Pretty Boy Floyd (1904-1934)

Charles Arthur Floyd, better known as Pretty Boy Floyd was one of America’s last so called Robin Hood outlaws. He eluded capture for many years but was finally gunned down (perhaps murdered) by Federal agents in Columbiana County, Ohio on October 22, 1934. The Youngstown Vindicator flashed Floyd’s death across its front page in large letters and the story of the shootout was recounted in great detail for many days. (See reverse side) Although I was very young at the time, this event made a lasting impression. I decided then to never become a bank robber.
Floyd got his name from the fashionable way he dressed. He was always seen with a white dress shirt, tie, and with his hair neatly combed. Growing up in Oklahoma Charles A. Floyd attended church and had strong family ties. Even in his final years as the law was slowly closing in, he would always find ways to visit his father’s grave each Memorial Day.
Pretty Boy never made a lot of money robbing banks and what he did collect from his life of crime he gave away. It is told that one winter he bought coal for a rural school. On other occasions he arranged to pay off the mortgages of poor farmers who were about to lose their properties to the banks he robbed. It is said that he only shot at a person if he believed they were shooting at him. Floyd became Public Enemy No. 1 in 1934. This is also when special government agent Melvin Purvis entered the picture. Purvis was directed by his boss, J. Edgar Hoover, to stop Pretty Boy from robbing any more banks.
The final episode of Floyd’s life started on October 18
th when he left his hideout in Buffalo, New York in a new Nash sedan. He and Eddie Richetti with two female companions drove along the shore of Lake Erie to Ohio and then headed south through Youngstown to East
Liverpool. Outside of Wellsville they ran off the road in a heavy fog and hit a pole. The women were sent to get a wrecker while Floyd and Eddie waited by the car. The local authorities became suspicious and the manhunt was on. Hearing the news in Cincinnati, agent Purvis immediately hired an airplane and headed for Wellsville to take charge. The agent’s presence did not sit well with Wellsville’s Police Chief Fultz who had already organized a posse and had captured Eddie Richetti in a gun fight. In the meantime Floyd managed to escape into the hills and elude the local posse in the dense woods for the next two days
Finally hungry and exhausted from hiding, Floyd approached Widow Ellen Conkle’s farm house on Sprucevale Road near Clarkson. (This farm is adjacent to Beaver Creek State Park.) Pretty Boy charmed Mrs. Conkle into feeding him. He told her that he had been hunting and became lost. He then produced a gun and forced her brother to drive him to Youngstown. As they started down the farm lane Agent Purvis appeared in a car with 5 police officers. Seeing them, Floyd ran back and hid behind the corn crib. Here is where the story becomes confusing as each witness had a different account. Agent Purvis claims he dropped Floyd with a single shot as Pretty Boy fled toward the woods. He then approached the wounded man lying in the corn field. When Floyd reached for his gun Purvis shot him again in self defense. This is the official report and the one that Edgar Hoover presented to Congress. Two years later Hoover was made head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and fired Melvin Purvis. Years later a local police officer recounted that he shot Floyd in the shoulder as he ran, and that Purvis then empted his pistol into the body of Floyd as he lay wounded on the ground.
Charles A. Floyd’s body was returned to Sallisaw, Oklahoma and laid to rest in the family cemetery, while 20,000 people crowded around to view the remains of the 30 year old outlaw.

Youngstown Vindicator



Purvis, Federal Men and East Liverpool
Police Kill “Pretty Boy” in Hills


Constable Hears Description, Calls Pursuers – “Who
Tipped You?” Dying Gunman Asks

By W. W. Griffith

The charm on the life of Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd, Public Enemy No. 1 and murderer of half a dozen peace officers, has ended. He met his death as he expected – in a hail of Gunfire – about 4:20 p. m. yesterday.

The southwest’s most famous desperado since Jesse James, “trigger” man in the Kansas City massacre of five persons, was shot down by federal agents and police officers from East Liverpool as he fled like a rat through a cornfield in the wild, hilly Columbiana County five miles north of East Liverpool on the farm of Mrs. Ellen Conkle.
Hunger had driven him from the “badlands” where he had hidden out since his escape from Wellsville police Saturday afternoon and he went down with two slugs and numerous buck-shot pellets in his trim body. Death was caused by a machine gun slug which passed clear through Floyd’s body. About 50 shots were fired.
Purvis Scores Again
Floyd’s nemesis was the dapper quiet spoken Melvin Purvis, ace investigator of the Department of Justice, who also brought down John Dillinger. Ten of Purvis’ crack marksmen and Police Chief H. J. McDermott of East Liverpool with three of his men, ended one of the most sensational and brutal crime careers the United Sates has ever known.
The “Pretty Boy” died with his boots on. He had been cut down at 4:10 in a hail of machine gun, rifle, pistol and shotgun fire. He died as he always boasted he would – “fighting it out.”
No Chance to Shoot
But this was one time that Floyd’s death-belching guns did not bark. He grasped a heavy .45 army automatic in his left hand and his right had fallen to his side as he reached for another .45 strapped in a shoulder holster. He didn’t get a chance to fire one shot. He had two extra clips of bullets in his pockets.
The “Pretty Boy” would have escaped in another few minutes. He was in an automobile, hoping to get to Youngstown, when he spotted his hated enemies – the cops. He had persuaded Steward Dyke, a brother of Mrs. Conkle, to drive him to the main highway – and then he would have forced Dyke to drive him further at the point of a gun. The officers were cruising along Spruceville just as the car pulled away from the farm. Floyd saw the officers first.
“Those men want me,” “Pretty Boy” shouted to Dyke, and jumped from the automobile and ran behind a corn crib. But the the corn crib was on stilts, and his blue trouser legs showed beneath. Dyke and his wife were in the front seat and Floyd was in the rear. One of the officers yelled “there he is.” The “firing squad” piled out of three cars and spread out. Floyd darted from behind the crib, saw his predicament and then ducked behind his fort again.

Runs for Wood
“Come out, Floyd,” Purvis shouted. But the “Pretty Boy’s” answer was a sprint for a near-by woods. He ran across the gauntlet of fire rather than away from the guns – his last smart act – and the first barrage of fire struck him hard. He disappeared over a knoll with the officers pursuing... The volley of shots brought him down. As he lay writhing in pain, 500 feet from the corn crib, still with a gun in his hand, the officers moved slowly toward him. The “Pretty Boy” had come to the end of his trail.
Purvis was first to reach Floyd’s side – a “boy” with brains holding last rites with a man who lived by the gun.
“Who tipped you?” Floyd whispered. Then “How’s Eddie?” His last words were, “They got me twice.”
He winced; then he died. “Eddie” was taken by police officers to mean Adam Richetti, his partner in murder, who was caught by Wellsville police in the gun battle Saturday afternoon. Floyd did not think he was mortally wounded – but this time he was mistaken.

Dies On Way to Car
The officers picked up the wounded fugitive and carried him to the highway. He died before they placed him in an automobile. It was not the Floyd of old who had asked Mrs. Ellen Conkle, a widow, for a meal. It was a man hunted who knew not where to turn. Nor was it the fearless Floyd who used to ride into Sallisaw, Okla., to visit his mother, the man who used to rob banks and joke with old friends while he fondled the weapons which were his only protection against death at the hands of peace officers.
This “Pretty Boy,” lying so still in the corn field was like a frightened animal that had been stalked to his “hole” and when the big test came he “turned yellow” and lost all the caginess that saved him in a dozen other more difficult spots. He relied on his friend, the woods, to save him. The woods had turned him down.