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Published: October 11th 2019
BONNIE AND CLYDE DEATH SITETHE IMPETUOUS YOUTH OF AMERICA
It seems like poetic justice, sort of, that the monument has been shot up too.
When Clyde Barrow dropped out of grade school at Cedar Hill near West Dallas in 1925 he was sixteen years old, in 7th
grade, and barely literate. His prospects were few. By the time he met Bonnie Parker at the American Café in 1930 he had been arrested on seven counts of theft over $50 for stealing cars and would soon be convicted on all counts. The court passed sentence of two years for each count to be served at the Texas State Prison in Huntsville.
At the age of 15 years Bonnie Parker got married to young thug named Roy Thornton, but Roy apparently preferred to be in jail as married to Bonnie. The happy couple never bothered to get a divorce, but they never saw one another again after he went to prison. When Bonnie died she was still wearing the wedding ring Roy gave her. He probably stole it.
Ted Hinton was another fellow that Bonnie became acquainted with while slinging hash at the American Café. Ted worked for the post office and most days had lunch at the café. He was raised in West Dallas and knew most people
FIELD OF FIRE
The highway was not paved back then. Clyde pulled over and stopped near where the Jeep is parked. When the ambush began the car started rolling toward the firing position which accounts for bullets hitting the front of the car and may the reason why Bonnie took more hits than Clyde.
who lived there including the Barrow Boys, Buck and Clyde. Ted was pals with a guy named Smoot Schmid who ran a bicycle shop. Smoot was elected Sheriff of Dallas County in 1932. When he assumed office on January 1, 1933 Ted went to work for him as a new deputy. He was green as a red blackberry, but since he knew both Bonnie and Clyde and could identify them he was allowed to tag along as the criminal pursuit intensified. Ted was a member of the posse that finally gunned them down.
Clyde was dismayed at the prospect of serving 14 years in prison so while he was still being held in the county lock up before he was transferred to Huntsville he persuaded Bonnie to sneak him in a pistol during visitation. On March 2, 1930 Clyde broke out of jail but was arrested a short while later up in Middletown, Ohio and returned to Texas. On April 21, 1930 he was transferred from Huntsville to the Eastham Prison Farm in Crockett County.
Clyde’s older brother, Buck Barrow, was also a convicted felon serving a stretch at Huntsville, but Buck somehow managed to simply walk away
The lawmen had cover behind the low hill if needed. There was no return fire from the desperadoes though.
from there when he got lonesome for his lovely wife, Blanche. She was not amused that her husband was now an escaped convict and insisted that he go back to Huntsville and complete his sentence. He turned himself back in on December 27, 1931 and promised “to go forth and sin no more”. When Clyde learned that Buck was back in Huntsville he decided to try and get reassigned there too. On Jan 27, 1932 Clyde had a fellow inmate chop off two of his toes with an axe. Just twelve days later, on Feb 8, 1932 Texas Governor Ross Sterling signed a full pardon on Clyde and he came hobbling home on crutches. He would limp for the rest of his life.
At that point in his life Clyde agreed to try and go straight and he took a construction job up in Worcester, Massachusetts. That silliness did not last long though. It was, after all, pretty much like having a job. He returned to West Dallas and took back up with Bonnie Parker. Bonnie quit her job and told her mom she was headed to Houston for a better paying job. It was a lie. She joined
I suppose the Texas officers involved in the ambush had been deputized by the sheriff. All four of them were outside their jurisdiction. The ambush was close to be being murder, but Bonnie and Clyde had it coming.
Clyde and his best friend, Ray Hamilton, as they began new careers in armed robbery and murder.
Clyde was content to pull small jobs that presented little risk. He liked to rob gas stations and small grocery stores for loose change, or a sandwich if he was hungry, or for gas for the stolen cars. The murders made that difficult though. Ray was an excellent car thief, and a good friend, but he wanted bigger scores and more spending money and nicer clothes. Clyde liked anonymity and Ray liked notoriety. After a run of depredations lasting about a year and a half, Ray, at the tender age of 19, left Clyde and went to Michigan with a thug named Gene O’Dare. Ray and Gene were arrested less than two months later at a skating rink in Bay City and returned to Texas to stand trial. Ray was never much of a fighter; he was only five feet, three inches tall and weighed in at 130 pounds.
