Sam Bass was a train robber and desperado from Texas in the 1870's

I recently received this very interesting story about a young man named Pipes who decided to stay on the outside of the law.

Thanks to Cheryl Pipes Mcintosh for this story.


See the additional material added at the end of this story. We now know who Sam Pipes was and a good deal more about his family, his origins and his fate.

Subject: Re: Sam Bass

Date: Sat, 20 Sep 1997 04:31:30 -0400 (EDT)



Dear Bob,
I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to email this to you.  You were interested in 
information about Sam Pipes, who rode with the Sam Bass Gang.  I am 
enclosing excerpts from the book, SAM BASS, written by Wayne Gard.  It is 
quite lengthy, and doesn't tell who Sam Pipes was.  It doesn't mention his 
parents names or where he was born.  However, around 1877, he was a young 
man living in or around Denton, TX., (possible Dallas County,) and a physical 
description of him is given.

The book belongs to my brother, Lt.  Col.  Kenneth Pipes, USMC, Ret. and is out 
of print.  I think you and Ken have exchanged email concerning Pipes Military 
information.  He and I both live in California and began genealogy as a hobby.  
You know how that is!

Ken and I both remember our father teasing our grandfather about Sam Pipes. 
Granddad would say, "Now son, he was a desperado.  We don't talk about him." 
So, we never got any real information about Sam Pipes.
If you ever connect him with any Pipes family, please let me know.  I haven't 
been able to find him anywhere, but the book proves Sam Pipes did exist.
I hope you find this story interesting,
Cheryl Pipes

Sam Bass was born July 21, 1851 in Woodville, Indiana. In the late summer of 1870, he migrated to Denton, Texas with family friends. One of his first jobs was for William F. Egan, sheriff of Denton County, TX. as a handyman.

By July, 1877, Sam Bass and seven "friends" had robbed 9 stagecoaches and were making plans to rob the Union Pacific Railroad.

Of the four train robberies they committed, one was the Union Pacific Railroad in Big Springs, Nebraska. The others were done in Texas against the Houston and Texas Central, and the Texas and Pacific railroads.

It is three days before the last train robbery was committed, that Sam Pipes is first mentioned. The Sam Bass bandits were camped in the bottoms of White Rock Creek.

Page 130. On Monday, the bandits shifted their camp to the bottoms of White Rock Creek, northeast of Dallas. Here Sam was visited by Billy Collins, Billy Scott, Sam Pipes, and Albert Herndon. On Tuesday, he sent Billy Collins to Mesquite, a prairie town on the Texas and Pacific lines, twelve miles east of Dallas, to see how the land lay. Herndon he dispatched to Dallas to make inquiries about train protection.

Page 131. Seven were chosen to tap engine No. 1 this time. These were Bass, Jackson, Barnes, Underwood, Johnson, Pipes, and Herndon. The two recruits were Dallas County farm youths from respectable families. (are the recruits Pipes and Herndon?) A short time earlier, though, they had been involved in an assault upon a dancing party in the Duck Creek neighborhood, and some people had begun to look upon them as wild. Billy Collins wanted to take part in the robbery, but Bass objected to so large a party and insisted that he stay home. Henry Collins also wanted his brother to remain home and tried to dissuade Pipes and Herndon from joining the bandits.

Page 136. Dropping the booty in a sack he had brought, Sam called the roll of his men. All were present, but Pipes was complaining of a wound in his left side.

Page 141. At ten o'clock Sunday night, April 21, Jones and Peak and twenty Rangers armed with Winchester carbines quietly left the Company B Camp at the fairgrounds and headed northeast on horseback. Early the next morning, they surrounded the Albert G. Collins home, and Peak knocked at the door, which was opened by Henry Collins, six-shooter in hand. There the Rangers found Sam Pipes in bed asleep and arrested him. After Pipes had dressed, they took him to the home of Tom Jackson, a mile away, where they found Albert Herndon and arrested him also. Without waiting for breakfast, they hurried the two captives to Dallas, where they were locked in the county jail.

