GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) - The legend of Bonnie and Clyde and the time they spent in Grapevine was revisited through a front page of a Dec. 31, 1932, edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently donated to City Hall.
The banner headline on the front page reads, “Robber tricks farmers into helping in escape,” referring to the 1932 robbery of the Grapevine Home Bank by two Dallas crooks who were known associates of Bonnie and Clyde.
Although Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were not involved in the robbery, Grapevine history aficionados have long had an interest in the couple because of their connection to the city, said Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate.
“Bonnie and Clyde spent a lot of time here,” Tate said at the presentation of a framed copy of the original newspaper at a recent City Council meeting. “Their parents lived not far from here for a while. There are a lot of stories. They had a lot of friends here. They never did rob the bank here because they had a lot of friends that had money in it. But the gang did.”
The gangsters, however, did have a hand in the killing of three Texas lawmen, including Tarrant County Deputy Sheriff Malcolm Davis of Grapevine - a close friend of William Tate’s father, Gordon. Davis was killed by Clyde Barrow “with a sawed-off shotgun with buckshot,” the mayor said, adding that Davis is buried in Grapevine Cemetery near the archway entrance.
“I think the (1933) killing of Malcolm Davis and then shortly thereafter the two Texas highway patrolmen was the beginning of the end of Bonnie and Clyde,” Tate told the Star-Telegram (https://bit.ly/1gLdHjr). “In fact, probably the killing of Malcolm Davis brought the end to Bonnie and Clyde because Texas law started taking it pretty seriously when they started killing Texas lawmen, especially highway patrolmen who had never been killed in the line of duty before.”
On May 23, 1934, Bonnie and Clyde - who were responsible for a Depression-era robbery and murder spree across Texas and the Midwest - were shot to death in a police ambush in Louisiana.
The Grapevine bank their gang robbed is long gone. Today, it is the site of Bermuda Gold & Silver, a family-owned custom design jewelry store at 404 S. Main St.
Owners Debi and Mike Meek know well their location’s place in Texas folklore and are always on the lookout for new information. So when a customer told them a copy of a 1932 Star-Telegram chronicling a bank robbery at that location was for sale, they were intrigued.
The customer, Mark Upchurch, found it on eBay for $14.95, and the Meeks quickly asked him to get the paper that sold in 1932 for five cents.
“Grapevine is a city rich in history, and we love sharing our history and preserving it,” said Debi Meek, who with her husband are members of the Grapevine Historical Society.
The Meeks presented Tate and the city with a framed front page of the 1932 article about the Grapevine bank holdup in which the two robbers took $2,500 and locked the employees and customers in the vault.
After the heist, the outlaws split up after ditching their getaway car in a ravine.
One went to the door of a farmer and knocked, saying he was “with the posse and needed a ride to Dallas,” Debi Meek said in her presentation. “The farmer gave him a ride to Dallas, where he dropped him off and the robber gave him $5 for gas money.”
According to the article, the escaping robber who duped the farmer into thinking he was a member of the posse who got “lost from his group” and needed a ride, pulled a pistol on the 37-year-old good Samaritan during the ride.
“I have 58 shells in my pocket and I intend to use them before they get me,” the robber told the farmer, who was interviewed by the Star-Telegram.
Gordon Tate, a grocery store clerk who later would become mayor, heard the news about the bank robbery on Main Street and wanted to help. Grocery store owner Kirby Buckner handed Tate a new .35-caliber Remington rifle.
“Go get ‘em,” Mayor Tate said Buckner told his father.
The Star-Telegram followed the crime for several days, in part because the robbers reportedly had hung out with Parker and Barrow.
Gordon Tate and another clerk quickly found the robbers’ car near where Harwood Road now intersects Texas 121, according to a Star-Telegram article. They pursued one of the robbers on foot. Gordon Tate leveled his rifle on him, and the robber was searched and taken into custody.
The rifle was donated to the city in 2006 and is displayed on the second floor of City Hall on Main Street. Meek said the rifle had to be restored because Gordon Tate “went through a lot of brush. He tore his clothes and the gun was scratched up quite a bit.”
Meek said that part of the story ended with two arrests, saying, “Both of those (robbers) were brought in and served time.”
Rumor has it, she said, that one of the robbers provided information about Bonnie and Clyde’s Dallas hideout that led to Clyde Barrow shooting Davis as he and other deputies were staking out a house waiting for members of the outlaw gang.
One history buff has gathered a wealth of information over the years. Tarrant County Commissioner Gary Fickes, who was Southlake mayor from 1989 to 1996, was a major contributor to a Southlake Historical Society article.
At a location that later became Southlake, Fort Worth-based state troopers H.D. Murphy and Edward Wheeler were killed on April 1, 1934, when, thinking a motorist needed assistance, they surprised Bonnie, Clyde and gang member Henry Methvin, who were waiting for an Easter Sunday meeting with family members.
Witnesses said Methvin panicked and shot Wheeler. Then Barrow shot Murphy, whose bullets were still in his pocket.
According to the Southlake Historical Society, a farmer living nearby who had been sitting on his porch was a witness to the shootings and provided information to help identify the killers.
A marker to memorialize the sacrifice of Wheeler and Murphy stands on Dove Road in Southlake near the site of the killings, Fickes said.
“It was known that Bonnie and Clyde had numerous friends and relatives in the area,” Fickes said. “Does this event reflect negatively on Southlake today? No, it’s just part of our history!”
Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, https://www.star-telegram.com
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