Monday, February 1, 2010

January's B&C Polls-- A Look At Round 2

Round 2 of January's B&C Poll questions seemed to have stumped some but not others. This batch was largely based on reported accounts from the time. So here we go-- the 1st 2 questions had to do with the Ruston, LA incident. H. Dillard Darby and Sophia Stone were home for lunch and apparently enjoying some time together, when they witnessed the theft of Dillard's car-- upon which they jumped into Miss Stone's car and attempted to follow Darby's car. As the chase neared the town of Hico-- Dillard realized he wouldn't be able to overtake his car, and turned around in order to return to Ruston. According to published reports, Darby was subsequently flagged down by a man he thought was Warren Robinson-- a friend of his. But instead of being Robinson-- it was members of The Barrow Gang. Darby was reportedly slugged by one of the Barrow brothers-- and Stone was said to have been yanked from her car, and hit by Bonnie Parker on the back of the neck with a pistol butt. It was a local farmer who was said to have witnessed these events, and made the 2nd call to a local Sheriff.

Gun Crazy starring Peggy Cummins and John Dall, was the 1949 film noir production about the crime spree of a gun toting husband and wife-- which is credited as beginning the B&C movie craze. I would have also accepted this film's alternate title, Deadly is the Female as a correct answer. Regarding the Sowers ambush attempt, a number of items were reportedly recovered from B&C's car in addition to what is visible on Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid's desk the day after the ambush. Among these items, were 2 stolen parcel post packages from Montgomery Ward, Fort Worth-- addressed to a Mr. A. W. Harris on the U.S. mail route to Ivan, near Breckenridge, Stephens County, Texas. Also found in the car were a bottle of water, a jar of white whiskey, numerous sets of stolen license plates, a medical kit, clothing, a sack of pennies, and what was described as a large quantity of stolen merchandise. Also regarding Sowers, it was said B&C were traveling about 25 miles per hour--when the posse opened up on them.

Concerning Bonnie and Clyde books, there may be more-- but I am aware of at least 25 books which have been written on B&C. There are also numerous books, which include chapters or accounts of Bonnie and Clyde within them. James White was the name provided by Bonnie Parker to Millie Stamps as being her husband-- when B&C visited her aunt Millie in Carlsbad, New Mexico in August of 1932. As the story's told, Bonnie, Clyde and Ray Hamilton showed up unannounced at Bonnie's aunt's on August 13th of that year. Mrs. Stamps became concerned, when she was asked to wash bloody clothing and witnessed a large sum of cash stashed under a mattress. Although conflicting reports exist regarding this incident, it's thought Millie created a diversion along with Bill Cobb-- the cantaloupe farmer she had let land to, to allow Millie time to notify Deputy Sheriff Joe Johns of the strange occurrences at her home. Johns, the former Sheriff was captured by Barrow and Hamilton. A search for Johns ensued, which ended when Johns walked into the San Antonio, Texas Sheriff's office-- telling of being kidnapped by 2 men and an 18 year old girl.

And finally 5 people died in what's known as the Kansas City Massacre. On June 17th, 1933, 4 law enforcement officers were gunned down as they escorted their prisoner Frank "Jelly" Nash-- at Kansas City's Union Station depot. Nash was also killed during the melee. Nash was being escorted back to Leavenworth, where he had escaped 3 years before. Although credit for these killings is often given to a gang led by Vernon Miller as an attempt to free Nash, various notorious criminals of the day were investigated for this crime including The Barrow Gang. This incident was also rumored to have possibly been a hit on Nash. Interestingly, as 2 of the fallen officers and Nash were said to have been killed by shotgun blasts, and the only known shotguns at the scene were carried by the peace officers-- it's thought by some that friendly fire may have killed 2 of the officers and Nash. In addition to Nash, those who died included Bureau of Investigation agent Raymond J. Caffrey, McAlester, Oklahoma Chief of Police Otto Reed, as well as Kansas City Police officers W. J. Grooms and Frank Hermanson. After more than 75 years-- The Kansas City Massacre remains unsolved.

"Thanks as always"-- for your participation in the B&C Polls. Look for the 1st batch of February polls to be posted soon.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Great bunch of questions as always, Winston! As much as I'd like to delve into each and every topic here, for now I'd like to focus in on one incident in particular: Clyde & Bonnie & Raymond's brief sojourn in New Mexico. Since there was no bloody gun-battle and no one got hurt, this early escapade of the fledgling "Barrow gang" is often overlooked. Also, this incident is distinguished by the fact that it occured well outside the gang's usual familiar stomping grounds.

What I'd like to comment on here is the statement you made that "conflicting reports exist regarding this incident." So true! And that seems to be the case concerning just about every other aspect to B&C's colorful story. Whether it's subtle variations or outright contradictions, from source to source we find different versions recounted of the truth.

To refresh my memory on this friendly little visit with Aunt Millie, I re-checked several of my more reliable sources of info. In "Fugitives" (1934), Emma Parker flatly states that, "I noticed many stories which stated that my sister was afraid of Clyde and Bonnie and turned them over to the police, but there is no truth in this statement. I have talked with Millie about the whole thing several times and she was not aware that Clyde and Bonnie were in trouble."

"Running with B&C" (1996, John Neal Phillips) tells how Raymond and Clyde went into Carlsbad to purchase a block of ice (to make homemade ice cream), and aroused the suspicion of Deputy Sheriff Joe Johns because their vehicle matched the description of a car reported stolen from a nearby motor court. He then cautiously followed the outlaws back to the home of Bonnie's aunt.

"Ambush" (1979, Ted Hinton) gives a similar account, except in it, it is Ray alone who makes the trip into town for that block of ice. Spotting the car's strange liscense plate, Johns follows him back to Aunt Millie's to investigate.

But Hinton also adds: "There may always be some doubt that this is precisely what happened. Mrs. Stamps later denied she called out the sheriff when she became suspicious of Bonnie's friends - but she could never be certain that the boys believed that."

Years later, still more revelations were forthcoming with the publication of the wonderfully researched "On the Trail of B&C" (2003, Winston Ramsey). Contemporary newspaper accounts - interspersed with a previously unknown eyewitness account by Millie Stamps' friend and neighbor, Bill Cobb, give a far more detailed insight into what really happened outside Carlsbad, New Mexico on August 13, 1932. Only then do we learn all about blood-stained clothing, bundles of cash, and target-shooting with cantaloupes! And we also discover here that Aunt Millie did indeed seek assistance in order to phone the authorities. Although Millie's husband vehemently denied at the time that he or his wife called "the laws", many years later now - in light of this relatively new information - it seems that they did rat them out, after all!

One more notation here. Deputy Sheriff Joe Johns was the first of a number of law enforcement officers to be abducted by the Barrows. At the time he was kidnapped, the decapitated body of a man was discovered northeast of El Paso. This body was initially identified as being Johns, which of course, it wasn't. Clyde and Bonnie and Ray could easily have killed him if they wanted to, but they didn't. He was instead released unharmed on the outskirts of San Antonio. This became Clyde's M.O., of sorts; disarm the cops - and then take them on a "joyride." Killings only occured when he couldn't "get the drop" on them first.