Stephen F. Austin State University

Bonnie and Clyde in Newton County (May 2014)

Bonnie and Clyde in Newton County
By Jonnie Miller

In the early thirties Burkeville was a sleepy little East Texas rural community not far from the saw mill at Wiergate where most of the men worked long hard hours just to make a living for his family. He got paid in metal checks that could be spent at the company commissary. If Burkeville merchants want to make money they also had to accept these checks. No one complained. It was the only way to earn enough money to feed his family. There was no union and no forty hour week.

The men worked ten to twelve hours a day and supplemented their families' food by hunting and fishing. Every household had a gun of some sort and members of the family became expert marksmen.

These were the days of the notorious outlaws such as John Dillinger in the north, "Pretty Boy" Floyd in the Midwest and "Machine Gun" Kelly and Ma Barker and her gang. In Texas there was Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Everyone followed their exploits in the newspapers.

In Burkeville word got around that Bonnie and Clyde would be passing through on a particular night and the local "warriors" decided they would set up an ambush for the notorious pair. Where the rumor came from no one knows or even whether it was true.

At any rate, an ambush was set up along the side of the main street which was a dirt road. The "heroes" positioned themselves in a ditch on the east side where several stores had burned down in the past. The best squirrel and deer hunters were eager to show their expert marksmanship. Minutes and hours passed and as the sweat formed on brows trigger fingers got nervous.

At about eleven or twelve that night they saw someone driving into town in a new Ford car. Before the car got even with the ambush someone just couldn't wait any longer and a shot rang out. Suddenly everyone opened fire and it sounded like a war broke out.

Whoever was driving that Ford stepped on the gas and must have been hitting 90 as he passed through the town. The last they saw of that car was the red tail light as it headed toward Yellowpine.

Whether this was Bonnie and Clyde or not no one ever knew and even whether the story told was true or not I can't vouch for but for years there were several bullet holes in the front of Kerr's store on the west side of Main Street.

It wasn't long before Bonnie and Clyde were gunned down in an ambush on a country road in Louisiana.
Jonnie Miller, NCHC