Saturday, July 25, 2009

Hattie Crawford-- The Nurse Informant

In examining Barrow Gang informants, last time we looked at the Sowers Informant. This go round, I'd like to profile Hattie Crawford-- The Nurse Informant. I'm sometimes asked about Hattie, and the time she administered medical aid to Clyde Barrow. Explanation of this incident also goes a long way toward revealing an age old B&C question-- as to whether when seriously hurt, The Barrow Gang doctored themselves, or instead risked exposing their whereabouts-- by seeking medical attention from others.

The Hattie Crawford story goes-- that Sheriff Dee Watters of Miami, Oklahoma, notified an Agent of the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, saying that he had information regarding B&C, which might result in their capture. On December 14th, 1933 Sheriff Watters informed the Bureau that on the evening December 6th of a nurse named Hattie Crawford treated man suffering from gunshot wounds. This man matched the description of Clyde Barrow, and was positively identified as being in the company of Bonnie Parker.

The background of this case is as follows: On the afternoon of December 6th, 1933 while exiting her apartment, Mrs. Hattie Crawford, a nurse from Miami, Oklahoma-- was approached by a man who asked where he could find the nurse who lived in the apartment building she lived in. Mrs. Crawford identified herself as that nurse. The unidentified man asked Hattie if she would go on a call-- and she agreed. The man instructed her to take a bus to Afton, Oklahoma. She left on the 6PM bus. Upon arriving in Afton, she was met by the same man who had spoken to her earlier, plus another man who was unknown to her.

All drove to Vinita, Oklahoma-- and proceeded to a house on the outskirts of the city. They were admitted to the home by a woman whom Mrs. Crawford identified as Bonnie Parker. Hattie later explained to police, that approximately 8 years before, Bonnie and her mother lived in Miami, Oklahoma-- and that she was well acquainted with Bonnie. After entering the house, Nurse Crawford was taken to a bedroom where a man lay in bed. She was provided an alcohol solution and bandages made from a bed sheet. She stated the man had 2 gunshot wounds-- one on the left leg and one on his left arm. Mrs. Crawford then proceeded to dress these wounds.

Thereafter, she was taken back to Miami, by the same 2 men who had brought her to Vinita. The men asked if she could return the next night. Mrs. Crawford said she could. The men paid her $5 (about $75 today). They also warned Hattie about informing anyone concerning the matter. She later said it was her intention to immediately notify the police-- but as she felt she may have been watched, she didn't. Finally on December 14th, she mustered the courage to go to the authorities with her story.

Mrs. Crawford provided a description of the house and furnishings where she helped the man. She was unable to positively identify a photograph of Clyde Barrow, but said the man fit his description. However, she did identify a photograph of Bonnie Parker. She said she wasn't able to closely observe the parties in the house, as they had her work by flashlight. The Sheriff of Vinita, John York was present when Hattie Crawford was interviewed regarding this incident. He identified the house in question as belonging to Mrs. Jane Hall of Vinita. It was said, Mrs. Hall had not lived in the house for several years (except for a few months), and at the time-- she had been staying on a ranch in Texas. Bob Hill of Vinitia, was known to be the custodian of the property.

Mr. Hill said he was unaware of anyone occupying the Hill house. He allowed the authorities access to the home. Accompanied by Sheriffs York and Watters, a Bureau Agent and Mr. Hill-- the residence in question was examined on December 15th, 1933. Bloody bandages and a bloody undershirt were found. Later, Hattie Crawford was taken there. She positively identified the house, as being the place she was taken to offer assistance to whom was believed to be Clyde Barrow. After the investigation, the house was placed under surveillance, and Mrs. Crawford agreed to notify Sheriff Dee Watters with any additional information she might have.

This incident along with others now revealed through the Dallas FBI Files on Bonnie and Clyde, clearly show that when seriously hurt, The Barrow Gang sought medical care whenever they could. The 2 doctors now known to have examined Bonnie at Ft. Smith, and the doctor said to have aided Clyde again with bullet wounds at Bell Chaney Springs-- are further proof of this. Unless another incident could be shown to have occurred after the Sowers ambush attempt, where Clyde would have been wounded-- I think it's fair to say Hattie Crawford may have been dressing Clyde's wounds from Sowers. I've never known, whether Nurse Hattie Crawford was charged in any way criminally in having assisted Bonnie and Clyde. Perhaps someone might know this, and would please comment.

Although the fear of retribution delayed Hattie Crawford from telling the authorities of her story of helping Clyde (which was likely the only goal of the threats)-- Mrs. Crawford as many did come forward, to help police in their tracking of B&C. As such, I've described her as the Nurse Informant. I hope she won't mind. Next time, I'll profile another who betrayed B&C to help lead to their capture. Please let me hear from you with your comments or questions. My best to you as always.


