Bud Newman apparently believed himself bullet proof, figuratively
and even literally.
After all, he had beaten the rap after killing a man in a gun battle
in 1895 and then gotten acquitted of robbing a Southern Pacific train
near Comstock two
years later. Not only had Newman come off Scot free, he had made a
few bucks for his effort.
Evidently, the 23-year-old Newman believed he could do better. Not
better as in going straight, but better in terms of making a bigger
About 11 p.m. on June 9, 1898 at a point called Coleman Switch about
four miles west of Santa
Anna, Newman and three other masked men descended on a Santa Fe
passenger train that had stopped there to switch tracks on its run
Angelo. The other three robbers were later identified as Pierce
Keaton and Bill and Jeff Taylor, brothers.
After getting the drop on the train’s engineer, some of the gunman
escorted the engineer and fireman Lee Johnson to the always-locked
express car and told Johnson to have the messenger open up. Staring
into a gun barrel, the fireman did as told.
Newman and company planned to blast open the money safe with dynamite
once the messenger let them inside.
Unfortunately for the fireman and the robbers, an armed Santa Fe livestock
agent riding in one of the passenger cars snapped to the robbery attempt
and alighted from the train with .45 blazing.
A general firefight erupted. Johnson crumpled with a gut shot that
would prove fatal. Newman took a slug in his right arm while a bone-shattering
ball thudded into Keaton’s right leg.
Sans money, the robbers mounted their horses with varying degrees
of ease and galloped off into the night. They pretty much kept riding
until they reached Sutton County, 125 miles to the southwest. That’s
where the Taylor family had a ranch.
Meanwhile, back at the crime scene, the train crew put the wounded
fireman on board and backed into Santa
Anna. A day later, Johnson died.
from all over that part of West
Texas rushed to Coleman County. The investigation was made easier
by the fact that in their haste to escape, the would-be robbers had
left behind their dynamite. While fingerprint technology had not yet
become a forensic tool, the packages containing the explosives bore
advertisements from merchants in San
Angelo and Sonora. On
top of that, the tracks left behind by the fleeing bandits lay in
the direction of Sutton County.
Tom Green County Sheriff Gerome Shield telephoned the Sutton County
sheriff and asked him to see if the retailer in Sonora remembered
who he sold the dynamite to. The Sonora
lawman soon had a name.
Led by Shield and a deputy U.S. marshal, a multi-agency posse soon
headed toward the Taylor Ranch. Without much trouble, Newman and his
colleagues were arrested.
figuring he could game the system one more time, Newman later agreed
to flip for the state and in exchange for immunity. On his damning
testimony, Keaton and Jeff Taylor got 99 years to do for the murder
of the fireman and another 8 for the attempted robbery – more years
by far than either had to spare. Bill Taylor got convicted of participating
in the botched holdup and awaited trial on the murder charge when
he managed to escape from the Coleman County Jail.
Knowing that Taylor would be getting in touch with the now-free Newman,
officers got Newman to convince Taylor that he planned another train
robbery back in Comstock.
Taylor fell for it and soon found himself back in the pokey.
Finally, it dawned on Taylor that Newman had betrayed him not once,
but twice. More than a little annoyed, Taylor vowed revenge.
With that mission in mind, Taylor sawed his way out of his cell and
made good his escape. Regrettably for him, the first house he came
to after fleeing the lockup was the sheriff’s.
Taken to a presumably sturdier jail, the Brown County lockup, in June
1900 Taylor broke out a third time.
Again, the Coleman County sheriff recruited Newman to help him catch
Taylor. A posse including Newman caught up with Taylor some 70 miles
south of Sonora.
According to a story filed by the Coleman correspondent for the Dallas
Morning News on August 14, 1900, at some point, “Taylor got the drop
on Newman and killed him, but not before Newman had fired his Winchester,
which took effect in Taylor’s groin.”
Returned to Brownwood,
Taylor said that in killing Newman he had realized “the only object
in his life.” Now, he allowed, he stood “perfectly willing for the
law to take its course.”
That noble sentiment aside, he soon escaped a fourth time, never to
be heard from again. Some said he crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico.
No matter where he ended up, Bill Taylor had proven Bud Newman had
been wrong in thinking himself bullet proof.