Jon and Pat McConal Visit the White Deer Land Museum

Jon McConal of Granbury and his son, Pat McConal of Bryan, were visitors at the White Deer Land Museum on October 6, 2004. The next day they went to Clarendon College (in Clarendon) where Pat McConal reviewed his book, “Over the Wall,” and had a book signing.

Photo of Eloise Lane

Eloise Lane

Jon McConal (now retired) was a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram when he read a story by Tom Dodge who had lived in Pampa for two years while he was growing up in the early l.950s. Dodge’s story, “Savoring the `Meat of Memory’ at Pampa’s Coney Island Cafe,” was intriguing to McConal, and he made a trip to Pampa to taste the coney hot dogs and to learn the history and method of operation of the cafe from John and Ted Gikas, owners since 1933.

McConal wrote three articles for the Star-Telegram about the “cafe that hot dogs it with 7 million coneys” that appeared in 1998 on September 7, September 10 and October 1. “Over the Wall” by Patrick M. McConal chronicles the lives of seven men who attempted one of the most daring prison escapes in the history of the Texas Prison System — the Death House Escape from the Walls Unit at Huntsville. McConal was a student at the Sam Houston State University Graduate History Department when he read an article about a crime attributed to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow that was actually committed by the Whitey Walker Gang.

Then he obtained some files buried in a waterlogged box in a courthouse basement and since he needed a topic for a graduate paper, he began to research the Walker Gang. William Jennings Bryan Walker (known as “Whitey” because of his light hair) lived with his family at Rogers, Texas until he was 18 years old. He was first imprisoned at the Oklahoma State Prison at McAlester in 1922. By 1927, both he and his brother Hugh had moved to Borger, Texas, then considered one of the roughest boom- towns in existence.

Signal Hill, an “oil boom” town site about two miles northeast of Stinnett, was a criminal hangout for Whitey Walker and many outlaws, including Irvin Thompon (known as “Blackie” because the quarter-Cherokee had jet-black hair and a dark complexion) and Ace Pendleton. It is believed that plans for robbing the First National Bank at Pampa (100 North Cuyler) were made at Signal Hill. (The story is in FOCUS, Summer, 1989.) About 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, 1927, five men, including Walker, Thompson and Pendleton, came in a seven-passenger Buick sedan that was parked parallel to the curb at the corner of Foster and Cuyler.

One robber remained at the south door as a guard while the other robbers entered the bank. The people in the bank and those who came in were ordered to go into the vault where eventually about 30 persons were held at gunpoint. While the robbery was taking place, several men employed to carry bricks to “Indian Jim” Brown were calmly eating their lunches under the big locust trees in front of the White Deer Land Building. Rufe Jordan, fourteen years old, was riding on horseback from Kingsmill on an errand for his teacher. As he hitched his horse to a post near the present fire station, news of the robbery was spreading, and he was so caught up in the excitement that he was late in returning to school in Kingsmill.

When the robbers left the bank, they headed toward Clarendon and then turned north to the highway going to Borger. They stopped at the farm home of (W, E. ) Enos Archer and his sister Robbie — nearly two miles west of Price Road. After the Buick was parked between two sheds, two of the robbers asked to use the telephone because they had car trouble. Then the other robbers entered the house and the Archers were told to sit in chairs while the robbers counted their loot. (A final check of the bank’s loss showed $32,542 missing.

There were several diamond rings, a watch charm and other objects valuable to their owners.) After the loot was examined, the Archers and their uninvited guests played cards while officers and others were outside looking for the robbers. At some point the telephone rang, and Robbie listened to her sister’s account of the robbery while one of the robbers was standing by her side. About 3 a.m. on April 1, the robbers fastened the Archers inside a small bathroom by wedging a heavy 2′ x 4′ against the door. About 15 minutes after the robbers left the Archers, two deputies from forger were shot and killed on the road between Skellytown and Borger.

Two Texas Rangers were sent to forger to investigate the slaying of the deputies and the bank robbery at Pampa. On Sunday, April 3, a carload of Rangers and lawmen drove to arrest outlaws on Signal Hill. As they came to the town site, a carload of outlaws came out of the town site at a high rate of speed and disap- peared as though the earth had swallowed the outlaws. Ace Pendleton was the only one of the five robbers of the Pampa bank who was returned to Pampa. He had evaded the custody of Gray County Sheriff three times in various parts of Oklahoma and Texas before he was arrested in Odessa on December 8, 1930.

Pendleton was sitting on a cot in the Gray County jail on the third floor of the courthouse when he was interviewed by Archer Fullingim of The Pampa News. Pendleton insisted that he had never been in Pampa before and that he had had nothing to do with the bank robbery. Rufe Jordan, at that time a senior at Pampa High School (126 West Francis), often came to the jail where his father was a deputy. He listened to Pendleton’s life story and Pendleton gave him a razor that Rufe used for 64 years. Shortly before Pendleton’s trial date in January, Dr. V. E. von Brunow was summoned to attend to Pendleton who was suffering with painful hemorrhages and high fever.

On the advice of Dr. Brunow, Pendleton was moved from his jail cell to the jury room where he was attended by a special nurse and two deputies — one for the daytime and one for the night. Commissioners began to complain that the cost of Pendleton’s treatment was going to bankrupt the county. So they rejoiced when authorities to Odessa wanted him to be returned for trial there before he was tried in Pampa. Pendleton’s case was dismissed because of insufficient evidence to convict him and he was returned to Odessa. Some time later, it was learned that he died in another state.

Over 200 Articles, written by Eloise Lane, were published in the Pampa News. These articles may be accessed by clicking on each section below. A list of articles will be revealed that are linked to a page containing the text of the article.

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