Many seem to have a favorite Bonnie & Clyde incident, tale or story. One of my favorites is Wellington. The Wellington Incident is a key event in Bonnie & Clyde History, in that it contributed to adversity so profound-- it affected Barrow Gang realities and mobility from that point onward. And for Bonnie Parker-- that June '33 crash & burn, resulted in consequences so dire-- it served to limit basic human enjoyment for the remainder of her young life. In addition, Wellington provides a Depression Age tale of people helping people-- with the Pritchards and Cartwrights providing compassionate care to strangers, for whom they had no negative pre-conception. These kind citizens, had little idea of the danger they faced-- until their ordeal was well under way.
Many know the famous story. On June 10th, 1933-- Clyde, Bonnie and W.D. Jones were traveling at a good rate of speed-- on their way to a rendezvous with Buck and Blanche. As they neared the Red River near Wellington, Texas-- somehow Clyde missed seeing a detour sign, warning that the bridge was out. At the last moment, Clyde veered off the road-- sending The Barrow Gang car careening down a steep embankment to the dry river bed below. The late model coupe, landed facing the way it came. The car was scorched but not engulfed in flames. At least 2 of it's 3 occupants were rendered unconscious, with all 3 reportedly pinned within the car. As the accident happened just below a house owned by a family named Pritchard, some number of those who witnessed the accident ran to the crash scene thinking the worst-- only to find assistance could be rendered.
After freeing Clyde & W.D. from their coupe, it was discovered that an unconscious Bonnie Parker was badly hurt and in need of immediate medical assistance. The car's battery, which in those days was sometimes located under the front passenger seat or floor board had exploded-- severely burning Bonnie's leg. Bonnie was carried to the Pritchard house, where she was administered basic medical attention. It's been said that Alonzo Cartwright slipped away to fetch the Sheriff.
|Steel bridge apparently covers spot of Bonnie & Clyde Wellington accident. However, drop which car traveled, is still evident.|
When Sheriff George Corey and Marshal Paul Hardy responded, they were captured. Before leaving, Alonzo's wife Gladys Cartwright was shot when W.D. (identified by Bonnie as being Buck Barrow)-- fired at Gladys with a shotgun, in thinking she was reaching for a .22 caliber rifle stowed above the rear kitchen door. The outlaws shot the tires of the Pritchard's vehicle, and made their escape along with their 2 peace officer hostages in Sheriff Corey's car. Clyde, Bonnie and W.D. then completed their rendezvous with Buck and Blanche-- in meeting them 6 miles west of Sayre, Oklahoma. After tying Corey and Hardy to trees, the then full strength Barrow Gang moved on-- ending up in Arkansas.
As so often happens within my research into B&C, I get so involved-- that by the time I realize I'm onto something, I can't always tell you what order of things prompted me to action. Such was the case, with my looking to interview Gladys Cartwright. As usual it was just a thought, which led me to the Internet-- which led me to an article which seemed to imply that Gladys Cartwright had survived a relative who died in the Wellington area. This caused me to seek a 100 year old Gladys Cartwright (which would have been correct)-- said to live in the same area. Could Gladys Cartwright from Bonnie & Clyde History still be alive??
Thus I began the process of trying to locate this Wellington survivor. After reaching out to a local Texas newspaper without success-- I tried a different approach. After some digging-- I was able to locate a John Cartwright listed as a relative of Gladys Cartwright's. I knew that name, as being the baby reportedly in Gladys' arms when shot by W.D. I must say, those 1st moments, when asking if the person you're searching for is the person you're speaking with-- are nothing short of magical. And as it turned out, yes-- the John Cartwright on the other end of the phone, was indeed the son of Gladys and Alonzo Cartwright.
I'm always thankful that to date, no one I've contacted within any historical Bonnie & Clyde context-- has rejected my polite approach for information. When you call someone out of the blue looking to get personal-- there's always that chance. In this case, John Cartwright and his wife Judy couldn't have been nicer. Unfortunately-- John did confirm the passing of his mother Gladys. She died in November 2006, at the age of 96. From what I've learned, it seems the Cartwrights have good longevity. It turns out Gladys and Bonnie were both born in 1910-- Gladys in January and Bonnie in October. Thus these 2 young women were about the same age when they met. Gladys was 23 then and her husband Alonzo was 27.
