Rube Burrow
Rube Burrow


ASCERTAINING definitely that at the time of Brock's arrest Rube and Jim Burrow were not in Texas, but supposed to be in Lamar County, Ala., Superintendent McGinn, of the Pinkerton Agency, left Texarkana January 5, 1888, accompanied by two of his detectives, for the purpose of capturing them.

On arriving at Fayette Court-House, Ala., McGinn summoned to his aid the then sheriff of Lamar County, Fillmore Pennington, a very courageous and efficient officer, and the party left for Vernon, the county seat of Lamar County, about three o'clock p. m., January 8th. The night was dark, and continuous rainfalls had rendered the roads well-nigh impassable. It was not until ten o'clock that the distance of twenty miles was made, and the detectives, under the guise of land buyers, reached Vernon.

On the succeeding day a heavy rain set in about daylight and continued throughout the day. The weather was, therefore, sinted neither to the outing of land buyers nor to a visit from Rube and Jim to the town, as the sheriff had so confidently expected. The detectives kept their rooms in the hotel during the day, inspecting a large assortment of mineral specimens which were brought in by anxious owners of valuable mining properties in that section.

That night it was determined to arrange a raid upon the house of Jim Burrow, who had his family in a small dwelling about four miles from Vernon, with the hope of finding both Rube and Jim. Accordingly, on the morning of the l0th of January, Supt. McGinn, at 2:30 o'clock, left Vernon for the house of Jim Burrow. Detectives Carney and Wing were on horseback, with Deputy-Sheriff Jerry as a guide. Sheriff Pennington and Detectives Williams and Wilbosky were in a wagon with McGinn. The party drove to a point designated by the guide as being half a mile from Jim Burrow's house. Leaving a guard in charge of the horses, the posse quietly surrounded the house, and while closing in upon the place, just as the day was dawning, the guide informed the detectives that he was mistaken in the house, but that it was another house, pointing to one about a half mile distant, in which a light was seen. On arrival at the second house the guide found himself again in error. It was then daylight. The detectives were about to withdraw and get their horses and wagon out of the way before they should be discovered, when they found they were already observed by the inmates of the house. It was then too late to retreat and await the cover of the succeeding night to surround the house of Jim Burrow, then ascertained to be still about two miles further on. Their only hope was to go at once and risk the danger of being discovered while approaching the place after daylight.

Pushing forward, with great anxiety as to the result, the house they were seeking was soon visible on the slope of a hill near the edge of the timber. Deploying their forces they advanced quickly, and when within about one hundred yards a crushing, tearing sound was heard in the rear of the building. Jim Burrow had discovered their approach and ran so swiftly from the house as to tear the door from its hinges. Shot after shot from the Winchesters of the detectives was fired at the young robber as he fled. Several of the bullets perforated his clothing, but he succeeded in reaching the cover of the woods and escaped, to the grievous disappointment of the detectives, whose vigilance and energy had been defeated through the stupidity of the guide.

After this escapade there was hurrying to and fro among the kinspeople of the Burrow family, and preparations were set afoot to apprise Rube, who was then at Kennedy, Ala., eighteen miles distant, of the attempt to capture Jim, and of the fact that the detectives had visited his father's house in search of him. Henry Cash met Rube about one mile out of Kennedy and recited the events of the morning. Cash was en route to Kennedy to make some preparation for his marriage, which was to occur the following day. Rube awaited his return and the two then rode back towards Vernon by bridle paths, and met Allen Burrow, who had appointed a meeting-place for the two brothers, that night, near the house of one Green Harris. From this point they started afoot at midnight, January l0th, traveling in a southeasterly direction, and before daylight were beyond the confines of Lamar County.



On the twenty-second day of January succeeding their escape from Lamar, Rube and Jim boarded a Louisville and Nashville passenger train, south bound, at Brock's Gap, a few miles south of Birmingham. Meantime an accurate description of the brothers had been obtained, and descriptive circulars had been scattered broadcast by the officials of the Southern Express Company, one of which was in possession of Conductor Callahan, on whose train the robbers had taken passage. He was not certain of their identity, and simply sent a telegram to Chief Gerald, of the police force of Montgomery, to which point they had paid fare, which read as follows: "Have special officer meet number five."

