Green Corn Rebellion

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David in Atlanta
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Sep 13 2007 04:02
Green Corn Rebellion

I found an archive of period newspaper articles on the armed rebellion of socialist farmers against the draft in 1917 Oklahoma and thought I'd make them into a little minifeature

Quote:
he Ada Weekly News Aug 2, 1917:

TO RESIST DRAFT LAW Organization Thought To Exist In Several
Counties In OK That there is a wrong organization in Pontotoc,
Seminole, Pottawatomie and perhaps other counties, the purpose
of which is to resist the draft law, is the opinion of Pontotoc
Count officials. Acting upon evidence collected by the office of
Sheriff Bob Duncan and County Attorney A.L. Bullock the federal
authorities today took into custody Sam Bingham, Geo. Norman,
Ernest Johnson, Jim Hammett Sr., and a Mr. Wilson, all of
Francis or near that place. These will probably be lodged in the
federal jail at Holdenville or Muskogee. Sheriff Bob Duncan and
Deputy U.S. Marshall Frank Whally made the arrests. The men
charged with trying to incite young men in the draft age to
resist the call to arms, urging the young men to defend
themselves with weapons. A large meeting, it is said, was held
Saturday night in a grove not far from Francis. and the attended
was something like one hundred men and boys. Some of the boys
refused to enter into the plans. The county officials know of
many meetings that have been held in various parts of the county
within the last few days, and are keeping an eye on all
developments. They have a list of practically all those who have
been attending the meetings. Arrests of dozens of these
participants may be expected at any time. A meeting of the
organization was to have been held in Seminole county Sunday
night, but the News was unable to learn whether this meeting
materialized or not.

It is not the boys who are opposed to the draft measures, the
officials declare. Three of the five men arrested today are more
than sixty years old. The other two are more than forty years
old. Just how many boys have consented to go into the organized
resistance has not been learned.

Some of the agitators, it is alleged believe the time has come
to strike for a different form of government. They believe that
all of those not contented with things as they are now will rise
up in a common cause and overthrow the powers of the government.

It is possible that this organization has spread to other
counties. Mr Bullock thinks. Rumors of it have been reaching Ada
for several days. Quietly the officers have been watching
developments. Officials in other counties are doing the same.
Arrests have been made in Pottawatomie county. Arrests in
Seminole are looked for any time.

One member of the organization who has not yet been arrested is
said to have remarked that a few days would see some startling
developments. The officers know who he is and is watching him.

David in Atlanta
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Sep 13 2007 04:02
Quote:
The Ada Weekly News Aug. 9, 1917

U.S. District Attorney in Deadly Earnest Against Leaders of
Uprising

EXCITEMENT SUBSIDES

Believed Trouble is About Over But No Chances Will Be Taken

Anarchy reared its head in the Southern part of Seminole county
Thursday afternoon and night and part of that section is under
control of mob of anti-draft men of various ages.

The first outbreak came about 4 o'clock Thursday afternoon when
Sheriff Grall of Seminole County and Deputy Cross of Sasakwa
were waylaid east of Sasakwa and fired on. They had but one gun
but with this they returned the fire. Some thirty-five shots
were exchanged and the ambushers disappeared. The Sheriff
thought this party was composed of negroes.

The next move of the anti-drafters was to make a general roundup
of the country, forcing every man they could find to accompany
their party. It is reported that Grant Scroggins and the father
and brother of W.T. Melton were among those taken. It is said
that the raiders were at least 100 strong when last reported,
but they declared they would have 3,000 men together in a short
time.

The Frisco bridge was the next object of attention, and they
fired it in three places, doing damage that required until noon
today to repair. It was reported that dynamite was also used,
but men from Francis said if such was the case the damage was
slight. The fires were started and to make more certain of their
work they set fire to a handcar of building material and shoved
it to the middle of the bridge. To conceal their movements they
cut the wires both north and south of Francis and service was
not restored until noon today.

Word of the lawlessness was brought to Ada early this morning by
two young men who escaped after being captured. Both were nearly
worn out and footsore and also uneasy about being pursued by
their captors. They gave the first warning of the bridge fire as
they came through Francis. Just what has taken place today is
unknown, but the rebellious army is supposed to be encamped near
Friendship Church, four or five miles north of Francis. So far
as known they have done nothing more than cut the wired in
Pontotoc County.

