Buffalo Courier-Express, January 17, 1934
HUNTSVILLE, Texas, January 16 (AP) — Clyde Barrow, currently the Southwest's worst machine-gunning bad man, tonight had "dug in" somewhere in East Texas, after a spectacular foray out of early morning fog on the Eastham State Prison Farm, where machine gun fire felled two guards as Barrow effected the delivery (escape) of Raymond Hamilton, his former partner, and four other convicts.

Lee Simmons, general manager of the prison system, expressed belief Barrow and the fleeing convicts hid somewhere in East Texas and did not attempt to drive out of this section before nightfall.

"The last report I received was that someone had seem them headed from Palestine toward the Louisiana line," he said.

Major (Joseph) Crowson, guard, who was shot in the abdomen while attempting to halt the break, was reported in "very grave condition" at a hospital here tonight. He is given only a slight chance of recovery. Olan Bozeman, another guard, was shot in the hip.

The spectacular delivery (escape) was so perfectly executed that the fugitives were quickly lost in a heavy fog as they sped away in two motor cars.

Simmons said the break evidently was planned to free Hamilton, who had been sentenced to 263 years in the last year for murder and robbery.

"Three pistols had been planted in a brush pile where the convicts were clearing some timber," he said. "They knew where to look for them, and one of them, Joe Palmer, dived into a pile of brush and came out with a .45 automatic pistol in his hand. He let go with it right away."

The article went on at considerable length. Lee Simmons said two men appeared at the edge of a nearby ditch, one with a machine gun in his hand, the other with an automatic pistol. They opened fire while Palmer and four others made a dash for the ditch and the waiting automobiles.

Bonnie Parker, who remained in one of the cars, sounded the horn continually to guide the convicts to the road.

Besides Hamilton and Palmer, the convicts who escaped were Henry Methvin, serving ten years; W. H. Bybee, serving a life sentence, and J. B. French, twelve years. French knew nothing about the escape; he simply seized the opportunity and went his own way. Without a ride, he didn't get far and was soon apprehended.

The other twelves prisoners in the work detail made no attempt to escape. They told prison officials that Barrow had the machine gun. The other man was a small-time hood named Jimmy Mullens. It was Mullens, along with Floyd Hamilton, Raymond's brother, who a few days earlier had crawled under a barbed wire fence and left the guns for the escaping convicts.

Those guns were picked up by Aubrey Skelley, serving life for taking the blame for the murder Clyde Barrow had committed a few years earlier. He either smuggled the guns directly to the prisoners, or left them in the brush pile.

Elmira Star-Gazette, January 17, 1934
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — J. B. French, one of the five convicts who escaped when Clyde Barrow, Texas desperado, raided the Eastham State Prison Farm yesterday, has been recaptured.

Warden W. W. Wald said French was caught near the farm late last night. French apparently did not figure in the plot engineered by Barrow to free his pal, Raymond Hamilton, killer and bank robber, but took advantage of the excitement to escape.

Barrow, who wielded a machine gun; Hamilton, Joe Palmer, convict who wounded two guards with a smuggled pistol, and the other convicts, Henry Methvin ad W. H. Bybee, drove away in automobiles.

No two accounts of this incident are the same. The above story assumed Barrow set out to free Hamilton, and the Wikipedia version claims only Hamilton was originally part of the escape plane, which is not true, since more than one gun was smuggled onto prison grounds.

Some accounts say three guns were left outside by a brush pile, others say the guns were smuggled directly to Hamilton inside.

In view of everything I've ready about the relationship between Barrow and Ray Hamilton, I find the most reasonable explanation of the escape is that Hamilton didn't figure in it at all, not in the beginning, anyway.

Barrow was friends with Ralph Fults. They had served time together at Eastham, and staged robberies afterward, until Fults was caught and sent back to Eastham. Barrow's plan was to spring Fults, but that changed when Fults was transferred to another facility.