Captain John W. Martin, one of the most efficient officers of the force, met the train. The night was rainy, and Captain Martin wore a rubber coat and slouch hat, which completely concealed his identity. The train pulled into the depot just as Captain Martin arrived, and he inquired of the conductor what was wanted. The conductor replied, "I think those two fellows walking down the track there, and who boarded my train at Brock's Gap, are the Burrow brothers."

Captain Martin at once called to Officer McGee, who was on duty at the depot, and, like himself, attired in rain coat and slouch hat, and imparted to him the information received. The officers then walked toward the men, who were some distance away, and hailed them, saying: "You can not go through that railroad cut at night."

Rube replied: "We are going to the country to get timber, but would like to get a boarding-house for the night."

Captain Martin said, "We are going up town and will show you one."

Rube, thinking the officers were railroad men, replied, "All right," and, joining them, the four men walked a distance of about a half a mile, when, on reaching the police station, Captain Martin inserted the key in the door, and while in the act of unlocking it Rube asked, "What place is this?"

Captain Martin, shoving the door, which was adjusted with a heavy spring, half open, with one hand, laid the other on Rube's shoulder and said :

"This is the office of the Chief of Police, and you boys may consider yourselves under arrest."

"I reckon not," replied Rube, and straightway made a break for liberty.

Captain Martin grappled with him, and the heavy door of the station-house closing, caught his rubber coat in a vise-like grip, and held him fast. Soon freeing himself, however, by pulling out of his coat, he dashed after Rube, who had broken away, and after running some thirty paces, turned and saw his brother Jim down, with a police officer on top of him. Jim, in attempting to break away, had fallen, in the scuffle with Officer McGee, over a street hydrant.

At this moment Rube, seeing the officer had started in pursuit, turned and fled like a deer up the street. Neil Bray, a printer, being on the opposite side of the street, joined the officer in the pursuit and was shot by Rube, who twice fired upon him, one of the shots taking effect in the left lung and nearly causing his death.

Out into the darkness Rube fled, leaving Jim in the hands of the officers, and scaling a fence some hundred yards ahead he was soon lost to his pursuers.

Jim was taken to police headquarters and gave his name as Jim Hankins, and said the other man's name was Williams, and he had only known him three weeks. However, while en route to Texarkana, he confessed his identity, and said to Capt, Martin :

"I am Jim Burrow, and the other man is my brother Rube, and if you give us two pistols apiece "we are not afraid of any two men living."

He further stated that while walking up the street from the depot he became satisfied they were in the hands of the police, but as Rube had the only pistol, he having failed to secure his in his sudden flight from his home in Lamar County, he was looking for Rube to make the first break. Rube, however, suspected nothing until he reached the police station. When afterwards chided by friends for his failure to assist Jim, in view of the fact that the latter was unarmed, Rube replied that he thought the whole of Montgomery was after him.

The next day, realizing the faux pas of the previous night, and the notorious character of the fugitive, the entire police force of Montgomery joined in the chase. The city, its suburban districts and the adjacent country all swarmed with anxious pursuers.

No trace of Rube, however, was found until just before dark, when Officers Young and Hill, having searched a negro cabin about five miles south of Montgomery, without result, rode off in the direction of the city. After leaving the house a negro boy came running after them and informed the officers that the man for whom they were searching had just gone into the cabin they had left. Rube, hungry and exhausted, had seen his pursuers leave the cabin, and immediately thereafter went in and asked for something to eat.

Young and Hill rode back at once in company with the boy, and instructed him to go in and tell the man to come out. They were about thirty paces in front of the cabin, when Rube came to the door, and, looking out, saw a solitary horseman in front of the cabin. He deliberately sat down in a chair in the doorway and pulled off his boots, while Officer Young dismounted. Hill had covered the rear of the cabin.

