History

The Newton Boys: Charming Texas Outlaws Who Robbed 85 Banks & Half a Dozen Trains

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The most successful outlaw gang in history hailed from the Texas Hill Country. The Newton Brothers, who called Uvalde County home, robbed banks and trains, but they were far from violent thugs. In fact, even bank tellers described them as charming and polite. “The Newton were all nice,” said famed Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson. “Those old bank robbers felt the money was all insured and they weren’t really hurting anyone. Even though they were bank robbers, they had morals. They believed certain that things were right and certain things were wrong.” The brothers’ exploits even led to a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, Ethan Hawke, and Dwight Yoakam.

newton brothers

Photo: drloihjournal.blogspot.com

The glory days of their outlaw career lasted from 1919 to 1924 and stretched across Texas and the Midwest. During that run, these good ol’ boys robbed over 85 banks and half a dozen trains—and they never killed anyone in the process. “No, we didn’t rob all the banks in Texas,” Willis Newton later noted as an old man. “We just robbed 30 or 40.”

The four Newton boys grew up in Uvalde County, the sons of a cotton farmer. Although the brothers grew up listening with rapt attention to the outlaw tales their mother told them, the real trouble didn’t start until Willis was falsely accused of a crime. Willis was 20 years-old when his brother Dock stole some cotton from a local gin and tried selling it to another. When local lawmen failed to apprehend Dock, they arrested Willis instead. Despite the slim evidence against him, Willis was sentenced to a year in prison, suffering the inhuman conditions of a Texas Prison Farm of that era.

Video: Joe Newton on the Johnny Carson Show, video courtesy of muddboss Youtube channel

Dock was soon a fellow prisoner, picking cotton alongside his brother. The pair made several attempts to escape, but each time they were caught and handed down even harsher sentences. Willis determined he’d make society pay for the injustice. Meanwhile, brothers Jess and Joe enjoyed the freedom of the cowboy life.

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