Saturday, August 19, 2023

2021-05-30: Visiting the Notorious Bonnie and Clyde Hangouts and Graves in Dallas, Texas

Welcome back friends, geocachers, RV'ers, and fellow travelers. On this particular roadtrip adventure, we were passing through Dallas, Texas and decided to take a break from the driving. We set out to retrace some of the stomping grounds of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde with the help of a Geocaching Adventure Lab. The couple became national news figures as they traveled the mid-west from 1932-1934, with their criminal gang during the Great Depression. Just about everyone has heard the story or seen the movies. Now let's go visit some of their hangouts around West Dallas...

Clyde Chestnut Barrow was born in 1909 into a poor farming family in Ellis County, Texas, southeast of Dallas. The family moved to Dallas in the early 1920's as part of a wider migration pattern from rural areas to the city, where many settled in the urban slum of West Dallas. The Trinity River Squatter's Camp was the industrial slum along the river bank underneath where the current Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge is now located. Back during the depression, the area you see below was a maze of tents, wagons and makeshift huts, in the mud, without running water, gas, or electricity.

While living in the squatters camp, the Barrow family collected and sold scrap metal from a mule-pulled cart. A drunk motorist hit and destroyed the cart and killed the mule. With the money awarded to them from the insurance claim, Clyde's parents built the Barrow Star Service Station in Cement City. The family lived in a shack attached to the back of the gas station.

Barrow was first arrested in late 1926, at age 17, after running when police confronted him over a rental car that he had failed to return on time. His second arrest was with his brother Buck soon after, for possession of stolen turkeys. Barrow had some legitimate jobs during 1927 through 1929, but he also cracked safes, robbed stores, and stole cars.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in 1910 in Rowena, Texas. Her father, Charles Robert Parker, was a bricklayer who died when Bonnie was four years old. Her widowed mother, Emma (Krause) Parker, moved her family back to her parents' home in Cement City, where she worked as a seamstress.

In her second year in High School, Bonnie met Roy Thornton. The couple dropped out of school and married on September 25, 1926, six days before her 16th birthday. Their marriage was marred by his frequent absences and brushes with the law and proved to be short lived. They never divorced, but their paths never crossed again after January 1929. After she left Thornton, Bonnie moved back in with her mother and worked as a waitress in Dallas. Bonnie briefly kept a diary early in 1929 when she was aged 18, writing of her loneliness, her impatience with life in Dallas, and her love of photography. Bonnie was still wearing the wedding ring Thornton had given her when she died. This is a photo of Bonnie's elementary school which still stands today.

Eagle Ford School

Clyde met 19-year-old Bonnie through a mutual friend in January 1930, and they spent much time together during the following weeks. Their romance was interrupted when Clyde was arrested and convicted of auto theft and was sent to Eastham Prison Farm in April 1930 at the age of 21. He escaped from the prison farm shortly after his incarceration using a weapon Bonnie smuggled to him. He was recaptured shortly after and sent back to prison.

Clyde committed his first murder in prison of another inmate, with a pipe crushing his skull, in retaliation for repeatedly sexually assaulting him. Another inmate who was already serving a life sentence claimed responsibility. In order to avoid hard labor in the fields, Clyde purposely had two of his toes amputated in late January 1932, either by another inmate or by himself. Because of this he walked with a limp for the rest of his life. What he didn't know however, his mother had already successfully petitioned for his release and he was set free six days after his intentional injury. He was paroled from Eastham on February 2, 1932, now a hardened and bitter criminal. His sister, Marie said, "Something awful sure must have happened to him in prison because he wasn't the same person when he got out."

On January 6, 1933, officers were staking out this house owned by Lilly McBride, sister of one of the Barrow Gang members. A shootout occurred around midnight and Clyde killed 52-year-old Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff Malcom S. Davis beside the front porch.

Now surrounded by a golf course, this is the Eagle Ford Road Bridge. Back in 1933, this area was known as the "Devil's Back Porch." This once isolated area of West Dallas was rarely policed and is where Bonnie and Clyde often were hiding out in their stolen cars. It was also a gathering place for their family and friends to come and visit with the wanted outlaws.

In May of 1934, a posse of six officers from Texas and Louisiana had followed the trail of Bonnie and Clyde to the Bienville Parish. The setup an ambush along Louisiana State Highway 154 south of Gibsland. At approximately 9:15 am on the morning of May 23rd, the couple came speeding down the road in a Ford Deluxe V-8 Sedan, Clyde's preferred stolen car of choice. The officers immediately opened fire and began unloading about 130 rounds towards the car. In the end, there where 112 bullet holes in the vehicle. Seventeen rounds found their way into Clyde's body and 26 into Bonnie.

The Belo Mansion was built in the 1890's by Colonel A. H. Belo, founder of the Dallas Morning News. The mansion was later leased to funeral home operators George Loudermilk and Will Sparkman. The body of Clyde Barrow's bullet riddled body was laid out in the parlor for public viewing. Approximately 20,000 people came from all over to file past and get a glimpse of this notorious outlaw's remains. Today, this building is the current home of the Dallas Bar Association and Law Review.

Even though it was Bonnie and Clyde's wish to be buried together, the Parker family refused. Clyde Barrow's funeral was at sunset on May 25th at the Western Heights Cemetery next to his brother Marvin where they share a single headstone. There's a geocache hidden nearby (GC7K52N).

Bonnie Parker was laid to rest the following day on the 26th in the Fishtrap Cemetery. Her body was later moved in 1945 to the new Crown Hill Cemetery in Dallas where you can also find another geocache (GC596A).

So that was our quick historical tour around Dallas, Texas and Bonnie & Clyde's stomping grounds and final resting place. One of these days when passing through Primm, Nevada, we'll have to stop by Whiskey Pete's Hotel and Casino to see the bullet riddled Ford Deluxe V-8 there on display.

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