Taking his boots in his left hand, Rube held his trusty revolver in his right. His chief forte was a running fight. With the agility of an Indian he sprang from the cabin and bounded away to the swamps, which were distant only about one hundred yards, and as he passed in front of Officer Young the latter rested his breech-loading shot gun on his saddle and fired the contents of both barrels in quick succession at the fleeing desperado, when only about thirty yards distant.

Rube dropped his boots and hat, and to the chagrin of the officer, when he picked them up, he found them filled with number eight birdshot. He had substituted these for his loads of buckshot early in the day to shoot a bird, and had forgotten the fact. Rube carried to the day of his death the marks of the birdshot, which filled his neck and face, but were powerless to stop his flight.

Fifty yards further on a countryman, who had joined the pursuing party, sprang up from behind an embankment, and was in the act of taking aim at twenty paces distant, his gun being charged with buckshot, when Rube wheeled and covered him with his revolver. His pursuer dropped flat to the earth and Rube escaped. He was to revert to this incident frequently, afterward and laughingly state what was the truth, that he had fired his last cartridge, and the intrepid courage with which he turned and covered his pursuer with an empty revolver saved his life.

Hatless and bare-footed, the friendless felon now found himself, at dark of night, in a wilderness of swamp, whose treacherous waters were covered with a tangled growth of brush and vines, and chilled with the winter's cold. Exhausted with the toils of the day's flight, his face and neck smarting with the keen pain of the wounds he had just received, hungry and foot-sore, his body quivering with the biting cold could human flesh and blood be subjected to the frenzy of sharper distress than that which faced Rube as he blindly picked his footing through this terra incognita ? Plodding through bog and fen, full knee-deep with water, his progress was beset by indescribable perplexities, and so it was nearly midnight when he emerged from the marsh into a field, distant only about three miles from the point at which he had entered it.

A flickering light in a negro cabin a few hundred yards away, on the slope of a hill, gave friendly token of comfort within, but Rube, fearing that some one of his pursuers might be sheltered there, approached it with cautious step. All was still within, save the snoring of the sleeping inmates, and in his dire extremity the outlaw slowly pulled the latch-string which hung without and entered. With baited breath he looked about him. The cheerful log fire alone beamed for him a silent welcome. Noiselessly taking a chair he sat himself before the coveted warmth of the lowly hearthstone, while the old colored man and his family slept on, in blissful ignorance of the presence of their midnight visitor.

The robber tarried only long enough to warm his chilled frame into energy for the task of further flight, and after about one hour's stay he quietly donned the shoes of the black pater family and, stealthily drawing an old quilt from a couch in which a brood of pickaninnies slept, all unconscious of their loss, he wrapped it about him, and, stepping silently out into the darkness, resumed his journey.

A few miles further on he stole a horse from the stable of a farmer, and, mounting its bare back, rode hard and fast till daylight, when he turned the animal loose in the road, and betaking himself to the protection of the forests that covered the bottom lands of the Alabama River, left no further trace of his course. Here his trail was lost to the detectives, who, after an arduous and vain pursuit of several days, abandoned all further efforts in that vicinity.



"RUBE BURROW, having effected his escape at Montgomery, and successfully eluded pursuit, it was supposed by the detectives that he would go down into southern Alabama or Florida, as the presence of himself and brother at Montgomery seemed to indicate. Rube, however, was restless and anxious concerning the fate of Jim, and at once made his way back into Lamar County. Soon after reaching home he learned, for the first time, of his brother's incarceration at Texarkana, and also that his old comrade, William Brock, had disclosed the whole history of their operations in Texas, and particularly of the Genoa, Ark., affair.

Rube was heard to say: "Never mind; when I get my partner, Joe Jackson, from Texas, I will wreak my vengeance upon the Southern Express Company." Rube knew, although he had never participated in any of the many robberies which the Sam Bass gang had committed, that the name of "Joe Jackson" was a terror wherever the fame of the Bass gang was known, and that Joe Jackson was the only member of that brutal band of highwaymen who had escaped justice when their chief, Sam Bass, was shot, with a small remnant of his followers, in the streets of Round Rock, Texas. It was thus he sought to herald, as the comrade he was about to select to fill his brother's place, the guerrilla who had unfurled the black banner at Lawrence, Kansas, under the leadership of the notorious Quantrell, and who had drifted into Texas to join Bass and his unholy gang.

