AN ACCURATE AND FAITHFUL HISTORY OF THEIR EXPLOITS AND ADVENTURES.
" Some hapless souls are led astray,
While some, themselves, seek out the way.
Some fall, unthinking, in the pit.
While others seek about for it.
'Tis probable, if Satan should
Strive for the universal good,
And close his gates and. bar them well,
Some souls would still break into Hell."
ONCE the days of the James and Younger brothers, bold types of Western
outlawry, which 'were the 'immediate products of the late civil war, no
banditti have challenged such universal attention as those led by the famous
out law, Rube Burrow. The press of the country has woven, from the wildest woof
of fancy, full many a fiction touching his daring deeds, and manufacturers of
sensational literature have made of the bandit as mystical a genius as the
"Head less Hessian of Sleepy Hollow."
With the view of correcting the erroneous ac counts heretofore given the
public, I have yielded to the solicitations of many friends in the Express
service and consented to give a faithful and accurate history, compiled from
the official reports of the detectives, detailing the daring deeds, the
thrilling scenes and hairbreadth escapes of the outlaw and his band of
highwaymen. Important Confessions of some of the principal participants in the
eight train robberies committed, covering a period of nearly four years, are
also given, with out color of fiction or the caprice of fancy.
It is the province of this volume, therefore, not to laud evil endeavor, but
rather to chronicle the hapless fate of those who, turning aside from the paths
of peace and honor, elect to tread the devious and thorny road which leads on
to the open gateway, over which is emblazoned, in setters of living fire, the
accursed malediction, " All hope abandon, ye who enter here."
G. W. Agee.
Memphis Tenn. December 1893.
Lamar County, Alabama The Home of the Burrow Family Biographical Sketch
of Rube Burrow's Ancestors.
Rube Leaves Lamar County, Alabama His Early Life in the Lone Star State
His Brother Jim joins Him The Bellevue, Gordon and Ben Brook, Texas, Train
The Genoa, Ark., Robbery, December 9, 1887 Arrest of William Brock His
The Pinkertons After Rube and Jim Burrow in Lamar County Their Narrow
Rube and Jim board an L. & N. Railway Train at Brock's Gap Their
Arrest and the Subsequent Escape of Rube.
Rube Burrow Returns to Lamar County Joe Jackson Joins him in March, 1888
Their Trip into Bald win County, Alabama
The Ride into Arkansas to Liberate Jim Burrow Failure and Return to
Rube Burrow and Joe Jackson Leave Arkansas They turn up as Cotton Pickers
in Tate County, Mississippi
Jim Burrow Arraigned. Trial Postponed His Return to Little Rock Prison
Letters Home His Death in Prison
The Duck Hill, Miss., Robbery The Killing of Passenger Chester Hughes
The Cold-blooded Murder of Moses Graves, the Postmaster of Jewell,
Smith Joins Rube Burrow and Joe Jackson The Buckatunna Robbery
The Capture or Rube Smith and James McClung at Amory, Miss. McClung's
Confession A Plan to Rob the Train Falls Through A Safe Robbery Nipped in
A False Alarm The Ox-cart Trip to Florida The Separation Rube Located
at Broxton Ferry His Escape
Capture of Joe Jackson
Confession of Leonard Calvert Brock, alias Joe Jackson, made at Memphis,
Tenn., July 19, 1890, and Corrected and Amended at Jackson, Miss., October 16,
Rube Smith's Plot to Escape from Prison His Plans Discovered The
Rube Burrow Harbored in Santa Rosa The Flomaton Robbery
Rube Routed from Florida The Chase into Marengo County, Ala. His
Rube's Last Desperate Act Escape from Jail The Deadly Duel on the
Streets of Linden The Outlaw Killed
Tragic Suicide of L. C. Brock, alias Joe Jackson He Leaps from the Fourth
Story of the Prison into the Open Court, Sixty Feet Below, Causing Instant
Death His Last Statement
Rube Smith's Trial for the Buckatunna Mail Robbery An Unsuccessful Alibi
Perjured Witnesses Mastferly Speeches Conviction and Sentence.
LAMAR COUNTY, ALABAMA THE HOME OF THE BURROW FAMILY BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
OE RUBE BURROW'S ANCESTORS.
