The Barrow Gang was a group of about eight men including Clyde Barrow and one woman, Bonnie Parker [more], who loosely banded together to commit crimes. The group as a whole never acted together as a gang; rather, they committed their crimes in groups of two or three.
In the early 1930’s, during the depths of the Depression, money and food were hard to obtain. Families tried to keep a roof over their heads and food on their tables. Very few had anything extra to spend on even clothing, let alone luxuries like jewelry.
When times began to get bad, John and Madora Bucher moved their jewelry business from downtown Hillsboro to the edge of town, where they could also live on the premises. It was there that on April 30, 1932, three young men in their early twenties entered the store and asked to see some watches. After spending about an hour in the store, they left without purchasing anything.
|Mr. Bucher is the driver of the car on the right|
At around 11 pm that same evening, the Buchers heard a knock on the door. They ignored it initially, but eventually answered the door when they heard the men identify themselves as the customers who had stopped by earlier in the day. The men purchased some guitar strings, and handed over a $10 bill. After Madora opened the safe to get change, she heard a single shot and turned to see her husband dead on the floor. The men fled with about $40 in cash and jewelry worth around $2500.
The Hill County sheriff’s department was called and arrived quickly. Thinking the criminals might have escaped on the highway than ran through Hillsboro, they contacted Dallas, Fort Worth, and Waco police for help. The Dallas police department provided photos of potential suspects, and Madora Bucher identified Raymond Hamilton, a member of the Barrow Gang, and Clyde Barrow as the criminals. Several years earlier, Barrow had been tried and convicted for burglary in Hillsboro.
Later that week, the following notice was published on the front page of the Hillsboro Mirror:
TO ALL PEACE OFFICERS: HELP ME CATCH THESE BRUTAL MURDERERS AND ROBBERS.
On the night of April 30th, 1932, J. N. Bucher a prominent business man of Hillsboro, was murdered and robbed by two young white men description as follows: One, about 22 years old, 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weight 135, brown hair, brown eyes, usually bareheaded, wearing at the time white shirt, dark trousers and vest, bareheaded. No. 2, about 5 feet, 11 inches, wearing dark clothes and light colored hat, weight about 135 to 140, age 22 years.
After seven months on the run, and more crimes during this time, Hamilton was arrested and returned to Hillsboro in December. After his first trial ended in a mistrial, Hamilton remained in the Hill County Jail awaiting his second trail. Residents were on edge, fearing that Clyde Barrow and his gang might try to break him out of jail.
On the afternoon of March 23, 1933, Hamilton and two other inmates slipped up behind two deputies who were bringing another man into the jail and stole their keys. They escaped from the Hill County Jail, the only men to ever do so. The man being brought into the jail at the time ran to the jail offices and notified authorities. He was freed the next day after minor theft charges were dropped as a result of his assistance.
|Tree branch that fell on Raymond Hamilton|
The escapees stole a car and headed west, but did not get far. After passing Aquilla Creek, they headed north on a sandy road. Sheriff Jim Freeland followed and caught up to them trying to change a flat tire. Two of the men surrendered, but Hamilton did not and dropped down beside a tree. The sheriff yelled "Come on out and give yourself up" but got no answer, so he shot out a limb on the tree, causing it to fall and hit Hamilton, who promptly gave himself up.
Three months later, Hamilton was convicted of Murder with Malice Aforethought of John Bucher and sentenced to life in prison. Raymond Hamilton’s brother Floyd claimed that another man had committed the murder, but the jury found otherwise. Raymond eventually was transferred to the Texas state prison system, where he was executed in 1935 for being a "habitual criminal," which was a capital offense in those days.
After the jail was converted to the Cell Block Museum, a reenactment of this escape was performed locally. The photo on the top of this page is from that reenactment.