Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New Info Reveals Wellington As You've Never Known

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
gunshot wounds.

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.


BarefootOkieGal said...

What awesome new information - it's always awesome when family members step up with information that might not be generally known!

So many things caught my mind... the idea that Gladys Cartwright was just about Bonnie's age struck me, as I've read of other accounts in which Bonnie spent a little time with other women of approximately her own age who were not living the criminal life, and some of those women expressed the thought that it made them feel both better about their own lives, hard as they might be during the Depression, because they could look at Bonnie, so close to their own age, and see how her life on the road had made her old before her time.

Also, as you pointed out, at the time people tended to help others who showed up needing assistance, even in the case of something as dramatic as an auto accident. I wonder what Glady's Cartwright thought of poor Bonnie after poor Bonnie's friend blasted her hand with a shotgun!

The idea of Bonnie standing and running a few steps almost brings me to tears - at the time she was in almost unbearable pain, no doubt in shock, and it was probably even more fear and adrenaline that gave her the strength to get up and move on such a badly damaged limb. Sure, she was a criminal, but she was a human, too, and to think of any person being in such a horrible, frightened, mixed-up emotional state makes me feel sad. Here's where discussing the lives of criminals on the run can get hairy - is it wrong to feel sympathy for a criminal who is hurt and in pain and afraid? Maybe it is, but I can't get my soft heart to harden when it comes to someone else's pain and suffering. The idea of such a tiny person injured so badly that she was unable to walk without assistance for the rest of her short life, which would be spent in uncomfortable, miserable flight, touches me deeply.

Also - the aftermath of this incident is what convinces me that Clyde was not a true psychopath, as some have tried to picture him. A psychopath would not have devoted himself to caring for Bonnie so tenderly after such an accident - some folks told Bonnie's family that they could expect to find her dead in a ditch because there was no way that cold-blooded killer Clyde Barrow was going to keep a woman around who was a burden to him and an actual danger to his life on the run; however, Clyde loved and cared for Bonnie the best he could. I believe it was while she was injured that he again tried to convince her to go on home to her family and turn herself in, but I don't think that was just Clyde's self-interest talking; I believe he truly hoped that Bonnie would take the opportunity to spare herself his fate.

Again - so much good new information! Will take a few more readings before I'm finished with my thoughts and comments, I'm sure - I'm a wordy little thing at times!

joe from Canada said...

excellent piece
You should write a book
joe from canada

A. Winston Woodward said...

Thank you Sir--

If I were a betting man, I might think a book concerning the rumored Bonnie Parker pregnancy-- would be the book I'd choose.

BarefootOkieGal said...

Winston, I would surely read that book!

A. Winston Woodward said...

There are those within the B&C "community"-- ie: close to the outlaw's and lawmen's families, who've either asked me or told me-- not to look into the rumored pregnancy of Bonnie Parker. Some have been more insistent than others. Most of these people I respect, however to me-- this story has been wondered for too long and is too important, to just forget about.

It's not my intention, to be disrespectful in any way to the families-- who along with those around them seem so sensitive "still"-- to this rumor all these decades later. Many might think the families would "want" to know, if the truth could be learned?? I believe next to the ambush, a Bonnie Parker pregnancy??-- may be the greatest mystery of the B&C saga. I don't count Clyde homosexuality references as being credible, without any discernible evidence.

"Thanks" for your encouragement.

Shelley said...

B&C's story is multi-layered, with many twists and turning points. One of those turning points is most definitely Wellington, also known as the "Red River Plunge" in Bonnie & Clyde lore.

Despite the injuries to her hand, inflicted many decades ago by a young, trigger-happy W.D. Jones, Gladys Cartwright lived a long and productive life. Although she has now passed on, how fortunate we are to have her son John (who no doubt grew up knowing the story well) - share with us details of this incident that were previously unknown or incorrect. Such direct links to the past are diminishing, and I must commend Winston for obtaining this info!

Like BarefootOkieGal, I have always sympathized with Bonnie's predicament. She willingly endured Hell on earth to be with Clyde till the end - and what a price she paid! Her extreme love for him is what made them legends. And Clyde proved his devotion in return, especially after Wellington crippled her.

The idea of a Bonnie pregnancy is indeed a "hot potato" amongst topics within the community. While I have no comment on that at this time, I will say that I always welcome a new addition to my already vast collection of B&C books. Old books, new books, good books, bad books - they all bring something unique to the table. So in that spirit, I say, the more the merrier!!!

A. Winston Woodward said...

One potato, 2 potatoes 3 potatoes more potatoes-- that's perfectly fine with me. As I've maintained from the start of my association with this history-- I cannot allow myself to be influenced by any particular point of view-- or risk loss of my independence, which I cannot allow myself to lose. Better history that way.

BarefootOkieGal said...

While I would love to know about a possible pregnancy, I can certainly respect the family's wishes; it may be that someone does know for certain, but I can understand why it's not generally known or shared; it may be that if it were known by family members, the pain of knowing that the unborn child died along with its parents is such that they can't bring themselves to make it public. I suppose the possibility exists that somehow Bonnie actually HAD a baby and left it with someone else to raise, as has been speculated elsewhere, but I just don't see how that scenario would fit into the facts as they are generally known!

I don't think that anyone with an ounce of credibility has ever suggested that Clyde was homosexual; I do believe that for the movie they felt they had to give him some type of sexual dysfunction - why, I don't know, except perhaps to make him seem like more of a "monster" than he was; perhaps that is also why Bonnie in the movie comes across as being sort of a gold-digging good time gal who romped her way through any available men. Maybe it made for a good movie (I saw it once when I was fairly young, and saw no reason to see it again) but I've learned a long time ago that Hollywood has very little interest in reality and quite a bit of interest in what it thinks will play to the audience!

