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Figure 1 Texas Rangers Company D
in 1874 by the Texas Legislature to fight Indians. Mexican bandits, and outlaws
This photo of Ranger Company D in Realitos, Texas includes
sitting from the left: B Bell, C. Aten, Capt. F. Jones. W. Durbin, J. Robinson, F. Schmitt;
standing: J. King, Bass Outlaw, R. Boston, C. Fusselman, T. Durbin, E. Rogers, C. Barton, W. Jones. (Photo: 1888—REM Archives)
The only Texas Ranger in history to kill another Ranger.
Lon Oden - The Rhymin' Ranger by Karen Holliday Tanner & John D. Tanner, Jr.
Originally published in Old West magazine Vol. 34 (Summer 1998): 10-14
Oden also formed a close friendship with Ranger Baz “Bass” Outlaw, born in Georgia about 1855. Outlaw had enlisted in Company E of the Frontier Battalion at Toyah, Texas, on August 11, 1885, and transferred to Company D in the spring of 1887. When he and Oden met, Bass was serving as a corporal. According to Oden:
Bass had one weakness that—at last—proved to be stronger than all his virtues. Bass couldn’t leave liquor alone, and when Bass was drunk, Bass was a maniac; none of us could handle him, none of us could reason with him, we just stayed with him until he sobered up.
Years later, concurring with her husband’s assessment, Mrs. Laura Carr Oden wrote:
Outlaw, was a true Southern gentleman, soft spoken, well-educated and courteous. We loved to talk to him and to have in our home but several drinks made a beast of him. When word got out that Bass was drinking, doors were locked, children brought in off the street and all of us kept silence and hoped for the best.
drinking resulted in his honorable discharge from the Rangers on September 18,
1892. However, Captain Frank Jones sponsored him as a Special Ranger in the
Frontier Battalion, and Outlaw again took the oath on February 10, 1893.
Then word reached Ysleta of the killing of Bass Outlaw.
On April 5, 1894, Outlaw, then a deputy United States marshal in Alpine, Texas, was in El Paso as a court witness. He was furious because United States Marshal Dick Ware was costing him fees by allowing Deputy Marshal Bueff Cline to service papers in his area. Outlaw got progressively intoxicated as he drank his way up Utah Street, eventually meeting Frank Collison and Constable John Selman. After Outlaw announced his intention to kill Ware, Collison and Selman tried to get him to return to his room, but Outlaw insisted upon visiting his girlfriend Ruby at Tillie Howard’s sporting house.
At Tillie’s, Collison and Selman conversed in the parlor. Outlaw, meanwhile, proceeded to the back entrance, where he fired a shot. Tillie came running out of her house, blowing a police whistle. Ranger Joe McKidrict, also in town to testify as a court witness, responded. When asked why he had fired the shot, the intoxicated Outlaw turned and fired twice at McKidrict, killing the Ranger. Outlaw then turned his gun on Selman, fired, and missed, though the powder obscured Selman’s vision and burned his face. Selman returned the fire, mortally wounding Outlaw.
The dying Outlaw fired twice more, striking Selman in the upper right leg with both shots. Retreating, Outlaw staggered around the house to Utah Street, where he surrendered to Ranger Frank McMahon. Taken to the Barnum Show Saloon, Outlaw died about four hours later. Oden wrote this tribute:
Bass, my friend is gone. Maybe all of us knew something like this would come to Bass—Bass, who was so brave and kind; who could laugh louder, ride longer, and cuss harder than the rest of us; and who could be more sympathetic, more tender, more patient that all of us when necessary.
Possibly despondent over the death of his close friend, Lon Oden left the Ranger service on May 18, 1894. On August 10, he entered in his journal what may have been his thoughts after the shooting of Outlaw:
Two years later, on April 5, 1896, lawman and friend to Outlaw, George Scarborough, would shoot and kill Selman in a gunfight over Selman having killed Outlaw.
(b. Georgia 1855 or 1859 (?); d. El Paso, Texas 5 April 1894)
In 1932 Eugene Cunningham, the eminent writer and historian
of frontier affairs, wrote an article on Bass Outlaw, a former Texas
Ranger.2 He researched his subject by talking to
old-timers who had known, worked with and had tangled with Outlaw during the
nearly eight years he had been a Ranger. He spoke with men such as Jim Gillette
and other ex-Rangers who had survived the turbulent years to grow old; and like
most old men they were eager to recall the old days and spoke freely. Cunningham
carefully wrote it all for the record. He titled his treatise "The
Little Wolf" and in those three words accurately summed up the
character of Bass Outlaw better than all the words ever written about this
strange, moody, little known man.
