|Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in a picture taken somewhere in East Texas
during their last year of life. Note that Bonnie's right foot is hovering above the
ground; this is due to the injury she obtained at the Salt Fork of the Red River
(Dallas Public Library, permission obtained).
Ask the average person about Bonnie & Clyde and most likely, any information they
supply will be from the ground breaking 1967 movie. So what's true, and what's
fiction? Lemme fill you in.
West Dallas 'Hood
The Barrows, a share cropper family from Ellis County, Texas, moved to Dallas in
1921 when they could no longer eke a living off their farm. A very poor family, they
didn't fare much better in West Dallas, an unincorporated area in the bottom lands
of the Trinity river where they lived in a tent under a bridge in a free campground for
a while. Henry Barrow, Clyde's father, opened a small gas station with the proceeds
he received from a lawsuit, and this became the Barrows' home.
Clyde (1909-1934) had already begun his less-than-stellar career as a petty criminal
before he met Bonnie, having learned the "trade" from his brother Buck. Bonnie
Parker (1910-1934), whose family moved to Cement City (a company town close to
West Dallas) from Rowena (Runnels County, Texas) after her father died, already
owned a romantic past as well. She married Roy Thorton, another criminal, when
she was only 16. When Bonnie met Clyde at a mutual friend's house (some sources
say it was Bonnie's brother's house), Roy was doing time in prison.
Clyde quickly followed him. Arrested while visiting Bonnie at her mother's house,
Clyde was jailed in Waco for several burglaries. Clyde convinced Bonnie to steal a
gun and without hesitation Bonnie complied, concealing the weapon under her
dress during a jail house visit. Clyde made a break for it but the law soon caught up
with Clyde. Sentenced to the Eastham Prison Farm near Huntsville for 14 years, he
experienced such brutal treatment that his life changed forever. The prison was
notorious for its ill treatment of prisoners. Assaulted by a large trustee whom Clyde
later bludgeoned to death, Clyde asked another inmate to cut off two of his toes to
avoid the back breaking labor that the prison forced him to do. He was transferred to
the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where his brother Buck, who had turned himself in as a
favor to his new wife, Blanche, was living. Within weeks, Clyde was paroled, as his
mother had been working on an early release since his incarceration.
With the help of his family, Clyde tried to do good - even held a job- but with his
prison record, he remained a constant target for the cops. Also, the experience in a
hardened prison like Eastham had changed Clyde so much that he couldn't stand
doing honest work. He decided to make crime his full-time occupation. He brought
together several of his prison associates and West Dallas friends and together, with
Bonnie, they formed the Barrow Gang. Several others joined in and dropped out as
time went on (most notably Henry Methvin, whose father would help the Texas
Rangers track Bonnie & Clyde). The gang had really only one goal in mind: to stage
a raid on the despised Eastham Prison Farm. Bonnie became Clyde's constant
companion, although she never really participated in the crimes. She lived with him
in hideouts and later, after Clyde was wanted for murder, they lived in various stolen
cars, constantly on the run. Bonnie wrote poetry to keep herself busy.
|West Dallas was not
the most scenic
neighborhood in the
1930s. It did not
water until the 1940s
Library, used with
|The gas station
where the Barrows
worked and lived
still stands in West
Dallas, but may be
demolished soon -
so make sure you
book a tour with me!
|Even with the reforms
that "Ma and Pa
governors of the 1930s
Prison Farm was
considered hell on earth
for many inmates.
Clyde's major heist, and
accomplishment, was to
raid the prison and free
as many people from
there as possible (City of
In 1933, Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. Jones set up housekeeping in Joplin, Missouri
when Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche came to visit. Buck joined the gang ,
robbing banks and stores in the surrounding area. When the police caught up with
them, a shootout ensued. The gang fled relatively unharmed, but two officers died.
The lawmen found several vital pieces of evidence in the apartment, among them the
famous photo of Bonnie smoking a cigar, gun in hand. She later told a kidnapped
police officer that the picture had been taken as a joke.