LAMAR County, Alabama, the home of the Burrow family, has become historic as
the lair of a robber band whose deeds of daring have had no parallel in modem
times, and the halo of romance with which that locality has been invested has
converted its rugged hills into mountain fastnesses, its quiet vales into dark
caverns, and the humble abode of its inhabitants into turreted fortresses and
robber castles. The county of Lamar, divested of the drapery of sensationalism,
is one of the "hill counties" of northern Alabama, and takes high rank in the
list of rich agricultural counties of the State. It possesses a charming
landscape of undulating hill and dale, watered by limpid streams, and amid
fertile valleys and on the crests of its picturesque uplands are found the
peaceful and prosperous homes of many good and law-abiding people, thus proving
that good people are indigenous to every clime and land where the hand of
civilization has left its kindly touch. " It does not abound in grand and
sublime prospects, but rather in little home scenes of rural repose and
Lamar County was formed in 1868 from the most fertile portions of Fayette
and Marion Counties, and has changed its name three times; first it was called
Jones, then Sanford, and, finally, it was named Lamar, in honor of the
distinguished statesman and jurist who now adorns the bench of the Supreme
Court of the United States. This section of the State, though not until the
last decade possessed of the advantages of development which more fortunate
sections have long enjoyed, has always had an excellent citizenship. Here, in
the olden time, were found ardent followers of the political faith of the
founders of the Republic, and' while the bonfires of the zealous pioneers of
that day and time lighted the hill tops, the valleys of that section of
northern Alabama reverberated with the campaign songs of their enthusiastic
compatriots. From this section, no less renowned in war than in peace, a large
company of soldiers was sent to the Creek war, and a full quota of gallant men
went forth to the Confederate army, three companies of which were in the
Twenty-sixth Alabama Infantry, one of the most superb regiments in the Army of
This much, in truth and justice, should be said in behalf of Lamar County,
which has gained an unenviable notoriety as the birthplace of Rube Burrow, and
later as the rendezvous of his confreres in crime. When metropolitan places,
with well equipped police powers, give birth to such social organizations as
the anarchists in Chicago and the Italian Mafia in New Orleans, and become
asylums for organized assassins, the good people of these cities are no more
responsible for the resultant evils than are the law abiding people of Lamar
County, Alabama, for the deeds of outlawry of which one of her citizens, by the
accident of birthplace, was the chief exponent. The Burrow family, however,
were among the earliest settlers of Fayette County, Alabama, from which Lamar
was taken, and from their prolific stock descended a numerous progeny, who, by
the natural ties of consanguinity, formed a clan amongst whom the bold outlaws
found ready refuge when fleeing from the hot pursuit organized in the more
populous localities which were the scenes of their daring crimes. Chief among
Rube's partisans and protectors was James A, Cash, a brother-in-law.
Allen H. Burrow, the father of Rube, was born in Maury County, Tenn., May
21, 1825, is parents moving to Franklin County, Ala., in 1826, and who, in
1828, settled within the vicinity of his present home in Lamar County, Ala. In
August, 1849, Allen Burrow married Martha Caroline Terry, a native of Lamar
County, who was born in 1830. From this union were born ten children five
boys and five girls. John T. Burrow, the oldest child, lives near Vernon, the
county seat of Lamar. Apart from harboring his brother, Rube, while an outlaw,
he has always borne a fair reputation. He is of a rollicking disposition,
possesses a keen sense of the ridiculous, is a fine mimic and recounts an anec
dote inimitably, and, though crude of speech and manner, having little
education, is a man of more than average intelligence. Jasper Burrow, the sec
ond son, is a quiet, taciturn man; he lives with his father, and is reputed to
be of unsound mind. Four of the daughters married citizens of Lamar County. The
youngest, who bears the prosaic name of Ann Eliza, is a tall blonde of twenty
summers, and is yet unmarried. She is of a defiant nature, has a comely and
attractive face, and is a favorite with many a rustic youth in the vicinage of
the Burrow homestead. She was devoted to Rube, afforded a constant medium of
communication between the parental home and the hiding place of the outlaws,
and was the courier through whom Rube Smith was added to the robber band while
in rendezvous in Lamar County.
