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The Beginning of the End for the Barrow Gang

Updated on June 19, 2013
The Joplin Hideout
The Joplin Hideout | Source

With Luxury Comes a Price

On April 1, 1933, the Barrow Gang got a nice apartment in a good neighborhood, which cost $50 a month, rather costly then. The apartment was built over a two car garage, had two bedrooms, living room, kitchenette, and bath. Buck rented garage space for the Marmon, as the other garage was occupied. They spent most of the night playing cards, and slept late. Since Blanche couldn’t or wouldn’t learn to play poker, she got interested in putting puzzles together, then she had Clyde hooked on them. Prohibition was repealed on April 7, so the group bought and drank a case of beer every night, except Blanche.

Buck tried to talk Clyde into going straight, but Clyde knew that he had no chance for clemency. He had already killed three men, and would never go to Eastham again. Clyde preferred death to prison.

They continued to live in the lap of luxury with indoor plumbing, food delivery, and daily laundry service. Bonnie or Blanche had to meet the delivery people at the door, and the blinds had to always be down, according to Clyde. Sometimes Bonnie and Blanche would go to the department store and treat themselves, whether or not they needed everything. However, everything cost money, and it had to come from somewhere…

Clyde's custom made Browning Automatic Rifle with 3 20-round clips welded together
Clyde's custom made Browning Automatic Rifle with 3 20-round clips welded together | Source

Suspicious House Guests

Several nights a week, the men disappeared, and Buck’s pledge to Blanche to go straight didn’t last three weeks. One night, he and Clyde hit the National Guard Armory for several Browning automatic rifles, and Blanche was appalled.

On April 12, W.D. stole a Ford V-8 roadster in Miami, Oklahoma, about thirty miles west of Joplin. They made a deal with the other renting tenant to allow them to keep both cars in the double garage. They were already under police surveillance. It was noticed that they would come and go late at night. Clyde made residents even more suspicious when one of the BARs that he was cleaning fired a quick burst of shots by accident, and that reverberated through the area. It was apparent that these people were involved in shady operations.

On April 13, 1933, Buck began getting ready for the trip, but he didn’t realize that this was the beginning of the end. He changed the oil on the Marmon and filled it with gas. Clyde and W.D. went out on a job one last time before the trip for travel funds, but the car developed engine trouble, and they returned.

Buck's 1929 Marmon
Buck's 1929 Marmon | Source

The Shootout

Just as Clyde and W.D. began lowering the garage door, they had unexpected guests. One of the two police vehicles blocked both garage doors, and the other parked on the curb just past the apartment house. One officer tried to duck under the door, but he was shot and bled to death. W.D. was struck by a bullet in his side, but the police were getting heavy fire against them. One went off to call for backup. That was when their idea that they were dealing with bootleggers set off a trigger.

When the women exited the apartment to get in the car, Snowball ran off and was never found. Clyde was shot a couple of times, but was saved from a chest hit by a shirt button, the other bullet barely entered his body. A spent slug grazed Buck’s chest. The supposedly bullet proof police car was far from that, it was riddled with shots.

One of the pictures on the roll of film left behind in Joplin, Missouri
One of the pictures on the roll of film left behind in Joplin, Missouri | Source

What Was Left Behind in Joplin

The Gang left behind lots of nice clothes, a copy of Bonnie’s “Suicide Sal,” Buck and Blanche’s marriage license, Buck’s pardon, Clyde’s guitar, and cameras and rolls of undeveloped film. The film was where the police got all their personal pictures of the Gang. Magazines and newspapers had a field day with this story and the photos, but many of the featured stories were fictionalized. They were both demonized and deified, and many people cheered for them, as they didn’t trust the government, especially after the Depression. Bonnie and Clyde’s actions seemed to signify revenge. Somebody was finally getting even with the rich and powerful.

With Bonnie’s sassy photos, she applied the sex appeal, and Clyde was the gun toting punk. Even during this time, Edward G. Robinson and Jimmy Cagney were personifying these criminals and others on the Silver Screen.

