Rube Talks The Atlanta Constitution Nov. 10, 1889. Family legend is Rube did not give this interview. The interview with a Rube imposter was a hoax planned by Rube himself.
A CONSTITUTION MAN TRACKS THE OUTLAW TO HIS LAIR
FACE TO FACE WITH BURROW
THE TRAIN ROBBER SAYS HE HAS NEVER TAKEN A POOR MAN’S MONEY
LED ASTRAY BY JESSE JAMES
THE TERROR TALKS FREELY ABOUT HIS LIFE AND ADVENTURES
ON SAND MOUNTAIN
RUBE HELPS HIMSELF BUT PAYS THE PEOPLE FOR WHAT HE TAKES
WOULD ACCEPT A PARDON
A HOST OF KINSMEN AND FRIENDS BACK THE BANDIT AND WILL STAND BY HIM
Special to the Constitution, Gattman, Miss., November 9
Rube Burrow, the most daring and reckless desperado this country has ever produced has a word to say about himself.
He denies but little, is somewhat tired of the life of an outlaw of (sic) would surrender if absolutely sure of a pardon. But he tells it all, of his train robberies, of the men he has killed and wounded, of his pursuit by the posse in Blount County – it was either kill or be killed – of his escape to the crest of Sand Mountain, and then of his joining the posse and searching for himself. Some of his past record he regrets and some he is proud of – but he says he will never be captured even dead or alive, and has not been off his guard an instant for two years.
Last week when in Lamar County, I arranged with the family and friends of Rube Burrow to get an interview with the famous outlaw, if by any possible means they could get me to him alone, and at a place where there could be no probability of pursuit.
It was arranged, and I have had the interview.
On Tuesday night information that Rube was in Lamar County, Ala. was obtained.
AT RUBE’S HOME
Reaching Sulligent Wednesday morning, a saddle horse was obtained and the trip to old man Burrows home, seventeen miles distant, was made by early afternoon.
The old man, as is his nature, gave me a hearty welcome and read carefully a batch of letters I bore pledging secresy (sic) of whatever he desired.
“I want nothing kept a secret,” he said, “except where Rube is. Rube ain’t going to allow the detectives to get him and I don’t want to hear of no more killing.”
Being assured that Rube’s whereabouts would not be divulged, the old man said:
“I don’t know jist where I’ll see Rube, but when I do, if I can, I am going to fix it for you to see him, of course, provided he agrees. I might see him tomorrow, I might see him next week and I might never see him.”
After a long conversation, but one in which no other information than the fact Rube was in the neighborhood was gained, I left and spent the night at a country inn five miles distant.
A CLEW (sic) TO RUBE’S WEREABOUTS (sic)
Early Thursday morning I rode to Jim Cash’s, Rube’s brother-in-law and devoted friend. I learned there that Rube was not far off, but that I couldn’t be led to him without Rube being first consulted. However, I was directed To Rube’s most hearty supporter, near relative and truest friend, some twenty miles distant, just across the line into Mississippi.
The country intervening is as sparsely settled as the mountains of Blount County. It is perfectly wild and the roads, which go through dense oak and hickory woods for mile after mile without a break, appear as though they were not traversed once a month by the wheel of a wagon. I passed four houses on the trip of fully thirty miles, for I lost the road many times and went at least ten miles farther than the direct road.
At one of the houses I got dinner and gained some valuable information. Late in the afternoon I reached Galtman (sic) a new station on the Kansas City, Memphis and Birmingham Road, containing just three houses and a depot in course of construction. One of the houses was a general store, which I approached. It was just about three hundred yards over the Alabama line
“Good evening, gentlemen,” I said to three men who sat in front.
“Good day, sir,” said one as he eyed me critically.
“How far is it to Sulligent?”
“Seven or eight miles up the road.”
“Is there any place here I can get supper,” I asked. “I have ridden twenty or thirty miles today and am very much fatigued.”
“Well, I don’t know – you might,” said one.
“Anyhow, if you don’t object I will rest with you a short while.”
“Alight and have a seat,” said all three in chorus.
I jumped from my horse and leaned against the building. There was silence for a few moments. Then I said:
“Seen anything of Rube Burrow lately?”
If a bombshell had exploded right there no more consternation could have ensued. Every one of the three men was on his feet in an instant and the hand of each rested upon a pistol.
“Hold up,” I cried as my hands went up, “I am simply a newspaper man – no detective – I want to see Rube Burrow and get an interview with him – I have seen old man Burrow and Jim Cash. I was told to come over here and see a Mr. Smith, Rube Burrow’s cousin.”
