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 Telico Plains (in 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.
The boys of the family soon turned to crime. Although they tried to "go straight", it seemed that the police patrolled West Dallas
constantly, not trusting the influx of poor, desperate newcomers. 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. Clyde had had previous girlfriends, even tattooing the initials of one (E.B.W) on his arm. Bonnie Parker (1910-1934),
whose family moved to Cement City (a company town close to West Dallas) from Rowena after her father died, had already a romantic past
as well. She had 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. Bonnie
moved to a cousin's house in Waco to be closer to him. He convinced Bonnie to steal a gun from the house of a fellow inmate to help
him break free, and without hesitation Bonnie complied, concealing the weapon under her dress. This was the first indication of the
lengths Bonnie would go for her man.
The law soon caught up with Clyde after his successful jailbreak. 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, whom guards
would whip, shoot, and beat whenever the mood struck. 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,
however, 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- Ralph Fults, Joe
Palmer, Raymond Hamilton, W.D. Jones - 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.
In 1933, Bonnie, Clyde, and W.D. Jones tried to set up housekeeping in Joplin, Missouri when Clyde's brother Buck and his wife Blanche
came to visit. Buck had just been pardoned by the governor, and although Blanche was reluctant to visit the outlaws, she believed that
she could help them go straight. However, Buck joined the gang instead, robbing banks and stores in the surrounding area. When the
police caught up with them, a wild 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 did escape. Buck had been shot in the head, Blanche's eyes had been
struck by flying glass, and Bonnie's burnt legs continued to cause her immense pain. Clyde drove for almost two days straight trying to
find a good hideout before settling on Dexfield Park in 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.
Even with all the turmoil in their young lives, Bonnie & Clyde took grave risks to visit their families as often as they could, usually meeting
in out-of-the-way locations. They met in Deep East Texas, in Commerce, in secluded areas in West Dallas. During one clandestine meeting
in Irving, Texas, they narrowly avoided an ambush - they were only wounded in the knees.
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 friends Raymond Hamilton, Joe Palmer and Henry Methvin. Raymond and Clyde became bitter enemies, however,
when Raymond hid some cash after a bank robbery. 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.
Although Henry Methvin was a murderer, his father arranged for leniency with the courts if he could deliver Bonnie & Clyde to Texas
Ranger Frank Hamer and his posse, who had been summoned by the governor of Texas to bring down the outlaws.
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 (one misguided
soul even tried to cut off Clyde's trigger finger). 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. Onlookers climbed on top of each other to watch the examination.
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. So she was laid to rest in the old Fishtrap Cemetery in West Dallas (she was later moved to Crown
Hill Memorial Park), and Clyde was buried next to his brother Buck in a cemetery along Fort Worth Avenue. The run of the most romantic
and dangerous of outlaws in American history finally ended.
|Bonnie and Clyde. Courtesy Dallas Public Library,
used with permission.
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 in her driveway for several years before she leased it to a traveling
sideshow. The car was 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
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 victims of the Barrow Gang numbered eleven. Although Clyde did not have a hand in
killing all of these men, he was nonetheless there, participating in some form or the other.
John Bucher (Hillsboro, TX, 1932). Clyde maintained that Raymond Hamilton killed the
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
Harry McGinis (Joplin, MO, 1933). One of the two officers killed in the Joplin, MO garage
Wes Harryman (Joplin, MO, 1933). The other officer killed in the shootout.
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
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.
The TEXAS RANGERS MUSEUM in Waco, Texas has several artifacts from the Barrow
Gang, mainly weapons and license plates. Located right off I35.
The PRIMM RESORT & CASINO in Primm, Nevada, displays the "Death Car." Located
on I15 at the California/Nevada state line. Call 705-386-7867 for more information.
Bonnie's grave was moved in 1945 to the CROWN HILL cemetery in Central Dallas,
on Webb Chapel Road. The grave is southwest of the mausoleum, behind a high
hedgerow. It can be viewed daily while the sun's up.
Clyde's grave is located in the WESTERN HEIGHTS cemetery on Fort Worth Drive in
West Dallas. This is a small, intimate burial ground with many German tombstones.
GIBSLAND and ARCADIA Louisiana host Bonnie & Clyde days in May of every year,
complete with reenactments. On the lonely road where the outlaws breathed their
last, a marker has been erected to commemorate the event. Some people say the
road is haunted... Call the Chamber of Commerce at (318)263-9897 for more
The Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in Gibsland, Louisiana, is located in the old
Cranston Cafe, where Bonnie and Clyde ate their last meal.
The STAR SERVICE STATION (a.k.a. the Barrow gas station) is still sitting on
Singleton Boulevard in West Dallas. It's now a tire repair shop. The house that
Henry Barrow attached is also there.
The DALLAS HISTORICAL SOCIETY sponsors the very popular "Bonnie & Clyde Tour,"
visiting their hideouts, houses, murder sites, graves, and jails. This fun trip is
narrated by John Neal Phillips, who wrote the authoritative book, "Running with
Bonnie and Clyde." See dallashistory.org for details.
EASTHAM PRISON FARM still stands, although it is no longer used - just a ghostly
shell remains. Of course it's haunted! (You had to ask?) The State of Texas-
Department of Corrections has created a great museum in Huntsville. You can visit
the old electric chair...just make sure not to sit down. Located off I45, exit 118. Call
936-295-2155 for more information or visit txprisonmuseum.org.
The house that Bonnie and Clyde lived in for a few weeks in JOPLIN, MISSOURI still
stands on 34th Street. It has been renovated, so there aren't any bullet holes to
see. The house survived the devastating F5 tornado in 2011.
|Floor of the now-gone Conger Furniture Store and Funeral parlor.
After the ambush, Bonnie and Clyde were taken here to visit the
|The Lonely Roads of Bonnie and Clyde
|The door of the Kemp Calaboose, where Bonnie
and Ralph Fults spent the night after a botched
robbery. Clyde escaped from capture, Ralph was
sent back to Huntsville, and Bonnie was
transferred to the Kaufman County Jail, where
she stayed for six weeks until she was no-billed
by the Grand Jury. Although she felt that Clyde
had abandoned her, she nevertheless took up
with him again upon her release.
|Pano's Diner (now closed) is in downtown Shreveport. This is where
Bonnie, Clyde, and Henry Methvin lost track of each other a few days
before the ambush.
|The truss bridge at Wellington, Texas, was built in the 1930s. No bridge existed when Clyde zoomed by, ignoring warning signs that the bridge
was out. He crashed the car, which severely injured Bonnie. W.D. Jones was with them during this incident.
|Visit more photos of Bonnie and Clyde's Haunts!
|Dexter, Iowa - site of the gang's Waterloo.
|The infamous Joplin Hideout survived the Joplin F5 Tornado in 2011.
|Campus Theater in Denton, Texas, site of the
world premier of the Warren Beatty/ Faye
Dunaway movie, Bonnie and Clyde.