On the day before Ray was arrested in Michigan sixteen year old W. D. Jones was enlisted in the Barrow Gang. It did not start well. The first caper was stealing a
DEATH CAR AT WHISKEY PETE'S
If you need to make a quick getaway from Whiskey Pete's be sure you already have plenty of gas. They charge California prices there.
car, and it ended up in a murder. W. D. would become a more competent criminal as the weary days happened along.
On March 20, 1933 Buck Barrow was granted a full pardon. He had every good intention of going straight and arranged to meet Clyde in Joplin, Missouri to try and convince his brother to go straight too. The happy reunion lasted a week and became rowdy enough to draw police attention. The police thought the merry makers were just a few bootleggers whooping it up. When they attempted to make the arrest a bloody gunfight ensued and two cops were killed; so much for going straight. Buck, and his always lovely wife, Blanche, joined the merry gang. Blanche hated every minute of it, but she would not leave her husband.
Six weeks later Clyde was ripping along the dark country roads outside of Wellington, Texas and crashed the car into a ravine. It rolled over and the leaking fuel ignited. Clyde was able to pull W. D. out, but Bonnie was pinned inside and suffered terrible burns. A couple of local farmers stopped to offer help, and Bonnie was taken to a nearby home and given first aid. When a pair of cops stopped by to investigate the fire Clyde kidnapped them and stole the farmer’s car. Kidnapping had become a popular diversion with the Barrow Gang. A few hours later the cops were released unharmed near Erick, Oklahoma. Buck and Blanche had acquired their own stolen car by then and had missed those festivities.
The gang made its way to a hideout near Alma, Arkansas but Bonnie was near death. Clyde risked a trip back to West Dallas for Bonnie’s sister, Billie, to come help with the nursing. The nursing activities drew police scrutiny, and another shootout, a few days later, resulted in the killing of Marshal Henry D. Humphrey. The gang was on the road again. It was perhaps a miracle that Bonnie survived.
She continued to improve during the next month at the Red Crown Tourist Court near Platte City, Missouri, but suspicious activity once again drew police attention. In the shootout that followed two more cops were wounded, but Buck took a serious head wound, and Blanche was nearly blinded with glass shards from an exploding window. The gang once again escaped but did go far. They were soon located at Dexfield Park, near Dexter, Iowa and surrounded by a huge posse that included several local farmers packing varmint guns. The National Guard had been called out, but did not arrive in time for the gun fight. Buck was wounded mortally trying to provide covering fire for the others to escape, and the always lovely Blanche, was taken into custody. Buck died five days later at the hospital in Perry, Iowa. Clyde, Bonnie and W. D. Jones escaped across a river, stole a car at gunpoint, and made their getaway but all of them were wounded. They made their hurried way back to Texas and recovered from their injuries among family and friends over the next several weeks. They were pretty much right under the nose of Deputy Hinton, but he couldn’t find them. W. D. Jones left the gang and went to join his mom in Houston. He was not yet 18 years old.
Bonnie and Clyde were back in action on November 8, 1933 with the armed robbery of the McMurray Refinery office in Arp, Texas. Nobody was killed. A week later W. D. Jones was arrested in Houston.
Clyde needed to rebuild his gang so he and some other guys planned to break Ray Hamilton out of the Eastham Prison Farm. They made a clean getaway with Ray, Joe Powers, Henry Methvin, and two other guys who were not gang material. During the escape Major Crowson, of the Department of Corrections was killed. The death of Crowson turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Clyde was concerned in Texas. Crowson was highly respected among the law enforcement community in Texas.
Ma Ferguson was the Fine Governor of the Great State of Texas. When she won the election 40 Texas Rangers resigned because she was so corrupt and soft on crime. She then fired the rest of the Rangers to prevent them from investigating her illegal activities. Crime of all kinds flourished during her administration. When Crowson was killed Ma Ferguson came under pressure from the Department of Corrections. Les Simmons was Director of the Department of Corrections. He knew more than about Ma’s corrupt history in granting parole for cash than anyone else. He urged her, in the strongest of terms, to appoint former Texas Ranger Captain Frank Hamer as a special officer to his department. Frank was the most intrepid lawman in Texas. He could lay claim to 53 killings of his own, and been shot himself 17 times. His only job would be to pursue Bonnie and Clyde to the ends of the earth, and was given broad powers to do so. However, he had no jurisdiction outside of Texas. After giving it careful thought Ma agreed. Her hopes were that Frank Hamer would fail to capture the fugitives and then he could be publically discredited, or that he might possibly be killed in a shootout. Ma was such a peach. Frank Hamer enlisted his old Ranger pal, Manny Gault for assistance. It was a whole new ballgame for the Barrow Gang.