“Are you the fellow that wrote up Rube in The Atlanty Constitution!” asked one of the party.
“I am, and here is the paper.” I said as I handed it out.
“Well, Rube ought to kill you for publishing such a looking man as him.”
“That’s what I am looking for him now for. I owe him an apology.”
THE FIRST SIGHT OF RUBE
At this instant I looked up, and, standing in the door with a Winchester rifle in his hand, and the muzzle pointing directly at me, was a tall, muscular fellow, as straight as an Indian and as brawny as a woodsman. Even his face was muscular. A pair of deep-set, cruel, piercing grayish blue eyes, that flashed like the eyes of a tiger, a long, almost straight and perfectly chiseled nose, a square and heavy chin, a prominent lower jaw protruding way back under his ear, and a heavy drooping mustache all went to show that he was a man of great determination and will combined with the reckless, daring nature of the most ferocious beast, and as if by instinct I knew I was in the presence of Rube Burrow, the man known throughout the southwest as Red Rube, the outlaw.
I was uncomfortable, as the muzzle of the Winchester was upon me, but realizing that the time had come for the long sought interview, I was determined to have it.
Turning to Smith:
“If there was an hundred thousand dollars reward upon the head of Burrow, and even though I was in his presence I would certainly not be foolish enough to attempt the capture of any such man – and again, I would rather have an interview with Rube than a reward.”
RUBE IS INDUCED TO TALK
“I’ll see you directly,” said Smith, as he and the man who stood in the door drew off.
Smith came back in a few minutes, asked me a score of questions, and then returned with the large man behind the house in a clump of woods.
The two walked up, and the large man sat just at the edge of the door on a stool. Across his lap lay a Winchester rifle. Smith stood near.
“Well, Rube will talk to you,” said Smith.
Then a firm, rather hard-sounding voice was heard. It was the first time Rube Burrow had spoken.
“If you are, as you say, a reporter, all right. If a detective —“
“I am simply after an interview with you, and you may rest assured that I will say nothing calculated to cause pursuit.”
“Then I’ll talk to you,” he said, leaning rather over in his chair with the Winchester, however, still in his lap and pointing towards me.
HIS MUSTACHE DYED
I leaned my chair back against a post and then had a good look at him. His mustache had been dyed a black but since the dye had been put on it had grown out fully a quarter of an inch and the reddish, sandy hue was plainly visible.
Looking straight at me, and his eyes seemed to pierce almost through me, he said:
“Well, as you said, I reckon you want to know about my life?”
“When a boy of sixteen,” he continued in an almost totally unassuming manner, “I went out to Wise County, Texas with an uncle. I went to farming, and in a few years married. My father-in-law gave me some land, and on this I farmed until almost three years ago, without any unusual occurrences.
THE LIFE OF JESSE JAMES THE INSPIRATION
“When a boy I had read the life of Jesse James, and I always had an ambition to equal him in daring deeds. But when I married I gave up all such ideas and settled down to quiet farming,” he went on talking as smoothly as a scholar, but all the time glancing in every direction to see that no one approached.
Then he went on:
“But my wife died. I got in with a crowd of fellows in Texas who had robbed trains. They invited me to join them, and I did not hesitate to do so. I joined Nip Thornton’s gang, and I ain’t sorry for it,” he said, as his eyes flashed.
“Well, go on. Give me a full account of your life.”
HIS FIRST ROBBERY
“The first trip I took with the boys was up into the Indian territory. We went there to rob an Indian woman of a wad of money we knew she had, but we didn’t get it. Coming back in the pan handle, we struck a Texas Pacific train taking water. Jim, my brother who afterwards died in the Arkansas penitentiary, and Harrison Bromley, was with Nip and myself then. We got on that train and went through the passengers in a little while.
“There were four soldiers in the car but they were worse scared than anybody else. I took their pistols from their pockets while they held up their hands. We didn’t get much though. I believe it was not quite $200.
“A little while later,” he continued, with another nervous glance around, “we held up another train on the same road at Ben Brooke, and went through the express car, and in all made a haul of most four thousand, but I wasn’t satisfied with that, and a week after held up another on the same road, but didn’t get but four hundred.
THE GORDON ROBBERY
“Then me and Jim went home and stayed there. I got married again, but soon wanted to get out again. We got the boys together, took our Colt’s shooting irons and went for the same road again at Gordon. Bromley covered the engineer, while Nip, Jim, and myself lifted the cash from the express and mail cars and got off without a hand being lifted against us.