Reuben Houston (Rube) Burrow, the outlaw, was born in Lamar County, December
11, 1854. His early life in Lamar was an uneventful one. He was known as an
active, sprightly boy, apt in all athletic pursuits, a swift runner, an ardent
huntsman and a natural woodsman. He possessed a fearless spirit, was of a merry
and humorous tun, a characteristic of the Burrow family, but he developed none
of those traits which might have foreshadowed the unenviable fame acquired in
James Buchanan Burrow, the fifth and youngest son, was born in 1858, and
was, therefore, four years the junior of his brother Rube, to whose fortunes
his own were linked in the pursuit of train robbing, and which gave to the band
the name of the " Burrow Brothers " in the earliest days of its
The facilities for acquiring education in the rural districts of the South,
half a century ago, were limited, and Allen Burrow grew to manhood's estate,
having mastered little more than a knowledge of the "three R's," and yet talent
for teaching the young idea how to shoot was so scant that Allen Burrow, during
the decade immediately preceding the late war, was found diversifying the
pursuits of tilling the soil with that of teaching a country school. Among his
pupils was the unfortunate postmaster of Jewell, Ala., Moses Graves, who was
wantonly killed by Rube Burrow in 1889. Alany anecdotes are current in Lamar
County, illustrating the primitive methods of pedagogy as pursued by Allen
Burrow. It is said that the elder Graves, who had several sons as pupils,
withdrew the hopeful scions of the Graves household from the school for the
reason that after six months' tuition, he having incidentally enrolled the
whole contingent in a spelling bee, they all insisted on spelling every
monosyllable ending with a consonant by adding an extra one, as d-o-g-g, dog;
Allen Burrow served awhile in Roddy's cavalry during the civil war, but his
career as a soldier was brief and not marked by any incident worthy of note.
Soon after the close of the war he made some reputation as a "moonshiner," and
was indicted about 1876 for illicit distilling. He fled the country in
consequence, but after an absence of two years he returned and made some
compromise with the Government, since which time he has quietly lived in Lamar
County. While possessed of some shrewdness, he is a typical backwoodsman, with
the characteristic drawling voice and quaint vernacular peculiar to his class.
Martha Terry, the wife of Allen Burrow, claims to be possessed of the peculiar
and hereditary gift of curing, by some strange and mysterious agency, many of
the ills to which flesh is heir, and had she lived in the days of Cotton Mather
she might have fallen a victim to fire and fagot, with which witchcraft in that
day and time was punished. There are many sensible and wholly unsuperstitious
persons in northern Alabama, where old Mrs. Burrow is well known, who believe
in her occult powers of curing cancers, warts, tumors and kindred ailments, by
the art of sorcery. Capt. J. E. Pennington, a prominent citizen, and the
present tax collector of Lamar County, tells of two instances in his own family
of which Dame Burrow removed tumors by simple incantation. The witch's caldron
" boils and bubbles" on the hearthstone of the Burrow home, and whether the
dark and fetid mixture contain
" Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,"
or what not, many good but credulous people come from far and near to invoke
the charm of her occult mummery, despite the fact that our latter-day
civilization has long since closed its eyes and ears to the arts of sorcery and
witchcraft. Here, amid the environments of ignorance and superstition, evils
resulting more from the inherent infirmities of the rugged pioneer and his wife
than the adversities of fortune, the family of ten children was reared. It is
from such strong and rugged natures, uneducated and untrained in the school of
right and honesty, that comes the material of which train robbers are made.
RUBE LEAVES LAMAR COUNTY, ALABAMA HIS EARLY LIFE IN THE LONE STAR STATE
HIS BROTHER JIM JOINS HIM THE BELLEVUE, GORDON AND BEN BROOK, TEXAS, TRAIN
RUBE BURROW'S old companions in Alabama recall distinctly the day he left
Lamar County for Texas in the autumn of 1872. He left the old and familiar
scenes of his boyhood, full of hope and eager to test the possibilities that
Texas, then the Eldorado of the southern emigrant, opened up to him. He was but
eighteen years of age when he took up his abode with his uncle, Joel Burrow, a
very worthy and upright man, who owned and tilled a small farm in Erath County,
that State. In 1876 Rube was joined by Jim Burrow, his younger brother, who
remained in Texas until 1880, when, returning to Lamar County, Alabama, he
married and resided there until 1884, when he rejoined his brother Rube in
Texas, taking his wife thither. Jim Burrow was a " burly, roaring, roistering
blade," six feet tall, as straight as an Indian, which race of people he very
closely resembled, ?with his beardless face, his high cheek bones and
coal-black hair. He was in every way fitted for following the fortunes of Rube,
and had he not succumbed to the unhappy fate of imprisonment and early death he
would have been a formidable rival of his brother Rube in the events that
marked his subsequent career.
