BONNIE & CLYDE'S MISSOURI VENTURE


Contributor: Robert H. Gibbons


Robert Gibbons met Tom Persell
In Robert Gibbons' interview with Tom Persell, the two were closely watched
by Tom's wife, Hazel. Tom told about how he was forced to help steal a battery from
another car to keep them (the Barrow Gang) going! They let him go without harming
him - keeping his weapon. Persell's pearl handled gun is shown in some of the
photos of Bonnie and Clyde - in particular, the photo of Bonnie disarming Clyde.
It eventually was recovered with other guns at either Dexter, Iowa, or near there,
and Tom could never get it back because he hadn't recorded the serial number.
He described marks and cuts on it, but the new owner would never return it to him.








Persellís Own Story of Kidnaping
Bandits Had Arsenal and Several Sacks of Money



By Thomas A. Persell
As told to Perry Smith of the Press Staff
Springfield, MO Press, January 27, 1933

A few minutes before 6 oíclock Thursday night, as I was cruising near the corner of
Kimbrough avenue and St. Louis street. I noticed suspicious actions of three persons in
a V-8 model Ford coach. A girl was riding in the front seat with two men and they looked
as if they were trying to spot a car. They slowed down near a car with a Washington
license which was parked in front of the Shrine Mosque, but continued west on St. Louis
street. A short time later I saw the machine turn east on Mitchell street, in the rear
of the Mosque. Becoming suspicious I rode there and turned off my lights and a few
minutes later they returned and went north over the Benton avenue viaduct. I pulled up
beside the machine and ordered the driver to stop, but he declared that he didnít have
any brakes. At the end of the viaduct, he turned east on Pine street and stopped and
I noticed that the girl had got into the back seat of the car. Her arm was laying on the
back of the seat and she had something in her hand. But I didnít know until later that
it was a .45 Army automatic. As I pulled up beside the machine, the driver stepped out
with a sawed-off automatic shotgun in his hand and ordered me to hold up my hands and
step into the car. He jerked my gun out of the holster and threw it to his companion in
the front seat.

As I get in the front seat, the man with the gun swung around and shouted to a boy across
the street, get the hell out of here and as he got into the machine I thought I saw the
boy run down an alley. The driver was the only person who talked for a time and he was
quite profane. He asked me if I didnít know better than to stop a car with an out-of-state
license and I told him that that was what I was getting paid for. He then told me I would
have to show him the way out of town. I told him to turn off Pine street on Washington
Avenue. We drove to Center Street and from there to National avenue. We left National
Avenue at Division Street and went to Glenstone. They appeared unacquainted with the streets.

We turned on Highway 66 toward St. Louis, but the driver asked me if there wasnít a road
to cut across and hit near Joplin and I told him there was. He then ordered the girl to
look at a map, meanwhile turning back to Glenstone. We drove about a mile further and they
ordered me to get into the rear seat where they covered me with a blanket. The girl held
her pistol on me and we drove up to a filling station and the gasoline tank was filled.
After leaving the filling station they told me to climb over into the front seat again and
I did, breaking one of their suit cases in doing so. I also saw a veritable arsenal, bigger
than the one at the police  station on the floor of the car when I climbed over. There
were two rifles, two automatic shotguns, a Thompson sub-machine gun and a number of pistols,
including mine. 

Red-haired and freckled, the girl I sat beside for such short time was red-haired and not
the least bit beautiful. She weighed about 110 pounds, was freckled, as red-haired girls
often are, and was wearing a dark coat and sort of a turban-like hat on the side of her
head. Another suspicious thing about them, was the great amount of money I saw in the back
of the car. There were several sacks of coins and I sat on two, which were under the
blanket. There also was a bag in the front seat, which I thought contained some money.
Just before we got to Crystal Cave, we turned onto the Pleasant Hope road and the driver
batted along on that rough, winding road about 50 miles an hour. The driver seemed to be
the leader and he ordered the girl, whom he invariably addressed as "Hon" or "Babe" to look
at the road map and tell him which highways they were near. The other fellow, a silent
sort of a chap, addressed the girl as "Sis" and she called him "Bud".

After leaving Pleasant Hope, we hit Highway No. 13, somewhere between Brighton and Bolivar.
We rode on about two miles and turned on another rough country lane. I donít believe we
drove more than 15 miles on the highway. The roads we traveled were muddy, but the driver
hit about 50 miles an hour all along. We passed through the edge of Morrisville and near
Greenfield we met a car which we apparently crowded into a ditch. The lights on our car
werenít so good and I think that was what caused the driver to nearly hit the other machine.
Near Greenfield they asked me how I happened to stop them and whether I had seen them
fooling around the car and I told them that I just stopped them to investigate their
licenses. That was my only alibi. They then told me that they had stolen a car at Springfield
Thursday afternoon, and according to the description and license number they gave, it was
the one taken from M. Kerr, a brown Ford V-8. But they said they ditched the machine out in
the country and told me it was near a cemetery, probably out Campbell Avenue and Mount
Vernon they said.

