Monday, October 1, 2012

The Bonnie & Clyde Carlsbad Incident-- "Say Hello" to Nellie Stamps.

As Joe Johns liked to tell the story (and perhaps with the same eye toward protecting Mrs Stamps as when Bonnie, Clyde & Ray Hamilton wanted to double back and kill her for attempting to turn them in)-- it was good police work on his part, in spotting the strangers' car in town and following it to the Stamps residence.  Or if the more likely account of neighbor and cantaloupe farmer Bill Cobb is correct-- after showing him packs of money and bloodstained clothes, Mrs Stamps devised a plan to alert the law under the guise of going next door to help Mr. Cobb water his melons.  Regardless of the details (but now more clearly defined, based on the account you're about to read)-- Nellie Parker Stamps owns a unique place in Bonnie & Clyde History.  

However unlike the Barrow family, where over the years much has been divulged from within-- the Parker family has done an admirable job of protecting their own.  As such, little is known about Bonnie's father Charlie Parker or Aunt Nellie-- who according to Billie Parker, was one of 7 Parker siblings on her father's side-- the others being Ed, Annie, Laura, Roxy and Floyd.  And now based on good evidence-- at this point I feel confident we know, Nellie's name was never Millie-- as the families seemingly doled out a healthy helping of literary license within "Fugitives" to "protect the innocent". 

Nor to my knowledge, has a photo of Nellie Stamps ever been seen by those loyal to this history-- until now.  One of my favorite aspects of examining Bonnie & Clyde History, is the opportunity through often challenging research (and admittedly with a little luck along the way)-- of working with family members of those from the saga of Bonnie & Clyde, who along with my heartfelt thanks-- have placed their trust in me to tell their stories accurately and without bias.  I feel fortunate, to have experienced this trust and historical
camaraderie on a number of occasions.  As such now too-- I can thank a member of the Stamps family, for aiding a history fraught with missing pieces, rumor and innuendo.  

Also as a related aspect of these investigations, there's often the  added bonus of uncovering stories never previously revealed to the public-- based on family accounts passed down through the years as witnessed by contemporaries of Bonnie & Clyde.  So with "many thanks" to Catherine Queen, a wonderful 1st photo and new info concerning Nellie and Melvin, her husband at the time of the August 13th, 1932 Carlsbad incident.  In addition-- an intriguing story never before known concerning Bonnie & Clyde's fateful visit to New Mexico.

Contrary to some tales told-- Nellie was never killed by Bonnie & Clyde as retribution for her actions.  Rather it's believed Nellie was born on April 25th, 1882 and passed away in 1944.  She had been married once before and was the former Nellie Parker Wagman.  Also as now confirmed by both the Parker and Stamps families, Nellie had a daughter from her 1st marriage-- although the name of her daughter remains unknown.  Nellie met Dorsey Melvin Stamps (born September 22nd, 1895) in Corsicana, Texas in the 1920's-- with the couple moving to Mexia, Texas after being married.

Melvin was a butcher by trade, and as such Nellie & Melvin operated a Hotel with grocery next door in Mexia during this period.  In the early '30's they moved to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where Melvin remained employed within his profession.  After Nellie's death, Melvin married Elsie Roswell and relocated to Winaka, Oklahoma.  He would re-marry once again, and passed from this Earth on February 8th, 1975.

Concerning Bonnie & Clyde's visit to New Mexico-- the Stamps family provides insights not known before.  According to the family-- Bonnie had contacted Aunt Nellie by telephone to arrange their visit to Carlsbad.  I've also learned Nellie wasn't the only Stamps relative to host/harbor Bonnie & Clyde.  Melvin's Aunt Mattie, who lived in various places along the Red River between Oklahoma and Texas-- was thought to have hosted Bonnie & Clyde visits as well. 

Here's a most interesting and formerly untold story concerning Carlsbad.  Apparently Nellie and Melvin weren't the only Stamps relatives present when Bonnie, Clyde and Ray visited in August of '32.  As told to me, Catherine Queen's grandmother Isa Teel along with her 3 children had driven from Wilson, Oklahoma to Carlsbad for a visit with her brother and wife Melvin and Nellie.  Cathy's mother Jesse "Muriel" Teel (aged 10 at the time)-- was one of the 3 children present/ one being 3 years older and one 3 years younger.  

When they arrived at Melvin and Nellie's home in Carlsbad, the kids were firmly advised to stay on the floor of the car and completely out of sight-- as Isa was both confused and terrified by what she saw.  Isa had walked past the strange car with no one visible, only to spot a variety of weapons of differing sizes on the backseat and floor.  Being unhappy at this turn of events, she and her brother Melvin exchanged words through the screen door.  His eyes were telling Isa to go, but after driving all that way for an expected visit-- she argued to stay, and for whomever else was visiting to leave.  At that point she whispered as did he.  Isa then raised her voice to say she was going back through town to get some pop-- and if she didn't see the car leave town, she wouldn't be back.

Isa then returned rapidly to town, got gas and waited-- until finally seeing the strangers' car exiting.  Upon returning to Nellie and Melvin's, and with the kids in bed-- the conversation concerning what had occurred, lasted well into the night.  It was agreed, that Melvin and Nellie would contact the authorities in Carlsbad regarding what happened.  Then after staying the night-- Isa left and never returnedLate the following day, Bonnie, Clyde and Ray returned to see Nellie.  Apparently  they had camped in their car just outside of town.  And the rest as they say is history-- with Deputy Joe Johns being tipped off, surprised at gunpoint-- kidnapped and later released.

So as Paul Harvey would say-- "And now you know the rest of the story".  BTW-- in never having seen a photo of Charlie Parker, but now in seeing his sister Nellie-- I find Nellie's resemblance to Bonnie remarkable.  In viewing numerous pics of Emma Parker representing the Krause side of the family, and now one of Nellie Parker with which to compare-- I believe we now have a clearer idea of the family mix, in order to arrive at the looks of the Parker children.

My "thanks" once again to Catherine Queen, and also the Oklahoma Historical Society for not giving up in search of photos of Nellie and Melvin Stamps.  I welcome your comments.

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michael said...

Didn't officer Johns himself say that he saw the car twice in town, losing it once after noting the car and its occupants suspicious, then upon seeing it the second time, followed it back to the house? I don't remember mention of a "tip off."
If he was indeed "tipped" I would assume he knew who he was dealing with? In which case I'd say he was a fool for approaching that house by himself.

Penelopy Banks Banks said...

Bonnie and Clyde - Such an extraordinary pair, who ran riot in the south west of the USA for a long time. The movie is great and the story line and movie setting is spot on.

I also read this great eBook recently (The Fast Life of Bonnie and Clyde), check it out here:

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Penelopy-- I would suggest you stick to books re: B&C that contain accurate historical info-- not any 'ol e-book that comes along. Start with John Neal Phillip's, Jim Knight's and Winston Ramsey's books and go from there. The recent TV movie couldn't have been much less "spot on". Although entertaining-- more to the point-- it was "spot off". Happy reading.