Bass Outlaw personified a prairie wolf. He was brave, wily and determined in battle. He was unpredictable in that he was either withdrawn or dangerously aggressive depending on his mood of the moment. He yearned for companionship but was basically a loner. He was a Texas Ranger from 1885 until 1893. He was at times a credit to the force. At other times he was an acute embarrassment. He saw promotion come his way faster than it had for many more deserving Rangers. He might well have become a notable legend in the fashion of Dick Ware, James Gillett, Bill MacDonald and John Hughes and so many others. Instead he fell victim to personal demons and became someone the Rangers, even today, would just as soon forget - except they can't. Bass Outlaw is a part of Ranger history, the part that proves every group is made up of two distinct elements, one good, one bad. Bass Outlaw was one of the bad.
Bass Outlaw had been born into a highly respected, genteel Georgia family that proudly traced its lineage directly back to Thomas Outlaw, a "Gentleman Landowner" of Cardeston, England who died in 1650. Thomas Outlaw is the direct ancestor of nearly everyone in North America bearing that surname. So Bass Outlaw came from fine stock and a branch of the Outlaw family tree that revered its roots. How young Bass managed to be born with a renegade gene is unknown but from early childhood it was obvious he was not, and likely would never be, a "gentleman". Still, his parents tried. They furnished him with a good education and brought him up in a environment of fine manners. There is no evidence to show that he was ever slated to merge into the family business but in all likelihood his parents had tried to interest him in some aspect of commerce. What is equally as likely is that he preferred to play cards and drink if his days in Texas can be used as an indicator of his past.
Unfortunately, very little is known of his youthful days except that he spent his first thirty years in Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas. What is known is that he was the family's black sheep who wanted only one thing in life. All his life he had wanted to be a Texas Ranger.
He was 30 years old before he finally made the trip from his Georgia home to Texas. Immediately upon arrival in that roaring state he went to the nearest Texas Ranger office and submitted his application. He had good credentials and offered acceptable references.
The application was approved, possibly too quickly, and the new recruit was assigned to E Company. There he soon made a solid reputation for himself as a quick draw with a deadly accurate shot. He could ride with the best, learned readily how to track even the faintest signs and was earmarked as a recruit with a future. Once he began field work his composure under fire was viewed with satisfaction. He showed a willingness to accept orders. His officers agreed he had the capabilities to go quite a distance in the force.
From the few descriptions later given by contemporaries and one photo he left behind Outlaw appears less than conspicuous. He was only about 5'4"3 and weighed perhaps 150 lbs. but seems thinner because of narrow shoulders. His chin receded. His eyes, cold and unfriendly, were pale blue. He sported a mustache best described as brushy, not the heavy, flowing types worn by the likes of Doc Holliday, Luke Short or Wyatt Earp which were the fashion of that era. If it wasn't for his prowess with rifle and pistol he would not likely have commanded any attention at all.
His self-confidence seems to have been suspect, propped up mainly by the awe in which others held his uncanny ability to place a shot where he wanted it to hit plus the speed in which he could bring his weapon into action. In an era where marksmanship was rarely of notable quality he was a standout. He knew it and capitalized on it.
His temper was hair-trigger and his hand was never far from the butt of his .45 during those temper tantrums. He seemed to revel in his new-found notoriety and kept everyone on edge as they tried to anticipate what he might do next. To add to his mystery he made no effort to disavow a rumor (possibly self- started) that he had murdered a man in Georgia and that there was a warrant outstanding for his arrest. Because it flies in the face of logic that a wanted murderer would be so keen to become a Ranger this rumor could normally be considered sheer nonsense was it not for the fact that the notorious assassin James "Killin'Jim" Miller had also been a Ranger on not one but two occasions. At any rate the Ranger hierarchy paid the rumor no heed.
However, within a couple of years Outlaw had begun to show his dark side. He more and more displayed a tendency to sulk when things did not go his way, became quarrelsome, was given to outbursts of temper and moods of indifference. He soon became generally disliked by most, if not all, of his fellow Rangers. Eventually he was left strictly alone. Perhaps worse he resumed his old habit of seeking company in drink during his off-duty hours, a tendency the Ranger "brass" frowned upon and did their best to discourage lest off-duty become on-duty. He would forsake the whiskey long enough to make his superiors think he was reforming but reformation never lasted. He very rapidly wore out his welcome in E Company.
