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Gang's local battle recalled

by Ivan Foley
Landmark editor

It was perhaps the most notorious event in Platte County history. And it’s 75th anniversary was observed--it’s probably not correct to say celebrated--with a symposium and road tour on Saturday.

The Red Crown Symposium and Road Tour took place on Saturday, 75 years to the day of the famous Platte County shootout between Bonnie and Clyde and local lawmen.

The symposium was held at the Majestic Theater in Zona Rosa, where many 1930’s era Model A cars could be seen lining the streets of the modern day “urban center.” A road tour then took participants on a journey across a good part of the route the outlaws used to escape Platte County that fateful night. Finally, a vintage car show and some old-time music on Main Street in Platte City ended the day of activity.

“We were thrilled with the way everything went, including the weather,” said Jim Spawn, event organizer.

He said 400 people attended the symposium, and about 60-70 vintage cars took part in the road tour. About 40 cars came to Platte City for the car show and jam session on Main Street.

On July 19, 1933, at the Red Crown Tavern and Tourist Camp, which stood about where the old Farmland Industries building is now east of Interstate 29 near Kansas City International Airport, the Barrow Gang had rented both of the two small cabins behind the Red Crown. The gang--consisting of Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker, Buck Barrow, Blanche Barrow and young W.D. Jones--was believed to be responsible for killing at least twelve people, most of them lawmen, in a two-year crime spree.

Their shootout has become a thing of local lore. Most of it fact, no doubt with some fiction thrown in for dramatic effect. The Landmark in 2003 ran a series of four articles detailing the shootout. Those articles can be read on The Landmark’s web site at

Details you’ll find when you review The Landmark report on the web site include the fact Sheriff Holt Coffey pounded on the door of the gangsters’ holdout and demanded: “Open up, in the name of the law.”

Shortly thereafter, the gun battle began.

The Barrow gang left the Red Crown under a hail of bullets. Buck Barrow would eventually die from the wounds he received in the Platte County battle. Blanche Barrow left with shards of glass in at least one of her eyes, basically blinded by the battle, the story goes.

The gang escaped in a 1933 Ford Tudor and discarded bandages were either seen that night or discovered in the days that followed. From those, the route is “generally” ascertained by historians.

The two-hour symposium is an intense course made available through much research and by the availability of rare documents, photos and artifacts. Jim Spawn, organizer, said the program is dedicated to the coalition of lawmen who fought at Red Crown that night. Three of the lawmen were wounded in the battle.

Later, the Red Crown became a Northland icon. Longtime locals say it became a hangout for many folks in the 1940’s and 1950’s. It was a place for ice cream, cheap food, dances, and beer.

The Red Crown was finally closed after a fire in 1967. Not long after, it was razed as Interstate 29 was being built. The two infamous cabins would stand, some say, until the early 1980s when they were also torn down.

“Nothing remains there today but the memories of some very bad people and some very good people,” Spawn says.

So will the road tour and symposium be back next year?

“I don’t have plans to do it again next year. I don’t think it’s a program you can keep going to the well on. But I’m tired, so I reserve the right to change my mind,” Spawn told The Landmark this week.


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