I've learned much from John Cartwright, concerning the true story of Wellington as told by his parents. I say true story, because some of what you'll hear next from the Cartwright family is new-- and contradicts written accounts of this event. John said he's spoken to very few about Wellington over the years, and feels any information which is inaccurate-- takes away from Gladys. Those who know me, know truth is always my goal-- in my recounting this history. Thus I couldn't agree with John more, concerning the truth being told concerning Wellington-- and feel John's sentiment for his mom a wonderful gesture. For those familiar with all the nuances of this story as previously known, I hope you'll enjoy the many new pieces of information revealed here.
In the Pritchard home that June evening were Gladys & Alonzo Cartwright and their young son who were visiting. Also present were Gladys' parents Sam and Sally Pritchard-- along with her brother Jack who was also visiting the Pritchard home that evening. It's been said the crash occurred at perhaps 10 PM. John tells me that Sam, Jack and Alonzo were all on the front porch at about dusk-- and that's when the crash happened, as the sun was going down.
Upon impact, all 3 men rushed to the crash scene. I've seen it written that just Alonzo and Jack went to the Barrow car, but apparently Mr. Pritchard went to help as well. John confirmed that according to those who were there, there was little fire. It's now been revealed that what little fire there was, the men extinguished by hand using Red River water. The next point of contention, has to do with who carried Bonnie from the car to the Pritchard house. In some accounts I've seen, Jack reportedly carried Bonnie. But according to John, Uncle Jack was a slightly built man who couldn't carry her-- so Alonzo carried Bonnie up to the house.
|Barrow Gang car after Wellington crash.. as witnessed-- facing embankment which it careened down, to a dry section of the Red River bed below.|
As differing accounts of this next point exist, this clarification may be of great interest. According to John Cartwright, guns were not removed from the car immediately, but were retrieved after Bonnie had been taken to safety. And here comes a quite large revelation-- it's been written that Alonzo Cartwright somehow slipped away unbeknownst to Clyde, in order to fetch the Sheriff. Not according to John, who says his dad convinced Clyde to let him go for the Doctor. However apparently Alonzo felt, that in addition to wanting the Doctor-- that the outlaws also wanted the Doctor's car. As seemingly there was no suitable car at the Pritchard place to replace the wrecked Barrow coupe-- when Alonzo's intuition regarding the Doctor's car was related by John, it made perfect sense to me. John mentioned that Clyde told his father-- "Don't send the law out here-- we're hot." Before he left, Alonzo had a message of his own for Sam and Jack, in telling then "Don't let them get to the guns." But of course-- that would prove to be an unrealistic task.
But here's where the reported Wellington stories mesh, cross paths and get interesting. Alonzo did apparently have to push start the car he took to town-- which was Sam Pritchard's old Maxwell. The battery was weak and Alonzo did push start it down the hill to get it going. While Alonzo left for town, Gladys treated Bonnie for her injuries. She used the only salve they had, which she told Bonnie might burn. Bonnie didn't care about any further painful consequences, and was willingly treated with the salve. As reported, those working on Bonnie worked by lamplight-- but for no other reason except that, there was no electricity in the Pritchard farmhouse. The Pritchards also had no telephone or radio.
As all concerned worked on Bonnie, Alonzo made 2 stops in town-- one to the the Sheriff and one to get the Doctor. The law arrived 1st at the Pritchard house, and that's when Sheriff Corey and Marshal Hardy were captured. Meanwhile it's true that Alonzo had trouble returning, but not because he had a flat tire. Rather the Maxwell had a vacuum pump problem and cut out. This inability to return immediately to the Pritchard house, likely saved Alonzo's life. More on this in a minute.
Meanwhile back at the house-- with 2 lawmen under wraps and a car to travel with, Clyde, Bonnie and W.D. made plans to leave. There were 2 other cars on the property. A Dodge which had the back cut off for use as a pick up-- and Jack's car who's make is unknown. Clyde and or W.D. proceeded to shoot all 4 tires flat on both vehicles. As such, now comes the Gladys Cartwright shooting. Upon hearing the gunfire of the tires being flattened, Bonnie got up off the bed and went outside. Thus with all 3 outlaws outside, it was then-- that Gladys thought to lock them out of the house.