“When Bromley got on the engine and covered the engineer it happened that he was the same fellow we had struck before, and though he was mad, he did as Bromley told him. But you had nearly all this in that paper,” pointing to a copy of The Weekly Constitution, which they had evidently been reading.
A WORD ABOUT A DETECTIVE
“That little detective you’ve got something about – that fellow Burns – why he don’t give me no more trouble than a fly. I’ve played around that fellow a good deal, but they did have a fellow after me once that I didn’t like. He’s gone though, or I ain’t seen him lately and he wasn’t up in Blount.”
“Tell me about that later. Go on with your story,” I said.
“Well, we got seven or eight thousand on that haul, but as we was leaving some fellow on the train winged Nip a little.
“We got the same road again later, just like Burns told you, and then I took my boy and girl, both little chaps, and came here to Lamar with my father. Jim came too.
“I stayed around here a while. Then Jim and myself went back to Texas, telling the folks here we were going for a drove of Texas ponies. Well, we didn’t get the ponies, because they were selling too high, and just as we got back the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas train was held up at Genoa, Ark. A scoundrel named Brock, who I had known in Texas, was arrested, and to save himself swore that Jim and I was with him.
A RACE WITH DETECTIVES
“We warn’t that time, and if I ever get at Brock I’ll teach him a lesson.
“Well, a whole drove of detectives then come oyer here to Lamar after us. They first surrounded Jim’s house and when he ran for the woods shot at him. The whole crowd shot and not a ball touched Jim, but one went through his coat sleeve. I was at Kennedy that day. One of the boys beat the detectives to me and I got off without them seeing me. I joined Jim and sometime later we went down to Montgomery. Then you know how a flock of police gathered us in, how they got Jim and how I got away. I didn’t want to shoot that fellow Neil Bray, who tried to head me off as I was running from the police, but I had to do it.
“I stayed in that negro’s house that Sunday night, for I thought I might be able to get Jim out in some way. But when they surrounded that house next morning I knew I had to run and do some shooting or it was all up for me. So I pulled off my shoes and the run to that swamp was the best I ever did. That was one of the narrowest escapes I ever had, and when I got off with only a load of bird shot in my neck I thought I was doing powerful well. I shot back as I run, but didn’t think I could hit them. I shot to keep them back.
A LOAD OF BIRD SHOT IN HIS NECK
“But still I didn’t go far off. I got a doctor to pick out the shot out of my neck, laid around there until I thought it was getting a little hot, and then went back around home.”
“Then, what did you do?”
“Well, the next time I was heard of was when Joe Jackson and myself held up the Illinois Central train at Duck Hill, Miss., last December. It was late one dark night. Joe and me crept behind the water tank and when the train started off we jumped on behind the engine. Then we covered the engineer. He started to reach down, and I hollowed (sic):
“Hold up that hand, or I’ll bore you.”
“He did it in just about a quarter of a second.
“Now you stop out the other side of that trestle,” I said, and he did it.
“I then jumped back on the platform of the express car. The train stopped, Joe came back with me and with our shooting irons out we rushed in the express car, scaring the sleepy messenger pretty badly I tell you.
A DARRING(sic) ROBBERY AND MURDER
“Quick, open that chest and out with the valuables or I’ll put a hole in you,” I said and you bet he woke up and did it pretty quick.
“We had just got the money when two fellows rushed to the platform and commenced shooting. One o’them had a Winchester. The other had a pistol. Joe shot quick and I shot – the Joe shot again and again. The other fellows was shootin’ too, but we got the fellow with the Winchester and then left. I afterwards learned the fellow we killed was named Hughes – Chester Hughes – and I’ve always been sorry for killin’ him, though I don’t know who killed him, whether it was me or Joe. Anyhow, he was a young fellow and had plenty of grit, and I’m sorry for it,” he repeated, as he again glanced nervously around.
Then continuing he said: “But we got something over ten thousand that time, and lots of people were kept from suffering by it.”
“What do you mean by that?” I asked.
“Just what I say.”
“Oh yes, that’s the money you paid for your father’s place, and some of which you –“
RUBE SEEMS ANGERED
“Look here, boy” he broke in, and his eyes flashed in anger, “I don’t git mad easy, but I don’t want none of your jaw. Now what I did with that money is my business – none of yours – but my folks ain’t goin’ to live in want while trains run and tote money.”
