ask the marshall true west magazine

Did Sam Bass ever work as a deputy U.S. marshal before becoming an outlaw?

Donald Lee
Silver Spring, Maryland

A number of legends have sprung up about Sam Bass. He went to Texas in around 1870 to become a cowboy. Despite some accounts referring to him as a sheriff’s deputy, the closest he came to being any kind of lawman was around 1870 when he took a job working as a farmhand for Denton County Sheriff, W.F. “Dad” Eagan. His duties included currying the horses, milking the cows, fixing fences, cutting firewood and working as a teamster. Ironically, when Sam decided to become an outlaw, Dad Egan was one of the lawmen who pursued him.

sam bass true west magazine
Gang members, from left, Sam Bass, Joe Collins, John E. Gardner and Joel Collins made a name for themselves robbing stages in the Black Hills. Bass and Collins left the Dakota Territory for Ogallala, Nebraska, where they joined up with Bill Potts, Jim Berry, Jack Davis and Tom Nixon to rob the Union Pacific train in Big Springs, Nebraska.
— Photo of Sam Bass Gang Courtesy Robert G. McCubbin Collection —

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian and the Wild West History Association’s vice president. His latest book is 2018’s Arizona Oddities: A Land of Anomalies and Tamales. Send your question, with your city/state of residence, to or Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327.

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