That same year, as he drove another stolen car at break-neck speed across the Texas
panhandle, Clyde didn't notice that a bridge over the Red River was out. The car
plunged into a ditch. Bonnie suffered severe burns to her legs and sides. Devoted
Clyde and Blanche took very good care of her, bandaging her legs and allowing her
to rest at the Red Crown Tourist Camp in Platte City, Missouri. However, local law
enforcement became suspicious of the group and quickly identified them as the
Barrow Gang. A disastrous confrontation left the outlaws badly wounded, but they
escaped. Clyde found a good hideout in Dexfield, Iowa. When a farmer notified the
police about suspicious activity at the campsite, another gun battle took place.
Although Bonnie & Clyde escaped, Buck and Blanche were caught. Buck died days
later, and Blanche received a prison term because she refused to rat out her kin. W.D.
Jones quickly fled from the gang, wanting no more of the lifestyle.
Fame and Death
Their plan to raid the prison farm was accomplished on January 16, 1934. During the
siege, in which mounted guard Major Crowson was killed, Clyde freed his associates.
Raymond and Clyde became bitter enemies, however, when Clyde accused Raymond
of theft. Both went their separate ways - Raymond later dying in the electric chair.
The raid on the prison farm, coupled with the killing of two police officers in
Grapevine on Easter Sunday, 1934, sealed the couple's fates.
On May 23, 1934, as Bonnie and Clyde drove down a dusty road outside of Gibsland,
Louisiana, the laws ambushed them in a volley of gun fire that shot Bonnie & Clyde
to pieces. The loud claps of gunfire awakened this sleepy area of lumberjacks and
villages. Hundreds of people came out to see what had happened, and when the
crowds realized that Bonnie and Clyde had been killed, they went a little frantic. The
newspapers had made the couple out to be larger than life, but in death, they looked
tiny and shattered. The death scene became a media circus, with souvenir hunters
vying for pieces of the dead couple - including body parts. The "death car", a tan
1934 Ford, still held the pair as they were wheeled into town of Arcadia for the
coroner to examine the bodies. They were brought back home where their funerals
were attended by hundreds of curious Dallasites. Bonnie had wanted to be buried
next to Clyde but her mother refused. The run of the most romantic and dangerous of
outlaws in American history finally ended.
|The marker that denotes
the spot where Clyde
Barrow and Bonnie
Parker were gunned
down in May of 1934
also sports signs of
ambushes by other
parish continues to
repair the marker. Since
this photo was taken in
2002, it probably does
not look like this
|This bridge near
Wellington, Texas did not
exist in 1932, which is
why Clyde Barrow drove
off the shore line into the
Salt Fork of the River
when he raced down the
road without running his
headlights. This car
crash led to serious
injuries for Bonnie. This
truss bridge was placed
at the river in the 1930s
but has since been
|The "cordoba gray" Ford
that Clyde Barrow stole
in Kansas City was the
gang's last ride; this is
the car where Bonnie &
Clyde were shot to
death. It is now on
casino in Primm Valley,
|Clyde's "death shirt"
which he wore when
he was gunned down
Louisiana. The cuts
down the sides were
made by the coroner.
This shirt is on display
at the Primm Valley
Casino in Nevada.
What happened to...?
The "Death Car" - The rightful owner, a woman from Topeka, Kansas, collected the
car in Louisiana a few days after the ambush. She drove it home, no doubt with the
windows open because the interior hadn't been cleaned after the shootout (can you
even imagine!) It sat sold numerous times before landing in the hands of the Primm
Valley Resort and Casino in Primm, Nevada, where it is now on display - complete
with bullet holes, blood and gore.
Henry Methvin - Although his father helped him get a lighter sentence in Texas,
Oklahoma didn't honor the plea bargain, since he was wanted in the murder of
Deputy Campbell in Commerce. He served for 10 years, constantly fearing retaliation
for his unwitting role in delivering Bonnie & Clyde to authorities. He died in
Louisiana in 1949 when a train cut him in two.
