They met in a west Dallas slum in 1930 where both had grown up in poor families during hard times. Bonnie Parker Thornton was married, but her estranged husband was serving a long term in the state prison. Clyde Barrow would spend a few years there himself, and the experience made him bitter and hard. Both Bonnie and Clyde had a deep hatred for the law and the men who enforced it.
During their brief but violent time together – lasting only four years – Bonnie and Clyde were constantly on the run. Though often associated in the minds of the public with such infamous bank robbers as John Dillinger and Pretty Boy Floyd, the Barrow Gang rarely robbed a bank. They preferred to rob the small Mom and Pop groceries and gas stations found along the highway.
Consequently, they never made a large haul, often seizing only bags of coins, but getting rich didn’t seem to be the goal. Defying law enforcement while building an arsenal of weapons seemed more important to the young couple and the various cohorts who worked with them.
From hardware stores, pawn shops and even National Guard armories, they took as many weapons and as much ammunition as they could carry. Some historians believe Clyde wanted to attack the Texas prison to avenge his brutal time spent there.
Despite their cold willingness to kill, Bonnie and Clyde often returned to the Dallas area to visit family. Their travels, given the locations where they committed their crimes, most certainly would have taken them up and down the Jefferson Highway through eastern Oklahoma. They had encounters with the law in Joplin, Kansas City and Iowa, which would also have taken them along the Jefferson.
In Oklahoma, in the early months of their criminal career, Clyde and other gang members were attending a dance near Stringtown on the Jefferson. They were approached by Sheriff C.G. Maxwell and Deputy Eugene Moore, probably to question them about the alcohol they were consuming. But the gang immediately opened fire, killing Moore. He was the first lawman they killed, but by the end of their crime spree they had murdered nine.
At the end of their four-year rampage, the romantic view once held of Bonnie and Clyde had been thoroughly tarnished. They had reached the status as “public enemy” and the rewards offered for their arrest were growing. Actually, the public’s cry was for their deaths.
About a month before those violent deaths, Bonnie and Clyde and gang member Henry Methvin were in Commerce, also on the Jefferson Highway. Here they shot 60 year-old Constable William Campbell, a widower and father. They kidnapped Commerce Police Chief Percy Boyd and took him to Kansas where, to his great relief, they let him go.
Bonnie and Clyde traveled back to Texas and then into Louisiana where Methvin’s family lived. There they were ambushed and killed on May 23, 1934.