In 1887, following complaints from members of E Company, Outlaw was quietly transferred to D Company. He changed his ways for the next year and a half and in April 1890 was promoted first to corporal then quickly to sergeant when the senior NCO, Sgt. Fusselman, was killed during a running battle with bandits in the Franklin Mountains.
As a sergeant Outlaw did quite well and began to once again show the promise he had displayed during his "rookie" months. His superiors began to feel he had turned himself around. His men followed him because, despite his flaws of personality, they felt he would never let them down in a tight spot - a belief they never had to doubt. But, while he was a competent NCO on the trail, he was not adequate in camp. He despised paper work, his reports were late always and camp routine suffered under his supervision. It soon became clear that he was not officer material, even in an acting capacity. Also, he had resumed drinking as much as ever during his off time. It was this affinity with John Barleycorn that led him to his final disgrace. Bass Outlaw, the heavy drinker was also a poor card player. These two factors make a bad combination. In 1893 Outlaw, as the senior sergeant, was put in charge of D Company (then camped near Alpine) while the commanding officer, Captain Frank Jones, was away on business.
No sooner had Jones departed when Outlaw saddled his horse and left the camp heading for Alpine. There he began drinking in the Buckhorn Saloon. Soon he engaged in a poker game with an ex- ranger named Anglin. Anglin was not a professional gambler but he was an expert player. Moreover, he never drank while at the gaming table. As a result he held a decided advantage over the tipsy Outlaw who became very drunk as the evening wore on. By midnight Outlaw was broke.
The game over, Anglin began to scoop the cash and chips into his hat when Outlaw stood up and accused Anglin of cheating. His hand hovered near his gun butt. Anglin, not one to be intimidated, also stood up arms out with palms up indicating to Outlaw and all witnesses that he was unarmed. He then tried to reason with the angry man.
Outlaw, though drunk, still had enough common sense to know he could not shoot an unarmed man without facing trial for murder and a probable date with the hangman. So he continued to shout and exhort Anglin to get a gun so the matter could be settled.
As the argument raged someone rushed for the sheriff's house. Within minutes the sheriff, ex-Ranger Jim Gillett, one of the true Ranger legends, entered the saloon. He ordered an immediate cessation of the ruckus and told Anglin to get out and be quick about it. Anglin, needing no second telling, departed without a further word.
Gillett managed to calm Outlaw, steered him out of the saloon, put him on his horse and ordered him to get back to camp, muy pronto. Outlaw finally left but not before causing a few more minutes ruckus. For a time it appeared Gillett would be forced to draw down on the enraged Outlaw. This would have been a classic shoot-out for Gillett was no slouch with a pistol and was sober to boot. All in all, though, the two would likely have ended up killing each other. Gillett eventually got Outlaw on his way and things settled down.
When Captain Jones returned to the Ranger camp the following day he was informed of Outlaw's misbehaviour - and forced him to resign on the spot. He was paid off and told to get out of camp.
Humiliated, Outlaw went into Alpine determined to have it out with Gillett whom he believed had told Jones of the incident. He was eventually convinced that Gillett had done no such thing. The two made an uneasy peace which lasted for the weeks that Outlaw remained in Alpine.
For several months Outlaw, generally behaving himself, remained in Alpine living on his final pay. He had begun spending innumerable days in the brush country. He played down his trips but it was clear to all that he was searching for the loot from an 1891 train robbery. It was general knowledge that the money had been buried by the robbers even as they were being tracked by a group of Rangers of which Outlaw was one.
The Rangers knew who the robbers were and they in turn knew the rangers were onto them. The leader was run to ground and killed himself rather than surrender. The other three gang members were eventually captured. But their loot was never recovered. (As is so often the case the loot increased annually from the original $10,000 to $60,000). Over the years dozens of searchers have combed the area without success - at least no one ever laid claim to having found it. More than likely several bags of money is still out there in the chaparral. Bass Outlaw, one of the early treasure hunters, enjoyed no better luck than had his predecessors. Equally as unlucky were those dozens who were to come later.
Bass Outlaw mooched around Alpine for some time before he applied for - and received - a position as deputy to US Marshal Dick Ware, an ex-Ranger. (It was Ware who had headed up the Ranger posse that had cornered and killed Sam Bass at Round Rock in 1878). Ware had a soft spot for former Rangers and decided to give Outlaw one final chance. He hired him as deputy US Marshal in early Spring 1894.
Outlaw proved to be a good deputy and worked well with his partner Bufe Cline. Marshal Ware had no trouble with him - at first.
