There are many fascinations re: Bonnie & Clyde, often wondered about by those who visit here. One of these queries has to do with B&C's Sailes, Louisiana hideout-- their last refuge, the hideout it's said B&C may have been aiming for, after meeting Ivy Methvin on the Old Sailes Road that fateful morning in May 1934. But just where was this desolate hideout located within the northern Louisiana piney woods??-- what did it look like and what was it's story??
Based on a lack of facts concerning this last of the B&C safe houses, it seems not much is known concerning B&C's Sailes Hideout. But in researching this mystery, some modern day B&C historical warriors have been thinking "outside the box"-- in considering multiple locations and enticing theories, based on the promise of leads felt credible by those said to have been "in the know". But in comparing these proposed locations and theories, I can't help but feel clues from the time of Bonnie & Clyde-- may provide guidance toward unraveling this quagmire of a mental exercise.
This is one B&C topic I've hesitated to address, in not chancing to reveal research promised not to be revealed-- or in somehow impeding those who've worked at length to develop a modern answer to this question. But as the theory I'm in agreement with (at least for now)-- is both simple and nothing new, I see no harm in exploring this topic as inspired by visitors here. Although truth within Bonnie & Clyde History is often elusive, as it turns out-- the truth concerning B&C's Hideout may have been a matter of public record for more than 75 years.
I feel much can be learned in examining the published maps and photos, as well as public documents, books, articles-- & info gleaned thru interviews that I've made for example on this subject. Thus I don't believe any knowledge stated here, will tread on research which I'm aware of but cannot reveal-- out of respect for other's yet unpublished work. I leave it for those fine researchers, to expound upon and define the other locations felt possible for B&C's Sailes Hideout-- which are contrary to the most documented location, which I'll discuss here.
As Professor Carroll Rich once described it within his wonderful B&C articles-- when Otis Cole heard that someone had been seen at his father's old house near Sailes, Louisiana, Otis and his young wife Odie set off through the woods to this abandoned farmhouse to investigate. There it's said the Coles encountered Ivy Methvin on the front porch of this Cole family home. They also noticed 2 individuals moving in and about the house, but couldn't be sure of their identities-- as these people remained out of clear sight.
At this meeting, Ivy was noted to have been drunk or acted like it. The story goes that Ivy asked Otis, if he knew anyone who was bootlegging-- someone he could get a drink from?? When Otis answered "I don't fool with that stuff"-- apparently in disbelief, Ivy somehow offended Otis Cole, which caused him to hurry his wife away to save her from either suspected or already spoken foul language. The home where Otis and Odie Cole encountered Ivy Methvin and it's believed Bonnie & Clyde, was his father's place-- where it's thought Otis grew up as a child. Thus since 1934-- The John Cole House has held the distinction, as being thought of most often as Bonnie & Clyde's last Hideout.
It's an interesting thought to many, that the old Cole house would've been chosen as a suitable location for B&C to hold up. Sure it was abandoned, which made it a good candidate for a hideout-- but "why" it was abandoned, perhaps should have given the strangers within it pause to think. The house had been vacant, since the death of Otis's father John Cole 4 years earlier. However it was also known, that Otis's mother Jessie Ann and 2 sisters had died there from an outbreak of Tuberculosis. One photo which accompanies this post, shows the interior of the Cole House from the time of Bonnie & Clyde, depicting furniture and personal belongings still within this abandoned farm house. This type of home which was known to have had 4 bedrooms, was considered a "dog run" house-- in that it's center hallway design would allow dogs once having entered, to roam the house via it's central hall.
Bonnie & Clyde's Sailes Hideout has been touched on within some B&C books and articles, but with so little known-- I'm not sure it can be said this topic has been fully explored. The ambush posse members were said to have known where the hideout was, and to have visited it in search of Bonnie & Clyde. But in a rural area as tightly knit as Bienville Parish, Louisiana-- the locals too were apparently well aware of the strangers who walked among them, the fancy new V-8 automobile which traveled it's roads-- and the woman with red hair, who wore red dresses and accompanied one of the other strangers. Indeed it must be wondered, why Bonnie & Clyde would have felt even remotely safe-- seemingly so out of their element, and where their very presence, manner of conveyance and dress-- would inspire talk and notice from local citizens??
