Our Historical Markers across Nebraska highlight fascinating moments and places in our state’s past.
Today, we’re focusing on a marker in Big Springs, which commemorates the first and greatest robbery of a Union Pacific train.
Nebraska 25B, Big Springs, Deuel County, Nebraska
The first and greatest robbery of a Union Pacific train took place near here on the night of September 18, 1877. The legendary Sam Bass and five companions, after capturing John Barnhart, station-master, and destroying the telegraph, forced Union Pacific express train No. 4 to halt.
A reported $60,000 in new $20 gold pieces and currency was taken from the express car, while about a thousand dollars and a number of watches were taken from passengers. The accumulated loot from this, the Big Springs Robbery, it is said, was then divided by the outlaws, beneath the Lone Tree then growing on the north side of the river. After making the division, the robbers then split into pairs and fled their pursuers.
Joel Collins and Bill Heffridge were killed at Buffalo, Kansas. Jim Berry was killed near Mexico, Missouri, while Tom Nixon and Jim Davis were never located. After forming another band and robbing four trains in Texas, Sam Bass was killed by Texas Rangers at Round Rock, Texas, on July 21, 1878; it was his 27th birthday. His epitaph reads “A Brave Man Reposes in Death Here. Why was he not true?”