Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Joe Hilderbrand and Frances Standridge: A True Story

Leroy Donald was the business writer for the Arkansas Gazette.

On March 9, 2000, Donald was interviewed by John Thompson for the Arkansas Center for Oral and Visual History which operates out of the History Department of the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Selected portions of that interview are of interest to anyone who knew of or heard of Joe Hilderbrand (some sources spell it as Hildebrand).

Here is the part of the interview that is of interest to this post (LD is Leroy Donald and JT is John Thompson:

LD:I think some of the real first news features was when Foreman sent me out to cover the panther, the Clarksville panther. Which there was a mountain lion on the, or a puma, on the loose up there, and so I went and chased the mountain lion. We did a lot of good news features on that one.

And then I chased Joe Hildebrand, the Outlaw of the Ozarks, did a bunch of features on that. Those were among the first of the news features that were done.

JT: What was that last one? Who?

LD: Joe Hildebrand.

JT: Joe Hildebrand was a?

LD: The Outlaw of the Ozarks.

JT: And he was a prisoner in a jail?

LD: Well, what he was, it was an old mountain family that lived up above Dover, on the mountainside. I think it is up above where Leland Duvall lived. Booger Hollow. He lived up, actually, I guess, you would call it Booger Hollow. And he had been down in the jail for various and sundry reasons.

I think he held up some people on the highway, you know, on an overlook up there, and he was just kind of a wild kid, nineteen. He was down there in the prison farm, and he would just get out every now and then, and they would catch him and send him back to prison.

Well, he got out one time on a furlough to go home and see his sick daddy and got in some sort of trouble with a branch of the family and ran off with his wife’s cousin, or something like that.

And Joe just didn’t realize it was time for him to go back to the prison, so they wandered around through the Ozarks at the time and created this, and made a national figure out of him.

They had cops and helicopters and dogs chasing him all over the place, and he really wasn’t running. He was just wandering around up in the hills where he was home.
It got to be a real, it was a front page story.

They finally caught him and sent him back down to the farm.

We did news features on him. I remember one of them, we had.

I found his girlfriend. One of the times he broke loose, his girlfriend was picking peaches up on Johnson Mountain, which is down below Booger Hollow, and they got a great picture of her up in the peach tree.

And I asked her, “You know where Joe is?”

She said, “He might be right behind you.”

I said, “Why?”

She said, “Because he might be gonna smoke you down.”

I said, “Well, tell him not to,” being that we got this great picture of her up in the tree, silhouetted against the sun. “Frances Picks Peaches While Joe Roams the Ozarks.” That was his girlfriend’s name, Frances.
One of the few photographs of Joe Hilderbrand, fugitive, taken before he went to jail in October, 1960. Earlier Joe, who said his greatest fun was working on jalopies with his old man, did a stint in reform school.



Locals gather outside the general store in Mount Village, near Russellville, Arkansas, October, 1960 while the hunt goes on for Joe Hilderbrand and Frances Standridge.



Mr. Lytle Hilderbrand, father of outlaw Joe Hilderbrand, who suffered a paralytic stroke which caused the occasion for his son's furlough from jail. He recovered but Joe didn't return to jail.



Mr. Lytle Hilderbrand and wife, parents of 24-year old Joe Hilderbrand, fugitive who is still in Ozarks, after escaping the law, begged officials not to shoot their boy.



A gravel road in the Ozark Mountain region near Booger Hollow, Arkansas, October 1960. It was on roads like these that Joe's father travelled in his rattletrap car trying to drum up sympathy for his outlaw son.



Mrs. Lytle Hilderbrand, mother of outlaw Joe Hilderbrand, stands on her porch with her double barrel shotgun.



Joe’s parents, Lytle and Bertha, keep vigil by cabin. Police thought Joe was hiding in the cellar and tossed tear gas bombs in. According to local lore, Joe was under floor with face buried in wet grain bags and fooled the law.