Curious citizens milled about the dirt street in front of the jail, trying to get a glimpse of the prisoners; but Sheriff Marion Moon kept them out of the building. It was hard to believe that these tall, handsome, well-dressed fellows could be desperadoes. Pipes stood five feet ten and weighed about one hundred and seventy-five; his eyes, hair, and mustache were black. The two appeared to be in good humor. To a newspaper reporter, Pipes laughingly remarked that twenty-two men have a good deal of influence when armed with Winchester rifles.

Taken before a justice of the peace, the pair were charged with assault with intent to murder. Bail was fixed at five hundred dollars each, and bonds were signed promptly by John M. Laws, John McCommas, and Albert G. Collins.

Page 142. Major Jones had no intention of allowing the prisoners to gain release on bond, however. They no more had provided the five-hundred dollar bonds when the sheriff served a second warrant, charging robbery. Bail on this charge was set at seven hundred and fifty dollars each. United States Commissioner, George R. Fern swore out a warrant charging Pipes and Herndon with mail robbery. This warrant was served immediately, making the pair Federal prisoners.

Upon Pipes and Herndon, at least, the clutch of the law seemed inescapable. On Wednesday, they were released by order of the United States Commissioner, after they had made bonds of twenty-five hundred dollars each on the Federal charge of mail robbery, in addition to making bonds on the earlier charges.

Page 143. Two day later, Pipes and Herndon were arrested again and were brought before Edward C. McLure, justice of the peace, for a preliminary hearing on the State charges.

As they left the courtroom, the defendants were rearrested by William H. Anderson, United States Deputy Marshal, and charged with robbing the United States mails and endangering life by the use of dangerous weapons.

Page 144. About eight o'clock in the evening Pipes and Herndon were secretly removed to the district courtroom, where they were guarded by a dozen Rangers. Before this transfer, however, the hopes of the two robbers had been dampened by an occurrence in jail. Pipes was taken down to one of the guards' sleeping-rooms and examined carefully by Dr. Albert A. Johnson in the presence of Anderson. When he undressed, he was found to be wearing a bandage that covered a brown scab on his left side. It was only a little boil, he said, but the doctor declared it was a bullet wound made not more than three weeks earlier. Pipes then said one of the boys had accidentally shot him. He would have told about it before, he explained, except for fear that the boy might be arrested. He appeared crestfallen at the discovery though; and on his return to the cell, he remarked to Herndon, `Well, we are gone up now...they have found it.'

Page 145. At ten o'clock that night, an expected court order arrived from Tyler, TX; and Pipes and Herndon were handcuffed together and placed on a special Texas and Pacific train, and taken to Tyler, TX. It would be a long time before Pipes and Herndon would see Dallas again.

Page 185. The case of Pipes and Herndon, the only principals under arrest, came up on May 24...while Bass was out in Stephens County...but was transferred promptly to Austin, where the United States District Court would open on July 2.

Page 202. Billy Scott had identified Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon as train robbers and had made out a strong case against them. Scott's testimony had the effect intended. On July 17, the jury found Pipes and Herndon guilty of robbing the United States mail and endangering life; and soon they would begin serving terms of life imprisonment.

Page 232. Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon, the only associates of Bass to be convicted of train robbery, were pardoned by President Grover Cleveland after they had volunteered for nursing service aboard a plague ship quarantined in New York Harbor. Later, Pipes was killed in a street brawl.

New information on Sam Pipes has been found and is included here. September 15, 1999 -  R.J. Pipes

Additional info has been added on 01/22/00, mostly about Sam's mother and father. ( John Pipes and Isabella Nash)

Additional info has been added on 04/20/2001, Most of it from a book about the Sam Bass Gang written by Rick Miller

Who was Sam Pipes?

