Shooting Down the Bonnie & Clyde Legend in Dexter

by Mark Yontz

In a society enamored by the “cult of celebrity,” history has proven time and time again that people have placed a spotlight on notable figures … some worthy, some not so worthy … for centuries.


The “cult of celebrity” was very much alive even during the Great Depression, a time in this country’s history when unemployment soared to around 25 percent and money, along with everything else, was in short supply. At best, life for most people was all about surviving.


Throughout all of this, the public’s appetite for anything to help escape the stark realities of the day never waned. For example, the early 1930s in the U.S. was part of an era marked by Prohibition, bootlegging, and an assortment of gangsters and criminals who frequently made the headlines for their exploits. From this group emerged two people, who to this day, continue to capture the attention of the public more than 70 years after their deaths.


Clyde Barrow (born March 24, 1909) and his companion, Bonnie Parker (born October 1, 1910), were products of simple, yet troubled upbringings in Depression-era Texas. Despite their hardscrabble lives, they made a name for themselves thanks to their criminal activities, which ranged from burglaries and hold-ups to kidnappings and murder. In fact, their journey of mayhem stretched across wide swaths of the Southwest and Midwest from 1932 to 1934 and it made them celebrities, but for all the wrong reasons.


A complete listing of Bonnie and Clyde’s confirmed crimes varies depending on the sources. What is known for sure, however, is this young couple and their various cohorts (a.k.a. The Barrow Gang) led a very unglamorous, vagabond life – one that put them in contact with countless people (and communities) throughout the country at the height of the Great Depression, all in an effort to stay one step ahead of the law. But Dexter, Iowa, a small town west of Des Moines in Dallas County, will forever go down in history as the place that marked the beginning of the end for Bonnie and Clyde and their gang.


TO READ MORE ABOUT THIS STORY AND OTHER FASCINATING STORIES ABOUT IOWA HISTORY, subscribe to Iowa History Journal. You can also purchase back issues at the store.