Wellington, Texas is in Collingsworth County, located where the Texas border departs from the Red River and heads due north, on the eastern edge of the Panhandle. At its peak, Wellington’s population was around 3,700 people and since the 1990s, it has hovered around 2,000 to 2,500 people.
(Book cover: pictured are Chaplain Ray Hoekstra and Floyd Hamilton)
Floyd Garland Hamilton was born June 13, 1908 in Henrietta, Oklahoma to John Henry and Sarah Alice Bullock Hamilton and died July 24, 1984 in Grand Prairie, Texas at the age of 76. According to his wishes, there was no funeral service, his body was cremated and his ashes were spread near the grave of his wife in Irving, Texas.
While living in Waco, I would occasionally drive past the old McLennan County courthouse. I had seen the feature film Bonnie and Clyde when it was on its first run. However, I assumed that both Bonnie and Clyde had escaped from the jail at the McLennan County Courthouse in the midst of their short crime spree. Years later I learned the details about how Bonnie had helped Clyde and two others escape.
Bonnie and Clyde’s crime spree was short, only a few years, but whenever there happened to be an event involving them in a small town, people living there remembered it. There were at least two such events in North Texas’ Wise County.
After the May 23, 1934 ambush of Bonnie and Clyde on a Wednesday morning near Gibsland, Louisiana, their bodies were taken about twenty miles away to a local funeral operation in the back of the S. A. Conger Furniture Store and Funeral Parlor in Arcadia, Louisiana. An undertaker who worked for a nearby funeral parlor in Ruston came to identify the bodies. The undertaker, H. D. Darby, and Sophia Stone had actually been kidnapped by the gang about a year earlier in Ruston. The couple was eventually released in Arkansas, but while they were captives of the gang, Bonnie had laughed when she found out that Darby was an undertaker and speculated that one day he might be working on her. It turned out to be prophetic, since Darby did indeed assist with the embalming process. A coroner and five other individuals conducted an inquest, the bodies were formally identified and the embalming process began. The authorities tried to maintain control, but the news got out in the small town, creating a buzz of interest. Arcadia briefly was crowded with media and other curious visitors.