History

The Texas Hill Country’s 5 Most Notorious Outlaws

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It is one thing to be famous, another to be successful, but an entirely different thing to make it out alive – all of which the Newton brothers accomplished due to their unique style and shrewd planning.

Led by Willis, Uvalde brothers Joe, Jess, and Wylie (Doc) spent several years successfully robbing banks and trains while avoiding capture and death during their historic run. The brothers managed to rob banks in a handful of Hill Country towns like Pearsall, New Braunfels, San Marcos, and Boerne, while also hitting banks and trains across the country.

The boys made a name for themselves by only robbing at night, to avoid detection and death, and blowing bank vaults with the volatile explosive agent nitroglycerin. The brothers even managed a now famous two banks in one night robbery in Hondo, Texas.

Their most successful train robbery would set, a still unbroken, record that led directly to the end of their storied careers as outlaws. After robbing a train in Illinois, that netted $3 million, the brothers were captured and imprisoned. Only Jess would manage to elude detection, but was eventually captured in Texas, having stashed $35,000 from the robbery.

Jess claims, after making it to Texas, he spent a night drinking and took a cab home. During the drive, he asked the cabbie to pull-over, and he buried the loot under a large tree marking it with a large stone somewhere along Fredericksburg highway. After escaping to Mexico, Jess returned to Texas to get his cash, but due to his inebriated state, he could not remember where he buried the money. Even after tracking down his driver, who apparently was also drunk that night, he was unable to recover the cash.

The brothers struck a deal with authorities, returning all but $100,000 from the theft. They all served their prison time before returning to life in rural Texas where most of them died of natural causes. Doc would eventually be arrested at the age of 77 after a failed bank robbery in Rowena, Texas (a town that claims Bonnie Parker as their own). Willis also was implicated in a bank robbery in Brackettville in 1973, but no link was ever found placing him at the scene.