Bonnie and Clyde Shootout at Dexfield Park

Since 1933, Dexter, Iowa, has been known for the shootout with the Barrow Gang in Dexfield Park. At that time, the gang consisted of Clyde Barrow, his girlfriend Bonnie Parker, Clyde’s older brother Marvin “Buck” Barrow and his wife Blanche, and teenager W. D. Jones.

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Iowa History Journal, January/February 2014 issue.

Bonnie and Clyde were together only two years, between 1932 and 1934, committing a dozen murders and a string of robberies. Bonnie had been an A student in high school, and was married to someone else. Blanche, Buck’s wife, was a preacher’s daughter.

The gang hid out in Dexfield Park campground for five days in July of 1933, recuperating from a Missouri shoot-out. Buck Barrow had a severe head wound. Every day Clyde would drive into Dexter where they bought meals, medicine, and even clothing from Dexter merchants. Dexter was right along White Pole Road, so it was common during the Depression to have travelers from all over and strangers who stayed at the park. Although most people parked in town heading in, these people always came to town in pairs and backed in their Ford to park and left the engine running.

Some Girl Scouts, including Maxine Schell, were also camping in Dexfield Park. One morning they took a long hike and came upon some people at a campsite, waved, and greeted them. Later they learned they’d encountered the Barrow Gang.

After someone found bloody bandages and alerted authorities, who began to suspect the campers were indeed the Barrow Gang. A posse of about fifty officers, including Dexter’s lawman John Love and County Sheriff Clint Knee, surrounded the gang early July 24. Bonnie, Clyde, and Jones escaped north where they hiked to the Vallee Feller farm to steal a car.

The Dexter Museum has artifacts, pictures and maps from Dexter’s brush with the notorious brush with the Barrow Gang. Rod Stanley is the local expert on the Barrow Gang and often gives programs about them. So many people asked what happened to them after the Dexfield shootout, so he had a large map made for the museum of their robberies and shootouts.

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Rod Stanley telling about the Bonnie and Clyde gang shootout in Dexfield Park–to riders on the 2017 River to River Retro Road Trip. Photo by Shelley Martin.

Rod Stanley periodically leads tours out to the area where the Barrow Gang hid out in 1933. Check the Dexter Museum Facebook page for his contact information. The museum also has books for sale about Bonnie and Clyde, and the notorious gang is also featured on the museum t-shirt.

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Marker near Dexfield Park, with an original lamp. Also remembers the 1933 shootout with the Barrow Gang, also known as Bonnie & Clyde

This YouTube video tells about the shootout, interviewing Kurt Piper and Marvelle Feller, who were there that day.

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Source unknown

Sources: 1968 Dexter Centennial history

Reflections Along the White Pole Road by White Pole Road Development Corporation, 2008. Museum Board member Doris Feller wrote the section in the Reflections book called “Barrow Gang Captured.” Her father-in-law’s “First-Hand Recollection” and Maxine Shell Hadley’s “Witness to Bonnie and Clyde” are also found there.

Running with Bonnie and Clyde: The Ten Fast Years of Ralph Fults by John Neal Phillips

 

17 comments

  1. Great post. I have always been intrigued by the history of depression era outlaws such as Bonnie & Clyde, Ma Barker. John Dillinger, and George “Machine Gun” Kelly. Thanks for sharing. I will have to visit if I am ever in that area.

    • If the museum isn’t open, be sure to get in touch with Rod Stanley, as he loves sharing all the local history–knows about the gang taking food to the park and returning the dishes each day, that Clyde backed it to parking spots and left the Ford running, etc.! You’d enjoy having him tell you the stories.

  2. How odd is that. I was reading some stuff about them just the other day. I never put two and two together beyond what I’d read. Thanks, Joy, for filling in the blanks.

    • Thursdays I do ads for the museum. I also post it on FB pages: Memories of Dexter, Dallas County History, Forgotten Iowa, and even a Bonnie and Clyde History one, so enjoying replying to feedback from all of them. RAGBRAI (https://ragbrai.com/routemaps/2019-route-maps/) starts Sunday is heads through Dexter Monday, so the museum board there will be busy. If it weren’t so hot and humid, I’d love being out there to help.

      • Oh, and Mom was 14 when it happened, walked up town in time to see Buck (with a new head bandage) and Blanche come out of the doctors’ office. Those doctors later delivered thousands of us babies born in Dexter!

      • AND the next April, Bonnie and Clyde came back up to Iowa and robbed the Stuart bank, in the next town west of Dexter. (My grandfather became the nightwatchman there after one was killed during a robbery attempt at Stuart in 1921–right after twins Dale and Darlene were born.

  3. Is there no end to the fascinating stories from the Dexter Museum! I watched the video of the first-hand accounts of the young men who had helped Blanche and Buck. Incredible.

    • Vallee Feller’s daughter-in-law, Doris Feller, is on the Dexter Museum Board and loves sharing the museum with folks. She’s got a group coming in today, and Monday the RAGBRAI gang will swing through Dexter, so all the board members are ready for them. (Register’s Annual Great Bikeride Across Iowa starts tomorrow!)

      • I think I’m going to have to put the Dexter Museum on my bucket list to visit after I retire. I think it would be well worth making the trip.

      • For the size of the town, it’s a nice little museum. Dexter is known for Bonnie and Clyde (1933), Drew’s Candy Kitchen (been there since the 1930s), their 1916 elliptical brick “roundhouse” (basketball games, plays, school musicals, etc.), and when Truman gave a speech there at the 1948 National Plowing Match. (I remember that one!)

      • There were different categories. There were large scoreboards behind the President Truman which listed names of the contestants, their counties, and type of plowing. Those original tally boards were found in John Bunnell’s shed and donated to the Dexter Museum in 2008. KCCI’s Eric Hanson’s grandfather was one of the contestants. (The Reflections Along the White Pole Road book shows Eric pointing to his grandfather Donald Hanson’s name on the scoreboard.) They estimated that 100,000 people came that day! Dexter never had a population over 800 souls.

  4. Fascinating not only this post but the whole blog. With more time I´ll try to read as much as I can. Great history, so since I´m a history buff, specially the US my pleasure meating-reading you.
    P.S. I did know a Little bit of the history of Bonnie and clide when I read ” Public enemies number one”, about the depression era, Dillinger, Baby face Nelson, e.t.c. But I definitely not know this part. So thanks for sharing for me to read more history and educate what I can myself.

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