My search for Sam Pipes and his origins was keyed from the hint in the Wayne Gard Book about the Sam Bass Gang. He stated that Sam Pipes may have come from the Dallas area and so I checked the 1870 Census Index for Texas, hoping to turn up some clue. The Index listed three names in Dallas Co., one of which was Samuel J. Pipes. A look at the 1870 Census microfilm for Dallas P.O. in Dallas Co. turned up quite a surprise. Living in the home of J. N. Jones, a 29 year old farmer, were three children named Pipes. They were Samuel J., age 13; John R., age 11; Mariella, age 7. Also in the home were Isabella, his wife, age 33 and an infant son named Terry, age 1 year. (Note: the name Terry may be in error, it doesn't seem to fit, but that is what it looks like in the census record.)

Note that the incidents with the Sam Bass Gang and Sam Pipes' involvement occurred in the 1877 to 1878 time period, so this Samuel J. Pipes, age 13 years in the Census Record above would have been 20 years old in 1877. That age fits with the facts in the Sam Bass story.

My immediate thoughts were that these children had been taken in by the Jones family after losing their parents. Further investigation would prove that to be only partially true.

The next step was to look backwards at the 1860 Census Index for Texas , hoping to find the father and the list showed only 1 person in Dallas Co. named Pipes. That person was a John F. Pipes. Investigation of the 1860 Census Microfilm, Dallas P.O., page 313, showed another surprise. In the household of John F. Pipes, age 32, were his wife Isabella, age 24, and three children. The children were Sarah E. Pipes, age 6; Samuel J. Pipes age 4, and an infant boy (no name given), age 1 year. All of these children were born in Texas, but John and Isabella were both born in Kentucky. John's occupation was given as Carpenter. Also in the household were three other young men, one from Kentucky and one from Georgia and one from Tennessee, all Carpenters by trade. The young man from Kentucky was named C.P. Skinner, age 33.

I was somewhat shocked to see that John F. Pipes was the father of  Sam Pipes and that John F. had been born in Kentucky. Isabella was the wife and mother and she too had been born in Kentucky. I had no knowledge of a John Pipes born in Kentucky in the 1828 time period, but if it were true, he would have to have been a son of the brothers Nathaniel Pipes or Morris Pipes, as they were the only two Pipes males living there at that time, other than William Pipes the third brother, who already had a son named John, born in 1824. I had assumed all along that this Sam Pipes would be a descendant of the Louisiana family because so many of the Louisiana family moved to Texas after 1850.

The Marriage Record

The next key was a marriage record from Kentucky that I had never been able to connect to the Pipes Family. On Oct 2, 1853, a marriage was held in Marion Co., Kentucky between John F. Pipes, age 26, and Isabella Nash, age 16. The record indicated that bride and groom had been born in Marion Co., and the year of their births were an exact match to the ages of the persons in Texas. The birth of their first child, Sarah E., in 1854 was also in line with the rest of the information.  

Who Were The Parents?

The next step was to find parents for John F. and Isabella back in Marion Co. A search of the 1850 Census records for Marion Co. located a Thomas Nash family with several children, one of them being Isabella, age 13. A search of the records for John F. Pipes was not successful, so I searched for alternative name spellings and found John F. listed as John T. Piper, working as a farm hand in Bourbon County. A check of the Census film shows that this is 90% certain to be our John F. Pipes. The spelling is quite clear and the middle initial is decidedly an "F" and not a "T". The age is correct also, listing 21 as the age.

Karen Caldwell has done some checking of the Tax records in Marion Co., Kentucky and found records for John Pipes in 1852 and in 1853 but no record in 1854. In both years he paid tax on himself only and was over 21 years old. The only other John Pipes from the area was the son of William Pipes born in 1824 and he left the area for Pike Co. Indiana after 1848.

