Nurse Crawford’s House Call
by Brad Dison
At about 5:00 p.m. on December 6, 1933, just before sunset, Nurse Hattie Crawford walked out of her apartment in Miami, Oklahoma. A man approached her and asked if she could tell him where Nurse Crawford lived in the apartment building. She told the stranger that she was Nurse Crawford. The stranger told her that a friend of his had been injured and needed help pretty quickly. It was in Nurse Crawford’s nature to help anyone in need. She sensed no danger and saw that the stranger seemed panic-stricken. She agreed to go without hesitation. Rather than taking her himself, the stranger gave Nurse Crawford instructions. He told her to take the bus to Afton, Oklahoma, about fifteen miles southwest of Miami, which she did. Within half an hour, Nurse Crawford disembarked from the bus at Afton not knowing exactly what to expect. The stranger was there waiting for her in a car with another man she did not know. She entered the sedan and they drove to Vinita, Oklahoma, about fifteen miles southwest of Afton.
The stranger and his companion drove Nurse Crawford to a dark, seemingly abandoned house on the outskirts of town. The sun had set and the car’s headlights were the only illumination. As they approached the porch, a woman opened the door of the house. Nurse Crawford immediately recognized the woman as someone she knew but had not seen in seven or eight years. They spoke only for a second or two before the woman led Nurse Crawford to a bedroom by flashlight, the only light in the house. In the bedroom, a man lay in bed with a gunshot wound on his left leg and similar wounds on his left arm. Nurse Crawford knew better than to ask how he received the gunshot wounds. She asked for bandages and rubbing alcohol. The woman gave Nurse Crawford the rubbing alcohol and tore a bed sheet into strips to use as bandages. Nurse Crawford cleaned and bandaged the injured man’s wounds as good as she could by the dim glow of a single flashlight. Nurse Crawford gave the woman instructions on how to clean and dress the wound.
As soon as she had finished treating the patient, the two men ushered Nurse Crawford out of the house and drove her back to Miami. Unlike the earlier trip, they drove Nurse Crawford all the way back to her apartment building. During the return drive, the two men asked if she could return with them the following night to check on the injured man’s condition. She quickly agreed. They gave Nurse Crawford the hefty sum of $5.00 for treating the injured man, which, adjusted for inflation, would be just under $100 in today’s money. They warned Nurse Crawford not to tell anyone of the incident, or else.
Nurse Crawford’s initial plan was to immediately notify the police of the incident, but she took their warning seriously. She was paranoid that someone was watching her. She feared what would happen if she reported the incident. On the following day, Nurse Crawford waited for the two men to pick her up and deliver her once again to the injured man. Five o’clock came and went. Then six o’clock, then seven o’clock, but the men never returned. Eight days later, on December 14, 1933, Nurse Crawford finally gained enough courage to report the incident to the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.
Nurse Crawford told a deputy about her providing aid to the injured man. The secretive nature of the whole incident got the attention of Craig County Sheriff John York and FBI agent H.E. Hollis. Nurse Crawford described to them the location of the house, described the house itself, along with the furniture within. She explained that she saw the outside of the house only by the headlights of the car and the inside of the house by flashlight. Nurse Crawford said she did not know the men who escorted her to the house, nor was she certain of the identity of the injured man. She was certain, however, of the identity of the woman, whom she was acquainted with several years earlier.
Sheriff York immediately recognized the place Nurse Crawford described as being the home of Mrs. Jane Hall. Mrs. Hall had not lived at the home for several years and left the house in the care of custodian Bob Hill. Bob told investigators that he had no knowledge of and had not given consent to anyone to occupy the house. He granted the investigators permission to search the house.
At daylight on December 15, 1933, Sheriff York, Ottawa County Sheriff Dee Waters, several deputies, and Agent Hollis surrounded the home of Mrs. Jane Hall, but found it to be unoccupied. While searching the home, officers found bloodstained bandages and rags in a bathroom cabinet. They also found a bloody undershirt in another room. Once they were certain the house was unoccupied, one of the deputies drove Nurse Crawford to the home. She immediately recognized it as the place where she had treated the injured man on the night of December 6, 1933. Sheriff York made arrangements and had the home kept under constant surveillance. For several days, deputies kept watch at Mrs. Hall’s home to no avail.
As had happened many times before, law enforcements officers had missed their chance. The woman who allowed Nurse Crawford into the seemingly abandoned home and the injured man whom she had helped were…Bonnie and Clyde.
United States Bureau of Investigation, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, File Number 26-3779, December 23, 1933, Report by Special Agent H.E. Hollis.
A writer of history, Brad Dison earned his master’s degree in the subject from Louisiana Tech University. He has written four history books and has been published in newspapers and scholarly journals. Keep up with the column through the Facebook group “Remember This? by Brad Dison.” For more real stories about real people with a twist, listen to Brad Dison’s podcast “Remember This?” at http://www.BradDison.com.
Categories: Special Feature