However, Fults got word to Barrow to get Hilton Bybee out of the prison farm. Barrow also wanted to spring Joe Palmer and Henry Methvin, the latter being one of the biggest mistakes Clyde Barrow ever made.

Meanwhile, Ray Hamilton had been boasting that Barrow was going to spring him. And it was Hamilton's brother, Floyd, who assisted with the escape plan, so it figures that Ray Hamilton would join Bybee, Palmer and Methvin. In truth, Hamilton and Barrow disliked each other, and that feeling would grow after the Eastham breakout.

There seems little doubt that it was Palmer who killed the prison guard, Major Crowson, but Hamilton also would be convicted for the murder, and the two outlaws would be executed one and the the other two years later.

But in the immediate aftermath of the escape, the four freed convicts participated in a bank robbery with Barrow a week later in Rembrandt, Iowa, after which Bybee quit the gang. He returned to Texas with money in his pockets, but was soon caught (see below).

Soon Hamilton and Palmer dropped out of the gang, leaving only Henry Methvin , which, in May, would prove unfortunate for Bonnie and Clyde.

Buffalo Courier-Express, January 31, 1934
AMARILLO, Texas (AP) — A girl hitchhiker caused the capture today of W. H. Bybee, life-termer from Abilene and El Paso, who escaped from the Eastham state prison farm two weeks ago when Clyde Barrow, Texas outlaw, freed a group of convicts.

Bybee was arrested on a highway while pursuing in a truck pretty Evelyn B. Clark, 22, of Los Angeles, who had driven away with his car when he stopped at a filling station west of here.

The car, containing a sub-machine gun, a rifle and other weapons, was turned over to Amarillo police.
Bybee had caught a truck and was following the girl when he ran into a police cordon. He was armed with a revolver, but surrendered without resistance.

Bybee went back to the Eastham Prison Farm, but on June 22, 1937 led another escape attempt, this one temporarily freeing 18 inmates. Bybee and two others headed east into Arkansas, robbed a bank and a service station, and, on July 20, were tracked down by state police near Monticello.

Bybee wounded one state policeman before he was gunned down. One of his companions surrendered, the other escaped.

Hamilton and Palmer went their separate ways after leaving the Barrow gang, but neither remained free very long, though both would escape prison one more time before being recaptured.

New York Sun, June 15, 1934
ST. JOSEPH, Missouri (AP) — Three men kidnapped yesterday in and near Davenport, Iowa, were released here early today and their abductor captured.

The three men, Elmer Schleuter, policeman; Al Schultze, baseball official, and Dr. W. H. Fitch, Walcott, Iowa, veterinarian, were released by the kidnapper here at 3:45 a.m., and fifteen minutes later police arrested Joe Palmer, 32, who was identified by the trio as their abductor.

Palmer escaped from the prison farm at Eastham, Texas, last January 16, when Major Crowson, a guard, was killed. Palmer and four others, including Raymond Hamilton, Texas desperado, escaped from the farm in a plot allegedly engineered by the late Clyde Barrow.

Hamilton was convicted of slaying the guard, and, during the trial, the defense sought to throw the blame for the shooting on Palmer.

Palmer readily agreed to return to Iowa to face robbery and kidnap charges in connection with the abduction of the three men, saying, “If they take me back to Texas, they’ll sizzle me.”

By “sizzle,” he explained, he meant the electric chair.
Palmer said he kidnapped the policeman because he feared the uniformed man, who had halted him for questioning, would find a pistol he carried in his brief case, take him to headquarters, check his record and return him to Texas.

The three victims returned to their homes a few hours after they were released.

Schultz said Palmer’s sold object in kidnapping him and the other two men was to escape capture and identification. He intimated, Schultze said, that if he got to St. Joseph, he might make his escape. No mention was made of ransom, according to the baseball man.

Palmer took approximately $135 from Dr. Fitch, $93 from Schultze, and $1 from Schleuter. He overlooked $300 the doctor carried.

