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Ina Knowles Has a Brush With Bonnie and Clyde

by Lois Zook Wauson
Ina Knowles lived in the little town of Roanoke, in Tarrant County, south of Denton Texas. I talked to her several years ago. She was bright eyed, spry, grey-haired with a memory that was sharp as a tack. She was 87 years old, and got really excited when she told me the story about the day she actually really did have a brush with Bonnie and Clyde. She sat in her chair, a tiny little wiry woman with twinkling eyes, remembering every detail of that spring day in North Texas.

It was in 1933 and a warm spring Sunday afternoon in Denton County. The young couple hadn’t been married very long. Ina Knowles was still a young bride 17 years old. She and her husband Joe lived on a farm west of Roanoke with another couple. They had run off and got married in Oklahoma. They both loved the outdoors and Joe loved fishing. Ina, in a pretty flowered dress, walked with her friend Thelma up on Swinging Bridge that swung across Denton Creek northeast of the small town of Roanoke and not far from where the town of Trophy Club is now. The two girls’ husbands were fishing down below.

“Let’s go walk across the bridge”, Ina laughed at Thelma, who was a little nervous about venturing across the old wire bridge.

As they started across the creek they were on the bridge and were about half way across, they heard a car motor approaching. They turned around and saw a roadster coming. What they saw as the car inched by them on the wobbly wire bridge made their blood run cold!

Here is her story as she told it to me:

“It was after we were married in 1933, I was 17 years old. It was sometimes in the spring. We was down at the old Swinging Bridge that crossed Denton Creek. I don’t remember the name of the road. That bridge was called The Swinging Bridge, or some called it The Wire Bridge. We was there fishing. Thelma and Ed Underhill was there with us. It was just me and Thelma on the bridge. Joe and Ed were down at the creek fishing. We decided to walk across the creek on the bridge. We were half way across, when we hear a car coming.”

“This car comes down the road and starts across the bridge. They slowed down real slow, almost stopping, as it drove by us. The bridge was real narrow, and we had to get back against the wire of the bridge, so the car could go by. We was real close to the car, and could look right inside of it. It actually brushed up against us. I could see this couple up real close. It was a man and a woman. And we could see a bunch of guns in the car! I never seen so many guns!”

“The man and woman didn’t say nuthin’. They just sorta looked at us, and then just looked straight ahead and kept on going, driving real slow! After they went by, I said, ‘Thelma, you know who that was?’”

She said, ‘Well, they look familiar, but I don’t know.’”

I said, ‘That was Bonnie and Clyde!’ I had seen pictures of them.

She said, ‘That’s right. I remember now! That’s who that was!'

Well, they just drove on off the bridge and went on, and we got off the bridge fast. We went down and told Joe and Ed. And it wasn’t long till this car come up and it had two or three policemen in it, and they come off down there and was talking to Joe and Ed, and then they took off after them. It wasn’t too long after that Bonnie and Clyde went and killed those two men from Grapevine.”

When I asked Mrs. Knowles if she was scared when she saw Bonnie and Clyde up so close, knowing their history and seeing all those guns, she said, grinning, “Well, no. I was a little nervous. I didn’t ever get too scared about anything. My Daddy said I was too bullheaded to get scared!”

The reason Ina and Thelma had no trouble seeing all the guns in the back of the car the couple drove, was because Clyde Barrow’s car was loaded with weapons. When they were killed in Louisiana on May 23, 1934, there was enough guns and ammunition in the car to furnish a small army squadron: There were over 3,000 rounds of ammunition including 199 rounds of machine gun clips. Three .30 Browning Automatics, two sawed off shot guns, two Colt automatic pistols and five .45 caliber automatic pistols. I think Ina Knowles saw all of that in that car that day.

Everyone in North Texas knows the story of Bonnie and Clyde Barrow, notorious outlaws, who shot and killed two young police officers between Grapevine and Roanoke on Easter Sunday, April 1, 1934. Bonnie and Clyde had been on a rampage through Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma for years, having no qualms about killing anyone who got in their way while robbing banks and businesses. They had just robbed a bank in Dallas, and also in South Texas, after helping a friend to escape from Eastham Prison. They were undoubtedly psychopathic killers.

In my research I found this story on the internet, one about the victims of Bonnie and Clyde Barrow: “ It was in April of 1934, that three Texas Highway motorcycle patrolmen, Edward Bryan Wheeler, age, twenty-six, H. D. Murphy, age twenty-two and Polk Ivy, were traveling northwest on Highway 114 and Dove Road, just west of Grapevine. They had cruised past a black Ford V8 with yellow wheels parked on a side road. Ivy continued on to Roanoke, while Murphy and Wheeler turned around to investigate.

Clyde grabbed a sawed-off shotgun and hid behind the car, while Henry Methvin grabbed a Browning automatic rifle. Meaning to kidnap the officers and take them for a ‘joyride’, Clyde said to Methvin, ‘Let’s take ‘em’. Methvin took this to mean, ‘Kill ‘em’. Not knowing of the impending danger and with guns still holstered, Wheeler who was in front, approached the car, Clyde prepared to jump him and was surprised when Methvin fired his weapon, striking Wheeler in the chest. Murphy, attempted to grab his shotgun from his motorcycle. Clyde, now faced with a different situation, fired three blasts, at patrolman Murphy.

Another story says that Bonnie walked over to one of the officers on the ground, rolled him over with her foot and fired her sawed-off shotgun at the officer’s head. The members of the gang were cold blooded killers.

There is a monument erected west of Grapevine, in honor of the two slain police officers.

An old picture of the scene of the crime shows the old automobiles on the side of the road, and people standing around in the midst of the ruts of the old dirt road. It was way out in the country 73 years ago, and now that area is a thriving metropolitan area. Progress moves the towns on! My daughter Kristi and her husband Bill lived for a while on Dove Road, not far from the place that Bonnie and Clyde ended two lives. The area is still wooded and beautiful and peaceful. Nothing there to suggest violence and death once stalked that part of North Texas.

Ina Knowles never forgot that day at Denton Creek, which is not far from Dove Rd. To be so close to cold blooded killers and to live and tell it, caused her to thank the Lord every day that she lived to tell the story.
"They shoe horses, don't they?"
January 15, 2008 Guest Column
Copyright Lois Zook Wauson

Lois Zook Wauson's book "Rainy Days and Starry Nights' (2004) is a collection of her stories about growing up in South Texas during the 1930s and 40s.

See Floresville, Texas
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