Joe’s pursuers swarmed through the mountains. These two patrolmen carry guns and walkie-talkie which linked them with searchers in other areas. They hid in various spots along road waiting for Joe and Francis to come along.



Joe’s wife Ola (right) stands beside her sister, Osie and her mother Nancy Jane (lower left), 80-year-old matriarch of the large Standridge clan.



Locals were originally sympathetic to Joe and Frances until the police used the lulls in their search for the couple to bust up illegal stills and confiscate rivers of moonshine.



The Ozark neighbors of Joe and Frances became considerably less neighborly after Joe and Frances stole and wrecked eight automobiles and the police started destroying their moonshine stills and taking their wares.



The parents and family of 18-year-old Frances Standridge who eloped with her uncle, the 24-year-old outlaw Joe Hilderbrand, October 1960.


Frances Standridge.

Several ballads were composed about Joe Hilderbrand, link over here to hear Glen Orhlin, performing it in Mountain View, Arkansas on October 7, 1969....Other ballads are at that same link.

In the foothills of the Ozarks
Back in northwest Arkansas
A convict came from prison
To see his ailin' Pa
But th mountains they were callin'
To come an' play th game
He answered th lonely call
An' won nortorious fame.

His sweetheart met him often
At th secret rendezous
Pretty blonde Francis Standrige
With eyes of baby blue
Keep Joe posted on th possee
That was far on his trail
He was wanted by th warden
In th Polk County Jail

Mountain talk got around
Joe would be shot down
Resentment burnt in th hearts
That loved Joe Hildebrand
Francis joined Joe with her rifle
An' love so true an' kind
T' run an' hide in th forest
With th possee far behind

One cold October night
They knew a broken heart
They were captured by two lawmen
Awaiting in th dark
T' say goodbye in handcuffs
Had not been in their plan
Ending th chase for pretty Francis
An' th convict Hildebrand

Life Magazine did a story on Joe Hilderbrand in the November 14, 1960 issue. It notes that Joe is the subject of an Ozarks hillbilly ballad because he skipped bail and eloped with his wife's niece. These photos and some of the captions are from that Life Story. Other photos were found on the web. The photos were taken by Michael Rougier on October 1, 1960. The last two photos of Joe Hilderbrand and Frances Standridge were taken by an Arkansas Gazette photographer. Following is a transcript of the Life Magazine story:

Over in the Ozarks, where songs and legends grow thick as pokeweed, two new ballads are being sung this fall about Joe Hilderbrand and his mountain sweetheart….even while they are being composed on Ozark guitars, Joe and his girl were being pursued day and night by airplanes, jeeps and bloodhounds in one of Arkansas’ biggest manhunts.

Joe’s troubles started small. In 1958 he robbed a tourist couple of a dollar and two cents on a highway near his home at Chigger Hollow (Booger Hollow). Sent to jail for three years, Joe became a model prisoner, even repaired the state electric chair. Last January he was granted a three-day furlough to see his father, who had had a paralytic stroke. His father got well but Joe took a notion to skip jail. He hid in mountain caves and did a bit of pilfering. The Ozark people began to think of Joe as a hero like Robin Hood, and even the state troopers did not bother him too much because they felt he was not really a bad man.

But this fall when Joe, who is 24, was joined by 18-year-old Frances Standridge, who is a niece of Joe’s 47-year-old wife, he was faced with a kidnapping charge brought by the girl’s father. The troopers closed in, and the balladmakers sang, “Run, Joe, run.”

Though Joe was a married man, there was nothing sneaky about his running off with young Frances Standridge. The couple walked straight up to Ola, who is Joe’s wife and Francis’ aunt, and told her point-blank they planned “to be away for five years together.” Then they walked into the hills.

But that was not the end of Ola’s troubles. The police had a theory that Joe would surrender if they put pressure on his family. So they charged Ola and Joe’s father with helping an escaped criminal and locked them in jail. This struck their Ozark neighbors as a dirty trick so two friends put up $1,000 bail and got Ola and the old man out.