“I see in that paper the little puffed up detective accuses me of robbing safes in country stores and holding up poor farmers. Now, that’s a lie. I have held up trains and I have killed a few men, because I had to, but
I NEVER ROBBED A POOR MAN
in my life and I’m never goin’ to. I have took things I needed around in the country, but no man can say that he wasn’t paid for what I took. There are some little thieves around this country who steal all they can get, for they know it’s goin’ to be laid on Rube Burrow. I can’t help that, and though I have done a good many bad things in my day, I never robbed a little storekeeper or a farmer.
“How about the killing of Postmaster Graves at Jewel?”
“Well, I was comin’ to that. Mose Graves was killed –“
Rube stopped a minute, and his face seemed to harden. Then he continued:
“Yes, Mose Graves was killed because he had a false beard sent to W. W. Cain, and told it around that Jim Cash wanted it for me. He said before he died I did it, and said Jim Cash was knowin’ to it. Now there ain’t no use in denying it. Everybody says I killed him, and it don’t matter whether I did or not, but Jim Cash or none of my family didn’t have nothin’ to do with it, and didn’t know nothin’ about it. That’s all I’ve got to say about Mose Grave’s killing.
“How did you get away when the military went to Lamar County after you?”
The outlaw laughed heartily, then jumped up and looked around, as if expecting some danger.
CHILD’S PLAY TO ELUDE MILITARY
“Why,” said he, when he resumed his seat, “I didn’t care any more for that crowd than I would for a parcel of school boys. I went off a little and stayed quiet. Just after they turned Jim Cash and the Old Man and Bud loose when they couldn’t prove nothin’ on ‘em. I went home one night, but there was so many detectives around, and as I didn’t want to kill ‘em, so I went right off.”
“Then I knew them detectives had told John Thomas’s boy they was goin’ to hang him, and he told all about how Joe and me had stayed in a little room of his house, and lots of other things – some of ‘em they boy made up. Anyhow we left, but didn’t go far, and on the night of the 25th of September just past we held up the Mobile and Ohio at Buckatana. The whole crowd on the train was so scared we didn’t have no trouble and got 31,100.”
“What did you do between that time and last week when Sheriff Morris and his posse got after you on Sand Mountain.”
“Well, Joe and me just laid around keeping quiet, for it won’t do to do too much at once,” he said with a confident sort of smile.
“Why did you go to Blount County?”
“You want to know lots, boy, but I reckon I’m just about as sharp as you,” he replied. “That fellow Morris and his two men came on me before I expected them, but I saw from the distance they stood from the house them fellows
WERE NO FIGHTERS.”
“Joe and me were eating at Ashworth’s when the sheriffs rode up the women of the house were right badly scared and one of them run out towards the woods. I saw this was a good chance, so Joe and me run also, keeping the women between us and the sheriffs. I know that fellow Morris said that I took her in my arms, but I never touched her. When we got to the edge of the woods the woman fell down. Morris and his crowd didn’t come towards us at all while we were running, and when the woman fell we were a long ways off, but both of us took a shot and then went on in the woods. The sheriffs went away and didn’t try to come after us. That was on a Thursday.
“Friday we were laying out in the woods not far off, when a crowd of forty or fifty armed men came upon us almost before we knew.
“When I saw them surrounding us we were in a bunch of trees in a sorter low place.
“Joe,’ said I, “it looks sorter like we’re in it sure ‘nough this time. There’s goin’ to be some killin’ here and I reckon we’ve got to do it.
“Joe didn’t say a word, but I knew by his looks he was goin’ to fight hard.”
THE FIGHT ON SAND MOUNTAIN
“We laid low and the crowd commenced to close in. Then I looked around and saw we must get out on the side next the mountain. We waited a while longer and then the fun commenced. We took good aim every time and give ’em the best our Winchester had. I believe my first shot got that fellow in the head – Annerton, the papers said his name was. Then I got another one on that fellow Woodward, I reckon, when we grazed the other fellow and broke one’s arm – well that crowd was purty badly rattled and we got out of our cover in a hurray for them buckshot had been falling pretty thick around us and neither one of us was as comfortable in our feelings as we might have been.
“As we run out,” Rube continued, “we kept up shootin’ at every fellow who showed up and then we left, and we was in a pretty big hurry, too, for if them fellows was scared, there ain’t no use in taking too many chances.”
Then Rube told of spending a part of Saturday at the house of a friend four or five miles off.
