"Just a minute,” Blanche Barrow told the sheriff at the door. This code alerted her husband, Buck, who shortly began firing on law enforcement. It was 1 a.m. on July 20, 1933, and Platte County police had descended upon the infamous Barrow gang after receiving a tip about the license plate on Clyde Barrow’s stolen car.

After clearing an escape route, the group ran from the cover of the cabin, escaping under a barrage of fire. Buck received a head wound and Blanche sustained severe injuries, blinded by glass fragments from shattered car windows. The gang hid for another week, soon to be discovered by law enforcement. Buck was shot again and died in a hospital, and Blanche was taken into custody. Bonnie and Clyde escaped, but ultimately died in the final ambush in May of 1934, ending the notorious run of the Barrow gang.

Born Bennie Iva Caldwell in a small Oklahoma town, Blanche was mainly raised by her father. Her estranged mother strategically arranged a marriage to John Calloway, a much older man, when Blanche was 17 years old. Calloway was violent, and his abuse left Blanche unable to bear children. Blanche was hiding from Calloway when she met Buck and quickly fell in love. The couple married immediately after Blanche’s divorce finalized. However, Blanche soon found out that Buck was an escaped convict. Due to an arrest shortly after their first meeting in 1929, Buck owed a four-year sentence for burglary. He escaped the Texas State Penitentiary after serving two months.

Wanting a quiet life away from crime, Blanche convinced Buck to turn himself in to serve the rest of his sentence. Buck was released two years later and despite previous proclamations that he wasn’t a criminal at heart, he quickly rejoined his brother Clyde and Clyde’s girlfriend, Bonnie, in their debauchery. Blanche hesitantly followed.

Want to read more of Blanche's story? Head to Jefferson City Magazine to continue reading.

Missouri State Penitentiary

Decommissioned in 2004, the Missouri State Penitentiary was the oldest continually operating prison west of the Mississippi. The prison was 100 years old when Alcatraz began taking inmates…