Outlaw Busche Brothers Stop in McRae


200 Whittington Avenue, Hot Springs, AR 71901, Malice@aol.com

The Busche brothers were outlaws from Missouri. They shot their way through Arkansas and met their reward in the spring of 1935.

According to the Arkansas Gazette, “The manhunt for the pair started Saturday, May 4, when … a party from Sheridan recognized the Busche boys as the murderers of Alva Appling and Newt Price, which occurred at a dance at Fikeston, Ark., Grant County, early Thursday, May 2, as they passed through Little Rock headed north.  Officers in all adjoining counties were notified and joined in the manhunt.  The car in which they were driving was shot into and stopped at Vilonia Saturday night at 8 o’clock by Hansford Russell, and the bandits fled into nearby woods.”

White County native Newbern Chambers, remembers the incident.  He says he was told the outlaw brothers “had grown up in Jesse James territory … started out as kids by shooting hoboes off trains in Missouri… [and] were the number one outlaws in the country at the time.”

One little-known fact is that they passed through McRae shortly before their deaths.

“One of their last stops was the Garvin store in McRae where they bought some hats,” Newbern recalls.  “Surprisingly, they didn’t rob the store.  People who lived in McRae at the time assumed it was because there were too many people in the store -- too many witnesses.  Four or five local men hanging around outside the store recognized the brothers as they exited.  Someone called the sheriff in Searcy, who in turn called the State Police.” 

The brothers were apparently tracked south from McRae to Beebe and west to Vilonia.

The White County Citizen later reported “The car in which they were driving was shot into and stopped at Vilonia Saturday night at 8 o’clock by Hansford Russell, and the bandits fled into nearby woods.  With 10 sheriffs and more than 100 peace officers, the killers were kept surrounded for 48 hours.  The climax came at 5 o’clock Monday afternoon when the Busche bandits engaged in a conversation with a young man named Oliver Wadley, who recognized them and went immediately to El Paso and notified Sid Smith, a merchant there.  Mr. Smith got in his car and drove to Vilonia, which was headquarters for the posse, to notify officers.  No officers being present Russell and Huckelby responded to the call which ended with the death of the outlaws.  When they were encountered, Freddie Busche opened fire on Russell and Huckelby.  Russell jumped behind a tree and returned the fire with an automatic shotgun, killing both bandits, the loads riddling their bodies.”

The bodies were loaded in the back of a flatbed truck owned by Bill Hombs, chief deputy sheriff of White County, and driven to the front of Lackey’s Pool Hall in McRae on the way to Chandler Funeral Home in Searcy. 

Most of McRae came to the pool hall to gawk at the bloodied bodies covered with old bed sheets.  Among the gawkers were Newbern’s mother and brother Charles.  Newbern was in bed, recovering from rheumatic fever.

Red Anderson from El Paso had a sister who worked with Newbern in Little Rock  during the 1970s.  “One day, I mentioned the Busche boys.  She said, ‘Yeah, they were killed on my Dad’s farm,’  adding that same day, she and a girl friend had been playing only a few hundred yards from where the Busche brothers were killed.  She said they were wearing the Garvin Store hats when the law shot them.”

Jean Hazel of El Paso, a member of the White County Historical Society, knows the precise spot where the Busche brothers met their final fate.  “My brother Tom Riley says that when he was about 18 years old he worked in the woods helping some men cut timber,” Jean says, “and he was told that the woods where he was working was the spot where the Busche brothers were killed.   This spot is just north of Highway 64, about two miles east of the junction of Highways 64 and 5.”ghways 64 and 5.”

Evidently the Busche boys came from a crime-ridden family.  This item was published in the White County Citizen, May 8, 1935: 

“Freddie and Clarence are survived by their mother, Mrs. Mary Busche of Arcadia, Missouri; their father, who is serving forty years in the Missouri
Penitentiary; a brother, Woodrow, 17, who is serving a term at the Missouri State Reformatory at Booneville, and a married sister in St. Louis.”

A few days later three men arrived from Missouri to pick up the bodies.  The brothers were later buried in Irington, Missouri.

(The author is a member of the White County Historical Society.)