So, if this proves the existence and identity of our John F. Pipes, born in Marion Co., who were his parents?  A closer examination of the birth dates of the children of Morris Pipes turned up a possibility. Morris Pipes married Sally Montgomery in March of 1825 and their oldest daughter, Nancy was born in January of 1826. Their next reported child was a daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1832. Their first son in the existing records was Elias Hardin, born in 1837. A gap obviously exists between the first two girls and no sons are reported before 1830 at all. A quick check of the census record for 1830 shows a discrepancy however. It shows one son less than five years old and two daughters less than five years old. This means that John F. Pipes born in 1828 would fit perfectly in this family. It also means that there might be another daughter not reported before 1830 or, the dates for daughter Elizabeth's birth may be incorrect. Little is known about Elizabeth, so the date may very well be wrong. So, until proven otherwise, I am including John F. Pipes as a son of Morris and Sally Pipes born in 1828 in Marion Co., Kentucky.

New info from Karen Caldwell states that the birth date for daughter Elizabeth is Febuary 22, 1830 so Nancy and Elizabeth were the two daughters under 5 years old in 1830 ( the census is usually taken in June or July) and John had to be the son under 5 years old. I also found information that verifies the conclusion that Karen made about Isabella's parents moving to Texas and John Pipes, being a son in law, went with them. Thomas Jefferson Nash was a fairly prominent farmer from Marion County and at least two books concerning the pioneers of Dallas County, Texas list him and his family and tell of their move to Texas in 1854 with sons in law, slaves, neighbors etc. These books do not mention John Pipes, but do mention Isabella and her subsequent marriage to J.N. Jones. I have copies of the articles if anyone is interested.

A Summary Of The Data.

John F. Pipes was born in Marion Co. in 1828, he is shown (enumerated) on the 1830 Census as less than 5 years old in the Morris Pipes family, is living and working in Bourbon Co. in 1850, appears on Marion Co., tax lists in 1852 and 1853 and marries Isabella Nash in Marion Co. in 1853. In 1854 they are in Dallas, Texas where he works as a carpenter. By 1860 they are still in Dallas and have three children: Sarah E., Samuel J., and John R.

By 1870 John F. and his daughter Sarah E. are no longer in the family and Isabella has remarried to J. N. Jones. Another child had been born to John F. and Isabella in 1863, a daughter named Mariella, and the three children, Sam, John R., and Mariella are living with Isabella and her new husband. Isabella has a new son about one year old, so this means that between 1863 and 1867, something happened to the family and to John F. and Sarah E. The Civil War may have had some impact, or it could be sickness or disaster that changed the family. Further work needs to be done to determine the facts.

New info shows that indeed, John Pipes was a member of  company "K" of the 19th Texas Cavalry which was formed in late 1862 in Dallas County. Also in the unit were his Brother in Law, George Washington Nash and his wife's future husband, Johnathon N. Jones. More work needs to be done, but it appears that John may have died during the war.

Further Data on The Sam Bass Gang and Sam Pipes

In my research for this problem I found several other books or booklets published in the years after the Sam Bass Gang was put down. All of them seem to agree that the original Sam Bass "Gang" had a core group of about five members and they allowed others to drift in and out of the gang from time to time. The gang had been primarily involved in bank and stage coach robberies for some time and, growing bolder, they started to target trains in late 1877 and early1878. About this time, seven to nine men from the Dallas area joined up with the gang and our Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon and William "Billy" Collins were among them. Well, it didn't take long for Albert Herndon and Sam Pipes to get shot and arrested. Billy Collins was arrested too and later ran off and was then killed, as were all of the gang including Sam Bass. Sam Pipes and Albert were taken to Austin, Texas to prison where they were cell mates for a time with the infamous John Wesley Hardin. After their conviction on federal charges of robbing the United States Mail and endangering life, on July 17th of 1878, they were transferred to Sing-Sing Federal Prison in New York State. The sentence handed down had been life but the Judge commuted it to 99 years.

