Written by Gene Barron
Due to the new version of the story of the outlaws Bonnie and Clyde released for television numerous articles concerning the couple have appeared lately – however none recalls the duo’s stint in Union Parish.
In 1971 Mrs. Carolyn Carver published an article in the North Louisiana Historical Association’s Journal about a couples experience with Bonnie and Clyde. The story of this ordeal was told but greatly extorted in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde” that came out in the 1960’s. According to those involved the incident went this way. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Dillard Darby and Miss Sophia Stone were boarding with Mr. and Mrs. L. K. Brooks in Ruston. Dillard was employed as a mortician. On April 27, 1933 Dillard rushed to the boarding house for a quick lunch, carelessly leaving his keys in his car. Darby’s wife was away visiting her mother at the time. Miss Sophia Stone was sitting in the swing on the porch waiting for lunch when Dillard got there. Suddenly a car drove by and a youth, William Daniel Jones, jumped out, got into Dillard’s new Chevrolet and drove off. (Evidently the gang had been casing the bank in Ruston and was going to use Dillard’s car as the get away car after they robbed it.)
Several “prank” stealing of cars had been reported to the Ruston police in the past few months and Dillard thought he had just become another victim. He attempted to stop the thief; he even got onto the running board but was forced to let go when the car gained speed. He then yelled to Sophia to get the keys to her car and get it started. She responded quickly and soon the chase was on. In the meantime, a neighbor who witnessed the heist, L. K. Brooks, called the sheriff to report the incident, telling him that the couple was headed north on the El Dorado road. The sheriff set up a roadblock at Dubach. W. D. Jones, later referred to as “the kid” by Bonnie and Clyde, saw the roadblock just in time to turn west onto the Hico Road.
Dillard soon realized he couldn’t catch the stolen car so he and Miss Stone decided to return to Ruston. On the way they were flagged down by a man Dillard thought was a friend, Warren Robinson. Unbeknownst to him at that time it was notorious outlaw Clyde Barrow instead. Barrow hit Dillard and Sophia slightly on the head and forced them into the back seat of his car where they came face to face with Bonnie Parker peering over the front seat at them. Beside them was Marvin “Buck” Barrow sprawled and half drunk. All three of the abductors were dirty, unkempt and poorly dressed.
The entire kidnapping was observed and reported by a farmer who had been working in a field nearby. His report spurred the organization of a massive search party for the pair.
Clyde asked why they were following the car ahead of them and Dillard explained that it was his car and someone had stolen it. At this point Dillard and Sophia noticed enough guns and ammunition to start a small war in the back seat. Then the realization hit them that their abductors were desperadoes and they knew that their lives were in danger.
The captives’ lives were threatened repeatedly and treated roughly as the kidnapping episode developed. Soon the car became low of fuel so the gang drove into Bernice for gas. The victims were shoved onto the floorboard of the car and warned of the consequences if they raised an alarm. As the car pulled into the gas station unbeknownst to them members of the sheriff’s department were planted at the station. Fortunately the gang didn’t recognize them as officers. They bought five dollars worth of gas and were soon on their way.
Clyde, always driving the back roads, soon crossed into Arkansas. Buck constantly begged Clyde to stop the car so they could tie up their captives and shoot them. Buck seemed to the pair as blood thirsty and the most ruthless and unstable of the trio.
As time passed, the trio became gentler with their captives and began to enjoy Sophia’s constant incoherent chatter. They learned that Dillard was an undertaker and at some point Bonnie commented, “Well, when we get ours, you can fix us up real pretty.” (Ironically, after Bonnie and Clyde were killed the local mortician couldn’t be found so Dillard was called to identify the bodies.)
During this entire nightmare, Clyde was trying to meet up with “the Kid”. When they neared Waldo, Arkansas, Dillard asked Clyde to put him and Sophia out along the desolate road explaining that by the time they could get help, his gang would be long gone. About that time Clyde saw a truck on the side of the road with a flat tire. The driver had the wheel jacked up and was retrieving a spare when Clyde sped by so close that it knocked the truck off the jack.
Shortly thereafter, Clyde slid into a sand trap and had his captives get out and push the car back on the road. He then told them that they could walk back to the truck for help. At last the couple thought they might make it out of their ordeal alive, but then Buck got out of the car and walked toward them. Their temporary relief suddenly turned to deathly fear, for they thought sure that Buck was about to kill them. To their utter amazement Buck reached into his pocket and handed them five dollars – the exact amount the man in the pickup truck charged them to take them to Waldo. Mrs. Darby’s brother drove from Ruston to Waldo to pick up the tired, battered but relieved duo and thus ending a twelve hour nightmare.
Henry Dillard Darby’s 1933 Louisiana license plate was 233-821.
Clyde later riddled Mr. Darby’s car with 60 rounds and pushed it off a cliff into a thicket. Mr. Darby’s new car was completely trashed when found!
Throughout the entire episode, the captives were constantly threatened with death but even up to the time of their release they didn’t realize who they were. Both said later that they would have died of fright if they had known that they were being held by the notorious “Barrow Gang”. The kidnapping of Dillard and Sophia and transporting them across state lines brought the Federal Bureau of Investigation into the picture.
Three days after the ordeal was over, Dillard’s (?) car was found in McGee, Arkansas. The was no damage to the car but the spare tire was missing.
Another account of the gangs visit to Union Parish was related by Doris Popwell in an interview several years ago. The story came from her Aunt Nan Plummer. She related that a couple drove up to the Wade Guinn homestead, which was located in the backwoods near Bayou Loutre, and asked if they could stay a while. Guinn told them that they could and invited them in. At some point, or some reason, the family became suspicious of the couple After breakfast the next morning the couple drove off in their coupe. While they were gone Nannie, Wade’s daughter, picked the lock on a small trunk the couple had brought inside. Information found in the trunk identified the couple as Bonnie and Clyde. After the couple returned later that day Wade politely asked them to leave, which they did. After leaving the Guinn home place, the couple moved on to Bienville Parish where they met their doom near Gibsland when they were ambushed by officers from Louisiana and Texas on May 23, 1934.
Birth: April 8, 1912
Death: April 19, 1948
Sulphur, Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana, USA
Criminal Member of the Barrow Gang with Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
Although Clyde Barrow freed him in the Eastham Prison Raid in 1934, he was ultimately the informant that coordinated with authorities in setting up the ambush that killed Bonnie and Clyde in Gibsland, Louisiana on May 23, 1934. In exchange for his help, Texas Governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson pardoned him thus “writing off” the remainder of his ten year sentence he was serving at Eastham prior to the break out. This pardon, however, did not keep the State of Oklahoma from giving him a death sentence for the previous killing. A later appeal in 1936 had his sentence reduced to life in prison. He served 8 years of that sentence before being granted a parole. He died after crawling under a train near Sulphur, Louisiana to get to the other side of the tracks. The moving train crushed him. (bio by: timcdfw)
Gene has also written two historical books on Union Parish. I highly recommend both.