While in northern Texas in 1886, Rube had met a young Alabamian who went under the name of Lewis Waldrip. Rube had Waldrip in his employment while herding cattle, and had witnessed his unflinching courage on several occasions while associated with him. Waldrip had, in confidence, given Rube the story of the troubles which had caused him to flee from his native State and seek refuge in Texas, Soon after his return to Lamar County, in February, 1888, he wrote Waldrip to join him there. The correspondence was conducted through Jim Cash, and about the first of March, 1888, at the house of the latter, the two men, who had separated in 1886 in Texas, met again for the first time. Rube recited his recent history, and acting upon the advice of his friend, whom he had christened "Joe Jackson," the two left for southern Alabama, as Rube had knowledge of this fact that the vicinity in which he was then hiding was being constantly watched by detectives.

Leaving Lamar County afoot, the pair traveled through the woods until they reached Columbus, Miss. They went thence, partly by rail and partly by boat, to Baldwin County, Ala., locating at Dunnaway's log camp, on Lovette's Creek, some forty miles from any railway line, and in one of the most sparsely settled sections of southern Alabama. The trail thither, by the circuitous foot journey out of Lamar County, had been completely covered, and here Rube and his newly found comrade were not only lost to the detectives, but to all the world besides, save the little squad of day-laborers who gathered about the camp-fire at nightfall, after the day's labor was over. This rustic audience Rube was to regale with many a humorous tale. Mr. Ward, as he was familiarly called, was the hero of many an adventurous story, and the very life and humor of the camp. Rube's fame had preceded him, even into this retired spot, and he would often bring up the subject of his own outlawry, that he might get an expression from those about him as to the thrilling adventures of which he himself was the hero.

After a stay of some three weeks, during which Rube and his partner labored not only with diligence but with increasing skill (for here it was that Rube was heard to say that John Barnes, who afterwards figured somewhat in his final arrest, taught him how to saw logs), the camp was broken up, Mr. Dunnaway moving his force to a point near Perdido, a station on the Louisville and Nashville Railway.

Rube and Joe then, about May 1st, left the camp, for the reason, perhaps, that the locality was more public, and for the additional reason that Rube began to conceive the idea that he could find a safe refuge among friends in Lamar County, and might render some help to his brother, who was then a prisoner in Arkansas. Setting out, the two men walked until they reached Forest, Miss., where Rube purchased horses for the two. At Dixon, Miss., Joe, finding his horse a poor traveler, traded him for the "snorting steed " which he subsequently rode in the Duck Hill robbery, and which the detectives finally traced from the scene of that robbery into Lamar County. From Dixon they rode via Oxford, and thence to Berryhills, a brother-in-law of Rube Burrow, who moved, soon after his marriage to Rube's favorite sister, into that section of Mississippi. Here they remained two days, and about the 15th of May rode into Lamar County.



Upon his arrival in Lamar County Rube Burrow anxiously inquired after Jim's fate. Jim Cash, the brother-in-law, had visited Little Rock, where Jim was confined in the penitentiary for safe keeping, and had learned that he would be taken about September 5th to Texarkana for trial. Rube brooded over the fatal blunder which had resulted in Jim's capture at Montgomery, and blamed himself all the more because it was against the judgment of his brother that they had boarded the unlucky train. His proud spirit chafed at the thought, also, that he alone, being armed, should have been forced to flee and leave him to his unhappy fate. He therefore resolved, at all hazard, to attempt his rescue.

One moonless night in the latter part of August Rube and Joe Jackson rode out of Lamar County for the avowed purpose of taking Jim from the hands of his captors while en route to Texarkana for trial. Joe Jackson, after his capture, told how Rube rose in his stirrups, as he galloped away over the hills of Lamar County at dead of night, and swore that he would carry the boon of freedom to his luckless brother at whatever hazard or peril.

"We will board the train, shoot the officers down, and make Jim a free man, or die in the attempt. Will you give me your hand and pledge me your honor, Joe, to do your part?" asked Rube.