Rube worked awhile on his uncle's farm, but soon drifted into that
nondescript character known as a Texas cowboy. Meantime, in 1876, he married
Miss Virginia Alvison, in Wise County, Texas, and from this marriage two
children were born, who are now with their grandparents in Alabama, the elder
being a boy of twelve years. This wife died in 1880, and he again married in
1884 a Miss Adeline Hoover, of Erath County, Texas. These events served to
restrain his natural inclinations for excitement and adventure, and it may be
truthfully said that from 1873 to 1886 Rube Burrow transgressed the law only to
the extent of herding unbranded cattle and marking them as his own. In this
pursuit he traversed the plains of Texas, enjoying with an excess of keen
delight a companionship of kindred spirits, whose homes were in the saddle, and
who found their only shelter by day and by night under the same kindly skies.
As he grew to manhood he had given full bent to his love for the athletic
pursuits incident to life upon the then sparsely settled plains of the Lone
Star State. Taming the unbridled broncho, shooting the antelope, and lassoing
the wild steer, under whip and spur, he soon gained fame as an equestrian, and
was reckoned as the most unerring marksman in all the adjacent country. With a
reputation for all these accomplishments, strengthened by an innate capacity
for leadership, Rube ere long gathered about him a band of trusty comrades, of
which he was easily the leader.
A short time prior to this period, at varying intervals, all Texas had been
startled by the bold and desperate adventures of Sam Bass and his band of train
robbers, with which Rube was erroneously supposed to have been associated.
Possibly inspired, however, by the fame which Sam Bass had achieved, and the
exaggerated reports of the profits of his adventures, contrasted with the
sparse returns from his more plodding occupation, Rube was seized with a desire
to emulate his deeds of daring, and achieve at once fame and fortune.
At this time, December 1, 1886, his party, consisting of Jim Burrow, Nep
Thornton and Henderson Bromley, returning from a bootless excursion into the
Indian Territory, rode in the direction of Bellevue, a station on the Fort
Worth and Denver Railway. Here Rube proposed to rob the train, which they knew
to be due at Bellevue at eleven o'clock A. M. Hitching their horses in the
woods a few hundred yards away they stealthily approached a water-tank three
hundred yards west of the station, and where the train usually stopped for
water. Thornton held up the engineer and fireman, while Rube, Bromley and Jim
Burrow went through the train and robbed the passengers, leaving the Pacific
Express unmolested. They secured some three hundred dollars in currency and a
dozen or more watches. On the train was Sergeant Connors (white), with a squad
of U.S. colored soldiers, in charge of some prisoners. From these soldiers were
taken their forty-five caliber Colt's revolvers, a brace of which pistols were
used by Rube Burrow throughout his subsequent career. Rube insisted on the
prisoners being liberated, but they disdained the offer of liberty at the hands
of the highwaymen and remained in charge of the crest-fallen soldiers, who were
afterwards dismissed from the service for cowardice. Regaining their horses the
party rode forth from the scene of their initial train robbery, out into the
plains, making a distance of some seventy-five miles from the scene of the
robbery in twenty-four hours.