HE KILLED THE BLOODHOUND
“On Sunday,” he went on, “three hounds got on our track, and they were right pert in following us. When the head one – an old bitch – got in about fifty or sixty yards of us. Joe and me pulled down on her and I think we both got her. The other one ran off. Then down at the foot of the hill we saw the crowd. It looked like a whole army, so we took a shot apiece and pulled out, and I couldn’t help from yelling at them as we did. I believe I invited them to come and see me again, for I knew they couldn’t get at us on that mountain. Then we got supper that night at an old man’s house nearly in sight of the crowd.
HE HAD FRIENDS IN THE CROWD
“I had my friends in that crowd, too,” he said with a smile of satisfaction. “I knew them Birmingham fellows was coming and I knew they had good guns and wasn’t feared to use ‘em. Anyhow I didn’t care nothin’ about tackling ‘em.”
Then Rube leaned back a little and a smile came over his rough face.
“I’ve always been most too reckless, I reckon.” he continued, “and when them fellows know what I did on Tuesday they’ll be red-hot mad. We went way up in a rough part of the county – up in the mountains – to a fellow who I knew was my friend. Joe, he stayed there, and two fellows, who I knew were all right, and myself went down and
JOINED THE CROWD.
“It was on Tuesday and you was there. I had on a beard, and rode a medium size brown mule, and nobody seemed to suspect me. I remember riding by a little fellow, looks sorter like you, who was on a white mule, but he didn’t think much of me, and soon got in front with that fellow Morris, the sheriff. I reckon that fellow was the Birmingham paper man.
“Well, I went below Walnut Grove, where the dogs struck that track at the creek, but I kept sorter off to myself, and left the crowd just afterwards, when I knew they was going to give up the hunt.”
“Then what did you do?’
“We laid around there awhile, and then I came over this way to see my folks.”
“How did you come here?”
“Were you not afraid?”
“Well, not much,” he said in a confident tone, “but I don’t take chances when they are too risky.”
“Are you not afraid of being captured around here?”
“Who’s going to do it,” he replied in a tone that showed his utter recklessness.
“I believe you have such a reputation that few men would care to make the attempt, notwithstanding the heavy reward.”
IN SOME TIGHT PLACES
“Well, I don’t know about that. They don’t bother me as much as they might, but I’ve been in some right tight places and expect to be in more, but the man who captures Rube Burrow’s got to be a good one. I haven’t seen the man yet who could outshoot me.”
“Are you not tired of this life?”
“Well, I don’t know,’ he said in a doubtful sort of way, “but if I was absolutely certain of an immediate pardon, provided I lived at one place and led a quiet life, I believe I would give up. But I’ve got to know that it’s all right – it’s got to —“
“Rube” said one of his friends, who came walking up.
Rube jumped up and the two men walked off together in the woods. I talked for some time with a relative of his and as Rube did not return, after another promise that nothing would be told until too late for pursuit, I left.
It was after 7 o’clock but moonlight, and I rode back to Sulligent, seven miles off.
Friday morning I took the train to go to Amory and at Gattman was surprised to see Rube and a pal, who from his limping walk and appearance was evidently Jackson.
RUBE AND JACKSON RIDE
Rube led a red fox hound, resembling the one that had chased him in Blount, by a rope. The dog was quickly hustled in a baggage car and Rube and Jackson, with no visible arms, seated themselves on the rear seat of the passenger coach. As the train started Rube saw me and gave me a look that I knew full well meant he wanted no recognition nor action of mine to betray him. At any rate, I accepted that as law.
His mustache had been roughly trimmed off since the previous evening, evidently with scissors by an inexperienced hand. His hat and coat were the same – the coat of a rough badly worn and dirty brown material, hanging low down in front from the weight of something in the pockets, while the hat, a broad-brimmed slouch, was of the same color. His pants were of a dirty greenish speckled goods.
Jackson wore a dirty and badly worn black suit, a narrow brimmed slouch hat, with high crown, smeared over with cotton.
Rube would give me the most ferocious, piercing look every time I turned, and his while frame seemed nervous. He would first look out the window and then all around the car, while on his deep-set blue eyes was an expression of the deepest anxiety bordering on fright.
But no one seemed to recognize him.
As the engine blew for Amory he leaned way out and took a good look ahead. At Amory he and Jackson alighted on the right side, quickly crossed back over to the left walking up to the baggage car. Then they crossed back over as quickly, got their dog and walked rapidly off into the woods to the south.
Amory is the dinner station and as everyone was rushing for dinner no one seemed to give even a second look to the couple.
He is by this time safe in central Mississippi, but the chances are that it will not be long before Rube Burrow will be heard from again in a reckless and daring train robbery.