Shelley said...

"If they can't find a fiend --
They just wipe their slate clean --
And hang it on Bonnie & Clyde...."

I, for one, am highly skeptical of this dubious claim. Not that I doubt for one minute that there were occasios when Barrow gang members sought - and received - medical treatment. We all know Bonnie had to have doctor's care in Fort Smith, or she probably would have died from the burns she suffered in the Wellington crash. And as many times as they were shot over the course of two years, it seems likely that there were other occasions when the expertise of certified professionals was required.

One reason I find Hattie's story less than credible is because of her (so-called) "positive identification" of Bonnie. Supposedly she recognized her because she and her mother had "lived in" that area 8 years prior. IF that were so, why are there no accounts of them having lived there? Once they left Rowena after Bonnie's father died, they moved to West Dallas and stayed there - at least, as far as I know, they did. And it was just "Bonnie and her mother" who made this move to Oklahoma?! Bonnie was not an only child: WHERE were Buster and Billie Jean supposed to be when this move took place? It seems I have read that they had some relatives living somewhere in Oklahoma (whom they may have visited with) - but it just doesn't seem plausible that this Hattie Crawford "happened" to remember a child visitor from years earlier.

And as far as I can recall reading, Clyde and Bonnie were both shot through the legs at the Sowers ambush - close to their knees. The bullet(s) were believed to have passed through Clyde's legs first, then on through Bonnie's. IF this was really B&C, and IF they were seeking treatment for Sowers wounds - then why would they wait about 3 weeks to get help? Doesn't make sense.

The far eastern edge of Oklahoma was, for some reason, literally infested with outlaws, both before - and after - Clyde & Bonnie's day. It was somewhat of a "safe haven" for them. Some were notorious, while most, I would assume, were not. In other words, the woman who was "positively identified" as Bonnie could have been just about any young, small woman tending to her outlaw lover. But because Bonnie and Clyde were the infamous ones, it was common practice for people to jump to the conclusion that it was them that they encountered. Whether it really was them or not, we will never know!

A. Winston Woodward said...

I know this story's a bit hard to get a handle on-- however, I find myself disagreeing with you on this one Shelley. The length of time from the Sowers ambush attempt to this incident was 15 days. Also the left leg wound is consistent with what is known from Sowers. It's been reported, that sometimes bullets were extracted by Barrow Gang members themselves. Bullet wounds however, even if through and through shots, would still need to be cared for some time-- to avoid infection. Thus in this case, a nurse (especially one who was known) instead of a Doctor-- may have made perfect sense, in order get the care they needed-- and also protect themselves from being discovered.

I would need to consider more in the way of evidence, that "discounts" Hattie Crawford's Oklahoma account regarding the Parker family-- in order to discount Hattie Crawford and this story. The fact that other Parker family members weren't mentioned, in Mrs. Crawford's account to the authorities-- I'm not sure has the relevance you believe, as only Bonnie was the focus of the identification. Also 23 minus 8 is 15. I don't see why a 15 year old Bonnie Parker couldn't have been identified 8 years later, as being the same person Hattie had known previously. Plus there's no mention of news coverage of this event. I'll have to scour the press clippings to find a report on this if any. If not I would ask, what was in it for Hattie Crawford-- concerning her coming forward with this information, a week after she was told to keep quiet??

The "key" to this story as I see it-- "is" the positive ID of Bonnie Parker. What you term a "so called" positive ID-- was to the Sheriff and the Bureau, a positive ID-- which is the strongest and surest form of eyewitness identification. According to Hattie Crawford, she and Bonnie Parker were face to face-- and she knew Bonnie.

This event could have been a mistaken identity. However, with the positive ID of Bonnie Parker, it seems to me-- other credible contradicting evidence would need to be presented, in order to "offset" that strong and damning a piece of evidence.

Thanks much for your comment.

Shelley said...

This is indeed an intriguing tidbit of information; however, we should carefully review all the known facts with a discerning eye before reaching any conclusions. I don't know all the facts in this case, but I have no reason to think that Hattie Crawford did not at least believe in her own mind that this couple was Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. There was certainly nothing "in it" for her to inform. Or was there? I'm not sure if Oklahoma had a bounty on their heads (especially in '33) - or not. I'm sure many people were willing to betray them, and for a wide range of motivations.

I suppose anything's possible, but in any case, there are plenty of extenuating factors to consider. So lets take an objective look. For the sake of easier reference, I will number a few of these factors:

1) If Emma had ever moved away from Dallas - to Oklahoma or anywhere else - with any or all of her children - it seems this would have been documented in any number of the dozens of B&C books.