The ill-gotten gains thus obtained did not suffice to satisfy the greed of
the newly fledged train robbers, and early in the following January another
raid was planned. At Alexander, Texas, about seventy-five miles from Gordon,
all the robbers met, and going thence by horseback to Gordon, Texas, a station
on the Texas and Pacific Railway, they reached their destination about one
o'clock a. m., on January 23, 1887. As the train pulled out of Gordon at two
o'clock a. m. Rube and Bromley mounted the engine, covered the engineer and
fireman, and ordered them to pull ahead and stop at a distance of five hundred
yards east of the station. The murderous looking Colt's revolvers brought the
engineer to terms, and the commands of the highwaymen were obeyed to the
letter. At the point where the train was stopped, Jim Burrow, Thornton, and
Harrison Askew, a recruit who had but recently joined the robber band, were in
waiting. As the train pulled up, Askew's nerve failed him, and he cried out, "
For heaven's sake, boys, let me out of this ; I can't stand it." Askew's powers
of locomotion, however, had not forsaken him, and he made precipitate flight
from the scene of the robbery. Rube and Bromley marched the engineer and
fireman to the express car and demanded admittance, while the rest of the
robbers held the conductor and other trainmen at bay. The messenger of the
Pacific Express Company refused at first to obey the command to open the door,
but put out the lights in his car. A regular fusilage ensued, the robbers using
a couple of Winchester rifles, and after firing fifty or more shots the
messenger surrendered. About $2,275 was secured from the Pacific Express car.
The U. S. Mail car was also robbed, and the highwaymen secured from the
registered mail about two thousand dollars.
Mounting their horses, which they had left hidden in the forest hard by,
they rode off in a northerly direction, in order to mislead their pursuers.
Making a circuit to the south they came upon the open plains, which stretched
far away towards the home of the robber band. The trackless plain gave no
vestige of the flight of the swift-footed horses as they carried their riders
faster and still faster on to their haven of safety, which they reached soon
after daylight on the second morning after the robbery.
The better to allay suspicion the robber comrades now agreed to separate,
and all made a show of work, some tilling the soil, while others engaged in the
occupation of herding cattle for the neighboring ranch owners.
Rube and Jim Burrow, about this time, purchased a small tract of land,
paying six hundred dollars for it. They also bought a few head of stock and
made a fair showing for a few months at making an honest living. The restless
and daring spirit of Rube Burrow, however, could not brook honest toil. As he
followed the plowshare over his newly purchased land, and turned the wild
flowers of the teeming prairie beneath the soil, he nurtured within his soul
nothing of the pride of the peaceful husbandman, but, fretting over such tame
pursuits, built robber castles anew.
While planting a crop in the spring of 1887 he had for a fellow workman one
William Brock, and finding in him a dare-devil and restless spirit he recounted
to him his successful ventures at Bellevue and at Gordon. Thus another recruit
was added to his forces, and one, too, who was destined to play an important
role, as subsequent events will show. Time grew apace, and Rube wrote, in his
quaint, unscholarly way, affectionate epistles to his relatives in Lamar
County, Ala., sending them some of his ill-gotten gains. Two of these letters,
written on the same sheet of paper, the one to his brother, John T. Burrow, the
other to his father and mother, at Vernon, Ala., are here given verbatim et
literatim and show that a collegiate education is not a necessary adjunct to
the pursuit of train robbing.
Erath County, Tex., March l0, 1887.
Dear Brother and family :
All is well. No nuse too rite, the weather is good for work and wee ar
puting in the time. Wee will plant corn too morrow. Mee and james Will plant 35
acreys in corn. Wee wont plant Eny Cotton Wee hav a feW Ooats sode and millet,
i am going too Stephens Vill too day and i Will male this Letr. J. T. when you
rite Direct your letr too Stephens Vill Erath county and tell all of the Rest
too direct there letrs too the same place, i want you and pah too keep that
money John you keep $30.00 and pah $20.00. the Reason i want you to hav $30 is
because you have the largest family. John i don't blame pah and mother for not
coming out here for they ortoo no there Buisness. John i want you too rite too
me. i did think i would Come Back in march, i cant come now. Rite.
R. H. Burrow
too J. T. Burrow.
Krats County, Texas, March. 10, 1887.
Dear father & mother :
Eye will Rite you a few Iines. all is well. Elizabeth* has a boy. it was
born on the 28 of february. She has done well. Mother i want you too pick mee
out one of the prityest widows in ala. i will come home this fawl. pah i want
John thomas too hav 30 dollars of that money eye want you too Buy analyzer a
gold Ring, it wont cost more than $4. i told her i would send her a present,
pah that will take a rite smart of your part of the money but it will come all
right some day for I am going to sell out some time and come and see all of
R H Burrow
too A H Burrow.
