Among the best known of the criminal enterprises in Texas was the group known as the Barrow Gang. The only two individuals continuously associated with the group were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow. Their trail of crime covered much of Texas as well as places as distant as Minnesota and Indiana.
Bonnie Parker was born in 1910 at Rowena, a small farming community in West Texas. After an abusive marriage, she ended up on her own in 1928, working waitress jobs in Dallas, including at the Hargraves Café.
Clyde was born in 1909 on a farm near Telico, in Ellis County. His family moved to Dallas in 1922. He went to school for a time but then dropped out. The slight young man with boyish looks went to work for a series of businesses, and then began stealing cars and burglarizing houses to get extra money.
In January 1930, Clyde called at the West Dallas home of Clarence Clay, whose daughter had been in an accident. There, he met Bonnie Parker, who had come to see the friend as well. Clyde fell for the petite café waitress with blue eyes and reddish-blond hair.
In February 1930, police awakened Clyde at Bonnie’s house and arrested him for a burglary in Denton. There was insufficient evidence to convict Clyde, but authorities transferred him to Waco, where he had been charged with burglary and auto theft. Hoping to dodge the prison term, Clyde persuaded Bonnie to smuggle a pistol to him in jail. Barrow and two other prisoners escaped, but freedom was brief; the three surrendered to police in Middletown, Ohio, a week later.
While Bonnie wrote imprisoned Clyde a steady stream of letters, his mother worked for his early release. In 1932, Governor Miriam Ferguson granted him a conditional parole. Clyde returned to his family and Bonnie in Dallas.
Soon, Clyde went back to what he knew well—burglary. Over the next two years, Clyde’s crime sprees continued and progressed [with Bonnie and various other accomplices, including brother Buck and Buck’s wife Blanche]. Many people up to that time had viewed them as Robin Hood-like characters who stole from the rich and shared with the poor. But after they murdered two motorcycle officers who still had their guns holstered, people realized that the members of the Barrow Gang were cold-blooded killers. The editor of The Dallas Morning News declared, “The fugitive Barrow and his companions are … like the mad dog[;] the only remedy for their ailment is extinction. They must be hunted up and disposed of.”
Unknown to the public, professional man-hunters were already on their trail. Former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer was commissioned to track down Clyde Barrow. The ranger soon learned that the key to ending Barrow’s career might be accomplice Henry Methvin.
Bonnie and Clyde were staying in an abandoned bungalow about 10 miles south of Gibsland, Louisiana. Methvin’s family lived in the same general neighborhood, and a number of them had befriended the Texas desperadoes. Hamer offered a pardon for Methvin’s Texas crimes in exchange for a tip-off that would lead to the arrest or elimination of Bonnie and Clyde, and a deal was struck.
On the morning of May 23, 1934, Methvin’s father stopped his logging truck in the middle of the road leading to the hideout. Removing a tire, he gave the vehicle a disabled appearance. Hidden in the roadside brush were four Texas lawmen and two members of the Bienville Parish sheriff’s department.
At about 9:10, old man Methvin and the officers heard the distant high-pitched whine of a fast-running V-8 engine. The tan-colored Ford sedan pulled into view and paused when the passengers recognized the disabled truck. Then the first of more than a hundred gunshots began striking Bonnie and Clyde’s car. The shots killed the couple almost instantly. Inside the car the lawmen found an arsenal of firearms, clothing, a pair of purple-tinted sunshades, Clyde’s saxophone, and a partially eaten sandwich in Bonnie’s lap. The Barrow Gang was no more.
For information on sites related to Bonnie and Clyde, see Gangster Tour of Texas, and contact the Dallas Conven tion and Visitors Bureau, 214/571-1000. Also check online for specific Bonnie and Clyde tours of the city, including one offered by the Dallas Historical Society.