2) We kmow Bonnie attended Chalk Hill Elementary as a child, and, I believe, Cement City High as a teenager. Some books say she graduated from there; others simply don't say.

3) Bonnie married Roy a couple of weeks before she turned 16. That means she was still 15 at the time; the same age she would have been when Hattie was supposed to have been "well acquainted" with her. How could she have been courted by Roy in West Dallas - and living in Oklahoma at the same time? Not possible, I'd say.

4) Lets not forget Bonnie's leg or legs were shot at the same time Clyde's were at Sowers, with the same bullet or bullets. Not to mention the fact that she still couldn't walk on her own from the Wellington burns. Did Hattie not treat Bonnie's wounds as well?

5) Hattie stated that she was asked to return the next night, and told them she could. Did she? Knowing how cagey Clyde was, this request seems suspect to me.

6) If Hattie was "well acquainted" with Bonnie, then Bonnie would have recognized her as well. With their identities known to Hattie, I would think B&C would be even more hesitant to ask for a second meeting, especially in the same location.

I would be very surprised if there were any sort of press clippings on this, or any other alleged covert Barrow encounters. Reports on these types of meetings would have been considered "confidential" information, I would imagine.

Whether or not this was actually Clyde and Bonnie seen by Hattie Crawford, I do not know. But it does seem reasonably certain that doctors and/or nurses had to be employed by them at various times.

This may not be included in the FBI files, but Clyde and Bonnie sought at least one alternative form of treatment for their bullet wounds, as well. They came to Hot Springs to bathe in the mineral waters for that very purpose. This is a little-known fact not to be found on paper, to my knowledge. So how do I know this? Because Buddy Barrow himself told me so, and his Aunt Maie told him. And who told his Aunt Marie? Why, Clyde and Bonnie themselves did - that's who!

A. Winston Woodward said...

Some good points-- but again within your reasoning, enough historical wiggle room for this event to have occurred. As mentioned, this one is hard to nail down definitively. One of the aspects I like best about the Dallas FBI Files, is that they were both confidential "and" earmarked "solely" for internal use. Thus the information within them, would likely be of the highest quality, so Bureau Agents would have the best chance at success-- in helping apprehend B&C. Also Bureau Agents (no matter where stationed)-- seemed remarkably consistent in reporting on every little detail, when documenting events and clues-- which appeared to have been followed up upon, whenever possible.

I don't feel an overly long reply is necessary here. To me, the positive ID of Bonnie by Hattie Crawford still needs to be overcome, and "outweighed" by counterbalancing factors, in order to discount this story. Hattie could have been off in her recollection of the dates of her acquaintance with the Parkers. In this case, just a year or so either way, would have made a difference.

For the record, Minister of the Gospel R. E. Foster married Miss Bonnie Parker and Roy Glenn Thornton-- on September 25th, 1926. Thus Bonnie was still 15 by 7 days. Also regarding information appearing in books on B&C-- the Dallas FBI Files present a wonderful example, of why all B&C books to date, couldn't have contained all the facts. With all the classified info contained within these files remaining unreleased until 2008-- there was "so much" which in reality did occur-- which had never been known to be written of.

I'm glad to see you acknowledge the possibility of the Hattie Crawford encounter. As some are either so intent on defending B&C in most every way, or in knocking them so ferociously-- I'm enjoying this give and take. In taking a centrist view of B&C History, I try to be fair to all points of view-- and attempt to sort out these mysteries in an objective and balanced way. I'm not sure what else can be said concerning this particular purported event, without further info coming to light-- which may not exist.

Is it possible Hattie Crawford knew the Parkers at some point in Oklahoma?? I believe you've brought up the point of asking why Bailey Tynes was never known of within B&C History until 2008?? And in Bailey's case, not only was he a known relative of Clyde's, but a close one at that. There's a good amount detailed on Bailey within this confidential file, and even more which was added by his family-- re: his involvement in B&C History. Bailey Tynes is a great example, of how something could have occurred within this history, which has been totally unrecognized for 75 years. How could this be?? Apparently, since the only known references to him, were within this previously unreleased file-- and with his family.

There is "strong" evidence within the Dallas Files, which points to The Barrow Gang risking exposure-- by seeking medical attention when needed for serious injury. This formerly secret file, also details more gunshots wounds etc in Barrow Gang members-- than was known before. The Hattie Crawford story thus fits within this now known pattern of Barrow Gang activity. Unfortunately as with many B&C tales, all may not be known or perhaps ever known-- to fully understand the realities of what occurred, or didn't.

The Hattie Crawford encounter is a most interesting and somewhat curious story, which has now been revealed-- within the history of Bonnie and Clyde.