"We have sowed a few oats," wrote Rube. Whether this was meant as a
double-entendre and referred not only to a strictly domesticated brand of that
nseful cereal, but also to the "wild oats" which Rube and Jim had been sowing,
and which bore ample fruitage in after years, it is useless to speculate.
In the midst of seed-time Rube tired of his bucolic pursuits, and concluded
to try his fortunes at Gordon again, and on the tenth of May the chief gathered
his little band at his farm in Erath County and, under cover of a moonless
night, rode northward to the Brazos River, about fifty miles distant. They
found to their disappointment that the river was very high and was overflowing
its bank , rendering it impossible to cross it by ferry (Elizabeth was the wife
of bis brother Jim.) or otherwise, and spending the day in the adjacent
woodland, they rode back to Alexander the following night, to await the
subsidence of the floods, which, however, kept the Brazos River high for some
Again, on the night of June 3d, by appointment, Henderson Bromley and Bill
Brock met Rube and Jim Burrow at their home near Stephensville, in Erath
County, and, after consultation, Ben Brook, Texas, a station on the Texas and
Pacific Railway, seventy-five miles south of Fort Worth, was selected as the
scene of their third train robbery.
After a hard night's ride they were at daylight, on June 4th, within a few
miles of Ben Brook. Having ascertained that the north-bound train would pass
the station about 7 p. m. they secreted themselves in the woods near by until
dark, at which time they rode quietly to within a few hundred yards of the
station. Rube Burrow and Henderson Bromley had blackened their faces with burnt
cork, while Jim Burrow and Brock used their pocket handkerchiefs for masks.
Rube and Bromley boarded the engine as it pulled out of the station and, with
drawn revolvers, covered the engineer and fireman, and ordered the former to
stop at a trestle a few hundred yards beyond the sta tion. Here Jim Burrow and
Brock were in waiting, and the two latter held the conductor and passengers at
bay, while the two former ordered the engineer to break into the express car
with the coal pick taken from the engine, and again the Pacific Express Company
was robbed, the highwaymen securing $2,450. The passengers and mail were
Regaining their horses within thirty minutes after the train first stopped
at the station, the robbers rode hard and fast until noon of the following day.
Through woodland and over plain, ere dawn of day they had fled far from the
scene of the robbery of the previous night, and a drenching rain, which
commenced to fall at midnight, left not a trace of the course of their flight.
Here the robbers remained in quiet seclusion, disguising their identity as
train robbers by a seeming diligence in agricultural pursuits, until September
20, 1887, when they made a second raid on the Texas Pacific Road, robbing the
train at Ben Brook station again.
When Rube and Bromley mounted the engine, wonderful to relate, it was in
charge of the same engineer whom the robbers had "held up" in the robbery of
June 4th, and the engineer, recognizing Rube and Bromley, said, as he looked
down the barrels of their Colt's revolvers, " Well, Captain, where do you want
me to stop this time? " Rube laconically replied "Same place," and so it was
that the train was stopped and robbed, the same crew being in charge, on the
identical spot where it had been robbed before. The messenger of the Pacific
Express Company made some resistance, but finally the robbers succeeded in
entering his car and secured $2,725, or about $680 each.
The highwaymen reached their rendezvous in Erath County, having successfully
committed four train robberies.
About the middle of November following, Rube and Jim paid a visit to their
parents in Lamar County, Ala., Jim taking his wife there and Rube his two
children. They remained in Lamar County some weeks, visiting their relatives
and walking the streets of Vernon, the county seat, unmolested, as neither of
the two men had at that time ever been suspected of train robbing.
THE GENOA, ARK., ROBBERY, DECEMBER 9, 1 887 ARREST OF WILLIAM BROCK HIS
EXPRESS Train No. 2, on the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway, left
Texarkana, Ark., on the evening of December 9, 1887, at 5:50 P. m., fifty
minutes late. Nothing unusual occurred until just as the train began to pull
out of Genoa, Ark., a small station thirty miles north of Texarkana. Engineer
Rue, on looking about, discovered two men standing just behind him, with drawn
revolvers, covering himself and fireman.
" What are you doing here ? " asked Rue. The answer was, "Go on! Don't stop!
