Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Curious Fame Of Mr. Sam Bass

Nearly everything in the town of Round Rock, Texas, is named after a certain Sam Bass. There’s the Sam Bass Road, Sam Bass Youth Baseball Association, Sam Bass Community Theatre, Sam Bass Music Store, Sam Bass Fire Department, Sam Bass Video Services, Sam Bass Trails, and the Sam Bass Market Center.

Mr. Sam Bass must seem, to a visitor passing through town, to have been someone very important to the Round Rock community for all the things that are named after him. Surely he must have been a local politician or some type of community leader.

Sam Bass was not an upstanding member of the Round Rock community, but was an outlaw in the 19th century. Born in Indiana, he eventually formed a gang and began robbing trains. July of 1878 found him in Round Rock where he was preparing to rob a bank. While he was casing the town, one thing led to another and a shoot-out occurred. Deputy Sheriff Grimes was killed, as was a member of the Bass gang. Sam himself was severely wounded but managed to escape to the edge of town where he spent an unpleasant night of suffering. Found the next day, he died soon thereafter.

It seems hard to believe, at least in this day and age, that a man with no local ties to Round Rock, and having spent only a few violent days in the town, would be revered after killing a deputy sheriff. But that was a different time.

Sam is buried in Round Rock Cemetery. The epitaph on his gravestone reads: “A brave man reposes in death here. Why was he not true?” That I cannot answer. What is true, however, is that 131 years after his death, Mr. Sam Bass still remains a very famous, visible and well-known figure in Round Rock, Texas.

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