When Joe and his girl took off, thefts began to occur in the hills where they roamed. But what made the mountain folks angrier than the stealing was the fact that the police, during lulls in their search, broke up illegal stills and confiscated rivers of first-class moonshine.

As the manhunt grew more intense, Joe stole eight cars, wrecked some, and jumped from one to another. He and Frances slept in woods that crawled with copperheads and rattles. “But them snakes didn’t bother usuns none,” said Frances. Meanwhile, Joe’s father drove all over in his rattletrap car, stirring up sympathy for his son and begging police not to shoot him. Walking along a creek, Joe and Frances were spotted at last by an airplane observer, who figured where they would be at nightfall and directed their capture. Together they were rushed into Little Rock and locked up. Nobody knows the fate of the lovers, but future ballads will record it one way or the other: "The mean ole troopers kept them apart, and broke the lovers’ bleeding hearts", or more happily, "Now Frances waits at his cabin door and Joe didn’t have to run no more.”
Tattered Joe, after police flushed him, was sent back to the prison farm to serve out the remaining two years of his sentence. He still may be tried for thefts.

Wretched Frances, who says that she still loves Joe, was sent back to her family on $1,000 bail. She faces larceny charges for helping Joe steal a car.

21 comments:

Auxarc said...

Did you notice I have a shirt just like the one Frances is wearing in the last photo? Yahoo for hillbillies! That NBC store is the greatest place to shop. PvtRN

Anonymous said...

In the last picture of Frances, look how she fixed the tear in her jeans.

d5thouta5 said...

this blog makes me wonder when the bus is going to get busy and write an updated book relating to the history of the Ozarks.....a deep review of his blogs would provide a sound starting part....come-on man...write the book....

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bus, I like these old timey stories. The hills and hollars in the Ozarks are full of them.

For those who enjoy the region's history, wisdom and humor, Bob Hinds has written several books. One favorite is 'Ozark Pioneers'. Details at www.bobhinds.com. I'd like to know of other authors and sources of their writings.

b. hilderbrand said...

ok first all joe hilderbrand never eloped with frances , just ran of with her nd second of all if there is ever a book writen about joe hilderbrand it will be one of his childern. and third and final half of this crap is false, and how do i know this i know this becuase i am one of his children.

michael said...

Fascinating story, thanks, even if it is only half true. I remember the media hype from when I was a small boy in Little Rock. It would be interesting to know what he did the rest of his life. But then again, I guess it's nobody's business.

Bonnie said...

I remember this happening very well. I have lived in Pope County my entire life and is very familiar with this area. My parents and older siblings were born in this same area. There has never never been a Mount Village, near Russellville, Arkansas. No such place. But I enjoyed article. Brought back many memories.

Jonah Brown said...

Yeah, I've been singing that song since 2001, when I bought a tape at a garage sale in Texas for 25 cents. The lyrics were changed a bit, and I would swear the fellow singing said "Polk county" which is obviously not the original. Mayhaps one or more of y'all might help me out tracing down the folks who sang on the tape, I took an ambulance ride a few years back and the police took my bicycle in to the impound yard for holding, till I could come claim it. The tape player was missing though, and guess which tape was in it.

BUT, I did remember the title of the tape, "Just Because We Love to Sing" and it was a "Mountain William" (ahem) couple. They sang like angels or something similar, but I did NOT see their name anywhere on the label. On the tape they titled it "Legend of the Ozarks" and of course, the song don't hardly mention no dates, except of course the "late one cold October night" which just is NOT specific. I just assumed it happened around the turn of the century. Guess not.
"and Joe Hilderbrand"...
"Who?"
It's that kind of local obscurity that made it harder to track it down this far. He was captured about a month before I was born.

If it'll help anybody remember such a tape, on side one it ended with Simple Gifts, and on side two it ended with this Quaker folk song "How can I keep from singing". I have the tape memorized, but would really like to hear any other music they sang.

