William Payton Atwood and the Sam Bass Gang

27 Feb

William Payton Atwood is my husband’s great great grandfather.  He was born 25 July 1849 in Laclede County, Missouri – the oldest son of Thomas Jefferson Atwood and Matilda Hough. 

William Payton Atwood

By the time William was 11 years old the family had relocated to Texas and can be found there in the 1860 census living in Erath County, near Stephenville.  William lost his mother early in life.  He was only 15 years old when Matilda died in 1864.  After the death of his mother, William can be found in the 1870 census with his father and his brothers in Hays County, near San Marcos indexed as a “stock dealer.” 

On 28 Aug 1873 William Payton Atwood married Ellen Elizabeth West in Williamson County, Texas – we presume somewhere near Round Rock.  I find it simply amazing that these things transpired in Round Rock 138 years ago – and here we are living our lives in the exact location where they lived theirs.  Ellen West was the daughter of Willis D. West and Delania Johnson – born on 22 Dec 1850 in Calcasieu County, Louisiana.  She was one of ten children.  The West family genealogy is very interesting.  Ellen can be traced back to Governor West – Governor of Colonial Virginia.  Her particular family line can be traced back to William the Conqueror through The House of Plantagenet.

Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood

The couple lived in the Round Rock area for about ten years before relocating and settling in Cross Plains, Callahan County, Texas. They had eight children: John Ashford in 1874; Rosa Lee in 1877; William Riley in 1879; Minnie Hannah Viola in 1882 (all of these children born in Williamson County) and Laney Bell in 1885; Manda Elizabeth in 1888; Columbus Eugene in 1890; and Edgar Claude in 1893 (all of these children born in Callahan County).  

For those of you familiar with Texas history, you will enjoy this:  In 1878 William Payton Atwood and his oldest son, John Ashford, were in town (Round Rock) to buy new boots on the day that the outlaw Sam Bass was killed in a shoot-out with local lawmen and Texas Rangers. Killed in the shoot-out was gunslinger Sam Bass and Williamson County Deputy Sheriff, A. W. Grimes

In an article written in The Lubbock Morning Avalanche on 20 Aug 1954 in honor of John Ashford Atwood’s 80th birthday, this was written:  Atwood says he saw the posse go in after Bass, but didn’t see the actual killing because he ran. There was some speculation that he was celebrating his 80th birthday because he did run !   William Payton Atwood’s father, Thomas Jefferson Atwood, is buried in the Round Rock Cemetery – very near to the outlaw Sam Bass. 

John Ashford Atwood went on to state that his father, William Payton Atwood, was friends with Kit Carson.  Kit grew up in Franklin, Missouri in the same general area that William Atwood was born. Christopher Houston “Kit” Carson was an American frontiersman. How his path may have crossed with our William Payton Atwood is unknown.

William Payton Atwood died in Callahan County on 17 Oct. 1917 at the age of 68. He is laid to rest in Cross Plains Memorial Park. His wife, Ellen Elizabeth West Atwood died in October of 1925 and is buried with him in Cross Plains Memorial Park.

Cross Plains Cemetery


Posted by on February 27, 2011 in Atwood


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