Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stevens County: 1969 Hutch News interview with Claude French about Bonnie and Clyde


French held a variety of jobs
outside the gas field. He came out
in 1928 to work wheat harvest
before returning to southeast
Kansas to graduate from high
school. In 1929, he returned to the
area for good.
French was in downtown
Hugoton the night City Marshal
Charlie Newman was fatally shot
by Fred McBee: McBee had a few
alcoholic drinks before the incident
in the Jewell Cafe owned by Bonnie
Parker and Clyde Barrow — known
locally as Blackie and Jewell
Underwood or Blackie and Jewell
Sutherland.
I was us close to the city marshal
as 1 am to you (within arm's reach)
when he got shot out here. He was
Charlie Newman. Fred McBee shot
him. They are both dead now.
I think that somebody had given
Fred a shot in this cafe. He just wa»
a little over inebriated up on Main
Street and was causing a problem
and .the city marshal was going to
take him to jail. It was '31 or '32,
right in there.
They (Bonnie and Clyde) left that
night.
I run down there to see this fight
this old boy had with a colored boy.
Of course, that's why I was down
there. After it was all over about
two hours later, here come •
(Langdon) Morgan. He was county
attorney and come up to this
service station where I was at. I
took to the back room.
He said, "Who of you fellows was
that saw that fight down there."
And they (others at the station)
said, "Old Frenchie. He's in the
back room."
The old judge said "Come on.
You've got to go with me."
I said, "I don't know nothing
about it."
And he said, "I know you do. And
they say you do. So you got to go
down."
The fellow that did the shooting
had the fight with a colored man.
That's of course disturbing the
peace. They never did anything to
the colored man at all because he
wasn't to blame in any way, shape
or form.
Newman started taking McBee
to jail and he wasn't going to go.
That old boy, of course, it was Mr.
Newman's gun he shot him with;
This other fellow took the gun
away from him.
While the nation later would
read daily updates on Bonnie and"
Clyde in the same fashion
soap-opera loyalists watch their
shows today, the deadly duo were
relative unknowns when they lived
in Stevens County in the late 1920s
and early 1930s. Most folks knew
them simply as the hard-working
couple of "Blackie and Jewell."
Others knew them to serve up good
moonshine during the dry '30s.
I drank Cokes in that place. Of
course 1 heard of them before I
even got out here. I couldn't tell
you to this day what either one of
them looked like.
I was a real good friend of the ice
man and they (Bonnie and Clyde)
wouldn't even let him put the ice in
the icebox. They'd set it on the
floor on paper and they'd put it in.
They lived up northeast of here
and worked for farmers. She was a
good housekeeper and a good cook.
Clyde, he worked for a farmer out
there. It was about seven miles out
there where they lived.
They come out here; I supposed
they were hiding somewhere and
went into that cafe.

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