Brooks Boarding House where Dillard Darby's car was taken
Brooks Boarding House where Dillard Darby's car was taken | Source

Ruston, LA, the Darby and Stone Incident

Two weeks later, the Fearsome Five were in Ruston, Louisiana. Clyde decided that they definitely required a second vehicle. They found Sophia Stone’s Ford and Dillard Darby’s Chevy parked on the curb. A young man got into the Chevy, and sped off. The keys were in it. Stone told Darby to get in her Ford, and off they went in pursuit. Clyde wanted a second vehicle in order to rob the Ruston bank. Clyde and company lost W.D. right from the start, but in the rearview, was the Ford coupe with our heroes. Stone and Darby lost W.D., but Clyde ended up directly behind them. Clyde ordered them out of the car, and clocked Darby with the butt of his gun after he tersely said that he was following them because it was his Chevy that was stolen.

Darby was ordered in the front seat and Stone got in the back. Bonnie was in a sour mood, and sent Stone up front, too. Ammo clips kept falling out of the glove box into everyone’s laps, and Darby was told to just hold them. W.D. in the Chevy couldn’t be found, and Clyde drove into Arkansas. Sophia Stone later told the press that her captors smelled bad and were dressed in a slovenly manner, but let’s face it, they were living in that car for two weeks. Clyde later told Stone and Darby who they were, and they were duly impressed or intimidated, whatever the case may be, I wasn’t there. Bonnie asked what they did for a living, and when Darby said that he was a mortician, Bonnie laughed and asked him to be the Gang’s embalmer. Clyde asked them if they had enough money to get home, and when they replied in the negative, he handed them a five dollar bill, and sped off.

Clyde even went back to West Dallas to see if he could find W.D., and left word with the family that they’d be back for him when they could do so. They headed north again, committing small robberies where they travelled, just basically to eat on and have gas money, perhaps a little clothing, since all their wardrobe was left in Joplin.

First State Bank of Okabena in 1906
First State Bank of Okabena in 1906 | Source

More Crazy Bank Robberies

On May 11, Clyde and Buck broke into the Lucerne State Bank in Indiana that night, and waited until morning to get a drop on the clerks. This was another fiasco. One of the employees grabbed a hidden rifle and shots were exchanged. The men fled empty handed where Bonnie parked the car in front of the bank, and Clyde took the wheel. A citizen threw a large piece of wood in front of the V-8, and Clyde had to swerve in someone’s yard to get around it. Another man hopped on the hood of the Ford. Clyde yelled for someone to shoot him, and Bonnie fired a few wild shots. She said that she didn’t want to hit an old white-haired man. Two women were lightly grazed a short time later, but a couple of the pigs being herded across the road weren’t so lucky.

Clyde decided to try another bank, the First State Bank of Okabena that they almost hit a little over a year ago when it was too icy. They tried the same MO, breaking in and spending the night. This time it was lucrative, and they got away with $1,600, $700 of it in silver dollars. They got away, and some locals, Floyd and Anthony Strain, were blamed for the heist. Then they headed home to West Dallas for a family gathering. During the trip, Buck and Clyde got into a fist fight while Clyde was driving. Since Blanche was sitting between them, she got hit more than the boys did.

Nell, Clyde, and Artie Barrow, in that order
Nell, Clyde, and Artie Barrow, in that order | Source

A Family Get Together for the Barrows

Blanche was put on a bus to arrange the family meeting. She got off the bus and took a cab to Jack Barrow’s place, then called Nell and Artie Barrow to get the family together at a prearranged gathering. They even managed a little shopping trip. The get together was both festive and fretful at the same time. There was a picnic with fried chicken and the fixings brought by Mother Cumie Barrow, and a number of good photos. Clyde learned a lesson from the found film in Joplin, and made sure that the license plate was covered. Clyde shared some money with his struggling family, and passed on the word that W.D. was missed. They reunited with W.D. in West Dallas, but things soon took a turn for the worse.

Actual Car that Crashed in Wellington
Actual Car that Crashed in Wellington | Source
Site of the crash
Site of the crash | Source

The Accident at the Salt Fork Branch of the Red River

On the night of June 10, 1933, the Pritchards were having a family get together, which was about 100 yards from the Salt Fork branch of the Red River. One road was newly paved and the other was older and dirt packed. There was a detour sign on both sides of these roads for the bridge being built, to use the old road and its bridge. The Salt Fork had very little water in it and was about thirty feet deep. The family heard a loud thrum of a car engine at high speed. The fool driving was Clyde Barrow, operating at about 70 on a pitch black night. Clyde missed seeing the detour signs, blew through the barricade and flew into the air. It spun in the air, made contact with the rocky ground of the riverbed, and rolled a number of times before it came to rest. Forty-seven years later, the Pritchards recalled that the window glass was broken out and the doors were jammed. They pulled out Clyde and W.D., and saw what they thought was a child on the front floor.

