command of Lieut. Alien, and ordered
them to saddle up and follow him, and he would bring back the

In the meantime the two horsemen with their heavily burdened
pony had started out on the open plains southward. Sheriff Bardsley
and his posse started out in pursuit.

When Collins and his companions saw the Sheriff and his blue
coated posse of cavalry appear on their trail, they manifested no
excitement. They did not even attempt to run. On the contrary,
they rode on leisurely on the Texas trail unil Sheriff Bardsley rode
up and halted them. Even then they gave no sign of trepidation or
excitement. Collins looked at Bardsley with the coolest effrontery
and demanded his business. Said Sheriff Bardsley:

*'I have a description of some train robbers which answers well
to your appearance. I want you and your partner to return with
me to the station. You need fear nothing if you are innocent, and
if you are the man I want, then I am $10,000 better off. Please
come back to the station, gentlemen."

"You are mistaken in your men, gentlemen," said Collins, laugh-
ingly, "but, of course there is no use to object. We will go back
and have the mistake explained. We are Texas boys going home
that's all."

Then they turned their tired horses back towards the station.
As they returned they exchanged a few brief words which were un-
distinguishable even by the nearest trooper. They rode a few hun-
dred yards over the level plain towards the solitary station, when
suddenly the leader, Joel Collins, broke the silence. Turning to
his companion he said:

"Pard, if we are to die, we might as well die game."

Then he drew his revolver. His partner followed his example,
but before either could fire, the troops had fired a volley into them
and they fell from their horses riddled with bullets. The robbers
died instantly and were taken to the station for burial, but were
afterwards taken so Ellis station, where an inquest was held upon the

The body of Collins was identified by a dozen of his old Texas
acquaintances but for a long time the body of his accomplice could
not be identified. It was at first believed to be that of Sam Bass
himself, and was so telegraphed over the country and published in
the papers.

Finally Anna Langs appeared in the depot, where the bodies were
lying, and stated, under oath, that she recognized the body as being

of Sam Bass i 17

that of William Cotts, formerly of Pottsville, Pa., but more recently
of San Antonio, Texas, and that his father resided in Pottsville.
He was a light complexioned man, about thirty years of age, light
hair and sandy beard, about five feet seven inches high and weighed
135 pounds.

Whether Anna had any real knowledge of the man, or whether
she thought so "because she thought so," or whether the true name
of Heffridge was Cotts, is difficult to say. But there is no doubt
now that the man who fell with Joel Collins under a shower of bullets,
was the member of the gang known as Bill Heffridge.

At the time of his death Collins was described as being dark
complexioned, with black hair and beard, about five feet eleven inches
high, weighed one hundred and fifty pounds, and was supposed
to be twenty-eight years old. He was also said to have been affable,
of pleasing address, intelligent, and very handsome. Upon his body
a small piece of paper was found upon which was written a poetical
effusion by a lady and dedicated to Joel Collins. But the richest
discovery was made upon the pony. When the tired little animal
was stripped of the blanket which covered the pack saddle, an old
pair of pantaloons was found underneath. The ends of the legs had
been tied together, then they were filled with gold and thrown
across the saddle. When the glittering metal was turned out upon
the ground and counted, it was found that the amount was no less
than twenty-five thousand dollars. It was all of the mintage of
1877 and in twenty dollar pieces.

This fact, taken in connection with the other circumstances,
furnished the strongest eviden.ce that the lucky Bardsley had struck
the right man. Railroad officials were in high glee and congratu-
lations were exchanged all along the line.

But in a few days serious doubts began to creep into many minds
and it was gravely feared that the deadly rifle had struck down an
innocent man. A leading law firm at Topeka, Kansas, was retained
to investigate the circumstance attending the bloody tragedy. It
was alleged in Collins' defense that he obtained a large sum of
money from the drove of cattle which had been disposed of the
pervious year, that he had written to his father that he had obtained
twenty-five cents per pound for them and would soon start home with
the money. It was also stated that he had amassed a considerable
fortune in the cattle business with his brother near San Antonio
and that this precluded all temptation to commit robbery. In
addition to this it was said there was unquestionable evidence as
to the time Collins started for home, and of his movements, which
tended to show that he could not have been in the vicinity of Big
Spring at the time of the robbery. Collins* conduct at the moment

18 Life and Adventures

of his death was accounted for on the supposition that he believed
himself in the hands of a gang of outlaws who intended to rob and
murder him, and that he was determined to sell his life as dearly
as possible.

About this time, also, an old Texan came out with a short news-
paper article defending Collins from many of the charges which
had been made against him and stating it to be the belief of those
who had long known young Collins and his parents, that he was not
the guilty man.

But a few days later the dying statement of one of his captured
confederates forever set at rest all doubt in regard to the matter.
Since then the death-bed statement of Bass himself has been added to
the proof.