Evidently the leaders of this movement have been preparing for
some time, for this morning when the news began to spread, many
men went tot he various hardware stores only to find that every
high power gun had been sold. However, there are quite a number
of such guns in the community and a good sized squad could be
armed.

In Ada there has been no undue excitement, but on every hand
there has been evidence a grim determination to back the
officers in any and all emergencies.

ALL JAILS TAXED WITH RIOTERS; SCOURING WOODS FOR SUSPECTS

Several Casualties Result From Uprising; Activity Of The
Officers Cause Scattering

This afternoon at 1:30 a mass meeting was held at the court
house and attended by several hundreds, many others being unable
to get inside the court room. The object of the meeting was to
organize to assist the officers and when the meeting was
adjourned almost to a man signed up and many who have autos
tendered their use any time they may be needed.

J.W. Davis was elected chairman of the meeting and W.T. Melton
secretary. The chair appointed the following resolutions
committee: P.A. Norris, M.R. Chilcutt, Robert Wimbish, Sherwood
Hill, J.E. Webb, B.C. King and L. Warr. The following were
appointed as an executive committee: R. R. Cain, I. Hodge, Jim
Adair, A. Kilpatrick, A.M. Gregg, Henry Lovelady, Paul Alderson,
L.M. Hilton, Marshal Beck, A.D. Tanner, Robert Wimbish, P.A.
Norris, J.M. Wintersmith and J.W. Davis

The war in Seminole county ended in a complete fiasco Friday
afternoon when Sheriff Bob Duncan of Pontotoc county and a posse
of about twenty-five men charged their "fort" on a high rocky
hill five miles north and one west of Sasakwa, capturing ten of
the band of sixty to eighty-five who could not run as fast as
the others. These ten were brought to Ada on the Frisco arriving
at 9:30 and are now enjoying the hospitality of the county. All
ten were white men although it is said that there were a number
of Indians and negroes in the band. Mr. Duncan knew only one of
the prisoners, Alex Polk of Frances and the names of others
could not be learned last night, the Sheriff not having time to
learn them.

Sheriff Duncan and A.R. Sugg slipped out of town on the 12:30
train Friday and at Sasakwa were joined by Deputy Sheriff Fred
Bowles and City Marshal Bill Taylor and two others from Konawa;
a few from Sasakwa and most of the other of the sheriff's force
were from Holdenville. They lost no time in locating the
rendezvous and made straight for it. On arriving in the vicinity
an old farmer who had been held prisoner by the mob for a time,
begged the officers not to attempt to capture them, saying they
numbered at least 500 and were heavily armed. Disregarding this
advice the posse headed for the hill. They caught sight of the
band when about 400 yards off and then for a few minutes lost
sight of them as they went down into a ravine that crossed the
pass. When they emerged from this the men who thought they were
able to defy the entire United States were scattering in every
direction and it was possible to take but ten of them. However,
the officers released eleven white men who had been captured and
held by the outlaws, the father and brother of W.T. Melton of
Ada among them.

The band had helped themselves to about a wagon load of roasting
ears, had killed a beef which they stole, some were lying
stretched out on bedding that they had brought along and seemed
to be making a picnic of the affair. As had been anticipated,
they were well armed and could have put up a nasty fight had
their courage not failed them. A large crowd was on the streets
and in and around the court house when the men were placed in
jail here and as he ascended the stairs to his office, the nervy
sheriff was given a rousing cheer by the crowd. However, he
modestly declared that others deserved as much credit as he did
in the matter.

David in Atlanta
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Joined: 21-04-06
Sep 13 2007 04:04
Quote:
Ada Weekly News August 9, 1917

A FALSE ALARM

Sheriff Roach and some deputies of Ofuskee county arrived at
Francis late in the afternoon. Some one phoned him from Sasakwa
that the officers were in close quarters, being virtually
surrounded by the mob and help was needed at once. He promptly
called in the sheriff's office at Ada and repeated the message.
That the organization affected in the afternoon was very much
alive was demonstrated in a very few minutes. The news traveled
with the speed of the wind and before an hour had lapsed 100 or
more had left in autos which were freely given by their owners.
Every man who could get a gun was eager to go and had the
sheriff not come in when he did many more cars would have been
on the road. However there was a feeling of intense relief when
the sheriff made his appearance, although hundreds of Ada
citizens would have risked their last drop of blood to rescue
the party had they been needed.

