Famous Texas Outlaws



John Selman

John Selman 1839-1896

John Selman blurred the lines between good and evil, who during his lifetime was tried for murder, theft and desertion of the Confederate army. Despite his wrongdoings, he later attained the position of Constable in El Paso.
During the Lincoln County War, Selman headed a group of vigilantes known as “Selman’s Scouts”, who were implicated in numerous reports of looting and rape. Because of the acrimonious nature of the conflicts taking place in the Reconstruction-era west, charges of heroism and villainy were both equally suspect. What is not disputed, however, is the fact that Selman shot a well-known outlaw in the back, killing him, and was subsequently tried for his murder (this was the second time he was tried for murder).
John Selman’s days ended after being shot in a gunfight with U.S. Marshal George Scarborough over a card game.

 Sam Bass 

Sam Bass

Sam Bass, outlaw, was born on a farm near Mitchell, Indiana, on July 21, 1851, he was the son of Daniel and Elizabeth Jane (Sheeks) Bass. He was orphaned before he was thirteen and spent five years at the home of an uncle. He ran away in 1869 and worked most of a year in a sawmill at Rosedale, Mississippi. Sam left Rosedale on horseback for the cattle country in the late summer of 1870 and arrived in Denton, Texas, in early fall. For the winter he worked on a ranch southwest of town. But, finding cowboy life not up to his boyhood dreams, he went back to Denton and handled horses in the stables of the Lacy House, a hotel. Later he worked for the local sheriff, caring for livestock, cutting firewood, building fences, and spending much of his time as a freighter between Denton and the railroad towns of Dallas and Sherman.  


Before long Bass became interested in horse racing, and in 1874, after acquiring a fleet mount that became known as the Denton Mare, he left the sheriff's employ to race this horse. He won most of his races in North Texas and later took his mare to the San Antonio area. When his racing played out in 1876, he and Joel Collins gathered a small herd of longhorn cattle to take up the trail for their several owners. When the drovers reached Dodge City they decided to trail the cattle farther north, where prices were higher. After selling the herd and paying the hands, they had $8,000 in their pockets, but instead of returning to Texas, where they owed for the cattle, they squandered the money in gambling in Ogallala, Nebraska, and in the Black Hills town of Deadwood, South Dakota, which was then enjoying a boom in gold mining.

In 1877 Bass and Collins tried freighting, without success, then recruited several hard characters to rob stagecoaches, on stolen horses they held up seven coaches without recouping their fortunes.

Next, in search of bigger loot, a band of six, led by Collins and including Bass, rode south to Big Springs, Nebraska, where, in the evening of September 18, they held up an eastbound Union Pacific passenger train. They took $60,000 in twenty-dollar gold pieces from the express car and $1,300 plus four gold watches from the passengers. After dividing the loot the bandits decided to go in pairs in different directions. Within a few weeks Collins and two others were killed while resisting arrest. But Bass, disguised as a farmer, made it back to Texas, where he formed a new outlaw band.

He and his gang held up two stagecoaches and, in the spring of 1878, robbed four trains within twenty-five miles of Dallas. They did not get much money, but the robberies angered citizens, and the bandits were being chased by posses and a with the special company of the Texas Rangers headed by Junius Peak. Bass eluded his pursuers until one of his party, Jim Murphy, turned informer. As Bass's band rode south intending to rob a small bank in Round Rock, Murphy wrote to Maj. John B. Jones, commander of the Frontier Battalion of Texas–the rangers. In Round Rock on July 19 Bass and his men became engaged in a gun battle, in which he was wounded. The next morning he was found lying helpless in a pasture north of town and was brought back to Round Rock. He died there on July 21, his twenty-seventh birthday. He was buried in Round Rock and soon became the subject of cowboy song and story. In July 1878,. Richard Clayton Ware (1851-1902), Texas Ranger, sheriff, and United States marshal, was among the rangers sent to accompany Maj. John B. Jones to Round Rock to intercept Sam Bass and his gang.

Ware was in a barbershop being shaved when the outlaws entered the town and killed Deputy Sheriff A. W. "High" Grimes. He rushed from the shop only partially shaved and fired his gun at the fleeing outlaws. One shot killed Seaborn Barnes, and another, it is thought, was the bullet that fatally wounded Sam Bass. Although Lieutenant Nevill's official report, based on the coroner's verdict, credited George Herold (or Harrell) with the fatal shot, several eyewitnesses, including fellow ranger Chris Connor, attributed it to Ware.

Even the dying Bass declared that the man who felled him had lather on his face. The controversy over who really killed Sam Bass was never entirely resolved.


Emmanuel "Mannen" Clements

Emmanuel "Mannen" ClementsEmmanuel "Mannen" Clements, Sr. (1845 -1887) - A rancher, outlaw, and gunfighter, Mannen Clements headed up a violent and ruthless Clements family in McCulloch County, Texas. Mannen and his brothers, John Gibson "Gip," James and Joseph were brought up on a cattle ranch south of Smiley, Texas in Gonzales County, Texas.

In 1871, John Wesley Hardin, a cousin of the Clements visited their ranch and participated in a cattle drive to Kansas with Mannen and James Clements. During the drive, Mannen killed brothers Adolph and Joseph Shadden, who had disputed his authority just as the herd crossed the Red River into Indian Territory. He was later jailed in Kansas by Bill Hickok but was released at the request of John Wesley Hardin, who had become friends with Hickok.

