The history books don’t acknowledge that Bonnie & Clyde were ever in Hugoton, Kansas and we don’t have the documentation to prove it. Therefore, we must refer to the stories that have been passed down from past generations as “local legend”. However, many who lived in Stevens County during the combination of the Dirty Thirties, The Great Depression, Prohibition & the Discovery of the Hugoton Natural Gas Field, (my Grandmother’s generation), truly believed that Bonnie & Clyde hid-out here for a short time before they became famous, or more accurately “infamous”. They believed they were here because after they were killed, a notebook was found in Bonnie’s belongings which recorded earnings from the Jewel Café in Hugoton, KS!
My Grandmother told me that a gentleman, which she believed was one of the Texas Rangers that pursued them until their demise, came to Hugoton with that notebook seeking information about the former operators of the Jewel Café. The couple that ran the café were known locally as Blackie & Jewel. Unfortunately, our forefathers gave this man bearing the notebook a cool reception. Grandma Wilson surmised they were a little frustrated & embarrassed because they had unsuccessfully tried to apprehend Blackie & Jewel for bootlegging before they left town. One law enforcement officer was supposedly slipped a “mickey” in his drink by the couple on the day they departed Hugoton. In his impaired state of mind, he ended up getting shot & killed by another officer.
Our forefathers were also trying to clean up the community and establish Hugoton’s reputation as a good place for decent folks to live and raise a family. The discovery of the “World’s Largest Natural Gas Field “in 1926 had brought a rough-and-rowdy crowd to town for the initial exploration & drilling of the new field. Bootleggers & prostitutes were part of that crowd. Many of the local businesses had cellars or basements where they could go to escape the heat. A series of tunnels reportedly connected many of these underground cellars. All kinds of business supposedly took place in these underground hideouts, including gambling & bootlegging. I’ve been told that one area resident loved to brag that he bought his first bottle of whiskey from Clyde Barrow at the Jewel Café in Hugoton, Kansas!
Bottom line is, no one recognized the future historical significance of that notebook and bothered to make a copy, which probably would have amounted to photographs as copy machines didn’t exist around 1929-30.
In my early years as Stevens County Economic Development Director, I tried to trace down that notebook to get a copy. One local man told me he had seen it in a wax museum in Fort Worth, Texas. I called that wax museum and was told everything in the museum had been destroyed by a fire in the 80’s! The proof we needed to possibly get a mention in the history books literally went up in smoke! Therefore, as with all legends, people believe what they want to believe. Many more residents have stories that were passed down. - Memories shared by Neil R. Gillespie
Buried treasure. Bonnie and Clyde. These are terms that might be found in adventure stories or action movies. Today we’ll learn about a community which didn’t find buried diamonds or gold, but it did uncover historic remnants of pioneer medicines from a century ago. What’s more, this community is believed to have once harbored the infamous outlaws, Bonnie and Clyde.
Jan Leonard is economic development director of Stevens County. He told the story of the remarkable things which have recently been found in the county seat town of Hugoton.
Old tunnels connected several of the buildings in downtown Hugoton. Most of these had fallen or filled in through the years, but in April 2018, one semi-collapsed tunnel was found under a building called the Bundy Hotel.
Dr. William Bundy opened a medical practice in Hugoton in 1912. He bought a building on Main Street, set up his medical office there, and opened part of it as a hotel. When patients needed a place to recover, they could take up residence there. The building became known as the Bundy Hotel.
Dr. Bundy also developed a salve to treat skin lesions. The salve was said to “draw out” skin cancer after several weeks. The treatment was said to be painful but effective in some cases.
In 1927, a natural gas deposit was found southwest of town. This became the Hugoton Natural Gas Field, which would become one of the top five sources of natural gas in the United States.
Lots of workers came to Hugoton to work in the gas field. Other people were attracted as well. Among those who are said to have come to Hugoton were Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, better known as the infamous outlaws Bonnie and Clyde.
The Notebook: The Reason My Grandmother ,
s Generation Believed Bonnie & Clyde Hid-Out in Stevens County Shortly Before Their Murderous, Bank-Robbing Days.
As one might expect, it is hard to find documentation of outlaws who were trying to hide from the law, but stories about the couple have been passed down through generations from those who supposedly knew them.
While in Hugoton, the couple allegedly used the aliases of Jewell and Blackie Underwood. “Blackie,” Clyde Barrow, reportedly worked on a farm while “Jewell” – Bonnie - ran the café in town. It was located next to the Bundy Hotel and was called Jewell’s Café. Neal Gillespie was Jan Leonard’s predecessor as economic development director. Neal said his grandparents were neighbors of Bonnie and Clyde. Neal’s grandfather said he once had to run them off for stealing his gas. Some robbers never change.
According to legend, Clyde gambled in the basement of the Bundy Hotel. Next door, Clyde and Bonnie were selling bootleg liquor from Jewell’s Café. In 1934, while on a crime spree across the south, Bonnie and Clyde met their fate. They were ambushed and killed by law officers. In their bullet-ridden car, FBI agents found receipts from Jewell’s Café.
Back in Hugoton, in 2018, Jan Leonard found a boarded up wall in the basement of the Bundy Hotel. Behind this wall was a bunch of dirt and black mold. Jan got a Hazmat suit and spent a week cleaning out the tunnel. Here he made a remarkable find: Hundreds of bottles of old medicines from Dr. Bundy.
Jan found 367 bottles in the tunnel, along with vials of other liquids. Apparently these were some of the self-concocted medicines from Dr. Bundy, nearly a century ago. Jan sent samples of the medicines to the KU Medical Center in Kansas City for testing. KU Med center then built a display about these medicines. It can be viewed until May 1. A display can also temporarily be seen at the Kansas Historical Museum in Topeka or the Stevens County Museum.