Blanche Barrow

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Blanche Barrow
Buck and Blanche FOIA FBI.jpg
Blanche and Buck Barrow, 1931
Born
Bennie Iva Caldwell

(1911-01-01)January 1, 1911
DiedDecember 24, 1988(1988-12-24) (aged 77)
Dallas, Texas
Cause of deathCancer
Criminal statusParoled after six years
Spouse(s)John Calloway (m. 1928–31)
Buck Barrow (m. 1931–33; his death)
Eddie Frasure (m. 1940–69; his death)

Blanche Barrow Frasure (born Bennie Iva Caldwell; January 1, 1911 – December 24, 1988) was a fringe member of the Barrow Gang and the wife of Clyde Barrow's brother Buck Barrow.

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Blanche Frasure was born Bennie Iva Caldwell in Garvin, Oklahoma, the only child of Matthew Fontain Caldwell (June 23, 1871 – September 19, 1947) and Lillian Bell Pond (August 25, 1895 – February 24, 1995). At the time of her birth, her father was 39 years old and her mother was 15 years old. Her parents divorced while she was still a young child. She was raised by her father, a logger and farmer. A devoutly religious man, he occasionally preached as a lay minister.

Frasure had a poor relationship with her mother, who arranged for her to be married to John Calloway, a much older man, at age 17. She said the experience with Calloway left her unable to bear children.[1]

Marriage to Buck Barrow[edit]

On 11 November 1929 while hiding in Dallas County from her husband, Frasure met Buck Barrow, a twice-divorced criminal with children from a previous marriage and 8 years her senior. She was considered strikingly attractive by his acquaintances. Several days after meeting Barrow, he was shot and captured following a burglary in Denton, Texas. He was tried, convicted, and sentenced to five years in the Texas State Prison System. On 8 March 1930, however, he escaped from the Ferguson Prison Farm near Midway, Texas. She not only knew of his escape, but that she hid with him as well.[2]

Frasure and Buck were married in Oklahoma and honeymooned in Florida despite his fugitive status. Within months she, and his family, convinced him to surrender. Two years later, he was pardoned. A few days after being released, Blanche and Buck met Bonnie and Clyde at her mother's home. They persuaded Buck to vacation with them in Joplin, Missouri.[3]

Barrow Gang[edit]

Frasure agreed to visit with Clyde, whose gang was responsible for five murders during botched robberies when Buck joined, to be with her husband, but continued trying to convince Buck out of running with the gang.[citation needed]

Frasure did not especially like Bonnie or Clyde. Buck, accustomed to deference from his younger brother, had difficulty in accepting Clyde as the leader he saw himself to be. Bickering stemming from the enforced proximity further increased her disenchantment over the four months she spent with the gang. She also had little taste for her use as the gang's factotum, being preoccupied with her own adornment and clothing, notably her memorable appearance in riding breeches at her capture.[4][5]

Frasure and Buck spent three weeks with them and in their Joplin hideout. To her chagrin, she ended up doing cooking and washing for the others. The Gang's loud card games, and an accidental discharge of a Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR) by Clyde, led two carloads of armed police to confront the group as suspected bootleggers on April 13, 1933. Clyde responded by instantly opening fire; two of the policemen were killed while others took cover from the automatic weapons wielded by the gang. She was pulled into the getaway car, having run down the street after her bolting pet dog. She later wrote that when being driven away, she felt "all my hopes and dreams [were] tumbling down around me".[1] Left behind were documents that identified her and Buck. There were also photos of Bonnie provocatively posing with Clyde that were reproduced in newspapers and made national celebrities of them.[6][7][8][9][10]

Two-unit Red Crown Tourist Court. Using his cabin's internal connecting door, Clyde entered the garage from where he fired with a BAR. 39°18′43″N 94°41′11″W / 39.31194°N 94.68639°W / 39.31194; -94.68639 (1933 Site of Red Crown Tourist Court Platte City, Missouri)

The discovery of half-burnt bandages meant the gang were suspected to be in the vicinity when they stopped at what was, unknown to them, a popular meeting place for local law enforcement in Platte County, Missouri on July 18, 1933. Barrow was given coins to pay for renting a cabin, checking in as three, then sent for food for five. Next day, ignoring that the manager had made a point of getting the garage doors opened so he could note their license plate, which was a stolen one that Clyde foolishly had kept, she was sent to pay in coins for another night's rent. The manager mentioned a refund if they informed him they were leaving before night. She thought it was an odd remark, and warned Clyde the manager was the punctilious type likely to have informed the law, which he had, in fact, done. By midday, the license plate had identified them and enabled Sheriff Holt Coffey to get assistance from Kansas City Sheriff Tom Bash as well as the Platte City police chief and local prosecutor David Clevenger. Clyde, having taped newspapers across his cabin windows, was unable to see that anything was amiss.[11]

At 1 a.m. on 20 July, 1933, at the head of a heavily armed posse of about 13, and with an armored sedan blocking the garage door for the Barrow's car. Sheriff Coffey, bearing a steel shield, knocked on one of the gang's two cabins, saying that he needed to speak to them. Her answer of "just a minute" was a prearranged alarm phrase that alerted Clyde, who went into the garage from where he could see Coffey through a glass panel in the door, and fired. Coffey dived away amid a covering barrage from the posse in the blacked out surroundings. Armor piercing rounds from the BAR penetrated the sedan and wounded the driver, George Highfill in both knees, forcing him to back away from the front of the garage door, thereby freeing an escape route for the gang's car. Barrow and Buck had to leave the cover of their cabin as it had no door leading into the garage as did the cabin occupied by Clyde, Parker, and W.D. Jones. Exposed, they were targeted by the posse. Buck fell with a through and through wound entering his left temple, traveling the inner surface of the front portion of his skull, and out of his right temple. She and Clyde stopped and while under fire dragged him into the car while Jones laid down supressive fire with his BAR. When the car emerged it came under a barrage of fire and glass was blasted into her face, blinding her left eye.[5]