The Final Episode (Updated with factual info from the book written by Rick Miller titled "Sam Bass and Gang"

It says something for the spirit of these two men that they volunteered sometime around 1886 to serve the prison population as nursing help when it became overrun with victims of the Plague. As a result of their efforts, they were granted complete pardons by President Grover Cleveland sometime in 1886. Both men returned to Dallas and on January 5th, 1887 our Sam Pipes married, of all people, Sallie Caton Collins. She was the widow of the Billy Collins who had been involved with Sam in the Bass gang in the first place. The story is told that Sam Pipes and Sallie had no children, but they raised two of her children from the marriage to Billy. Several of the books on the Sam Bass gang tell the story that Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon served as nurses aboard a ship in New York harbor but Mr. Miller's research uncovered the real story and the Plague story really did occur in the prison.

The dates indicate that Sam Pipes spent less than ten years in prison and although we know little of this man, we do know that he died a violent death, apparently of his own making. While tending bar in a local tavern, he dropped a pistol and it discharged, hitting him in the upper leg. He died sometime later from complications of the wound. Again the old stories persist and it was said that he was caught in the crossfire of several feuding patrons and died as a result of the wounds, but apparently the truth is a litle less exciting.

A picture of Sam Pipes and Albert Herndon was taken in Dallas sometime shortly after their release form Prison in New York. This picture was part of a newspaper story and is in the Dallas Historical Society collection. Sam Pipes is on the left and Albert on the right. The Picture.

Samuel J. Pipes was born December 10, 1856 and died February 16, 1889. He is buried  in Garland Cemetery in Dallas, Texas. The inscription on his stone reads "My Husband".  A Picture of his grave marker

Other Notes

I have only recently made contact with several of the descendants of Sam's younger brother John Richardson Pipes. John R.married Elizabeth Carrie Holcomb and they had a son named John R. Jr., born Feb 14, 1887 and died May 14, 1887. He is buried in the same Garland Cemetery, Dallas, Texas. Several other children have been named from the records of Rockwall and Kaufman Co., Texas. These children can be found in the genealogy report for John Pipes Jr. and Mary Morris. I have found nothing yet of the two sisters of John R. and Sam Pipes, named Mariella and Sarah.

Thomas Jefferson Nash and his wife Eliza and several of their children are buried in a common grave at the Garland Cemetery in Garland, Texas, having been moved there when development threatened their farm burial grounds north of Dallas.


Sam Bass and Gang   by Rick Miller, State House Press, Austin, Texas, 1999

This book is by far the most accurate and throughly researched book on the subject of Sam Bass and Sam Pipes. You can purchase at or Barnes & Noble. A copy of the photo of Sam Pipes is in the Book.

All books listed below in the holdings of the Wisconsin Sate Historical Society Library, Madison, Wisconsin.

Sam Bass and the Tenderfoot Bandits by Paula Reed and Grover Tate, 1988, Westernlore Press, Tucson, Az.

Cemetery Inscriptions, Garland, Dallas County, Texas, by Betty Davis Wright, 1983, np

Life and Adventures of Sam Bass, The Frontier Press, 1878, Houston, Texas

Sam Bass, by Wayne Gard, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1936

Tame the Restless Wind, The life and Legends of Sam Bass, by Noel Grisham, 1968, San Felipe Press, Austin, Texas

Authentic History of Sam Bass and His Gang, No Author, Printed in Frontier Times in 1932,1950, Bandera, Texas

Census records, 1850, 1860, 1870 for Dallas Co., Texas

Census records for 1830, 1850, 1860 for Marion Co., Kentucky

Marion County, Kentucky Tax records for 1850,1851,1852,1853,1854

Dallas County, A record of its Pioneers and Progress, by John H. Cochran; Arthur Mathis Publishing, Dallas

Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County, Texas, Lewis publishing Co. 1892

Proud Heritage, Pioneer families of Dallas County, published by Dallas Co. Pioneer Association, 1979

John Pipes Jr. by Elizabeth Prather Ellsberry

Vital Records Index of North America ( VRINA) Published by LDS Church in CD ROM format, 1998