When the rumor of the surrounding of the officers reached Ada,
Allen was called up and the response for aid was instantaneous,
the rush of citizens being as ready as those from Ada. The same
also occurred at Franks, a number of men leaving church and
hurrying to Francis.

SHOOTING AT STONEWALL

It was reported from Stonewall late in the afternoon that
trouble near Jesse was looked for during the night, as it was
reported that a hundred or more of the secret anti-draft
organization had assembled and were preparing to make a raid
during the night. However, steps were taken promptly to
forestall any outbreak.

During the night Deputy Nehut of Stonewall and a posse, who were
guarding a road southeast of that place in the edge of Coal
county, encountered a band and the latter at once opened fire on
the officers. Some thirty of the forty shots were exchanged but
no casualties were reported.

BRIDGE BURNED IN SEMINOLE

That the raiders are still ready to do all damage possible when
the danger of being caught is not too great, was evidenced by
the burning of the Katy bridge on Salt Creek, between Konawa and
Maud during the night necessitating detouring trains via the
Frisco today. An attempt is also reported to burn the Katy
bridge over the Canadian at Tyrola.

NAMES OF CAPTURED MEN

The following men composed the bunch of prisoners brought in by
Sheriff Duncan: Joe Neely, Alfred Gooden, J. Hogue, A.L.
Spangler, Bruce Clark, Luther Hogue, A.J. Polk, Neely Adams, Sam
Spray, Alva Neely. All, except one are within draft age. It is
reported that all contend that they were not members of the
rebel band, but were forced in and taken prisoner. This
afternoon Sheriff Duncan put them through a grilling, but the
result is not known.

SASAKWA THREATENED

For the past few days threats had been heard against the town of
Sasakwa, it being said that the anti-draft organization was
going to raid and plunder the town. Little attention was paid to
the threats at the time, but since the late disturbances the
citizens are exercising all possible vigilance against any
depredations and are prepared to give a warm reception to any
attackers.

David in Atlanta
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Joined: 21-04-06
Sep 13 2007 04:07
Quote:
The Ada Weekly News August 9, 1917

SEVEN NEW ARRESTS TODAY

At noon today Sheriff Duncan got word that one of the leaders
and six men were captured and take to Wewoka.

McAlester, OK Aug 7 - Anti-draft rioters who for three days ran
amuck in Southeastern OK, this afternoon faced the United State
commissioner's to answer the charge of treason. District
Attorney McGinnis, in charge of the prosecution, announced that
where evidence is sufficient he will ask the death penalty.
Prohibitive bail will be asked in order to hold the men until
trial.

Authorities are confident they have two National organizers
among the 250 prisoners. Evidence and records seized by
authorities show the Working Class Union had 27,000 members in
the State. The records also give evidence for the arrest of many
leaders of the revolutionary movement.

The uprising in Seminole county is apparently about to an end,
but posses are still searching the woods and picking up suspects
and arms. It is estimated that no fewer than 300 men have been
taken and now that the tide has set in so strongly against them,
they are beginning to come in and surrender.

SPECIAL TRAIN TO KONAWA

Late Saturday afternoon a phone message came from Konawa saying
that it was reported that 300 men were planning to march on the
town during the night and that help was needed. Sheriff Duncan
at once secured an engine and caboose from the Katy and in less
than an hour sixty armed men were on their way to the scene of
the threatened trouble. When the party arrived at Konawa Sheriff
Duncan wanted to go out into the place where it was suspected
that the trouble makers might be and take whatever steps might
be needed. However, no one who new the country and who the
suspected men were would guide the posse or give any definite
information and as there was little need of such a force to
guard the town, the Ada party left for home shortly after
midnight.

Saturday afternoon an encounter took place ten miles east of
Konawa in which W. T. Cargill said to be secretary of the
organization at Friendship was shot through the body. He has
been reported as dead but physicians at Francis who tended on
him , reported that he is still alive, but with very little hope
for recovery. Cargill and three companions were found by a posse
of three of four men and ordered to surrender. Cargill ran and
was fired on. The other three, C.C. Brewer and his sons, Homer
and Dave surrendered.

Several men came from Shawnee during the night and when a report
came that a party of resisters had been located near town, they
marched to the place but found nothing. During the day Sunday
five arrests were made at Vamoosa and five elsewhere who were
taken to jaila.a A negro was also arrested charged with the
killing of another negro but this had no connection with the
main trouble. Among the arrested men was a man by the name of
Huckabee, formerly county commissioner elected on the socialist
ticket, and Poly Weems, a former student of the Ada Normal. J.C.
Moore of Ada spent the day with one of the posses in that part
of the county.

