The Kemp Calaboose - 1932
calaboose - cal·a·boose
Spanish "calabozo" (dungeon)
a local jail

It was after Bonnie, Clyde and Ralph Fults had made off with a doctor's motor car,
a failed burglary of a store, and the theft of some mules in order to escape the laws
that a brief gun battle had erupted. During the skirmish with the laws, Clyde made
good his escape. Ralph however, was wounded and he and Bonnie captured. They were
immediately detained in a small, one room, dirt floor jail - "The Kemp Calaboose."

The failed burglary had taken place further down this alley

This building was the target of the failed burglary

The news article below, tells the story behind the incident that put Bonnie Parker in jail for the first time.
Ralph Fults used the alias Jack Sherman and Bonnie Parker used the alias Betty Thornton. Clyde escaped.

Hideout new article

Take a "photo tour" of this dismal place of confinement
courtesy of Gordon Youngblood.

Hideout new article

"Sherman" was shortly afterwards identified as Ralph Fults, one of a gang accused of a series
of robberies and kidnapings in Texas and Oklahoma. Fults was taken to Wichita Falls where officers
said he would be charged with kidnaping and highway robbery. The prisoner was suffering a bullet
wound in the arm, received in a gun battle with Kaufman county officers. The officers surprised
Fults and two companions, one, a woman near Mabank after they had attempted to rob a store.

Fults was captured after an exciting chase from Mabank. The bandits, after deserting their stalled
automobile made good their escape upon two mules. At nightfall officers surprised and captured
the fugitives. The two companions of Fults were Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker. Clyde Barrow escaped
as in the initial story. Bonnie Parker was not charged, but Fults was indicted by the Kaufman
County grand jury on 16 June 1932 on charges of burglary of the store of H. Bock in Mabank, the
theft of two mules from Tom Rodgers and the theft of an automobile over $50 in value. Fults pled
guilty to the charges on 9 August 1932 and was sentenced to five years in jail on each of the
counts with the terms to run concurrently. The list of witnesses D.D. Drennan, Mabank; H. Bock,
Mabank; Jeff Pledger, Mabank; Dr. W. Scarborough, Kemp; Marion Rogers, Kemp; Amos Dietz,
B.F. Adams, Jeff Diler, Mabank, and Dr. Sprinkle, Mabank.

D.D. Drennan was the Mabank Chief of Police, H. Bock, the storeowner, Dr. W.  Scarborough,
the man from whom the automobile was stolen and Marion Rogers, possibly the wife of Tom Rodgers
from whom the mules were stolen.

Phillips in the referenced work involving this incident considerably expands upon the the above
story.  His account is based upon a series of interviews almost fifty years later with a man named
Junior Legg of Kemp who said that he was a member of the posse that captured Ralph Fults and Bonnie
Parker. Legg’s story was that about midnight on April 18, the gang was in Kaufman, having earlier
stolen two cars in Tyler. They attempted to burglarize a hardware store on the square but were
discovered by a night watchman. After several misadventures the gang escaped eastward. It began
raining and both cars mired in the mud. They then stole the mules from Rogers’ farm a few miles
north of Kemp. In Kemp, they exchanged the mules for an automobile from the residence of Dr.
Scarsdale (Scarborough in the indictment) and continued on southward towards Athens. However,
about a mile south of Kemp, the car ran out of gas and they went forward on foot. Late the next
afternoon, they were discovered on the banks of Cedar Creek by a posse from Kemp (including Legg). 
Clyde Barrow escaped but Bonnie Parker and the wounded Ralph Fults were captured. They were
taken to Kemp and placed in the calaboose there. Again, according to this story, the calaboose
was surrounded by thirty armed men and visited by many. Bonnie examined the many pairs of eyes
that peered through each of the cell’s two small windows. They were then carried to Kaufman on
the morning of April 20, where Fults’ wounded arm was treated.

According to a story of the episode told by Abbie Lou Williams of Kemp: "I remember my momma
going down there to look at Bonnie Parker. Bonnie got so mad, she spit in my mother’s eye.
That really tickled my father. No one ever had the nerve to stand up to my mother before."         

The two accounts (one by Legg and the other in the newspaper) differ in a number of details,
notably the attempted burglary at Mabank. However, Legg’s account of the initial imprisonment
in the Kemp calaboose is consistent with their capture near Kemp the evening of April 19. 
Kaufman County Historical Commission