As Joel Collins, so far as known, participated in but one no-
ted crime, few events in his life have been preserved on record.

He was born in Dallas county, Texas where his parents still
reside, his father being a farmer of somle means and a man who has
long enjoyed the respect and sympathy of his neighbors.

In 1868 Young Collins left home and went to the southwest
part of the State where he had a brother in the cattle business.
From 1868 to 1870 he was in the employ of Allen and Poole, the
great cattle men of the coast, and stood well as a young man.

In 1871 he took a herd of one thousand cattle to Kansas for
Bennet and Schoate, of North Texas.

In 1872 he took up a large herd for P. T. Adams, Joel receiv-
ing one half the profits. In 1873 he did the same thing and on
the same favorable terms for James Re,ed.

In 1874 he bought a drove from Bennet and Akard, partly on
time and was induced (if not forced) to ship them to Chicago at a
heavy loss. This he did against his will in order to meet the
deferred payment, when the cattle were poor and the market

This is the statement made by his friends, while others give a
different version of the matter.

In 1875 he kept a saloon in San Antonio for a few months.
The house is said to have been a disreputable one.

In 1876, as we have already seen, he took his last drove North
in company with Bass. In the Spring of 1877 he is said to have
opened a provision store at Polato Gulch, thirty-five miles from
Deadwood. His friends claim that he remained there until he
"started for Texas." But there is much reason to doubt whether
it was known to them what he was doing during his last stay in
the North. His letters were not always intended to give the exact
situation of affairs. It has been charged that he killed several
men during his life, but this is probably an exaggeration as there

of Sam Bass > : 19

is no authentic account of more than one such act. In 1869 he
killed a Mexican in Victoria county, but surrendered himself, was
tried and acquitted. As is well known it is very difficult for an
American to murder a Mexican. It is a principle with jurists that
such acts are always for self defense.

Before closing this chapter we pause for a momient to note
the fatal chain of apparently trivial circumstances which so quickly
tightened around the unfortunate Collins. Never was the perpe-
trator of a great crime stricken down by a more unerring blow of
retribution at the very moment when escape seemed well night as-
sured. It must be admitted that he showed a singular lack of
shrewdness, first in not thoroughly disguishing himself when he
boarded the train, and secondly in not giving a wide berth to all
telegraph stations. But still, had he rode through Buffalo Station
without stopping he would have passed unnoticed; or had he left
the dust and sweat upon his face and allowed his handkerchief to
remain in his pocket, or had the tell-tale envelope not clung to it,
he might soon have been beyond the reach of detectives and sol-
diers. But the unseen hand of fate had marked him for her own
and at that very hour.

His bold attempts to defend himself against a whole troop of
soldiers may be called bravery, but it was the extreme of folly. In
a country like this, where jails are weak and the law weaker than
the jails, where the whole criminal jurisprudence seems to be run for
the protection of criminals rather than the public, it would have
been better to submit quietly and await a better opportunity.
There is reason, however, to believe that this reckless leader of
bandits feared Judge Lynch and preferred to "die game."

2X) Life and Adventures



Hot on the Track Berry in Mexico, Missouri Sells Large Sums
of Gold Scatters Money With a Free Hand Whole Corps of De-
tectives in Pursuit A Disappointment Better Luck The Bandit
Captured His Confession and Death Escape of Nixon.

The capture and death of Collins and Heffridge occured September
26th, but no further clue to the remaining robbers was obtained
until about the 8th or 9th of October, when suspicion was aroused
in Mexico, Mo., by a large sale of gold which was made there. While
at Boonville October llth, Col. A. B. Garner, General Superintendent
of the M. K. & T. railway, received the following telegram:
To Col. A. B. Garner, Boonville, Mo. :

Mexico, Mo., Oct. 11. James Berry, an old resident of Callaway
county, is one of the Union Pacific train robbers. He was at William-
burg Monday night. He is six feet high, weighs about 190 pounds,
is forty years old, has a red face, yellowish red hair, mustache and
goatee, just recently shaved, round, full face, blue eyes and freckly
hands. We will pay $500 for his arrest and ten per cent of the
money recovered. He had about $9,000. Think he is making for
Texas. Have all crossings closely watched. He has a pacing
bay horse and new saddle.

