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Bonnie and Clyde letter to be sold at auction

Ian Harvey

Remarkable Rarities, an online auction site based out of Boston, Massachusetts, is offering a letter written by Bonnie Parker to former Barrow Gang member Raymond Hamilton while he was in the Dallas County Jail.

The letter, which was signed and probably dictated by Clyde Barrow, depicts the anger and hatred felt by Barrow toward Hamilton, who had betrayed the couple in 1934.

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow

Clyde Barrow, the son of impoverished farmer Henry Barrow, was born in Telico, Texas in 1909. When Clyde was twelve years old, his family moved just outside the city limits of Dallas.

His brother, Marvin Barrow, also known as Buck, influenced Clyde to join him in his lifestyle of petty crimes such as stealing chickens. It wasn’t long before seventeen-year-old Clyde was stealing cars.

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker was born in Rowena, Texas in 1910. When her father, Charles Robert Parker, died in 1914, the family moved in with Bonnie’s maternal grandmother in West Dallas.

Bonnie, a petite strawberry blonde, was an intelligent student who developed a love of writing poetry but felt trapped in a life of poverty.

In 1930, while Bonnie was staying with a friend, she met Clyde, who had already served time and was out on a weekend parole.

It has been said that although Bonnie was already married to convicted murderer Roy Thornton, for her and Clyde it was love at first sight. Bonnie never divorced Thornton because she did not believe it was fair to divorce a man while he was in prison.

Clyde Champion
Clyde’s mugshot

When Clyde returned to prison, he encouraged Bonnie to help him escape by smuggling a gun into the prison during a visit. Clyde escaped along with several other inmates but was quickly found and taken back.

When Clyde was paroled in 1932 he returned for Bonnie, and the two set out to live a life of crime.

The press sensationalized the couple’s crime spree, calling Bonnie a “cigar smoking, gun toting, gun moll”, although former gang member W.D. Jones stated that he had never seen Bonnie fire a gun, and while she chain smoked cigarettes, she never smoked cigars.

Early in 1934 Clyde and Bonnie raided Houston’s Eastham Prison Farm and helped Raymond Hamilton escape.

Due to the pressure of being on the run, Clyde and Hamilton began to disagree and developed contempt for one another. Hamilton left the gang but was recaptured and sent to Dallas County Jail.

It was there that Hamilton received the infamous letter in which Clyde called Hamilton “a boastful punk” and accused Hamilton of setting them up for capture in the Ozarks, as well as stealing money from the couple.

The letter reads, “I should have killed you then. I would have saved myself much bother and money looking for you. For after you writing that letter saying you didn’t stoop so low as to rob filling stations I have done nothing but look for you.

Should I have found you, you wouldn’t have had a chance to give up. You couldn’t stand the rift of the outlaw life.  For one reason you were too yellow and knew you could never surrender with me and another reason you wanted to play ‘Big Shot,’ sleep in hotels and ride passenger trains. You weren’t intelligent enough to know that you couldn’t live like a king and stay out.

I don’t claim to be too smart. I know that some day they will get me but it won’t be without resistance. You only carried your guns around to ‘show off’ or else kidnap women and children. I guess you find where your boastful long tongue has gotten you.

Maybe you can talk yourself out of the ‘chair.’ Or maybe you can write a few more letters (try one to the governor) at least it will gain you some publicity.”

Bonnie Parker
Bonnie Parker

On April 25th, 1934, Hamilton was arrested after participating in a bank robbery in Lewisville, Texas. He was executed on May 10th, 1934.

Just a month after Hamilton’s arrest, Bonnie and Clyde were set up by the father of gang member Henry Methvin, who was looking for leniency for his son.

Methvin Snr. had parked his truck along Louisiana State Highway 154 near the town of Gibsland, pretending to need help. Four Texas lawmen, Captain Frank Hamer, Dallas County Sheriff’s Deputies Bob Alcorn and Ted Hinton, and former Texas Ranger B.M. Gault, along with Louisiana Bienville Parish Sheriff Henderson Jordan and his deputy Prentiss Oakley, were hiding in the nearby bushes.

Deputy Hinton knew Bonnie personally from her days as a waitress in Dallas before she met Clyde and was able to identify her on sight.

On the morning of May 23, 1934, Barrow was driving his stolen Ford V8 down highway 154 when upon seeing Methvin’s truck on the side of the road, he stopped to help.

Before Clyde could get out of the car the lawmen opened fire, shooting over 130 rounds at the couple. Louisiana coroner Dr. J.L. Wade’s report stated that Clyde, who was killed first with a shot to the head, was hit 17 times while Bonnie had 26 gunshot wounds on her body.

Although Bonnie had asked her mother to bury them side by side, Clyde’s family buried him in Dallas’ Western Heights Cemetery next to his brother Buck, and Bonnie was buried in Fishtrap Cemetery but later exhumed and moved to Crown Hill Cemetery in Dallas in 1945.

Her headstone is engraved with one her poems, “As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, so this old world is made brighter by the lives of folks like you.”

At the time of this article’s writing the letter has a current high bid of $20,000 from only one bidder, but is still available for offers as Item# 2058.

The letter is expected to take $40,000. A certified letter of authenticity can accompany the letter for an extra charge of $500. The auction house requires an additional 25% plus postage if the letter is to be mailed to the winning bidder. Payment is due by October 7, 2016.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News