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Rosa's Cafe, Gibsland, Louisiana

It has been said that Clyde and Bonnie stopped in Gibsland, Louisiana on Wednesday, May 23, 1934. They were going to meet Henry and/or Ivy near Sailes, Louisiana. We do not know for certain whether this meeting was to be at the abandoned John Cole hideout house or possibly a spot on the Sailes road. In my humble opinion, I think the meeting was planned to be on the on the road rather than at the hideout.

We do know Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were killed in a dramatic ambush on the Sailes Road at a little after 9am on Wednesday, May 23, 1934. We know with a good deal of certainty that this ambush occurred just north of Sailes and south of Mt Lebanon, Louisiana. We can say the exact spot almost going from Ted Hinton's film that he shot just after the ambush while the death car was still on location. There were many additional photos as well.

It has been said in quite a few books and articles that on the way to this ambush location, Clyde and Bonnie stopped into a cafe in Gibsland, Louisiana. It is said that Bonnie had a half eaten sandwich in her lap when they were killed. Some say it was an egg sandwich, some say a fried bologna sandwich. In my humble opinion, I will say the egg sandwhich scenario seems more likely.

Most folks call the cafe they stopped at "Ma Canfield's Cafe". I am sure many folks back in the day called it that; Ma Canfield's Cafe. However, that was not the actual name of the cafe. Phonebooks, newspapers, ads on at least one roadmap call it "Rosa's Cafe'. If it had a sign or a painted window, it would have said Rosa's Cafe. To add to the mix, the cafe had a few names over the years. One photograph from 1933 shows a sign saying "American Cafe". The photograph is from a really old newspaper and is not as clear as I would want, but it does look like a sign that says "American Cafe". There are articles which also say American Cafe.

It is not incorrect to call it Ma Canfield's Cafe. Rosa Canfield was a 'ma' and she did have a cafe. But it would be more accurate to call it Rosa's Cafe. It would even more accurate to call it "American Cafe' since that was apparently the name of the cafe in 1934 when B&C stopped in for food on the morning of May 23, 1934.

The building has seen a lot of changes over the years. It has been destroyed by fire and rebuilt. It has been a pool hall, an appliance store, a cafe with two or three different names. Around the year 2000, Ken Holmes and a Dallas Partner opened the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum in the location. They got retired Boots Hinton, the son of lawmen Ted Hinton, to move to Gibsland and run the museum. It was a great thing to me. I went many times a year to visit Boots Hinton.

Ken Holmes passed away on July 9, 2012. Boots Hinton passed away on December 10, 2016. I have not been inside the building since then. I hear tell it is still open and that is a good thing. The old building would have fallen in long ago. The roof was about to collapse back in the times that I spent visiting. So I can not really speak about the current state of the building. You can still visit the "museum" and buy gift shop items like B&C pencils, B&C bobbleheads, B&C lunchboxes etc...

At any rate, it is a part of the ambush story. I always search for more photographs of the old place. It is an experience to stop there where the cafe used to be and then drive down to the ambush spot. It is still a rural drive and you can easily imagine the 1934 days.

It is worth noting that Gibsland, Louisiana is a for the most part a ghost town these days. Interstate 20 was built back in the 1960s a few miles to the north. But back in 1934, there was a lot going on in the village of Gibsland. Highway 80 was a paved road that ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It was an amazing thing to have a nice paved road in 1934. It is a east to west road. It goes east from Gibsland to Arcadia, Ruston and on to the Atlantic ocean. Highway 80 goes west from Gibsland to Bossier, Shreveport, Longview Texas, to Dallas and on to the Pacific. The history of Highway 80 is worth checking out.

So prior to Interstate 20, Highway 80 was a main road. Back in olden days, they purposely sent you right through little town's main street. They wanted you to stop and eat at a cafe, or shop at a drugstore, get some gas, spend moneys. Old aerial photographs of Gibsland show many more buildings and more activity that you see these days. There were a couple of cafes, a couple of grocery stores, a few drugstores, a barber, a cobbler and all sorts of businesses.

So back to Ma Canfield's Cafe. There are a few articles that say that Clyde & Bonnie stopped at the cafe that morning. We can't know for sure that they did stop but Rosa Ma Canfield said in one article that they not only stopped there that morning but also the day before. She also says they came inside and sat down to eat when they visited the day before the 23rd. But on the morning of the 23rd, they got food to go, it is said. Of course, Rosa Canfield could have been making all this up to drum up business, I guess. Then she says that to a reporter who prints it in one article, then books written later echo the info and next thing you know,, it is taken as a fact. But enough different accounts do talk about the half eaten sandwiches in the death car to say that they did stop for food just prior to the ambush. Rosa's cafe is a good candidate for such a stop. Consider all possible scenarios.

October 24, 1881
Rosa Canfield born; Amity, Arknsas
1910 (?)
Cafe building built
Masonic Temple - Fox Theater built next door to cafe
December 5, 1924
American Cafe owner, J.R. Canfield's Mt Lebanon house burns
May 22 & 23, 1934
Bonnie and Clyde visit cafe
June 10, 1940
Rosa Canfield sells cafe due to illness
January 7, 1946
Rosa's Cafe, Stall Pressing shop, City Barbert Shop destrayed by fire
August 14, 1956
Rosa Canfield died
1965 (?)
Interstate 20 opens
1969 (?)
Blue Book photo: Namie's Furniture and Applicance store
Pool Hall Game Room
1999 (?)
B&C Festival starts
Ken Holmes and Boots Hinton open The Ambush Museum
July 9, 2012
Ken Holmes died
December 10, 2016
Boots Hinton died
... interesting to note the cafe was called The American cafe in 1924. It was operated by both Rosa and her husband, J.B. Canfield

May 8, 1954

ad on back on 1934 MMR roadmap

Shreveport Times; June 10, 1940

The Canfields had long time ties to the Mt Lebanon area. Rosa's maiden name was Rhodes.

Shreveport Times: March 29, 1981

Photograph published in 'The Blue Book' circa 1968

Ken Holmes circa 1998, pre museum

Shreveport Times - May 24, 1934

Shreveport Times - October 17, 1923

circa 1950s... next to the cafe was a building that had a Masonic Lodge on the top floor. In 1934, the rest of the building was The Fox Theater. The top floor Masonic lodge had large windows looking in every direction. It is on the top floor of Gibland's tallest building, on the tallest hill. It is interesting to note that all six of the posse members were Masons.

The Fox Theater.

Shreveport Times - January 31, 1933. This seems to show that the cafe was called "The American Cafe" in 1933,

Gibsland topo map 1949

Gibsland 1939

Gibsland 1939

Rest in Peace, Boots Hinton

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