On the same day the Moberly Monitor published the following:

"A man by the name of Jim Berry, of Callaway county, has just
returned from the Black Hills to Mexico, Mo. Suspicion has been
directed to him of complicity in the Union Pacific roberry, by a
financial transaction in which he was engaged immediately on his
return. The morning after his arrival in Mexico he visited the
banks at the hour of opening and sold gold to the amount of $9,
000. Berry remained in Mexico all day Friday and until Sunday
evening. He was princely extravagant with his money. Meeting
an old mining acquaintance he gave him $250; he delighted a cloth-
ier by purchasing a fine suit of clothing without higgling at the
price, and bought a $300 bill of groceries, which were sent to his
family in Callaway. Saturday evening he took his departure, and
Monday morning the bankers received news that the gold he had
exchanged, and which they had shipped to St. Louis, had been
identified as part of the treasure captured by the Union Pacific rob-
bers. The next day (Tuesday) a corps of detectives from St. Louis
and Chicago arrived at Mexico, and with the Audrain county

of Sam Bass ' 21

sheriff at their head, started in pursuit of Berry. After a long
rough ride the vicinity of his house was reached and the party so
disposed as to completely surround it. They now felt sure of their
game and the rich reward that awaited his capture. But they
were doomed to disappointment. Narrowing the circle and grad-
ually closing in, a rush was finally made for the house. They en-
countered no opposition where they had calculated upon a fierce
resistance, and, upon entering, they found that the bird had flown.
A thorough search of the premises revealed no trace of the daring
robber, and, though the whole country had been scoured by differ-
ent parties, his trail ha>d not been struck up to yesterday There
is not a particle of doubt that Berry was one of the robbers and his
capture is only a question of time."

This prophecy was shortly fulfilled, as the following account of
his capture, published in the Mexico Ledger, October 15th, will

"We have just interviewed H. Glascock and J. Berry, concern-
ing the arrest of Berry, Sunday morning, and we give you the
facts as near as possible below:

"It appears that last Saturday night as our sheriff was eating
supper, about half-past six o'clock, he received a message that a
man was in town after the suit of clothes Berry had left at Blum's
The man's name was Bose Cazy; he lived near Berry's. He told
Blum that Berry had told him that he could have the .clothes if he
would pay the balance of $30 due on them. This was the way he
had his "job" fixed up. Glascock ran right down to Kabrich's
hall and hid behind the corner and saw Cazy come out; this was
half past seven. Glascock followed him to Wallace and McKamy's
livery stable. Just as Glascock got near the stable he met J. Car-
ter, and told him to come along. Carter, Glascock and Cazy all
got to the stable at the same time. Cazy paid for his horse feed
and started to get on his horse. Sheriff Glascock took Cazy by the
collar, presented a pistol to his head and told him he would shoot
him if he moved. Cazy did not move. Glascock ordered two
more horses saddled. They then tied Cazy on his horse. The
sheriff and Carter then got on their horses and the ^alvacade moved
off, Glascock leading Cazy's horse. They went down to the branch
near Tom Smith's in South Mexico, and as they thought no one
would get wind of them there, they stopped. Glascock then went
and got John Coons, Bob Steele and a young man named Moore.
All got horses and double-barrel shot guns which were loaded with
buck shot. They then told Cazy they would have to know where
Berry was. He said he had not seen him since he (Berry) had
told him he could have the clothes, which was about a week before.
The men started out towards Cazy's house, and passed Jeff Jones

22 Life and Adventures

about 12 o'clock Saturday night. About three o'clock they got to
James Armstrong's. Sheriff Glascock told him what they had done,
and he wanted Armstrong to go with them and show them where
Cazy lived, as he was afraid that Cazy would fool them. Arm-
strong said he did not know where Cazy lived, and so would not
go. We don't know whether Armstrong knew or not. It was
then three o'clock Sunday morning. The posse then all got around
Cazy, put their guns to his heart and told him if he led them into
any trap, or did not take them at once to his house they would
shoot him down in a minute. He said he would take them to his
house if it would do them any good. When they got within about
a half a mile of Cazy's house they took Cazy off, tied him and left
Bob Steele to guard him; then Glascock placed two men north of
the house and stable, Moore and himself going to the south and west
side, and as the open timber was there they thought he might be
over in that. They did not alarm Cazy's house at all, it was not
quite daylight yet. They all secreted themselves in thickets, as
mentioned above, to await results. Glascock told his men:
"Boys if you see him halt him; if he shows fight shoot him down;
if he runs shoot him in the legs; catch him at all hazards." In about
half an hour Glascock heard a horse "nicker" about a half a mile
off, as he thought. Moore and Glascock then crept toward the
noise, went 300 yards down the branch, came to a fence, saw fresh
horse tracks. Glascocfc got over the fence and got into a thicket;
heard the horse snort about fifty yards off in the brush. Glascock
took off his hat and crept up twenty yards closer; then he raised

2 4 5 6 7 8 9

Online Librarypublisher Dallas Commercial Steam PrintLife and adventures of Sam Bass, the notorious Union Pacific and Texas train robber : together with a graphic account of his capture, and death, sketch of the members of his band, with thrilling pen pictures of their many bold and desperate deeds, and the capture and death of Collins, Berry, Barnes, → online text (page 2 of 9)