Bonnie and Clyde Wellington Incident
One of the projects funded by The Works Progress Administration was the construction of State Highway 4 from the south to the north through Collingsworth County. By the summer of 1933 SH4 (later designated US83) was completed from the Childress County line to the Salt Fork of Red River but diverted to the old highway to cross the river on the 1910 bridge.
On the evening of June 10, 1933, the Sam Pritchard family, which consisted of Sam and Sallie Pritchard, their daughter and son-in-law Gladys and Alonzo Cartwright, and their son Jack and his wife Irene Pritchard, were visiting together at the Pritchard home, located about six miles north of Wellington, Texas, about a hundred yards from the Salt Fork River. The family made ice cream and Sam and Jack took their bowls outside to sit on the porch. About ten o’clock, they heard a speeding car approaching from the south at a high rate of speed. Jack told his father “the driver must be a darn fool.”
Driving that maroon Ford V-8 was Clyde Barrow and with him were Bonnie Parker and W.D. Jones on their way to a rendezvous point near Sayre, Oklahoma, to meet Buck and Blanche Barrow.
The speeding car missed the detour, crashed through a wooden barricade, and plunged off into the river. Jack, Sam, and Alonzo sprinted down to find the V-8 on its side in the water. Alonzo and Jack pulled Clyde out through what had been the windshield, and then pulled out W.D. Jones. Clyde and W.D. were intent on collecting guns and ammunition and seemed to ignore Bonnie who was seriously hurt inside the vehicle. Jack and Alonzo lifted her out and Jack carried her to the Pritchard house and laid her on a bed. Sallie and Gladys applied baking soda and Cloverine Salve to her leg which was severely burned by battery acid. Sallie and Gladys knew she needed a doctor but Clyde refused. Clyde told W.D. to stay at the house while he went back to the wreck to salvage guns and ammunition.
Alonzo Cartwright sneaked away and drove into Wellington and alerted the Collingsworth County Sheriff George Corry and town chief of police Paul Hardy. Hardy and Corry, having no idea they were dealing with noted criminals, walked into the dimly lit house to be confronted with Clyde and a Browning automatic rifle. He took Corry and Hardy prisoners and Bonnie managed to get up and grab the lawmen’s guns.
Gladys Pritchard Cartwright, worried that her baby might crawl out the kitchen door, reached up to latch the door. W.D. thought she was reaching for a weapon and fired his shotgun, with several pellets inflicting nicks to one of her fingers.
Clyde and W.D. prodded the lawmen into the back seat of the Chevrolet the lawmen arrived in, put Bonnie in the middle of the front seat with W.D. on the right and Clyde driving. After a few miles, Clyde stopped and put Bonnie in the back with Corry and Hardy where she lay across their laps. After midnight Clyde finally arrived at the designated spot between Erick and Sayre, Oklahoma, where Buck and Blanche Barrow waited. Clyde told Buck that Bonnie might be dying and he had two lawmen to get rid of. After discussing the situation, Buck decided Corry and Hardy had treated Bonnie well during their rough ride and they would not kill them. They tied them to trees beside the road, using their own handcuffs and some barbed wire. Corry was able to work his way free and the men found the Chevrolet not far down the road.
In just a few short months, Bonnie and Clyde perished in a hail of gunfire near Arcadia, Louisiana. Bonnie did not receive medical attention until the group reached Arkansas about a week later and never fully recovered from their plunge into Salt Fork River.
The desperados were seen around the county a few times before their jump into the river. A few miles south of Wellington, Clyde stuck the car in the sand. The serviceman sent to help was able to drive the car out of the sand. A few miles north of Salt Fork River, another young man found the group on the side of the road with a flat tire and no jack. He changed the tire and was paid with a twenty dollar bill—the first one he had ever seen! The trio also ate in the Wellington Hotel dining room. While the Ford was parked outside the hotel, employees of Kelly Pigg’s Ford dealership took turns going by the hotel to see the maroon Ford—the first Ford of any color other than black that they had ever seen!
After the 1933 Ford V8 was pulled from the river and repaired by the Ford dealer, the car was sold by the insurance company to the Goforth Family of Wellington and it could be seen around town for several years.
Collingsworth County Museum has one of Bonnie’s leather gloves and two magazine clips for Clyde’s Browning automatic rifle. These were found in the river by local young men.