October 23, 2013

Shave or no shave: Dick Ware and the Round Rock shootout with Sam Bass

Texas Ranger Richard "Dick" Ware
Courtesy Robert W. Stephens, Dallas, Texas
(copied from the book Sam Bass and Gang by Rick Miller)
(Click image to enlarge)

or many years I had heard the family stories that Soapy and his cousin Edwin Bobo Smith had witnessed the shooting death of Texas outlaw Sam Bass, but in my 25-years of research I could not find any provenance. Then in March 2007 I made a presentation on Soapy in Newnan, Georgia for the Coweta County Historical Society. While there my cousin brought a notebook of Soapy's to show me. In it was his description of the Round Rock shooting, plus some other fantastic stuff on Tombstone, etc. Unfortunately, my cousin has not scanned the notebook for me, and my only proof of it, is that author Gary Roberts was shown the notebook by myself.

Before publishing my book I also located a nice description about witnessing the Bass shooting by Soapy's cousin Ed. That description is published on pages 30-31 of my book Alias Soapy Smith. Ed states he and Soapy were talking with Texas Ranger Ware in a restaurant, and that Ware was born within a mile of the Smith home, however, according to Rick Miller, author of Sam Bass and Gang (1999), Ware was born in Floyd County, which is over 65-miles from the Smith house. I am positive that Soapy and Ed witnessed the shooting in Round Rock, but there are discrepancies in the versions they give, with what is historically known to be true. In my book I report the error given in the Smith versions due to a shave Ranger Dick Ware was supposedly receiving in the barbershop. The idea that he was getting a shave came from an erroneous source because according to Miller, Ware was posted in German-born Henry Burkhardt's barber shop just east of Henry Koppel's store (where the shooting started) and across the street from the bank, the intended target of the Bass gang. Miller states Ware was in the barbershop on stakeout, with no mention of receiving a shave (Sam Bass and Gang, pp. 247-48). It is very possible that Soapy, Ed, and Ware met in a restaurant, perhaps located in the nearby Hart House hotel mentioned in Miller's book (Sam Bass and Gang, pp 258-59). There is no mention by Miller that Ware was eating breakfast in a restaurant as claimed by Soapy and Ed. Missing from Ed's version is a mention of the barbershop stakeout.

Sam Bass and some of the gang
(standing, left to right) Sam Bass and John Gardner
(seated, left to right) Joe Collins and Joel Collins

(Courtesy of Robert G. McCubbin, jr.)

According to Miller, Ware came out of the barber shop after hearing the first exchange of gunfire. He saw Sam Bass, Seaborn Barnes, and Frank Jackson, crossing the street from Koppel's store and started a firefight with the men. He took cover behind a hitching post. One round split the top of the post within inches of his head and showered him with wood splinters. Ware kept advancing as the outlaws retreated and turned east down an alley to get to their horses. In his version of the fight, Ed Smith stated he and Soapy followed Ware as he advanced. Both Smith and Miller speak of Ware's "deliberate aim," but at what moment Ed was referring to is questionable. Miller states that Ware shot and killed Seaborn Barnes in the alley, Barnes dropping dead to the ground. In Smith's version Soapy stated "I think you hit him" after Ware fired a shot. Could this moment have taken place as the outlaws were entering the alley, or perhaps after? It appears from the Smith's versions that they believed Ware was shooting at Bass, but not knowing what any of the outlaws looked like, how would they know for certain? There is still some controversy as to who shot and killed Bass. Miller states Ranger George Herold shot Bass in the ally as he tried to mount his horse. Barnes, also trying to mount his horse is shot dead with a head shot by Ware as he and other Rangers enter the alley. Bass and Jackson race their horses out of the alley and out of Round Rock. The Rangers soon pursue the outlaws but Jackson escapes and the Rangers do not find Bass until the following day.

Interesting to note is that Ranger Jim Gillett and Lee Hall both said that Bass stated that he had received both of his wounds just after leaving Koppel's store, which would align with the Smith's versions that Ware had shot him (Sam Bass and Gang, p. 260).

Richard Clayton "Dick" Ware was born November 11, 1851, in Floyd County, near Rome, Georgia. He came to Dallas County, Texas with his parents in 1870. He joined the Texas Rangers on April 1, 1876. He was discharged from the Rangers on February 1, 1881, after having been elected the first sheriff of Mitchell County, Texas on January 10, 1881. He was reelected five time, until being defeated by one vote in 1892. On May 11, 1893 he was appointed U.S. Marshal for the Western District of Texas by President Cleveland. He served until he was replaced in 1898. Ware was then appointed an unpaid "Special Ranger" in "Volunteer Guards" in San Antonio in 1898 to protect property and aid the authorities. Ware never married and died in Fort Worth of heart trouble on June 26, 1902 (Sam Bass and Gang, pp 372-73).

July 21, 2009
October 3, 2013

Sam Bass: pages 30-31.

"He who knows best knows how little he knows."
—Thomas Jefferson


1864: Union forces led by General Samuel Curtis defeat Confederate forces in Missouri under General Stirling Price, during the Civil War.

1865: Union forces retake Fort McIntosh from Confederates in Laredo, Texas.

1869: A mail route is established between Camp McDowell, Phoenix, Florence, Fort Grant, and Tucson, Arizona Territory.

1877: Future Lincoln Count War combatant, John Tunstall returns to his ranch in New Mexico Territory only to learn that all his cattle have been stolen.

1881: Outlaw Dave Rudabaugh escapes from the Las Vegas, New Mexico Territory jail and heads for Mexico never to return to the U.S.

1882: Seven dangerous prisoners escape from the county jail in Tucson, Arizona Territory.

1883: The railroad town of Abilene, Texas becomes the Taylor County seat.

1892: Soapy Smith and five others enter a Denver election polling place and forcefully eject the poll box keeper, placing one of their own in charge, then proceed to allow repeat voters in to cast fraudulent votes.

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