Having acquired another car, they camped off of an overgrown dead-end road near an abandoned amusement park in Dexter, Iowa. Buck's injuries were too severe to permit them to leave.[1][9] Within four days they were identified by purchase of medical supplies. With the road covered, a 50-strong posse, mainly townspeople armed with shotguns and hunting rifles, approached the camp soon after dawn. Clyde and Jones opened fire with BARs on the half dozen that they saw. An attempt to drive off ended when the car was wrecked on a tree stump.[citation needed] Jones and Clyde were lightly wounded, and the other car was shot to pieces. Abandoning the heavy BARs, the gang ran into the wooded area.

Capture[edit]

A bloody gun battle broke out and Buck was shot four times in the back. Blanche and Buck separated from the other three when he collapsed. After he was again wounded, they stood up and surrendered. A photograph shows a distraught Frasure moments after she was pulled away from Buck, who is lying yards to the right.

Blanche Barrow (not long after her capture)

Due to her impaired vision, she thought the camera was a gun, expecting that she and Buck were about to be summarily shot.[5][9] The capture of Frasure and Buck, and, according to Jones, Clyde being shot at while scouting some distance away, further distracted the posse.[12][13][9]

Blanche testified she accompanied the gang to be with her husband. She provided no useful information despite pressure to cooperate for a light sentence.[citation needed] Sent to Platte County, Missouri, she was charged with assault with intent to commit the murder Sheriff Coffey. She found, to her surprise, that he bore no grudge against her. She thought he was remarkably fair and sympathetic, but she claimed that while interrogating her, J. Edgar Hoover had threatened to gouge out her remaining good eye.

In 1935, subsequent to Jones having given the authorities a thorough account of the gang's use of Barrow to communicate with their families, she and he, along with a score of others, including family members of Bonnie and Clyde, were tried for 'harboring'.

Imprisonment[edit]

July 27, 1933 — Frasure was in prison until 1939.

Both during her time in prison and after her parole, she remained in close contact with Coffey and his family as well as with Platte County prosecutor David Clevenger. Paroled after six years, the same time served by Jones.[14]

Life after release[edit]

After serving her sentence, Barrow lived an unremarkable life. She moved to Dallas, Texas, working various jobs. In 1940, she married Eddie Frasure. One year later, she completed her parole; however, police continued to monitor her whereabouts and she often was contacted when arriving in a new city. She enjoyed reminiscing with her friends, a Barrow sister and a sister of Parker, as the trio enjoyed fishing. In later life, she said Bonnie and Clyde now seemed like characters in a book she had read.[15]

Eddie died in 1969. Barrow died from cancer in 1988, aged 77. She was survived by her 93-year-old mother. She is buried in Dallas's Grove Hill Memorial Park under the name Blanche B. Frasure.[1][16] Her memoirs, My Life with Bonnie and Clyde (ISBN 0-8061-3715-0), were published in 2004, many years after her death.

Reaction to the film Bonnie and Clyde[edit]

Although she was consulted by actors and filmmakers for the film Bonnie and Clyde she thought her portrayal by Estelle Parsons was unrealistic. On 10 April 1968, at the 40th Academy Awards ceremony, Parsons won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal. She was unhappy with the film. She remarked "That movie made me look like a screaming horse's ass."[17]

In a 2013 mini-series, she was portrayed by Sarah Hyland.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 24-35, 56, 109-22, 150, 271-78; Norman, Oklahoma/London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8061-3625-1
  2. ^ Interview. John Neal Phillips
  3. ^ Cite error: The named reference Barrow was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ Red River Plunge of Bonnie and Clyde: Collingsworth Pioneers Park, US 83 north side of Salt Fork of the Red River: Texas marker #4218 – Texas Historical Commission Archived November 28, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Knight, James R.. "Incident at Alma: The Barrow Gang in Northwest Arkansas", The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 4 (Arkansas Historical Association Winter, 1997), p. 401; JSTOR 40027888.
  8. ^ Jones, W.D. "Riding with Bonnie and Clyde" Archived March 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Playboy, November 1968; reprinted at Cinetropic.com
  9. ^ a b c d "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 11, 2014. Retrieved June 20, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Go Down Together: The True, Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde, pp. 254-57
  13. ^ Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, pp. 140-45, 1996/2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0.
  14. ^ Barrow, Blanche, edited by John Neal Phillips (2004). My Life With Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press; ISBN 978-0-8061-3715-5, pg. 150
  15. ^ Blanche Barrow's Life After Prison Archived May 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine.
  16. ^ "Blanche Caldwell Barrow". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 24, 2010.
  17. ^ interview. John Neal Phillips. 3 November 1984.

Further reading[edit]

  • Barrow, Blanche Caldwell and John Neal Phillips. My Life with Bonnie and Clyde. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004; ISBN 0-8061-3625-1
  • Phillips, John Neal. Running with Bonnie and Clyde, the Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults. Norman, London: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996, 2002; ISBN 0-8061-2810-0

External links[edit]