The trip from Davenport to St. Louis was made in the physician’s car.

“I intended to let you fellows out here and take the car on,” Schultze quoted Palmer as saying, “but I’ll let you have it if you’ll promise to go on back to Davenport.”

The men agreed. Palmer got out and started off afoot. As soon as he was out of sight, the Iowa men hastened to the St. Joseph police station. Police started a search and found Palmer about fifteen minutes later hitch-hiking down a street toward a highway.

Police got the drop on Palmer and he surrendered. Captain J. E. Kelley said Palmer carried two revolvers.
The kidnapping of Schultze and Schleuter took place in front of the Western League baseball park at Davenport.
The patrolman approached Palmer to question him, but Palmer drew a pistol from his pocket and forced the policeman to stop. When Schultz approached in his motor car, Palmer forced the policeman into it and ordered Schultz to drive.

Palmer complained about the condition of the machine, and near Walcott stopped Dr. Fitch and commandeered his coupe. He forced the patrolman into the rear compartment of the coupe and ordered Dr. Fitch and Schultze to take turns driving.

“We zigzagged here and there,” said Schultze. “We traveled all the time. We must have gone at least 700 miles. Once Palmer stopped to buy himself a candy bar, but bought no food for us.

“Palmer never really got rough with us; in fact, we gave him no reason to.

“The doctor made a hit with him, but he didn’t like me because I was a friend of the policeman — and he said he hated cops. He and the doctor talked about the medical profession and got real chummy on the subject.”


Binghamton Press, July 23, 1934
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Three desperate killers who blasted their way out of the death house at the Texas state prison were at large today.

The trio overpowered unarmed guards and scaled the walls in a hail of bullets while most of the prison population was attending a Sunday baseball game.

Escaping were Raymond Hamilton, one-time running mate of the late Clyde Barrow; Joe Palmer, also a Barrow cohort, and “Blackie” Thompson, Oklahoma killer and bank robber.

In their flight they left three companions — all life termers. One is dead, the other two wounded. Whitey Walker, Thompson’s companion in several crimes, was shot to death as he attempted to scale the walls; Charlie Frazier, leader of a recent Louisiana farm break, was wounded seriously, and Roy Johnson, Oklahoma bandit, was wounded slightly.

All Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana haunts of the men were being watched by county, state and Federal officers, and Texas rangers were on the alert along the Mexican border. A few hours after they dashed away in two waiting motor cars, the escapees were reported right Heare, Texas.

Frazier, notorious Louisiana escape artist, engineered the break from the death house, situated in the middle of the penitentiary. When inside guard Lee Brazil walked into Frazier’s cell with his evening meal, the prisoner shoved a revolver into his side. He flourished another in his other hand. Mr. Brazil, unarmed because of prison regulations, was marched into the death house.

“Frazier relieved me of my keys,” Mr. Brazil said. “First he released Thompson, and then Hamilton and Palmer. He asked Pete McKenzie of San Antonio, and Ira Rector, a Negro, if they wanted to get out. Both refused.”

The desperado quartet was joined at the door by Johnson and Walker. They encountered W. T. McConnell, another unarmed inside guard, and forced him to precede them as they rushed toward the wall. Hamilton kept Mr. McConnell covered with a revolver. Another life termer, Herbert Alvin Stanley, joined the group.

Guard Burdeaux, atop the wall, spotted the band of desperadoes and their prisoner.

“Throw down your guns or we’ll kill McConnell,” one of them said.

Burdeaux dropped his weapons to the floor. A ladder from the prison carpenter’s shop was placed under the picket guard’s feet. Frazier, a life termer, said, “All you death penalty en go over first. I’ll come later.”

Hamilton started the climb while Frazier started shooting at picket guard H. E. George. Walker follow Hamilton, but soon fell from a bullet wound in the chest — dead. His body rolled over two of the convicts, knocking them off the ladder. Thompson and Palmer scrambled up the ladder, reached the top and started firing.