In October, 1872, Mannen helped Hardin to escape from a jail in Gonzales County, Texas jail by slipping him a file, then pulling him between the jagged bars by a lariat.

In the years that followed, Mannen, along with brothers Joe, Jim, and Gip participated in the Taylor-Sutton Feud, along with their cousin, Hardin. In 1877 Clements found himself in jail in Austin, Texas along with Hardin, Bill Taylor, Johnny Ringo, and members of the Sam Bass gang.

After John Wesley Hardin was sent to prison, Mannen was one of the few people that ever visited him while he was there. He also helped Hardin's wife Jane and their children.

By 1880 Clements was suspected of rustling, and he had accumulated vast horse and cattle herds on his McCulloch County Ranch. About two years later, Clements hired none other than Killin' Jim Miller to work on his ranch. While there, Miller became good friends with Emmanuel's son, Emmanuel "Mannie" Clements, Jr., as well as Mannen's daughter, Sallie. Miller and Mannie Clements would later find themselves embroiled in the Frazer-Miller Feud in Pecos, Texas.

Despite his past, Mannen Clements ran for sheriff of newly formed Runnels County in early 1877 in a campaign that was hotly contested. On March 29, 1887, Mannen was shot and killed in the Senate Saloon by Ballinger City Marshal Joseph Townsend. Not long afterward, Townsend, riding home at night, was swept from the saddle by a shotgun fired out of the dark. The ambusher was never identified, but Jim Miller was widely suspected. Though Townsend survived, he lost an arm.


John King FisherJohn King Fisher, rancher, outlaw, and lawman, a slight built man about 5'-9" 135 lbs, was born in Collin County [northeast of Dallas] in 1854  He was the son of Joby and Lucinda (Warren) Fisher. Just before the Civil War the family moved to Florence, Williamson County [north of Austin]. In 1869 Fisher was accused of stealing a horse after he borrowed it without telling the owner. He was arrested by a posse but reportedly escaped with the help of the horse's owner, who had decided not to press charges. Fisher made his way to Goliad, Texas [north of Corpus Christi] where he was arrested again, this time for housebreaking, and sent to prison. After being pardoned a mere four months later, he moved to Dimmit County and established a ranch on Pendencia Creek [near Eagle Pass and the border of Mexico, southwest of San Antonio]. The region, known as the Nueces Strip, was a lawless area, where cattle rustling was the major industry. Fisher, relying on both patronage and intimidation, quickly established himself as one of the leaders of the Strip, and his ranch became a haven for drifters, criminals, and rustlers in the region.

He apparently rode with Mexican rustlers, even killing as many as ten before emerging as the leader of the bunch, which sometimes amounted to as many as one hundred. It was reported that he traded stolen Mexican cattle for stolen Texas cattle with the future president of Mexico, Porfirio Diaz

John was once described by Texas Ranger N. A. Jennings as wearing an decorated Mexican sombrero, a black Mexican jacket embroidered with gold, a crimson sash, and boots, with two silver-plated, ivory-handled revolvers swinging from his belt [also Bengal tiger skin chaps]. In the section where he reigned, Fisher was feared and respected. A certain road branch bore the sign: "This is King Fisher's road. Take the other." Fisher reportedly placed the sign to distinguish between his private road and the public road, but many at the time viewed it as evidence of the extent of Fisher's power and control.

In addition to operating his ranch, Fisher was evidently engaged in cattle rustling in Texas and Mexico, and his escapades led more than once to violence. He was arrested at various times by the famous Texas Ranger captain Leander McNelly and his successor Lee Hall. Charged with murder and horse and cattle theft, he managed to avoid conviction, but his legal ordeals took their toll, and Fisher decided to live a quieter life. He married in April 1876 and later bought a ranch near Eagle Pass.

At some point during this period, he owned the Sunset Saloon.

In 1881 he was appointed deputy sheriff of Uvalde County. He became acting sheriff in 1883 after the sheriff was indicted. He turned out to be an efficient and popular lawman and made plans to run for the office in 1884. But on the night of March 11, 1884, in the Vaudeville Variety Theater in San Antonio, Fisher and his companion, noted gunman Ben Thompson, were involved in a shootout brought on by a quarrel between Thompson and the theater's owners. Both Fisher and Thompson were killed in the melee.


Bonnie and ClydeBonnie & Clyde (Active from 1932-1934)
The now legendary couple were the public face of the Barrow Gang, who, led by Clyde Barrow, terrorized Texas and the central United States for two years. Clyde Barrow was from a dirt poor family and began getting into scrapes with the law early on. He had several arrests on his record in his teens, and by the age of 21 he was serving prison time.
Bonnie Parker was much more of a normal Texas girl who enjoyed photography and writing poetry. She fell in love with Clyde Barrow after a failed teenage marriage brought her back to her hometown of Dallas.
Bonnie Parker
After the gang's now notorious escape from their Joplin, Missouri hideout, several rolls of film yielded pictures of the young adults holding guns and smoking cigars. Although she became famous for these images, modern historians postulate that Bonnie Parker had most likely not participated in any of the killings for which the gang became famous.
After a shootout with authorities in Louisiana in May of 1934, the couple were slain and left to be immortalized by Hollywood. Clyde was 25 and Bonnie 23.
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