"I will," answered Joe, and grasping each other's hand they rode forth with renewed courage and hope.

On to Okolona, Miss., thence to Sardis, through Tate County, and on to Helena, Ark., they crossed the Mississippi River at the latter point, and rode thence in a southwesterly direction towards Pine Bluff, and thence to Arkadelphia, Ark., a station on the Iron Mountain Railway, sixty-five miles south of Little Rock.

Ascertaining definitely the date of his trial at Texarkana before leaving Lamar County, they decided to attempt the rescue at one of the smaller stations on the Iron Mountain Railway, either on the north or south bank of the Oauchita River, where, if successful, pursuit could not be so readily organized, and where the dense timber in the adjacent bottoms would furnish ample cover for escape.

At Donaldson, at Malvern, and adjacent stations, these determined men boarded train after train, with cocked revolvers secreted and ready for the bold endeavor, and, finally, moving down to Curtis, a small flag station, they learned that the last south-bound train of that date, September 11, was not scheduled to stop at Curtis, and their only hope to search it was to ride to Arkadelphia, fifteen miles north.

It was only one hour before the train was due at Arkadelphia. Rube said, "We will make the trip, Joe, or kill our horses." The men were well mounted, and defeat and disappointment had so far only sharpened their energies for the difficult task before them.

This was Sunday night, and Rube knew it was the last train his brother could be expected on, as his case was set for trial the following morning. It was a ride which had the possible alternative of death to the gallant steeds that bore them onward, liberty to an ill-fated brother, or grief and chagrin at the failure of a project on which Rube had set his heart with desperate devotion. Onward they rode, at breathless speed, faster and still faster, till the hill-tops of Arkadelphia hove in sight. At the same time the shrill whistle of the engine announced the approach of the train bearing the manacled brother toward Texarkana, and steaming into the railway station, paused but a moment, as if to take breath, and bounded on, leaving the rescuers, who were several hundred yards away, to their bitter disappointment.



CRESTFALLEN and dispirited at the failure of his long cherished project to release his brother Jim, Rube decided to abandon all further efforts in that direction and set out on the return journey. Joe Jackson proposed to visit Hot Springs, but Rube did not care to expose himself to the risk of being identified by the cosmopolitan population of that American Baden-Baden, and resolved to return immediately to the east side of the river. It has been popularly supposed that Rube Burrow was accustomed to visiting metropolitan places, frequent gambling houses and saloons, and, with a reckless disregard of his personal safety, herald himself as a cattle king, or play the role of gambler. Such was not the case. Bold and fearless as he was in pursuit of his chosen vocation, he kept aloof from populous localities. His long immunity from arrest was due chiefly to the fact that, secluding himself in the wilds of the forest and shunning his fellow-men as far as possible, he habited the earth like a beast of prey.

The two men, on their return trip, traveled in a northeasterly direction, avoiding the public highways wherever practicable. Crossing White River at St. Charles, they rode leisurely on towards Helena, and, under cover of darkness, crossed the river at that point about one week after leaving Arka- delphia. Riding up the east bank of the Mississippi to a point about fifteen miles north of Helena they debouched from the river bottoms, pushing their way through bog and swamp for fifteen miles or more, over ground never perhaps covered by horsemen before, and where no sign of human habitation existed. The robbers were seeking a secure retreat, and this they found in Tate County, Mississippi, on the farm of Fletcher Stevens, about eighteen miles from Senatobia, a station on the Illinois Central Railway. Meantime the detectives of the Southern Express Company had searched every nook and corner of southern Alabama, made several expeditions into Florida, and had also become satisfied that Rube was not in Lamar County.

In the early part of September the fact was developed that a man answering Rube's description had been seen near St. Charles, Ark., and the trail was taken up and followed into Helena, and thence east of the river a few miles, but all trace was lost in the ride through the swamps, which Rube had correctly divined would foil his pursuers if they should ascertain his presence in that locality. The firm of Fletcher Stevens, located as it was in a thinly settled section, and remote from railway lines, furnished a safe retreat for Rube and his companion, and here they hired themselves as day laborers and began the business of picking cotton about October 1, 1888. Rube was quite adept at picking cotton, but Joe proved rather an awkward hand, as Mr. Stevens afterward reported; and so Rube, at the price of fifty cents per hundred, earned the larger share of the compensation received for their toil.