Among my dealings with other caring B&C Historians, I've discussed various theories and visited 2 of the suspected B&C Hideout locations in Sailes. But despite a number of possible hideout spots, I feel there may be a simple solution to where this hideout was. I say was-- as what's most commonly thought of as the Sailes Bonnie & Clyde Hideout (The John Cole House)-- it seems has been gone for many decades now. Rumors abound, as to when The John Cole House was destroyed-- some say having been deliberately torched. It's sometimes thought this home stood until the 1970's or 80's. Others feel it was felled long ago, to perhaps keep over zealous B&C types-- from imposing their curious natures on the locals, in search of this B&C shrine of sorts.
Based on interviews I've conducted with Professor Carroll Rich, I have little doubt this structure was destroyed well before the 1970's. In fact, based on recollections from Carroll's aunt Mildred Cole Lyons-- we are fortunate to know a number of facts concerning the John Cole House. Mildred Cole, who was a child at the time Bonnie & Clyde were slain-- was also the girl said to have fainted in viewing the dead body of Clyde Barrow through Clyde's driver's window, when the wrecker towing the death car broke down in front of the Gibsland school. With the crowd pressed so hard up against the car, it's said when Mildred fainted-- she fainted in place supported by the crowd and thus was unable to fall to the ground. Mildred Cole was familiar with The John Cole House, as she was known to have visited it many times while the house was still occupied. At some point and importantly, Mildred had also drawn a picture of the hideout-- which was later given to Carroll Rich.
Besides info from his aunt, Carroll learned of the purported hideout location from his father who hunted in those woods. Professor Rich told me he and his dad visited the former location of the hideout in about 1970. But just as with many B&C mysteries, this is where the conundrum deepens and Professor Rich's account gets interesting. Initially the directions as expressed to me by Carroll, seemed similar to the directions published in 1934-- in offering a route to the Cole House hideout. However Professor Rich also mentioned, he and his father needed to travel on horseback to reach the hideout site-- once having parked on the main road. Now I'm not sure how much the Sailes roads have changed since the 1970's, but I'm reasonably certain a horse wouldn't have been needed to reach the hideout site off of Route 516 as depicted on the '34 maps. In fact today, you can drive to this site quite easily. As one of the other purported hideout locations involves a more vertical ascent, I can say that a horse "would" be helpful-- in arriving at that particular site up in the Sailes hills. When I first interviewed Professor Rich about this, he didn't recall traveling up any steep hills. However more recently, Carroll couldn't say with certainty-- regarding this element of his trip, to the spot his father believed was the hideout location. So the plot thickens!!
A number of photographs of the John Cole House have been published over the years, although even to the most hardened B&C observer-- these images seem rare. Having been identified as The Cole House and B&C's Hideout, these photos were included within both a newspaper article published shortly after the ambush-- and a true crime magazine which hit newsstands in the fall of '34. Along with the photos published on these occasions, maps were also provided to pinpoint the hideout location. To me, unless the press was deliberately misled after the ambush-- these maps could hold the key to this mystery. In addition, since being published some 36 years after the ambush-- Professor Rich's articles provide us with vivid accounts, from witnesses who experienced the B&C saga-- Louisiana style. Included within these accounts is the story of Otis Cole, and his encounter with Ivy Methvin and the 2 other strangers believed to be Bonnie & Clyde. It's my understanding the Otis Cole story was related by Mildred Cole. Based on this account, an additional clue exists which I'll touch on later-- that may further aid in identifying The John Cole House location.
Interestingly during one of our conversations, Professor Rich, mentioned he had never seen a photo of the John Cole House. At one point however, he did possess the picture of The Cole House-- as drawn by Mildred Cole. Having photos in hand which Dr. Rich hadn't viewed, I felt presented a unique opportunity in forming my questions-- and for use in comparison to Carroll's recollections. I asked Carroll to please describe the location he visited, remnants of the house and any particulars he could remember from the '70s when he visited there. Although the house itself was gone, he described the broken vestiges of 2 chimneys (piles of bricks spaced apart)-- which were still present to note the former existence of a house with 2 opposing chimneys. His aunt said The Cole House had a center hall and front porch, as well as chimneys at either end. Carroll mentioned the house faced north, and was located not 50 yards from the road. When I later e-mailed photos of the John Cole House to Professor Rich, he said the photos looked exactly like the hand drawn picture from his aunt Mildred.
