History

3 of the Most Notorious Outlaws & Crews Ever to Hit the Texas Hill Country

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Not at all fun nor glamorous, the life of an outlaw in the “wild west” was merely a chance to live a different life than what they were accustomed to and become a legend in the process. Well over a century later, we’re still watching movies, reading about, and almost idolizing some of the renegades we’ve grown up hearing stories about, passed down through time and growing larger than life in some instances. The Texas Hill Country was chock full of cattle rustlers, gunslingers, and thieves, but we also had our share of notoriety in the lot. Here are three of the most notorious outlaws or crews the Texas Hill Country has ever seen.

1. The Newton Boys

Three of the Most Notorious Outlaws & Crews Ever to Hit the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Facebook/Shipwreckhunter

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Shrewd plotting and a unique panache are responsible for the Newton Boys success (if you could call it that) in ability, and making it out alive, followed quickly by fame. These Uvalde brothers spent a number of years successfully robbing trains and banks and evading capture and death in the process. New Braunfels, San Marcos, Hondo (two in one night), Pearsall, and Boerne banks in the Texas Hill Country all fell prey to their plans, which normally included a nighttime robbery coupled with nitroglycerin for blowing the vaults. Holding the title as the most successful train thieves, a record-setting $3 million was stolen by the Newton Boys from a train in Illinois, leading to their capture and imprisonment and the end of their career. Striking a deal with the authorities, however, the brothers returned all but $100,000, served their prison time, and returned to life in rural Texas, where the majority died of natural causes.

2. Bonnie Parker & Clyde Barrow

Three of the Most Notorious Outlaws & Crews Ever to Hit the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Facebook/Joe’s Nostalgia Machine

Capturing the enthusiasm and imagination of the entire U.S., Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow became the infamous “Bonnie & Clyde” in a four-year crime spree taking them from humble Texas Hill Country towns to the northern parts of the country. Although fodder for Hollywood movies, marriage never consummated their love. Bonnie was, in fact, married to Roy Thornton, an abusive husband as well as a thief. Focusing on grocery stores and gas stations, Parker and Barrow together would resort to kidnapping as a method in their robberies and escapes, romanticized in the recovery efforts of these individuals through artifacts that were left or kept in the process, however, the nation grew cold on them after they shot and killed a police officer during one of their crimes. Eventually, it was their attachment to their Texas ties that became their downfall, when a member of their gang pretended to have car trouble, giving authorities the chance to catch up with and surround them. Running to their car to evade capture, Bonnie & Clyde went out in a hail of bullets, as the police unleashed 150 rounds into their vehicle, with close to a third of them striking the pair.

3. Sam Bass

Three of the Most Notorious Outlaws & Crews Ever to Hit the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Facebook/Texas Back Roads

One of the more well-known yet uniquely unsuccessful outlaws in the Texas Hill Country was Sam Bass (seen here at the center of this photo.) Working in North Texas as a farm hand and a teamster, Bass saved the majority of his money to invest in a racehorse, which allowed him the opportunity to quit his job and supplement his income as a card player. A failed foray into gold prospecting, however, lured Bass into a life of crime. He successfully evaded capture in a train robbery that netted his crew $60,000, although many were captured. Bass and one other made it to North Texas, after which the “Sam Bass Gang” carried out some run-of-the-mill train robberies near Dallas, and eventually headed into the Texas Hill Country. Similar to Bonnie & Clyde, Bass became a victim to his trust in his crew and was betrayed by member Jim Murphy in Round Rock, Texas, where authorities were tipped off to their plans. The ensuing firefight and fatal wounds proved too much for Bass, who was assisted (as he had been many times before) by Frank Jackson. Bass implored Jackson to leave him for capture and save himself, later dying of his wounds in custody. Despite the life he chose, Bass was revered by not only his outlaw friends but also by numerous Texans, which resulted in Jim Murphy having to go into hiding until his death. Earning fame throughout the world due to his bravado, Bass was even immortalized at Madame Tussaud’s Waxworks in London, England.