On 04 April, 1894 Ware and his deputies journeyed to El Paso to attend court hearings against several outlaws and rustlers they had arrested between sessions. The following morning all three attended the court's opening. It was 05 April, the final day of Bass Outlaw's life.
In keeping with the procedures of the era deputies were entitled to fees commensurate with the work involved in serving summonses, preparing cases and compiling the necessary paper work in the cases. Cline had done most of the preliminary work and had served all the summons so Ware awarded him the summons fees. Outlaw, who had done very little, was sullen and in a foul mood because he thought the fees should have been split 50-50. Following a bitter argument with Marshal Ware Outlaw stormed out of the courthouse.
He may have been heading for a saloon but if this was the case he changed his mind when he ran into a couple of old acquaintances, Frank Collinson and Ernie Bridges. He bent their ears with his supposed grievances and both men knew they should get Outlaw off the street before he tried something foolish. They said later they felt he was about to storm back into the courthouse for a shoot-out with Ware. They steered him toward the hotel where he was staying.
They were almost there when Outlaw decided he would forego the hotel in favor of a visit with his favorite whore who worked at the brothel owned by Tillie Howard, one of El Paso's most famous madams. He insisted that Bridges accompany him, an insistence backed by a hand on the gun butt. Bridges, not a cat- house regular, reluctantly accompanied him along Utah Street towards Tillie's place.
Collinson, alarmed, was about to follow when he spotted John Selman, the El Paso police officer who sixteen months later would gain lasting notoriety by killing John Wesley Hardin in the Acme Saloon.4 Collinson went to him, told the story, and the two men followed Outlaw and Bridges at a discreet distance.
When Outlaw arrived at Tillie's he demanded his favorite girl only to be informed she was with a client and that Tillie had no intention of disrupting her. Outlaw erupted in rage, stormed through the house tossing chairs and furniture aside as he passed through to the back door. He disappeared into the back yard.
Suddenly a shot was heard. Selman and Collinson, followed by Bridges, rushed to the back yard. Meantime, a young Ranger, Joe McKidrict of D Company, who was walking nearby with a city constable, also heard the shot. Both rushed to the yard from the opposite direction.
McKidrict was in El Paso for the same reason as Outlaw. He was attending the court sessions and only by chance had he been on Overland Street when the shot rang out. McKidrict knew Outlaw, had always been friendly towards him and felt safe enough as he approached. What was said is unknown but whatever it was Outlaw took exception and shot the youngster in the forehead. McKidrict died on the spot.
The moment Outlaw fired at McKidrict, Selman, Collinson and Bridges entered the yard. Outlaw turned to face the three but Selman, the only one armed, had not yet drawn his pistol. Outlaw, turning, fired hitting Selman in the thigh. Before Selman knew what had hit him Outlaw fired a second shot. It too found Selman's leg.
Selman, no stranger to gunfights, drew his pistol, braced and fired one shot. The bullet ripped into Outlaw's chest burying itself deep within about an inch above the heart. Outlaw, who had never before felt the searing impact of a bullet, had no idea of the numbing pain involved in being hit fully by a heavy-caliber bullet. Recoiling in shock he dropped his pistol as all his fighting spirit deserted him. He staggered but did not fall. Acting perhaps on instinct he leapt the fence and ran down the alley directly into the arms of Ranger McMahan, also of D Company. McMahan stopped Outlaw in mid-flight and made an easy arrest, easy because Outlaw was already in a state of collapse.
McMahan felt certain that Outlaw was fatally wounded. He half carried, half dragged his erstwhile sergeant over to Barnum's Saloon on the corner of Utah and Overland Streets. Barnum's was a saloon/brothel so McMahon knew a cot would be there for Outlaw to lie on. Someone hurried to fetch a doctor as Outlaw was carried into a back room and dumped on a cot. It is said the owner of the cot, seeing her wages for the night about to be disrupted by a dying man, protested vigorously and profanely. Barnum, not wanting undue publicity, found her another room to shut her up.
It may have the hubbub that awakened him for Outlaw opened his eyes. He must have known he had only a short time left to live for he looked around at the small crowd that had gathered. He half raised himself onto one elbow and said:
"Gather my friends around me for I know I must die."
He then fell back into semi-consciousness. It was a little
A doctor arrived, examined the dying man, announced there was nothing he could do and hurried off to deal with the bullet holes in Old John Selman's leg. Meanwhile the body of Ranger McKidrict, having been carried by his friends to a nearby mortuary, was being tended to.