They put me back in the rear seat when we neared Golden City and while we were parked at
a garage there to get some gasoline, a night watchman came by and flashed his light over
the car. The driver got out and the man in the car said, "Look at that Hoosier". He laughed
and I peeped out from under the blanket and saw the watchman, but he went on without
looking in the machine. It would probably have been too bad if he had tried to investigate.
From Golden City we went to another country road and came out on a highway. I saw a sign
which said 7 miles to Jasper and 8 miles to Lamar. They knew all about the country around
there and they dodged from one country road to another until we came to the residential
district of Carthage. There they indicated they were looking for a car to steal and they
drove around awhile and finally the driver asked the girl, Hon, do you think there are any
cars we can get at Webb City? She answered in the affirmative and they struck out across
another country road and finally we came to the residential area of Webb City. The man who
wasnít driving got out twice there, but apparently was unable to get a machine and finally
we went to Oronogo. The driver said, Hon, we know where thereís a Buick here, donít we?
They seemed to know where they were going, but when they stopped, I saw a Chevrolet coach
in front of a house. Neither of the men got out and pretty soon they continued driving.
While in Oronogo the men kept talking about a gun battle and returning fire and I asked,
did they shoot at you? One of the men said, yes, some monkey in the bank took a shot at us.
We left town and the next time I recognized my surroundings we were in a residential section
of Joplin the Roanoke district, I believe. There was a party going on at one house and
the man who wasnít driving got out and tried to get into five cars, which he classed as
sorry because he couldnít start them. He opened a LaSalle sedan on one corner, but he
couldnít find the switch. After that, he tried several more machines, but the girl claimed
she saw a woman watching him out of a window and advised the driver to scram before police
appeared. 
 
We returned to Oronogo and as we drove up the main street, one of the men said, Thereís
the bank all lit up. The men seemed to have a mania for V-8 Fords and I believe they
were trying to steal the other cars just to get batteries for their machine. The driver
returned to where the Chevrolet was parked, which had not been molested the first time
and he stopped his machine and got out, but found it was locked. He disappeared a short
time. When he came back he said he had located a T-model Ford in a garage. Taking the
Tommy Gun and a pair of pliers, he went away again and was gone about 15 minutes. When
he returned, he had a old battery, which was a sorry looking thing. He set it on the
running board and started off. It fell off once and we went back after it. After driving
several miles, we stopped and I held the light while the driver took the floorboards out
of the car and prepared to put in the stolen battery. The other fellow stood behind me
and the girl stayed in the car. I helped with the pliers after he got the battery placed.
I then took the light and walked around behind the machine, with the second man, hoping
to get a look at the license tags, but they were so mud-spashed I saw only the first
three numerals. They were 406___.
 
I had opened a package of cigarettes when I got into the car and after smoking theirs,
my companions began to mooch mine. The girl who was as profane as her companions, simply
ate fags. The driver didnít smoke. After throwing the old battery away, we turned the car
around and drove about 6 or 7 miles past some intersection. The driver then said,
Did you see that intersection? and at an affirmative answer, he continued Weíre going to
dump you here. You walk to that intersection, turn right and youíll come to a filling
station and tourist camp. You can get a telephone there. They let me out at 12:30.
I looked at my watch, but when I asked for my gun, the driver refused and said Youíre
lucky as it is. I walked about 8 miles, but it seemed like a hundred before I got to
the camp. There I called Joplin police and they sent a car after me. While I was talking
with the tourist camp owner and his wife, they told me my former companions had held up
the Bank of Oronogo recently. During our drive, I noticed they also avoided Ash Grove,
Stockton and Lamar, and the driver once said about Ash Grove, I had plenty of trouble
there once. At Joplin I called Desk Sergeant, Henry Gardner and talked to Ruel Wommack,
assistant Chief of Police here. Chief Wommack, Chief of Detectives Al Sampey and my
wife drove to Joplin after me. I had arrived in Joplin about 2 oíclock.
 
The driver, who talked the most, seemed to be a foreigner of some sort. He was swarthy
and appeared to be about 26 years old. He wore a tan hat and a dark suit. He weighed about
140 pounds. The other man was stocky built and seemed younger. He weighed about 160 pounds
and was wearing a dark overcoat and suit. He also had on a dark hat. The little bit he
talked about, was  the Tommy gun of which he was quite proud. He said he had stolen it in
Ohio. He also asked me about the speed of the police cars and whether the police and
sheriff had machine guns in their arsenals. What I told them didnít help a bit.





Abou Ben Adhem Shrine Mosque
Springfield, Missouri in Greene County MO.


Bonnie and Clyde kidnap victim Tom Persell had told Robert Gibbons that he believed
that the Barrow Gang were going to rob the wrestling matches at the Shrine Mosque at the
south end of the Benton Avenue viaduct. They took Tom at the north end, on Tampa St.



The Mayor of Springfield was a relative of Mr. Gibbons and his
mother, who, as a little girl, rode in the first car across the
viaduct, not long before the Barrow gang went across it!





Go to link below...read about the theft of a Pontiac Sedan
Barrow helps himself to another car...





A vintage photo of the gas station on Glenstone Avenue where Bonnie & Clyde got gas when they captured Tom Percell.
It became the Quik Spud store, and now has been totally renovated with the addition of a large metal building to the north.

photo from Skip Curtis's book "Springfield Missouri--Birthplace of Route 66".

Queen City Oil, starting out as a flour and feed store, was built by Emral Brock and Oscar Hawkins in 1929. They
soon started selling Standard gas, then Mobil, along with tires and dry goods. In 1939 a viaduct was built over them,
effectively bypassing the station. They moved six blocks north on Route 66 and built an additional station.
Queen City Oil currently housing Ireneís Quik Spuds, stayed in business into the 1980s. (1801 E. Trafficway)
~Robert H. Gibbons~


Now the home of "Irene's Quik Spuds," this red brick building, located under the Glenstone Avenue
viaduct had once housed the gas station where Bonnie and Clyde had stopped for gas and a Coke after
taking Tom captive. Some of the original Route 66 pavement can still be seen under the viaduct.




Latest photo above. shows building is no longer there



OBITUARY OF THOMAS A. PERSELL

Click here to view





CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON PERSELL'S ABDUCTION





REEDS SPRING - PAGE ONE