Return to the Texas Page

Return to the SOUTH Homepage

Please mention story title when making
Willis Newton
Wylie (Doc or Dock) Newton
Jess Newton
Joe Newton
Studebaker Touring Car
The Newton Brothers robbed more banks and took more money than any gang in American history and they never killed anybody!



Of the eleven Newton children, four were troublemakers in the eyes of the law, they were Willis, Joe, Wylie (Doc or Dock) and Jess. They had been born into the poverty of sharecropping, a practice in which they were allowed a place to live, plus a small salary for farming someone else’s land. It was very hard work for all members of a family and only the land owner received substantial profit from it. The poor sharecropper got only enough from it to stay alive and return next season to do it all over again. There was little chance of financial improvement for a sharecropping family.

At some point in time, when Willis was twenty years of age, he claimed to have been falsely accused of stealing cotton from a cotton gin and trying to sell it. In reality, his brother Doc had stolen the cotton, but law enforcement officials weren’t able to locate Doc, so they arrested Willis! In spite of the very flimsy evidence against him, he was sentenced to a year in prison as a result in 1909. Once in prison, Willis was forced to pick a lot of cotton, all the while developing an attitude against the law-abiding neighbors who had sentenced him.

Willis wasn’t in prison long before his brother Doc joined him. He had been convicted of robbing a Post Office and making off with less than fifty dollars worth of postage stamps! Together, they began escape attempts. Some of these were successful, allowing them a short time of freedom, before being caught and given a longer sentence.

Willis was eventually released from prison and began a career, involving the burglary of stores at night.

Two of the Newton brothers had managed to stay out of the legal system, at least for awhile. Jess and Joe worked as bronc busters and ranch hands.

In 1914, Willis was one of two men who robbed a Southern Pacific Railroad passenger train in Cline, Texas, taking 4,700 dollars.

In 1916, Willis was a member of a Durant, Oklahoma gang that robbed a bank in Boswell, Oklahoma, taking about 10,000 dollars.

In 1917, Willis was tried for burglary and convicted. By forging some letters, he managed to get a pardon.

When Willis was released from prison this time, he started working with and learning from a gang of bank burglars. They would break into a bank at night, use explosives to blow open the safe door and then take the money. The big drawback to this was that occasionally the explosives man got himself blown up, handling nitro-glycerin. So, Willis had several teachers during this time.

It was1920, while in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that Willis decided to set up his “business.” He spoke with safecracker and high-explosives expert, Brentwood “Brent” Glasscock about joining the business. Glasscock agreed. Willis had decided that all the wildness exhibited by other outlaws was not to be a part of their business. It was to be for profit only, with the intention of hurting no one. He spoke to his brothers, Joe and Jess about joining him. Doc, serving time in prison, heard of this and again, affected another successful escape – his fifth! The Newton Gang was formed with Willis and his four recruits.

A corrupt official with the Texas Association of Bankers sold Willis a list of banks that used an older model of safe that was especially vulnerable to the Newton’s method of opening.

Most of the Newton Gang’s robberies were committed at night. They especially liked to operate in small towns and in winter, when people were much more reluctant to come outside to investigate the noise made by the nitro-glycerin as it blew a safe. They would usually cut telephone lines before entering a bank to rob it. Two of the brothers would stand guard with shotguns to hold off any courageous citizens that wished to stop them. However, the gang never killed anyone.

The gang robbed banks in Texas, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Colorado, North Dakota, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Canada. They are to this day suspected of having robbed banks in Washington and Oregon, but it has never been proven.

In 1921, the brothers robbed mail cars in Bells, Texas and Bloomberg, Texas, loading their ill-gotten profit into their Studebaker Special Six, their preferred automobile. During this period, they robbed banks in the Texas cities of San Antonio, San Marcos, Boerne and Pearsall. They robbed banks in Gallatin, Missouri, Lafayette, Colorado, Tab, Indiana and Spencer, Indiana. In Manitoba, they robbed banks in Melita and Moosomin. They robbed a bank in Toronto and an Illinois Central train in Toronto and a train in St. Joe, Missouri. It is reported that they stole over 200,000 dollars in cash and bonds from these robberies.

Continued on Page 2