Guard George fired at Frazier, toppling him to the ground. Johnson, wounded slightly, made no further attempt to climb the ladder. Stanley ran behind a wood pile.

Palmer, Hamilton and Thompson ran to two waiting automobiles. One of them pulled a rifle from the back seat, lay down in a ditch and started firing at guard George. He creased Mr. George on the scalp.

The escapees jumped in the to cars and sped away.
Hamilton, Palmer and Thompson were all condemned to death — Hamilton for bank robbery and as an habitual criminal; Palmer for the slaying of Major Crowson, a prison guard, and Thompson for bank robbery.


Buffalo Courier-Express, May 10, 1935
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Raymond Hamilton, braggart desperado, was electrocuted early today for the murder of Major Crowson. He went to the electric chair at 12:19 a.m. (CST).

HUNTSVILLE, Texas, May 9 (AP) — His face pale, his hands twitching, Raymond Hamilton, the one-time Texas terror, became a cowering figure on hearing that all hope had faded of escaping electrocution shortly after midnight.

The 22-year-old desperado, who liked to appear tough as he roamed the Southwest with blazing guns, had to fight hard for composure after learning the governor and the courts refused to interfere with his execution for the killing of a prison guard.

“What about women — what influence have they had on your career?” he was asked.

“No girl has any influence on me,” the gunman blurted out with a flash of his old self-confidence. “That is, except Katie. I love Katie.”

He referred to Katie Jenkins, Dallas night club entertainer, who quit a job in California to come here and seek to aid him. She was the latest of his many heart interests.

“Keep your chin up,” wrote his attorney, Miss Camille Openshaw of Houston, disclosing that the court of appeals had turned down his petition for a writ of habeas corpus.

“In the absence of any showing that Hamilton’s legal rights have been denied him, I think the verdict ought to stand,” commented Governor James Allred, in refusing to grant clemency or a reprieve.

The execution of Hamilton, who has threatened to “come back and haunt” those who condemned him to die, faced atonement in the electric chair tonight for viciousness ranging from teenage petit larceny to murder by the time he was old enough to vote.

At 22, the dapper killer — former lieutenant of the late gangster, Clyde Barrow, and his cigar-smoking gun moll, Bonnie Parker — was sentenced to pay with his life for taking that of a penitentiary guard.

The guard, Major Crowson, was shot down when Barrow and his reckless consort — later slain with him by officers — freed young Hamilton from a state prison farm at Eastham, Texas, in January, 1934.

With Hamilton tonight, as in the deadly 1934 Eastham break, is Joe Palmer, a defiant convict who insisted to the last that he shot Crowson because he hated him, and that Hamilton’s bullets went wild.

Hamilton’s execution was set immediately following that of Palmer, who was prepared to enter the death chamber shortly after midnight. Crucifixes dangled from the necks of both.

For their last meal, Hamilton and Palmer ordered fried fish, cream gravy, potatoes au gratin, corn O’Brien, sweet pickles, lettuce, stuffed olives, celery, ice cream and chocolate cake and dewberry cobbler. Both had good appetites.

Both were calm throughout the day. Palmer was visited by his younger sister and an uncle; Hamilton had no visitors. Yesterday his mother, Mrs. Steve Davis, and Katie Jenkins, his heart interest, spent a half-hour with him.

Hamilton and Palmer were arrested separately after their escape from Eastham in January, 1934. But six months later, on July 22, the two men escaped death row in Huntsville prison, along with Irvin “Blackie” Thompson, who also was condemned to die.

Palmer was recaptured while he slept alongside a Kentucky lane; Thompson was shot down by an Amarillo, Texas, posse, and Hamilton was on the run almost nine months before he was caught in Fort Worth on April 5, 1935.

For more on the Eastham Prison Farm breakout