Some people claimed that the Ford was aflame, but that never happened to cause Bonnie’s horrid injuries. Her right leg was coated with acid spurting from the smashed battery. The scalding was instantaneous, and it was said by W.D. that the skin on her leg was gone, from the hip to the ankle, and he could see the bone in places. Bonnie was carried to the Pritchard home, laid on a bed, and mother and daughter began swabbing the wounds with baking soda and Cloverine salve. Mother Pritchard strongly urged a doctor, but Clyde knew that there would soon be a fight on his hands. He wanted to return to the car and grab some of his arsenal. When the family saw what he was doing, they sent word to the police and the police called for an ambulance.

When the lawmen arrived at the house, they were surprised by Clyde in the shadows with a BAR and W.D. Jones with a shotgun. Bonnie managed to stagger off the bed and grabbed the police guns. They took the lawmens’ cars, both of them, and later placed Bonnie in the back seat with them, across their laps to make her more comfortable. Clyde couldn’t get Bonnie medical attention, as it would only draw the law to the Gang. Clyde was operating at high speeds, and finally met Buck and Blanche well after midnight near a bridge in Oklahoma between Erick and Sayre. Bonnie was carried to their car, and placed atop a pile of clothes on the back seat. It was discovered that Clyde likely had a broken nose and W.D. had a few burns, too.

Clyde was touched by how gently the lawmen handled Bonnie in the back seat of his car, Buck and W.D. tied them to trees by the roadside with their handcuffs and pieces of barbed wire found on a fence. Clyde was angry about the barbed wire, as he didn’t want these men to suffer in any way. They got loose in about a half hour and found ther abandoned Chevy not far down the road. Bulletins went out, along with the news that Bonnie was seriously injured.

Residents trekked out to the crash site looking for souvenirs. Today, visitors to the Collingsworth County Museum can see two ammo clips for Clyde’s BAR and a pair of Bonnie’s tiny gloves.

Stay Tuned for the Next Segment of the Story

The next part of this story will be just as exciting as the others that you have just read. Stay tuned now, y'all hear?

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    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Gawth. Once I started getting into this, I uncovered quite a lot, mostly thanks to old newspapers.

    • Gawth profile image

      Ron Gawthorp 4 years ago from Millboro, Virginia

      Love the detail!

    • aviannovice profile image
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      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad that you're enjoying it, Peg. I never dreamed that it would be so long, but once I got going, you know...(grin)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 4 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Incredible story and well told. I'm enjoying this conversational version of the Bonnie and Clyde story. Should be a mini-series, Avian.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, prasetio. The 1930s had a number of colorful characters like this: Ma Barker, Pretty Boy Floyd, etc.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      I had never heard about this before reading this hub. Thanks for writing and share with us. Voted up!

      Prasetio

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Blanche was only involved by association. She wanted Buck Barrow to go straight after his stint in jail, and as a matter of fact, had him serve the rest of his time.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Beckie, and I am having fun doing it, too. You'd be amazed at the price tags on some of the memorabilia.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Alicia! There's still going to be more to come. They are a colorful and interesting group of people, no doubt about that.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Still laughing at Blanche getting most of the punches. Stupid women deserved what they got....lol

      Great story telling.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Excellent job with this series Deb. I am thoroughly enjoying it.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is another interesting installment in your series, Deb. You've included so many fascinating details about the Barrow Gang that I didn't know. Thanks for the information.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hi, again, DDE! Thanks for stopping by, and I'm so glad that you're having fun with the series.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Wilbart! Thanks so much for enjoying this. I really is a fun project.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      You're welcome, Martin. I am having a blast with this.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting and voted up! Thanks for sharing such knowledge

    • profile image

      Wilbart26 4 years ago

      nice hub... Hoping to see new hubs from you.. shared... voted up!

    • profile image

      Wilbart26 4 years ago

      nice hub... Hoping to see new hubs from you.. shared... voted up!

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks again for going through the trouble to bring us this.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Billy. Since I have an interest in the 30's, this was a joy to do.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      This old history teacher is loving this mini-history lesson. Great info, Deb.