Also in having images of the 1934 maps showing the location of the hideout-- I'd asked Carroll Rich to please describe where he traveled in getting to this location?? An aside here is important, to set the lay of the land. In 1934, the ambush road now known as Louisiana Route 154-- was a gravel topped Louisiana Hwy 418. In traveling south about 2 miles past the ambush site on this road, you would arrive at a crossroads often called the Sailes corner. The road which intersected old LA 418 (modern day 154)-- is still called Louisiana Route 516. Although this road was widened and seemingly topped in the mid to late '30's-- in 1934, Route 516 was a winding dirt road through the Louisiana woods.
Professor Rich described traveling past the ambush site for some distance, and then parking with his father to take the horses from there. They then proceeded into the woods (perhaps a half mile)-- to their destination. Carroll said the location of the house said to be the B&C's hideout, was right there facing you as you turned off the path they took. As you'll note from the '34 maps, the route to the hideout followed a similar trek south past the ambush site-- but then turned left onto the "1st" road noted which proceeded both east and west, where Route 516 would be. Then you'd be guided a mile and a half down that road heading east, to the hideout site which was shown on the right. 3 structures are noted on one of the maps where the hideout is marked. Myself and others, believe these structures could be The Mamie Murphy House, Otis Cole House, and John Cole House.
Although not identified as such on these olden maps, those familiar with the ambush area-- will note that turnoff (identified as being 1 1/2 miles down that long road on one map and 1 1/3 miles on the other)-- as being the Mamie Murphy Road. The Mamie Murphy House still stands from the time of B&C-- as does the Otis Cole House nearby. The Mamie Murphy House is still inhabited, whereas the Otis Cole House is abandoned and being re-claimed by the nature around it a little more each year. Photos of the Otis Cole House which I took in 2009 can be viewed below.
An important note here-- in Carroll Rich's depiction of the Otis Cole story, he and Odie "walked" to his father's house through the woods to encounter Ivy Methvin and presumably Bonnie and Clyde. If the John Cole House was located as shown on the maps near those other structures at that 516 turnoff, walking to that house for Otis and Odie would've been easy-- as The Otis Cole House sits perhaps a half mile away down the Mamie Murphy Road and then Otis Cole Road from that location. This is the clue I mentioned before, which may be a vital insight in helping sort out this mystery. As 2 of the other proposed B&C Hideout locations would be either a good hike up into the hills, or easily 2 to 3 miles away in a different direction-- to me this account of easy travel to the John Cole House, lends support to the Mamie Murphy Road location being the correct one.
Although at times so little seems assured within B&C History, as you study the maps and photos provided-- my feeling is the location about 3 and 1/2 miles from the ambush site, and out Route 516 may well have been the site of B&C's Hideout. A photograph not published here exists from the late '30's, showing both the old and new Route 516-- as well as what could have been the remains of The John Cole House-- right near The Mamie Murphy House as supported by evidence from the '30's and later.
I feel in order to disprove this as The Cole House location, one would need to ask why when info was fresh in 1934-- photos of this specific Cole House were taken and identified as B&C's Hideout?? Then to have the eyewitness account of Mildred Cole, who it's said was familiar with The Cole House and who also drew a picture of this house which matched the photos published-- legitimizes the evidence placing The John Cole House as The B&C Hideout. However interestingly and contrary to published guidance, Carroll Rich's account in needing to ride horses with his father to reach the hideout location-- may create more questions than it answers. His description of the remains he found (including the placement of trees at that site, which seem to match the '34 photos)-- appears consistent with the Cole house. But just where this house was located, seems to have always been the question.
A small note of importance but within an inquiry as this where every detail may be key, shouldn't be overlooked. As the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west, note the sun's rays as shining across the hideout's front porch in the 1st photo provided. The angle of these rays could indicate this house facing north, with that photo taken with the sun shining from the east in the morning. As Carroll Rich stated the Cole House faced north, I believe the sun's rays within that photo may help to verify that structure as The John Cole House.