So Gladys wasn't reaching for the .22 rifle above the door-- or a 38 caliber pistol also positioned above the back kitchen door frame. However, many screen doors have those little metal eye hooks meant to secure them. To keep this particular door from swinging open, Sam Pritchard had rigged a different and more effective closing mechanism made of wood-- which was chest high. When Gladys went to latch the door, W.D. saw her through the window and apparently thought she was reaching for a gun. W.D. yelled "halt" which startled Gladys. She took a quick step back and turned sideways, apparently toward the window where W.D. was peering in on her. It was then she was shot. Gladys thought if she hadn't stepped and turned before the shot came through the window, she may have been hit in the back-- and her child which she was holding, may have been hit as well.
And are you ready for another key revelation??-- the child Gladys was holding when shot by W.D. Jones was "not" John Cartwright as often reported. John was born in 1936. It was John's brother Ralph-- who was 8 months old at the time, having been born November 9th, 1932. The photo and inscription in Gladys' hand which I've published above, were graciously provided by John and Judy Cartwright. This wonderful photo shows Gladys, Alonzo and Ralph-- at some point after the Wellington event. Gladys is showing her famous hand to an unknown audience. As was pointed out by Judy-- Gladys is wearing the same dress as within the known photo of her.. thus it appears both photos were taken at the same time. W.D.'s shotgun blast did cripple her hand, but Gladys made do. Gladys was right handed. Although limited in motion, she never lost fingers as sometimes reported.
Let's not forgot about Alonzo-- so as such, it's back to our story. Remember Alonzo had gone to town with Clyde's approval, but had sent both the Sheriff and the Doctor-- and then had broken down in the Maxwell. Well just as Clyde, Bonnie, W.D., Sheriff Corey and Marshal Hardy were leaving the Pritchard place-- headlights appeared in the distance moving toward them. Clyde reportedly waited to see who the driver of that car was-- as he said he wanted to kill Alonzo for sending the Sheriff. But fortunately, the driver of the approaching car wasn't Alonzo-- it was the Doctor, who's usefulness was apparently too late to benefit Bonnie. Instead the Doctor treated Gladys for her
Sam Pritchard House
The Pritchard place was a working farm. The Pritchards raised cows, hogs and chickens. They sold milk and eggs. They had a garden for vegetables, and went to town once a week for groceries. They had no electricity but did have an icebox. So when in town for their weekly shopping, they picked up a block of ice which would last a few days. Thus meat and perishables had to be used quickly. Milk and butter were kept fresh via a cooler box-- using cool well water pumped with the aid of a windmill. The Pritchard place was sold in the early to mid 1950's, so the family no longer owns the land where unfortunately-- their former home has now collapsed. When Bonnie and Clyde were there-- the house was painted white.
Alonzo Cartwright was originally from Lone Wolf, Oklahoma. He worked as a cotton gin manager, and worked at the same profession for 55 years. He passed away in 1979. Sam Pritchard left us in 1968 and his wife Sally in 1973. Gladys had a 3rd child-- named Cecillia. Gladys lived in Collingswood County Texas all her life. For all who've commented as I have, that Gladys Cartwright looked to be a most pleasant person-- I'm pleased to report that her son John wholeheartedly concurs. Although a private person as the Cartwrights are said to be, it's said everyone who got to know Gladys-- thought the world of her. She was known as a generous person and as John said-- a sweetheart.
Gladys helped Bonnie that June evening in 1933, and paid a lifelong price for her kindness. John said the Wellington incident was about people helping people. The Cartwrights and Pritchards apparently didn't feel threatened by Bonnie, Clyde and W.D.-- until the shooting started. And what became of the wrecked Bonnie & Clyde car you might ask??-- it seems someone from Wellington bought and drove it. I'm sure many would want to know more about the car. Perhaps additional information concerning this can be learned.
I hope all have enjoyed these remarkable Cartwright family revelations. My sincere "thanks" to John and Judy Cartwright, for their kindness, candor and willingness to set the Wellington record straight.
As always, I welcome your comments.