He was born in 1895 as “George Frances Barnes Jr.” in Memphis, Tennessee (the age “9” listed on the 1910 census below is incorrect):
He died in 1954 as “Machine Gun Kelly” in Leavenworth federal penitentiary:
And in between those two dates, Prohibition-era bootlegger, bank robber, and kidnapper Machine Gun Kelly (his mother’s maiden name) and his wife Kathryn on occasion holed up at 857 East Mulkey Street in the Morningside neighborhood in a house owned by Kathryn’s mother, Mrs. Robert G. “Boss” Shannon. Boss Shannon owned a farm at Paradise in Wise County, where he provided discreet accommodations to outlaws. (Photos from Wikipedia.)
George Frances Barnes Jr. married Kathryn Thorne (born “Cleo Mae Brooks”) in 1930, much smitten by “the prettiest redhead I ever saw.” Kathryn, who herself had a history of bootlegging, shoplifting, robbery, prostitution, and receiving stolen goods, was the widow of Coleman County rancher and bootlegger Charles Thorne, who allegedly had committed suicide after leaving behind a perfectly typed suicide note despite the fact that he was illiterate.
During the first two years after George and Kathryn married, George took part in four bank robberies and one failed kidnapping.
But Kathryn believed in George. She just knew he could do better.
Then came 1933. As the old saying goes, “Behind every successful man is a woman . . . with a Tommy gun”: Kathryn bought George a used Thompson submachine gun for $250 from Wolf & Klar pawnshop downtown. She insisted that George practice his marksmanship with the gun each day up at the Boss Shannon farm.
Living with the Shannons on the farm at Paradise in 1930 was Pauline Fry, Kathryn’s daughter by an earlier marriage to the teenage son of a minister.
While Kelly practiced with the Tommy gun at the farm, Kathryn began to talk up her husband in the criminal stratum of Fort Worth, referring to him as “Machine Gun Kelly.” She is said to have presented Kelly’s spent .45-caliber cartridges to people as souvenirs and to have bragged that he could write his name in lead with the gun.
In 1930 Kathryn was listed at the Mulkey Street address. Also listed was James E. Brooks, her father, whom Kathryn’s mother Ora had divorced to marry Boss Shannon.
In fact, the Kellys were living at 857 East Mulkey Street on July 22, 1933.
That’s the day when Kelly and colleague Albert Bates burst into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Urschel, one of Oklahoma’s wealthiest couples, in Oklahoma City. Kelly was armed with his Tommy gun and no doubt was ready to sign his name on something or someone. Kelly and Bates kidnapped Urschel and Walter Jarrett. Kelly and Bates soon freed Jarrett but took Urschel south to the Boss Shannon farm in Wise County. Clip is from the July 23, 1933 Dallas Morning News.
Despite being blindfolded and handcuffed while being held hostage by Kelly’s gang at the Shannon farm, Urschel paid attention to details. He listened to background sounds and counted footsteps. He peeked under his blindfold when he dared. He also overheard conversations among the members of the gang, who talked about crimes they had committed. Urschel even deliberately left his fingerprints on surfaces.
After nine days Urschel was released unharmed after his family paid a ransom of $200,000 ($3.5 million today). Clip is from the August 2, 1933 Dallas Morning News.
Charles Urschel’s presence of mind while being held hostage proved to be a great aid to the “G-men” of the Division of Investigation (later Federal Bureau of Investigation) in their investigation of the kidnapping. Based on clues provided by Urschel, G-men concluded that he had been held at the Boss Shannon farm at Paradise.
On August 14 federal agents, accompanied by Urschel, raided the Shannon farm, arresting suspect Harvey Bailey (Bailey and Kelly had met in Leavenworth during Kelly’s first stay there in the late 1920s) and four members of the Shannon family. Bailey was also a suspect in the ambush murder of four lawmen and a convict in Kansas City in June. Meanwhile Albert Bates had been jailed in Denver. Clip is from the August 15, 1933 Dallas Morning News.
Machine Gun Kelly and wife Kathryn remained at large.
Oklahoma capitalist Charles F. Colcord offered a reward for their apprehension: $5,000 ($92,000 today) for Kathryn, $10,000 for Kelly. Dead or alive.
These photos appeared on page 1 of the Dallas Morning News on August 15. Kelly’s photo is to the left of the photo of guns seized from Bailey in the raid at Paradise.
This Division of Investigation bulletin is from August 14, the day of the raid on Paradise. (Image from FBI archives.)
This photo of the Mulkey Street hideout appeared on the front page of the Star-Telegram after most of the Kelly gang had been jailed.
Machine Gun Kelly had become the Justice Department’s “public enemy number 1.” Meanwhile, George Frances Barnes Jr. had gone “back home”: to Memphis. On September 26, 1933 G-men of the Division of Investigation captured George and Kathryn in Memphis. (The FBI says that Kelly was the first person to refer to its agents as “G-men.”)
