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THE BARROW GANG IN ARKANSAS

by

H.A. Tony Perrin


  The crime career of the Barrow gang has been covered in great detail for many years. But the activities of Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker in the state of Arkansas may not be as well known. On April 11 & 12, 1992, members of OklahombreS gathered for a rendezvous in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The rendezvous was held in conjunction with the 2nd Annual Hanging Judge's Law Enforcement Collectibles Show. A field trip on Sunday, April 12, saw a dedicated group of OklahombreS trekking though the springtime beauty of the Ozarks to various points of interest in the Fort Smith area. One site visited was the location where the Barrow gang shot and mortally wounded Mr. H. D. Humphrey, the city marshal of Alma, Arkansas. Through contemporary newspaper accounts and interviews with residents of the Alma vicinity, OklahombrbeS member Tony Perrin has prepared the following account of the shooting of Humphrey. A former police officer, Perrin is a historian and an official of the Arkansas division of parks.

  Following their June 11, 1933 automobile accident on the Salt Fork of the Red River, near the Oklahoma - Texas border, the Barrow gang hid out at the Dennis Tourist Court on U.S. Hiway 64 in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The tourist court was located near the bridge crossing the Arkansas River between Fort Smith and Van Buren. Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, and possibly W. D. Jones, spent about one week at the Dennis Tourist Court in two rented cabins. Bonnie was recovering from injuries she had received in the automobile accident. Members of the Dennis family who worked at the tourist court were told by Clyde that his female companion had been injured in a camp stove explosion. During the stay in Fort Smith, Clyde Barrow made one of his famous cross country automobile trips, driving to Dallas, Texas, where he picked up Billie Parker to help her sister Bonnie recover from her injuries. Bonnie was treated by a local doctor, and Clyde purchased a pound of burn medicine at the Howe Drugstore from employee Wright Hawkins. Bonnie was also helped by the daughter of Mr. Sid Dennis, who owns the motor court. The daughter brought Bonnie chicken soup.

  During Barrow's stay in Fort Smith, the Commercial Bank in nearby Alma, Arkansas was robbed of several thousand dollars. Town marshal H. D. Humphrey was captured by the bandits in the bank and left tied to a column with wire. Although this bank robbery was blamed on the Barrow gang in some publications, the case may be argued that they did not commit this crime. If the gang had several thousand dollars in their pocket, why would they commit a minor robbery of a grocery store a day or two later? The Barrow gang were never known for their bank robbing expertise. Bungled robberies of grocery stores and gas stations were much more their style.

  On the afternoon of Friday, June 23, 1932, two men held up the Piggly Wiggly store operated by R. L. Brown at 111 West Lafayette Street in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Fayetteville is located about sixty miles north of Fort Smith. The robbers netted about $35 and fled in Mr. Browns delivery truck. The truck was found abandoned several blocks away. Police officers in surrounding towns were notified. Alma town marshal Henry D. Humphrey and his friend A. M. Salyars, an employee of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company, headed north on U.S. Hiway 71 in search of the Fayetteville bandits.

  An Alma automobile dealer, Mr. Webber Wilson, was a few miles north of town traveling south on Hiway 71. Suddenly his car was struck from behind by another vehicle which was traveling at a high rate of speed. The accident happened just over the crest of a hill on the hiway. The crash was witnessed by marshal Humphrey and Salyars. They approached the accident and Humphrey got out of the car. The car which caused the accident was still occupied, and Humphrey walked up to it. His gun was not drawn. Gunfire erupted from the bandit vehicle, described as machine gun fire and shotgun fire.(Clyde Barrow's favorite weapon was a Browning Automatic Rifle, a 30-06 full automatic military weapon).

 Humphrey fell to the ground, shot once through the shoulder and twice through the abdomen. Salyars drew a gun and fired nine times at the bandits. He then sought cover at the side of the road near a residence. The gunmen ignored Salyars and proceeded to move from their disabled car to Salyars car, taking several guns with them. The gunmen also took the time to grab marshal Humphrey's gun, a Smith and Wesson model 10, .38 special. They left in Salyars car, driving north on Hiway 71, then west on the road toward Rudy, Arkansas.