If you stop I will kill you! " And further: " I want you to stop about one and
a half miles from here, at the north end of the second big cut. I don't want to
hurt you or your fireman, but we are going to rob this train or kill every man
Arriving at the spot designated, the leader abruptly said, "Stop!" The
engineer and fireman were then ordered down from the engine, and the leader
said, "Boys, how are you all?"
A voice from the brush, where a third man was in waiting, said, "All right,
boys ! " The latter then walked towards the passenger coaches and with a
sixteen-shooting rifle opened fire in the direction of the coaches. The two men
in charge of the engineer and fireman were closely masked, and were armed with
a brace of forty-five caliber Colt's pistols, with Winchester rifles strapped
across their backs. Messenger Cavin, of the Southern Express Company, put out
his lights and, like Br'er Fox, "lay low" for some time. The robbers demanded
admittance, showering volleys of oaths and shots in one common fusilage. The
heavy Winchesters sped shot after shot through the car, the balls piercing it
from side to side, and yet young Cavin held his ground until Rube Burrow
ordered the engineer to bring his oil can and saturate the car with the
contents. The engineer was ordered to set fire to the car, but before doing so
he made an earnest appeal to the messenger, who agreed to surrender, under the
condition that he should not be hurt. The robbers were some thirty minutes
gaining access to the car. Having done so, they secured about two thousand
This was the first train robbery in the territory of the Southern Express
Company for a period of seventeen years. Not since the robbery of the Southern
Express car on the Mobile and Ohio Railway at Union City, Tenn., in October,
1870, by the celebrated Farrington brothers, had highwaymen made a raid on a
Southern Express train.
The Pinkerton Detective Agency having been given charge of the Union City,
Tenn., case, and all the participants in that crime having been punished to the
full extent of the law, the management of the Southern Express Company called
to their aid at once the Pinkerton force.
Assistant Superintendent McGinn, of the Chicago agency, reached Texarkana in
about fortyeight hours after the robbery, and immediately repaired to the scene
of the occurrence. Genoa is a small railroad station only a short distance from
Red River. The winter rains had filled the bottom lands with water, and the
dense and impenetrable growth of matted brush and vines, denuded of their
foliage, made the landscape a picture desolate and uninviting. Here in this
wild woodland came Superintendent McGinn, on the morning of the third day after
the robbery, to take up the tangled skein from which to weave the net Tor the
capture of the train robbers.
On the night of the robbery a report of the occurrence had been telegraphed
to the officials of the Express Company at Texarkana, and a posse at once
started to the scene of the robbery. A few miles north of Texarkana the posse,
being in charge of Sheriff Dixon, of Miller County, came upon three men on the
railway track, walking towards Texarkana, This was about three o'clock A. M.
The three men were allowed to pass, when the sheriflf's posse, turning about,
commanded them to halt. The latter ran, taking refuge in a railway cut some
thirty yards distant, and the sheriff's posse at once opened fire, which was
promptly returned, and a score or more of shots were exchanged.
The night being very dark the firing on each side was done at random, and no
casualties ensued. After daylight that morning two rubber coats and a slouch
hat were found in the vicinity of the fight, and these articles were
subsequently identified as having been worn by the men who robbed the train at
Genoa. The hat bore the name of a firm in Dublin, Texas, and the coats, which
were new, bore the simple cost mark "K. W. P." Here was an important clew,
proving that the robbers had at least purchased the hat at Dublin. Thither the
detectives went, with the hat and coats, hoping to have the purchasers
identified. Calling upon the Dublin firm, diligent inquiry failed to disclose
the purchaser of the hat, the firm having sold hundreds of a similar style
during the season.
No trace of the purchasers of the coats could be found at Dublin, but the
detectives felt that they were on a hot trail and renewed their exertions. To
Corsicana, Waco, Stephensville and other points adjacent they journeyed,
exhibiting the coats, with the cabalistic letters, until finally McGinn arrived
at Alexander, Texas, as if carried there by that intuition common to shrewd men
of his profession, and plied his inquires anew. Falling in with a salesman of
the firm of Sherman & Thaiwell, to whom the coats were exhibited, the
answer of the young salesman, Hearn, was :
''That is the cost mark of Sherman & Thaiwell. I put those letters, ' K.