Bass Outlaw died a few minutes before 9PM. The little room was empty except for a couple of police officers for by then the crowd, their curiosity sated, had dispersed. There were no friends gathered around for the simple reason that he had no friends. The one person he could have called a friend was the Ranger he had killed less than four hours previously.
Ranger Joseph McKidrict was removed to D Company's headquarters at Ysleta, about ten miles from El Paso. There he lay in state for a day. His casket was covered with flowers. The blooms had been gathered by the town's children because he had been a special friend to the town's young people. His funeral was in the tradition of the Texas Rangers. The school was closed so the children could attend.
Bass Outlaw, the black sheep of a genteel family, was buried with nothing to suggest that he was mourned. For him there was no lying in state. His coffin was a plain pine box hastily hammered together by a local carpenter for the going county fee. There is nothing on record indicating he received a church service, a march to the grave side, a bugle, a three gun salute. Present at Outlaw's grave side were a gravedigger and a minister who read a few prayers in the Christian tradition. Bass Outlaw's dying words, sad and sentimental though they were, had brought forth no friends. For Bass Outlaw there were no flowers, no eulogy and no mourners - even his favorite girl from Tillie Howard's pleasure palace chose not to attend.
1. The new (not yet fully substantiated) info is: Full name: Sebastian Lamar Outlaw. It seems as a youngster growing up in Lee County, Georgia he was called "Baz" or "Bass". There is also a possibility he was born in 1859 rather than 1855.
2. See: Triggernometry, Caxton Press (Oklahoma) pp.236-48.
3. It appears he put his height on his Ranger application as 5'9" but was probably fudging. The Rangers at the time were anxious for new recruits so would not likely quibble over such a thing. (Perhaps that was the official height minimum).
[ Look at the Company D photo, he is obviously 5'9' or taller and at least no shorter then his fellow Rangers ! ]
4. Selman was called "Old John" to distinguish him from his son, also named John and also an El Paso police officer.
Ted Meyers, Victoria, B.C. 21 October, 1998.
Bass (Baz) L. Outlaw (18??-1894) - Coming from a good family in Georgia, Bass grew up to be a refined gentleman, but he had a serious drinking problem that continually got him into trouble. After he allegedly killed a man in Georgia in 1855, Bass fled to Texas where he became a Texas Ranger.
He was soon promoted to a sergeant but, when discovered drunk on duty in Alpine, Texas, he was dismissed. later, he obtained an appointment as a U.S. Deputy Marshal but was continually reprimanded for drinking.
In 1889, while Bass, along with U.S. Deputy Marshals John Hughes and Walter Durbin, were guarding bullion shipments from a silver mine in Mexico, a drunken Bass fought with a Mexican worker and shot him. That same year, Bass, along with fellow U.S. Deputy Marshals, John Hughes and Ira Aten, and Deputy Sheriff Will Terry, planned an ambush near Vance, Texas on the fugitive Odle brothers. Before the night was over, Outlaw shot down both Will and Alvin Odle.
On April 5, 1894, when Bass was in El Paso, Texas, he got drunk and fired a shot into Tillie Howard's brothel. When challenged by Constable John Selman and Texas Ranger Joe McKidrict, Bass pointed his gun at the two men, shooting McKidrict's in the head. He then shot at Selman, missing but almost blinding the constable with the gun powder blast. Selman quickly returned fire and shot Outlaw in the chest. Staggering back, bass fired twice more, wounding Selman, before he stumbled to the ground. Surrendering, Outlaw was led to a nearby saloon where he collapsed and died four hours later.
Follow-up on Baz Outlaw, he was a cousin to your family.
Name: MESHACK N.B. (SEE_NOTES) /OUTLAW/ 
Birth: 1821, LEE CO.,GEORGIA
Death: 1895, RECTOR,CLAY CO.,ARKANSAS
Father: EDWARD_(6) /OUTLAW/ 
Mother: KEZIAH /SHARPE/ 
Name: MARY ANNE "ELIZABETH /SMITH/ 
Birth: 20 Jul 1839, LEE CO.,GA
Death: 1916, RECTOR,ARKANSAS
Father: BRITTON GAINER /SMITH/ 
Mother: SARAH L. /LIVINGSTON/ 
Name: SEBASTIAN LAMAR "BAZ" /OUTLAW/ 
Birth: 1855, GEORGIA
Death: Apr 1894, EL PASO,TX
Washington County, Georgia - sale of estate : late Meshank Outlaw 1836