W.D. Jones - He stayed in jail for a 15 years, although he maintained that Bonnie &
Clyde forced him to participate in the gang. He later lived in Houston, granting an
insightful interview with Playboy in 1968, a year after the movie "Bonnie & Clyde"
debuted. He was found murdered in 1974.
Blanche Barrow - During her ten years in a Missouri prison, she remained in contact
with the Barrow family and was considered a model prisoner. After her release, she
remarried and tried to forget her painful past, although she did write a memoir about
her life. She died quietly and is buried in Dallas under her married name.
Raymond Hamilton - The state of Texas dubbed him a habitual criminal, sentencing
him to over 200 years in prison. He was convicted in the murder of prison guard
Major Crowson and, after escaping death row with friend Joe Palmer, died in 1935, a
victim of Ol' Sparky. He is buried in a Dallas cemetery.
Frank Hamer and Ted Hinton - After years working as a Ranger and strike buster,
Frank Hamer died in his sleep in 1955. Ted Hinton wrote "Ambush" in the 1970s.
Tools of the Trade
The Barrow Gang was noted and feared for their arsenal of weapons. They stole
state of the art guns, like the Browning Automatic Rifle (B.A.R.) and Colt .45's, from
National Guard Arsenals in Enid, Oklahoma and from the Red River Army Depot
near Texarkana, Texas. Clyde also devised his own weapon which was called a
"scattergun." He'd saw off the barrel of a B.A.R. and welded the ammo clips. His
weapons proved infinitely superior to the arms of the law enforcement officers who
only used pistols or, as was the case for rural authorities, their own hunting rifles.
Clyde also favored Ford V8's as his getaway cars, because of their handling and
speed. He was a very skilled driver, often speeding in excess of 70 miles an hour
down dirt roads - and out of sight of sheriff deputies. Clyde allegedly wrote a letter
to the Ford Motor Company lauding their vehicles.
The Barrow Gang killed eleven men. They were farmers, shopkeepers, and law
enforcement offers. Because this happened in the Great Depression, sometimes the
men were all three; they simply took up the badge to supplement their meager farm
incomes. Although Clyde did not have a hand in killing all of these men, he either
present or was the ring leader of the gang members who pulled the triggers.
John Bucher - (Hillsboro, TX, 1932). Clyde maintained that Raymond Hamilton killed
Eugene Moore - (Atoka, OK, 1932). Moore was a police officer who wanted to see if
the men in the car (Clyde and Raymond Hamilton) were drinking moonshine outside
of a dance hall.
Howard Hall - (Sherman, TX, 1932). Shopkeeper/butcher. This was Clyde's first
direct, intentional murder (except for the killing of the Eastham Prison trustee.)
Some historians dispute that Clyde did this killing, though.
Doyle Johnson - (Temple, TX, 1932). Killed as he was trying to stop Clyde from
stealing his car. W.D. Jones fired the fatal shot.
Malcolm Davis - (Dallas, TX, 1933). A sheriff's deputy, Davis and his companions
were waiting on the outlaws at the home of Lillian McBride in West Dallas when
Clyde shot him pointblank.
Harry McGinis - (Joplin, MO, 1933). One of the two officers killed in the Joplin, MO
garage apartment shootout.
Wes Harryman - (Joplin, MO, 1933). The other officer killed in the shootout at the
Henry Humphrey - (Alma, AK, 1933). Killed by W.D. Jones and Buck Barrow.
Major Crowson - (Huntsville, TX, 1934). The mounted guard at Eastham Prison
whose death spurred the governor to action.
E.B. Wheeler - (Grapevine, TX, 1934). One of the two officers killed on a country road
on Easter Sunday.
H.D. Murphy - (Grapevine, TX, 1934). The other officer killed on Easter. It is debated
whether Clyde or Henry Methvin instigated the shooting.
Cal Campbell - (Commerce, OK, 1934). A constable from Miami. Their last victim on
their desperate run from the law.
|In the Dallas area for a convention, to visit family,
for vacation, or because you're from here?
See the historic underbelly of the city in a tour with Red River Historian!