A. Winston Woodward said...

I have great respect for the families, as I have great respect for this history. All I can do is my best, in balancing out both considerations. Those with loyalties and alliances, of course will do what they feel best-- in relating to my efforts to learn the truth concerning a Bonnie Parker pregnancy.

Perhaps I won't be able to make much of a difference, and perhaps I will-- only time will tell. I certainly hope all will remain good, between those who investigate & chronicle this history now. The truth is what it is. But whether or not the truth can be learned-- may be quite a different matter.

Shelley said...

In 1996, two highly significant books were published: "Running with B&C" by the incomparable John Neal Phillips, and (to a somewhat lesser degree), "The Lives & Times of B&C" by E.R. Milner. Both these books endeavored quite well to uncovering truths that previous authors had left largely unanwered.

These two books, apparently, opened the floodgates for the continuation of more serious scholarly research in the years since. Although some of the mysteries will remain forever elusive, we have come a long ways in finding out more than I ever dreamed possible. I think anything left to be discovered about B&C, should be revealed. Not everyone thinks so.

The Wellington incident vividly personifys B&C's tenacity and resilience, under the most dire of circumstances. The way I remember it, Bonnie was lying on a bed in the house, delerious with pain, being treated for her burns by Mrs. Pricharrd. When Corey and Hardy arrived - and Bonnie heard gunshots fired - she suddenly shot out of bed from her coma-like state, and they made their escape!

Unfortunately for Gladys Cartwright, W.D. Jones "jumped the gun", so to speak, by shooting her hand needlessly. But Clyde nor Bonnie had any intention of hurting anyone; they just wanted to get away.

Clyde ordered Corey and Hardy to hold Bonnie gently throughout their long drive to meet Buck & Blanche in Oklahoma. He later praised these officers for the way they tenderly treated her - she was very near death.

Clyde and Bonnie cheated death many times before it finally came, but few events in this story illuminate that fact - and their sheer will to survive against all odds - quite so dramatically as Wellington.

Anonymous said...

I am a relative of Gladys Cartwright. I was a farm boy in Collingsworth and Wheeler Counties, Texas in the 1940's and 1950's. My Cartwright grandmother and her sisters told me many years after these events that Gladys did not blame Bonnie and Clyde for shooting her. Instead the one who did the actual shooting did it because he thought she was going after the firearm.
It was our custom to always have loaded firearms in our homes. Sometimes strangers were met by the man or woman alone holding a loaded gun. I have seen my father do that. It must have been a holdover from the frontier days.

redpixierevenge said...

Thank you for the information on the Cartwrights & Pritchard's in this incident. Gladys was my grandfather's sister, and Jack's brother. Mr. Sam Pritchard and his wife Sally, were my great grandparents. It is so nice to see that they were so willing to help those in need!

Joshua Cartwright said...

This is well written and a detailed account of the stories I heard growing up. John Cartwright is my grandfather and I spent many summers in Wellington, Texas with my Great Grandmother Gladys Cartwright. She was always a very caring lady as depicted in the telling by my Grandfather John. Thank you for putting this down on paper for everyone.

Unknown said...

I remember my Grandmother telling me the story of Bonnie and Clyde and WD in Wellington. Unfortunately, she passed in 1990...but I know my mother and aunt remember the stories. My Aunt was a baby when this all took place...and her father, my grandfather, was Sheriff George Corry. (yes, the spelling is Corry, no e). I never met my Grandfather as he died before I was born...but thankfully I had my Grandmother for many years to pass on this history. Thank you for telling this story!!!

Unknown said...

I took care of Gladys Cartwright on home health and she was such a very sweet lady and she did tell me this very story one day while at her house. I also did get to meet two of her children. She did show me her scar in her hand. I will never forget her. I also worked at the hospital when she passed away. I have always thought it was very cool to have gotten the pleasure to meet someone who knew and meet Bonnie and Clyde. I always enjoyed hearing Gladys stories.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hello Helena. In searching the Internet one day-- I ran across and article regarding an interview Gladys apparently did before she passed. I then found what I thought was a notice related to her death. It was then I sought out her son-- who told me in fact, Gladys had lived until a very old age before she passed. I too would've loved to have interviewed her. However her Son's recollections, were both wonderful and remarkable concerning his Mom and Wellington.

I am interested in exchanging e-mails or phone conversations with you concerning Gladys, if you are willing. Don't know if you can share any additional info related to the Wellington incident or about Gladys as a person?? But I've found, that even seemingly minute details can add to history. Please send me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts.

And thanks so much for your comment!!

Between the Cross and The Crown said...

Is there any information on Sam Pritchard's family history. My family was Pritchard and was from that area and it has been passed down in the family that my great great grandfather had some connection with the Bonnie and Clyde drama but we are not sure if it was really Sam or if this is just legend.

A. Winston Woodward said...

Hi Steeley-- Good question. I'll approach someone who might know. Thanks for your query.

Unknown said...

Great story. Someoe else may have said it, but I wanted to let you know it is Collingsworth County instead of collingswood. I travel to Wellington for court all the time. Thanks ks for the read!

Unknown said...

Great article.
Just for accuracy;
Collingsworth County
Salt Fork of the Red River

Let's not forgot about Alonzo--
Should be;
Let's not forget about Alonzo--

Roxann said...

Thank you for a great article. So often in reading of the legends of Bonnie and Clyde I forget that real people were harmed by their actions and those stories have a very different point of view. Thanks also to John Cartwright for sharing the story.