So quite alot to chew on, but perhaps meaningful insights re: Bonnie and Clyde's Sailes Hideout. My thanks to Jimmy Ray Gillman and Tom Methvin, for paving the way through some Jim Jammin' research-- concerning so much to do with the Louisiana B&C connection including B&C's Hideout. By the way-- now "there" are 3 hombres pictured, if ever there were any. Also my thanks to Tom, for stellar images of the 1934 published photos and maps. In addition, I'm posting here a most timely and unique piece of video footage. Recently, Tom re-visited the ambush area and chronicled the trip noted here-- from the ambush site to what is affectionately known to some of us as Area B. Area B is the suspected B&C Hideout location at The Mamie Murphy Road. The photo of me at this spot, was taken in 2009 at B&C Festival time. I am pointing to the west, in the direction of The Sailes Corner crossroads. If all this modern detective work is correct, The John Cole House stood facing the camera-- at approximately what is now the tree line behind me.
While exploring there, I found what appear to be man made lumber (perhaps 2X4s)-- in 3 sets of straight lines buried in the ground. The frontal part of what could be foundation pieces-- measured about 40 feet long and the 2 sides measured about 20 feet each. These wooden lengths, formed right angles to one another. From my perspective, based on all the evidence combined-- there's not much doubt in my mind that The John Cole House (said to be Bonnie & Clyde's Hideout)-- stood on that spot. Others may disagree. Of course, what would a good B&C mystery be without controversy??
Some interesting caveats, to add some spice to these ideas-- as if there wasn't enough spice to go around in all of this. Before traveling to Gibsland in '09, I requested the land deed records of John Cole from the Bienville Parish Seat in Arcadia. Remarkably, what was known as The John Cole House if indeed located at the Mamie Murphy Road-- apparently didn't sit on John Cole's land. His 2 parcels, one of which was once shared with a brother were located elsewhere within the Parish. That's possible location #3-- or Area C. I've read that the house identified as The John Cole House, was known as such because he built it. But other published reports have John Cole and his family living in that house-- and at least a portion of his family dying in that house. That could make one wonder, why a house which was known because of John Cole-- wasn't on land which John Cole owned?? A good question. Now there "were" many Coles around with Cole houses to match. This fact, can only serve to heighten this mystery.
Another thing of note-- due to Ivy Methvin's involvement, it's been stated this spot was the Methvin Farm or Cabin. In fact, Ivy had only been within Bienville Parish for about 2 weeks prior to the ambush of Bonnie & Clyde. Prior to that, he had traveled from his home south of Sailes. Thus he was thought to have been squatting in the Cole House. That's said to be the reason, Otis Cole came out to see who was in his father's home. Rumors of the Cole House having been sold to Ivy-- who was planning to sell it to Clyde Barrow-- well that's "another" great B&C mystery of note.
After the ambush, Henry Barrow did admit to what had been rumored-- that Clyde did want to buy the Barrows a farm in Louisiana-- but that the papers were never signed. This report was seemingly verified by Barrow cousin Bailey Tynes within The Dallas FBI Files. My observation concerning this as it relates to B&C's Hideout, is in the form of a question. Should the Bienville Parish hideout location have been considered for a farm, logically-- wouldn't this land have been relatively flat?? In other words, how could an alternate location within steep hills, have been a good place to farm?? Therefore provided The John Cole House was indeed B&C's Hideout??-- I'm prone to believe the Mamie Murphy Road location for the hideout. One more interesting wrinkle-- B&C's Hideout has sometimes been described as having a tin roof. The John Cole House as believed pictured-- seemingly had a wooden roof. As there was surely truth concerning a B&C Hideout in Sailes-- heaven help us on that one.
Did others who lived in years past in Bienville Parish know better, so as to contradict documented accounts of the location of Bonnie & Clyde's Sailes Hideout?? As is often the case within B&C History-- you just never know. Here's that video link with thanks to Tom-- so you can experience the trip B&C might have taken to their hideout, if they hadn't been killed. Of course things now are not as they were in '34-- but this is about as close as we can get. When Tom exits his car where the hideout was said to have been and points his camera north-- if B&C hadn't arranged to meet Ivy Methvin farther down the Sailes Road, at what ended up being the lawman's position-- they could have taken that short cut to the hideout. http://www.youtube.com/user/meth222#p/u/6/vwDQLRriPQI
I hope you've enjoyed this look into Bonnie & Clyde's Sailes Louisiana Hideout. As always, I welcome your comments.