  Mr. B. C. Amis of 911 S. 24th street, Fort Smith, drove up on the shooting scene just as the gunmen were driving away. Mr. Amis stopped and tried to help the wounded Humphrey. He placed Humphrey in his car and quickly drove him to Alma, where an ambulance was met. Humphrey was taken to St. Johns Hospital, where he died on Monday, June 26th, 1933. Before he died, Humphrey identified the gunman as Clyde Barrow.

  When lawmen responded to the scene of the shooting, they found automatic weapon cartridges, an automatic pistol, a shotgun and two coats in the bandit vehicle. Also found were license plates from several states.

  The gunmen, after leaving the scene of the shooting, left the hiway for the back country roads, and then returned to Hiway 71 a short time later. A Mr. and Mrs. Loftin were traveling south on Hiway 71 when a vehicle cut over into their lane, forcing them to stop.A gunman, cursing violently, jumped from the car with an automatic weapon pointed at Loftin. The gunman told Loftin: "I'm going to kill you right here". Loftin explained that he was only out for a ride with his wife, but the gunman replied: "I don't care, I'll kill both of you". The gunman then forced Mr. and Mrs. Loftin out of their car and tried to force them into the other vehicle. Mrs. Loftin went in one door and out the other, fleeing with Mr. Loftin hot on her heels. The gunman appeared to be drunk and was bleeding badly from his mouth. The outlaws left Salyars car on the hiway and fled in the Loftin car.

  All available deputies were called out by Sheriff Albert Maxey and a manhunt began. The search grew to include lawmen from all over northwest Arkansas. Witnesses identified the gunman as Clyde Barrow.

  On Saturday morning, June 24th, Mrs. John Rogers of Winslow, near Alma, reported to the sheriff that she had been beaten with a chain by two men when she refused to give them the keys to her automobile. She also told Sheriff Maxey that one of the men tried to criminally assault her. The men then fled on foot into the hills outside of Winslow.

  Clyde Barrow and the second gunman made it back to the Dennis Tourist Court in Fort Smith. They packed up and quickly left Arkansas. About one month later, in July 1933, the Barrow gang shot it out with lawmen near Dexter, Iowa. Buck Barrow, Clyde's brother, was fatally wounded. Buck was taken to a nearby hospital. Lawmen recovered marshal Humphries .38 Smith and Wesson pistol from the scene. Before Buck died, Sheriff Maxey from Arkansas brought A. L. Salyars to the hospital. Salyars identified Buck as one of the gunmen who killed Humphries. In November of 1933 lawmen captured Barrow gang member W. D. Jones in Texas. Jones gave a statement blaming Buck Barrow for the murder of Humphries. Buck was already dead, however, Clyde Barrow was still on the run, and Jones may have placed the blame on Buck in order to protect Clyde.

  Sheriff Maxey and A.L. Salyars returned to Arkansas with the gun that had been taken from marshal Humphries. That gun is now in the possession of the Chief of Police of Alma, Arkansas. A monument to Humphries now stands outside of the Alma town hall.

  The Dennis Motel still stands on hiway 64 (Business route) in Fort Smith, but the twin cabins that housed the Barrow gang were torn down a few years ago. Other cabins from that time period still remain behind the motel.(*see update note below) Hiway 71 still runs north out of Alma, but a new hiway is being built just a few miles to the west. Time is slowly erasing the events of that hot summer in Arkansas in 1933 - what a terrible summer for lawmen in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Missouri. Lawmen such as Henry D. Humphries, Red Grooms, Frank Hermanson, Raymond Caffrey, and Orin Henry Reed are only a few of the brave officers killed that summer at the hands of the "depression desperadoes". Let us insure that they are not forgotten as we dig for the true stories of the OklahombreS.

From a mountain top six miles east of the Oklahoma border,

H.A. Tony Perrin

P.S.- wouldn't happen to have any old lawmens badges, would ya?

THE END

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   (Update note concerning locations mentioned in last paragraph of article: The Dennis Motel is no longer. A PicN Tote convenience store stands where it once did, at the intersection of Kelley Highway, Midland Blvd. and Newlon Rd. The new highway, with it's twin tunnels, is now open. Highway 71 is a designated scenic biway.)


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