Jonah Brown said...

Ah, B. Hilderbrand, Amen on that. The real story and the official don't hardly ever come within shouting distance of each other. It makes life interesting.
I hope your folks had a good life afterward,just because there's precious few folks I'd wish a hard life upon.

I've got a list, you know, the ones I shall bite if ever I contract rabies.
Thing with that is, the list gets shorter due to them being the type of stupid bastards who go and get themselves killed through foolish behavior.

jeff said...

B. Hilderbrand,
If you still read this blog, I'd love to talk with you. I recently came across the story in Life Magazine and find it to be an amazing story.

Rick Luningham said...

Though I live in Tenn now I grew up in Pope County and I remember the chase quite well even though I was only about 10. For many years I knew a man named Reg Branch who had retired as head of the street dept in Russellville. Told me Joe had worked for him and the city for a number of years. Reg said Joe was best Diesel mechanic he ever knew. R. Luningham

b hilderbrand said...

Joe ended up married to Mable McCoulph and they had us four children three girls and a boy and yes I remember growing up and seeing several people pull into our driveway all the way from newyork and other areas to have my father work on their cars, he was a hell of a mechanic and a good man the kind of man to where no matter who you was he would have given the shirt off his own back if you needed it. Thank you for that I appreiate it. He died at the age of 62 in 1998. It's sad becuase none of us kids was fully grown and so he never got to meet any of his grand children, but I know he sees them all everyday now.

Kelly Nutt said...

To B. Hilderbrand. My husband's grandma is Joe Hilderbrand's sister. Her name was Neda. She passed away last yr. in Aug. She was 84 I think. I found this when I was searching for information about what tribe of Indian he is. I thought this was interesting. His grandma talked of Joe on occasion. She didn't really talk much about her family. I think he would like more information about his family. God bless you.

b. hilderbrand said...

Hi Kelly Nutt If you could send me an email at grims2angels3@yahoo.com I would be more than happy to tell ya'll anything I could. That's what family is for.

turtle said...

b Hilderbrand, my great granny McMinn was Bertha's sister. I am a granddaughter of Edith and Burl Allen. My momma says she remembers when she was little that Joe created an engine that ran off water and the government came to his house and took it and took every single piece of paper in his house. Have you ever heard of this??

bhilderbrand said...

Hi Turtle,
I do remember dad talking about that a few times when I was smaller ( under 10 yrs of age) Dad had an incredible mind that's for sure.

Kay Valenzuela said...

This story is told by a person who only knows the lies of the lawmen and the lies of hear say. Frances was a kidnapped victim of Joes and as for labeling her wretched in her photo well you can go straight to Hell!, My mom was dirt poor and came from nothing and struggled for what little she had and for you idiots to make a kidnapper and worse out to be some hillbilly star of sorts is disgusting! !!! A story has many sides and this story has holes through and through!... how dare you! My mom may be able to forgive and overlook this bullshit lies but my family will not let it sit. I wish my grandfather had caught Joe and blown his head clean off!!!!!!!!!.

Anonymous said...

you know what you were not there so seriously grow up. what are you going to do to a dead man...nothing. people that were there seen both before and after and know what she said herself. he was a piece if shit in some ways but not a kidnapper. why try to stir crap where there is none to stir. get a freaking hobby!

Unknown said...

This is my grandpa!

bhilderbrand said...

Unknown said...
This is my grandpa!
4/24/2017 11:17 PM


send me an email bluegrim84@yahoo.com I'm b hilderbrand joes duaghter

Anonymous said...

Hello b. Hilderbrand

My name is Joe Hilderbrand , I found this post while researching my family history. I have hit a brick wall with my 2nd great grandfather" Andrew Hilderbrand " . I have found him on the 1890 census in Bird township , Jackson county , Arkansas .

We could possibly be related , any info you can provide will be extremely helpful .