Wednesday, October 24, 2012


10/22/1934 - Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd's reign as Public Enemy #1 concludes on a farm in Ohio just three short months after it began with the death of bank robber John Dillinger.

                                 Pueblo, Colorado mug shot of the Pretty Boy

Far from his home turf of Oklahoma, bad luck, slick roads, driving too fast, fog and a car wrecking telephone pole all conspire to put Floyd and his partner, Adam Richetti, afoot in unfamiliar Ohio territory.  Spotted by suspicious locals while waiting for their girlfriends to have their damaged vehicle fixed, and then confronted by gun toting peace officers, Richetti is captured and Floyd flees into the woods.  

                                              Richetti in custody

Word out that an armed criminal is on the loose in the area soon results in police, Federal agents, and armed citizens combining to comb the region in a huge manhunt that after two days finds the bandit at the farm of Ellen Conkle.

                                                   The Conkle Farmhouse

Tired and hungry after spending the weekend living on wild apples, pears, and berries, posing as a lost hunter though he is wearing a sweat stained dark suit, Floyd emerges from a nearby forest and pays the widow Conkle $1 for a last meal of fried pork chops, mashed potatoes, rice pudding, coffee, a doughnut, and a piece of pumpkin pie ... a feast Floyd declares "... was fit for a King." 

                                            Widow Conkle with Floyd's last dinner dishes (East Liverpool Historical Society)
                                                         Ellen Conkle

Sustenance received, when Conkle's brother, Stewart Dyke, and his wife arrive, Floyd convinces the pair to drive him into the nearby town of Clarkson in their Model A Ford.  It is a little past 4:00 in the afternoon.

                                                  The Model A Ford

About to leave the farm, Floyd's luck runs out when two cars carrying four Federal agents led by Melvin Purvis and four local East Liverpool officers pulls up at the farm.  The only shelter a wooded area two hundred yards away, carrying a .45 automatic in his right hand, Floyd jumps out of the car and takes off through an open field towards the mirage of safety behind the farm.  Shouts of surrender ignored, using his .32-20 Winchester rifle, WWI sharpshooter Chester K. Smith sends a bullet into Floyd's right arm that drops the outlaw ... but only for a second.

                                        Posse with Smith second from left

Up again in an instant, Floyd begins another zig-zagging dash, flight that causes Purvis to order the rest of the posse to fire.  Hit again multiple times with pistol, rifle, shotgun and Thompson machine gun lead (a count later determines that ninety-three slugs have been sent his way), Floyd goes down once more and does not get back up.  Down, but not quite dead, when Purvis asks the dying outlaw if he is Pretty Boy Floyd, a name he never liked, the outlaw growls he is "Charles Arthur Floyd," calls Purvis a "son-of-a-bitch," and tries to draw his other pistol before dying, handcuffed, under the shade of a nearby apple tree he has been carried to (roughly fifteen minutes after being struck from damage to his lungs, ribs, and heart ... his last words are, "I'm going.").  Floyd is thirty-years-old.

                                       At the Sturgis Funeral Home in East Liverpool
                                        Part of crowd at the funeral home

That is the official story of Floyd's death, but an alternate tale surfaces years later.  In failing health, Smith, the gunner who hit Floyd first, tells a tale in which Purvis, enraged at being cursed out by the outlaw, orders agent Herman Hollis to "Fire into him!" ... which Hollis does, killing the bandit instantly with his Thompson (not around to be questioned, Hollis will perish the next month when he engages in a shootout with Baby Face Nelson). 

                              Special Agent Melvin Purvis

Murderer murdered?  Backing up this version of reality, a female neighbor of Ellen Conkle will tell newspapermen about hearing two individual instances of shooting on her neighbor's farm the day of Floyd's death ... shootings that are separated in time by several minutes.

                                                         Some of the damage
                                                   Fingerprinting the corpse

Whatever the case, Floyd in death moves from Public Enemy to folk hero and legend.  On his body at death the outlaw is carrying $122 in cash, an assortment of coins, a car key, matches, a car key, a loaded .45 ammunition clip, a Gruen pocket watch, a good luck charm in the form of a silver half dollar attached to a pocket chain, and two apples ... negating a gunfighter myth, neither the coin or his watch bear notches for the men he has killed.  

Embalmed, Floyd's body is placed on public display in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, then buried at the town of Akins ... a funeral that draws a crowd estimated to number between 20,000 to 40,000 people!!!!!

                                           Charles Arthur Floyd

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