The couple was tried and convicted under the Lindbergh Law, which makes kidnapping a federal offense. Mrs. Shannon—Kathryn’s mother—said son-in-law Machine Gun had shattered her belief that he was an honest businessman. Nonetheless, Mr. and Mrs. Shannon also served time in prison for their roles in the kidnapping. Clip is from the September 27 Dallas Morning News.
Kelly and Kathryn were given life sentences. Kelly went to Leavenworth federal penitentiary in Kansas, Kathryn went to a women’s correctional institute in West Virginia. Kathryn left behind her daughter Pauline. Years later it was discovered that Pauline’s education had been paid for, through an intermediary, by Charles Urschel.
By the time George Frances Barnes Jr. died at Leavenworth, “Machine Gun Kelly” was known in the prison as “Pop Gun Kelly.” Kelly died on July 18, 1954, his fifty-ninth birthday. Clips are from the July 19-21 Dallas Morning News.
Kathryn Kelly, the woman behind the man, was released from prison at age fifty-four in 1958. She resumed a life of freedom in Oklahoma as “Lera Cleo Kelly.”
The wife of Machine Gun Kelly died in 1985 and was buried beside her mother in Oklahoma.
Machine Gun Kelly was buried in Wise County in a country cemetery not far from where kidnap victim Charles F. Urschel had been held in 1933. Boss Shannon donated the cemetery lot.
On his tombstone Kelly’s last name is misspelled. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
My mother grew up in The Morningside area of Ft. Worth. The family lived at 908 East Harvey..My Grandmother would tell stories of cooking chicken dinners for families in the neighborhood to make extra money. My two older duncles were the delivery boys.. she tells that a man living on Mulkey Street, later identified as Machine Gun Kelly was a frequent customer of her amazing chicken dinners. My mother remembers playing in the house and mentioned a basement ??? It was told to us that Mr Urschel was held captive in the basement of the house. Maybe this was our family’s urban legend or maybe he was held there originally then moved to the farm. In any case it made an amazing story for us kids to hear growing up in the 1950’s
I lived at 800 E. Mulkey St from birth until about 1950 (7 Yrs) with my mother & grandparents(F.E. Conklin). My mother played with Pauline Kelly when she was invited and on one occasion at a birthday party for Pauline she saw guns laying in the bedroom.
My grandfather used to walk the neighborhood and one morning going by the Kelly house he saw a Ft W detective on a yard maintenance crew pulling weeds. He recognized him and started to stop but the detective just motioned him off and said don’t stop Fred, so my GF just kept walking. Few days later Kelly was nabbed in Memphis. My GF used to tell me the stories like when he would walk down Mulkey to Evans Ave where the Kelly house sat (on the corner), the detached garage sat on Evans Ave. He said that when one of the Kellys was there a 16 cyl Caddy would hang out of the garage so far that you would have to walk off the sidewalk to the street, just to get around it.
I don’t know who owned the house after Kelly was caught but I remember playing there with a 4 or 5 year old boy in the late 40’s. I don’t remember his name, but I do remember he had a battery powered remote steering car with a short thick cord attached and I couldn’t stop playing with it. I pestered my Mom to take me there all the time.
On another note: When I was about 15 yrs old my uncle dropped me off one Saturday at the Wofl & Klar pawn shop in Ft W, and being a young collector of guns, I bought an old nickeled Colt .41 cal pistol without any adult permission, no biggy back then. Wish I still had it.
Thanks for that anecdote, Mr. Allsup. Crabgrass and criminals.
The main house on the Shannon farm is still there and occupied today. The small house where Urshell was kept was just behind the main house. Boss’s son Armon and wife lived in the small house.
The small house is gone. It burned in 1950.
where is boss shannon buried
Mr. Cruce, apparently the Shannon farmhouse is gone, and probably the property has changed ownership.
Robert Green “Boss” Shannon is buried:
Cottondale, Wise County, Texas, USA
Latitude: 33.06479, Longitude: -97.70732
Lera Cleo Kelley is buried:
18800 Gordon Cooper Dr., Tecumseh, Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma, 74873 USA
My grandmother who worked for Vandervort’s Dairy, told me when I was a kid she remembered the day Kelly came into the store to buy some things.
Boy, I hope she didn’t ask him to sign for anything.
wow I never knew this side of story about my house.. I’m the current owner of this property. I am not looking to sell it.
NOW you know why strangers–such as myself–are always taking photos of your house. Great little bit of Fort Worth history. I have sent you the deed card for the property, although it does not contain any of the names in the story.
Which property do you own? In Paradise or Fort Worth?
Great story! Had no idea George Kelly lived in Ft.Worth!
Thanks, Colleen. It is indeed a wild episode in Fort Worth history.
i sure would like to hear about any jacksboro hwy stories or anyone that knows anything about elmer sharp.