Strange to state, these men labored diligently and industriously on this Tate County farm from October 1st till about December 1, 1888, never once leaving the place. At rare intervals they would take their pistols down into the swamps and practice shooting at a target with one or two of their white co-laborers, and in a quiet way made some reputation for their skill as marksmen. Both Rube and Joe, it is said, could hit a silver dollar nine times out of ten, with their forty-five caliber Colt revolvers, at a distance of seventy-five yards. During their stay on the farm they passed for brothers, Rube assuming the name of Charlie and Joe the name of Henry Davis. Their general demeanor was so quiet and unobstrusive that they betrayed no suspicion of their real identity; and although farmer Stevens, a very respectable and law-abiding citizen, did not relish the fact that his hired help carried such murderous-looking fire-arms, he gave little thought to the matter. On or about the first of December the cotton pickers asked for their pay, which was given them. Mounting their horses, which were in fine condition from the long rest they had enjoyed, they rode quietly away from the scene of their plodding labors.



WHILE Jim Burrow, at his preliminary examination at Texarkana, soon after his capture, admitted his guilt when confronted with the confession of Wm. Brock and the strong chain of circumstantial evidence that had been woven about him. But while ruminating in the penitentiary, during the interval preceding the fall term of the Miller County Circuit Court, he had evidently reconsidered his original purpose and determined on making a defense and risking the chances of a jury trial. Consequently, on September l0, 1888, the day succeeding the failure of Rube and Joe Jackson to effect his rescue at Arkadelphia, his case was called for trial at Texarkana, on the charge of robbery of the express car at Genoa, Ark. His attorney filed an application for a continuance, on account of the absence of witnesses in Alabama, by whom he alleged he could prove an alibi, and his case was thereupon continued, and he was returned to the state-prison at Little Rock, pending the spring term of the Court. Two days after his return there he wrote to J. A. Cash and his wife the following letters:

Sept. 14, 1888.

Mr. J. A. Cash :

I am not well but not very sick. I have put off my trial. Can you Send $20.00 to my lawyers if you get the order from them, tell Elizabeth and the children that I would like to see them. James you have all the money on hand by the first of Oct. that you can. I will send one of my lawyers back there on the 15th of November, he is about such a lawyer as Frank Summers. You were speaking about furnishing me a lawyer from that county. When my lawyer comes back to you send him to Summers, he will take the case, don't any of you come out until I write for you to come they got three bills against me for train robbery, and the other two for attempt to murder. I think I will come clear. You collect in my money as fast as you can.

J. B. Burrow.

Mrs. M. E. Burrow :

As I feel better this morning than I did yesterday I will write you a few lines. Elizabeth you all rest easy about me for I think I will beat my case my trial is set to come up the first Tuesday in March. You have $200.00 on hand by the 15th of November to pay my Lawyers with. One of them is a better lawyer than Frank Summers is. So if you could employ Summers to help them in my case it would be an advantage to me to have counsel from my own state. Tell pa that I will answer his letter soon. Tell the children that I will see them again. Brock's trial was put off as be could be a witness against me. Write all of the news.

J. B. Burrow to Mrs. Burrow.

But Jim, not being a convict and therefore not required to labor, soon began to chafe under the restraint of prison life, which was aggravated by a depressing attack of nostalgia, which soon developed a fever, resulting in delirium. During his ravings, which were continuous for about a week, he talked about his wife and children, his home in Alabama, the stolen money he had hidden, his boyhood adventures and his experiences in Texas, but his statements were so incoherently mingled that it was impossible to make an intelligent narration of them. On October 5, 1888, his earthly career was terminated by death, and his unhonored grave is surrounded by those of such hapless fellows as have succumbed to the rigors of prison experience, leaving their bodies with their captors, while their spirits have slipped through the bars and gone for final trial before the Last Tribunal.