The Grey Cliff Train Robbery

In 1893 my second cousin, Sam Shermer (he was my grandfather’s brother’s son) along with three other outlaws robbed a train near Big Timber, Montana.  A few days later there was a shootout with a posse in an old cabin whereby one of the lawmen was killed. The quartet escaped on foot but the posse caught up with them in the dark on the same railroad tracks near Essex, Montana a few days later.  The shootout resulted in Sam getting shot in the hip and taken to the Kalispell jail where he died three days later.  I have researched all of this in my travels in Montana. I would offer the following poem in remembrance of that event.

A swagger, a drifter, a jolly rogue rover,
The story of Sam was not what it seemed.
The lonely Old West doth twist a man’s heart,
Like the twist of a chew Sam bore in his jeans.

To plan and to rob on this stony cold night,
The Grey Cliff Express, the train gave a halt.
Sam leaped from his horse and opened the safe.
Not nary a thing, t’was not what he thought.

No one was left out by this quartet of crooks.
The passengers robbed of all money and jewels.
The four then rode off to Montana’s dark woods.
Old West revilers could be callous and cruel.

Not many days thence the Sheriff and with others,
On these same railroad tracks their shootout was dire.
A midnight moon looked down far below
To see our Sam struck and in three days expire.

So why was this outlaw just not what he seemed?
Well, Sam was my cousin, he wasn’t extreme.
But…maybe, he was.

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About the Author

Ray spent 21 years in radio broadcasting followed by 27 years as a real estate appraiser. He taught real estate appraisal at the University of Missouri, Ozarks Technical Community College and St. Charles Community College. Ray loves writing and always has. After Ray retired he attained the Certificate in Higher Education in Creative Writing from Oxford University. Writing short stories for the Certificate was exciting especially since he was in his seventies. Since then the genre has become his obsession and he loves to write them often. His email is

Ray Shermer
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