In the meantime Clyde needed more guns and ammo so he and Ray raided the National Guard Armory in Ranger, Texas and they stole what they needed. This was the third time they made such a heist. It brought the fledgling Federal Bureau of Investigation into the nationwide pursuit, but they never accomplished much toward locating the fugitive gang.
After the heist Ray decided to bring his girlfriend, Mary O’Dare into the gang. She was the wife of Ray’s old partner Gene O’Dare. Clyde did not trust her and did not want her in the gang. Ray needed money to pay a debt to those who helped arrange his escape from Eastham. To raise it they robbed a bank in Lancaster, Texas. When it came time to split the proceeds from the bank job Ray wanted a full share for Mary, but Clyde would not allow it. A week or so later Ray left the gang up in Terre Haute, Indiana after a bitter dispute with Clyde. The split up was as acrimonious as any divorce and permanently ended the friendship. Joe Powers left the gang to eventually join Ray. Clyde was apparently too fast for him too.
On April 1, 1934 Clyde, Bonnie and Henry Methvin were parked at a crossroads near Grapevine, Texas. It was a spot that Clyde knew was a favorite lookout point of Ray’s and he was hoping to find Ray there, perhaps to kill him. While they were waiting a couple motorcycle cops stopped to see if they could be of assistance to a stranded motorist. As they approached the car Clyde and Henry murdered them both. The manhunt intensified, and Dallas County Deputies Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton were invited to join Hamer and Gault. Hinton was still wet behind the ears, but he could identify Bonnie and Clyde. Alcorn and Sheriff Smoot Schmid both had confidence in Ted Hinton, but he had not yet proven himself to the Rangers and they did not confide in him. Nor did they recognize him as any sort of leader in the manhunt. Wisely, Hinton kept his mouth shut and did as he was told in spite of what he had written down years later, after the other posse members had died, about his role in the ambush.
Henderson Jordan, the Sheriff of Bienville Parrish, struck a deal with Ivan Methvin, Henry’s dad, to help set up the ambush. Ivan would only agree to cooperate with the plan if Henry’s life could be spared and he was made free from prosecution in the State of Texas for murdering those two motorcycle cops. Frank Hamer obtained the signed clemency agreement from Ma Ferguson, copies were provided to Ivan and Henderson, and the ambush plans were set. Henry left the gang in Shreveport agreeing to meet back up at Ivan’s house later. Ivan drove his truck to the ambush site and parked it. The posse handcuffed him to a tree in a position of safety to assure his cooperation, and then moved the truck to place where it partially blocked the road in the direction the fugitives would be coming from. They then jacked it up and removed the right front tire so that Clyde would see Ivan’s stalled truck and stop to help. The ambush worked perfectly. At 9:15 am on May 23, 1934 Clyde came zooming down the road, saw Ivan’s truck and stopped. The posse then blew both Clyde and Bonnie plumb into hell. According to the coroner’s report Bonnie was hit 26 times and Clyde was hit 17 times, maybe more. The coroner got tired of counting the holes after a while. The car was hit 167 times. There were no return shots fired at the posse.
Henry Methvin was never charged with a crime in Texas, but he was convicted for crimes committed in Oklahoma and served 8 years. Ray Hamilton and Joe Powers were convicted of the murder of Crowson since it could not be determined which of them actually fired the bullet. They both died in the electric chair on the same day. The lovely Blanche was convicted for her role in the crimes committed in Missouri and sentenced to ten years in prison at Jefferson City. She never fired a shot and was only guilty of sticking with her husband. The death car is now on display at the Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm Nevada near Las Vegas.
During their two year crime spree the Barrow Gang committed twelve murders, nine of which were officers of the law. All of the gang members were quite young. Most soldiers, when they march off to war, are not any older. We are all, most probably, guilty of being impetuous in our youth.
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