W. P.,' on myself." He then seemed lost a moment in thought, and resumed :
"We had a lot of that brand, and I sold a coat like that to one Bill Brock,
who lives, when at home, at his father-in-law's, five miles from Alexander, on
the road to Dublin." He further stated that Brock had been away, he thought, up
about Texarkana, and added:
"At the time Brock made the purchase there was a man with him to whom I also
sold a similar coat, and who afterwards went to Alabama, and who I think is
Here was a ray of light upon the dark mystery of December 9th at Genoa. The
name, William Brock, had been copied from the hotel register at Texarkana,
where it was found under date of December 3rd, six days before the robbery, and
was in the possession of the detectives who were on the alert for the
A few days prior to this occurrence another detective was shadowing a man in
Waco, Texas, who was spending money freely, and who answered the description of
one of the train robbers. Following him to Dublin, Texas, the man was ascer-
tained to be Brock, and here the detectives, comparing notes, found themselves
in possession of abundant evidence upon which, to arrest Brock. Before this was
done, however, the important disclosure was made that Brock had two companions,
Rube and Jim Burrow, and as these men answered the descriptions of the men who
committed the robbery at Genoa the detectives felt quite sure that the names of
all three of the robbers were at least known. Further investigation, however,
developed the fact that Rube and Jim Burrow had recently gone to Alabama, and
the immediate arrest of Brock was determined upon.
At three o'clock on the morning of December 31, 1887, twenty-two days after
the robbery, Wm. Brock was arrested at his home near Dublin, Texas. The
detectives demanded admittance and Brock surrendered without firing a shot,
although he had a forty-five caliber Colt's revolver and fifty cartridges in a
belt under his pillow, and also one of the Winchester rifles used at Genoa. The
prisoner was taken to Texarkana and confronted with engineer Rue, who
thoroughly identified him. He was also identified by parties who saw him in the
immediate vicinity of Genoa. Brock could not stand the pressure brought to bear
on him by the wily detectives, and in the course of a few days made a clean
breast of his participation in the Genoa, Ark., robbery, confirming the
information already in possession of the detectives as to the complicity of
Rube and Jim Burrow in the daring adventure.
From Brock it was learned that Rube and Jim Burrow had, about November 15,
1887, gone to Lamar County, Ala. By agreement. Brock had joined the Burrow
brothers at Texarkana on December 3d, where all three registered at the
Cosmopolitan Hotel, Brock in his own name, and Rube and Jim as R. Houston and
James Buchanan, respectively, each using his middle name as a surname. They had
robbed the train at Genoa on the night of December 9th, and while walking
toward Texarkana in the early morning of the l0th had been fired upon by the
sheriff's posse. Taken by surprise, he and Jim Burrow had dropped their coats,
while Rube had lost his hat. After going a few miles south of Texarkana they
separated. Brock going into Texas and Rube and Jim making their way into Lamar
On the 29th of December Rube wrote the following letter to Brock, which was
received by Mrs. Brock, and turned over to the detectives after her husband's
Mr. IV. L. Brock:
All is well and hope you the same Bill notis everything and let me know Bill
eye will sell you my place ef you want it at 7 hundred let me here from you
want it eye will have all fixt right and send you the tittle in full let me
here from you soon.
R. H. too W. I.. B.
The figure, 20-29-87 meant that Rube and Jim reached Lamar County on the
20th and the letter was written on the 29th of December. William Brock detailed
to the detectives the history of the Bellevue and Gordon robberies, as gathered
from Rube, and of the Ben Brook robberies, in which he himself participated. He
seemed thoroughly penitent over his crimes, and, after reaching Texarkana,
disclosed the fact that he had about four hundred dollars of the proceeds of
the Genoa robbery, which he proposed to and did restore.
Brock was a rough, uncouth-looking fellow, about five feet eleven inches
high ; weighed about 180 pounds, and was a strong-chested, broad-shouldered
fellow, whose forbidding features made him a typical train robber. He was about
thirty-one years old, and although born in Georgia, his parents moved to Texas
when he was quite a child. He was wholly illiterate, not being able to either
read or write, and the environments of corrupt companionship tended to fill his
untutored mind with evil only. Brock made an important witness in the trials of
the participants in the various train robberies in Texas, and was afterwards
given a comparatively light sentence as a punishment for his offenses.