BREWER'S STORY

The Shawnee News Herald gives the following interview with
Brewer:

C.C. Brewer, age 41 and his two sons, Dave aged 18 and Homer
aged 16, held in the city jail for the Seminole county
authorities, talked freely to a News-Herald representative last
night regarding the shooting of W.T. Cargill, secretary of
Friendship local of the W.C.U. to which the father and oldest
son belonged, and related in some detail all the horrors of the
plan in which they declared had been maturing in the past
fifteen months to establish a reign of terror, kill all officers
and inaugurate a revolution. They admitted membership in the
Working Class Union, but maintained they entered into their
plans only under duress and had been trying to get out.

The plans of the W.C.U. they said, included the shooting of
officers from abuscades along the roadsides. "They were to
divide into parties of two or three each, "said he elder Brewer,
"and hide in the bushes to shoot down the officers as they
passed. Then the members were all instructed to secure poison
and have the women put it in the bread and in the water to be
offered officers when they appeared at the homes of any of the
members. I have heard these instructions given by Will Benefield
at a meeting of Friendship Local.

"But tell the officers to beware of the roads," ejaculated the
prisoner. "There's where the great danger is. Every one of them
will be shot down as sure as they keep to the roads. The boys
were all to be scattered along the roads today and they were to
get every officer who appeared."

Brewer declared that he and his older son had been members of
the Friendship local, W.C.U. which had about 110 members, all
whites and Indians for about 15 months. They had taken the death
oaths and attended the meetings. They were tenants of Cargill,
who appears to have been secretary of the local. When they saw
how serious things were getting, says Brewer, they decided to
get out. There was a general meeting Thursday, attended by 150
members. At this meeting they slipped away and had since been
trying to hide from the members. At the time of the officers
approach they were hiding behind the house on a creek. Cargill,
who, they said, had been scouting from the officers for the past
six weeks, was hiding near the creek a short distance away, and
they had just joined him when the posse appeared on the scene.
Cargill had often declared that he would never be taken alive.

After slipping away from Thursday's meeting. Brewer said, he had
written a letter to his son-in-law in Texas asking him to send
him $15 to send his wife down there. This letter was found
unmailed. It stated that Brewer and his sons had been "scouting
in the woods" for some time and they were tired of it, and
wanted to get away. Brewer insists that the fact that he and his
hid when the officers appeared was due to their fright, and that
as soon as they recovered their wits, they surrendered. Brewer
was formerly a preacher.

Asked what the idea of the W.C.U. was in their present
activities, Brewer replied that it was a part of a tremendous
revolution, which was expected to spread rapidly and become
nationwide. The extermination of the officers and all who
refused to fall in with their plans was contemplated. The only
end the leaders could see was the victorious over throw of the
government. Resistance of the draft was only a part of their
purpose, but was emphasized by the actual nearness of the actual
drawing for army service.

Brewer was very ill following his arrest, and was given medical
attention at Konawa and upon reaching Shawnee. He showed little
reticence in discussing the affairs of the W.C.U. Among the
prominent members he named J.M. Danley, leader of Friendship
local, Ben and Earl Potter and Frank Cook, all of the same local
and Nate Harris, leader of Lone Dove local.

SEVERAL SURRENDER

Sunday Lee west came in from Francis with seven who had
surrendered. There were Lee Hardesty, C.M. Potter, Sam Scroggin,
Sam Hardesty, J.B. Potter, Earl Potter and H.B. Edwards. Deputy
Garland Vincent brought in Jim Hammett, Jr., from Francis and
W.C. Almond from Stonewall, where he was making a speech. This
morning Mayor Dunn of Francis reported the surrender of others.
Three of them Mark, Cephas and Noah Dover, were brought in and
two others were coming on foot. The county jail being
overcrowded several men are held in the city jail.

Besides the above, Prof S.E. Kerr of Jesse is reported held in
the jail at Coalgate in connection with the movement.

Sheriff Duncan returned this afternoon from Coal County where he
and Sheriff Phillips rounded up fifteen suspects. The members of
the registers organization had mostly fled before the officers
appeared and others left out when they saw them approaching.

DETAILS BY UNITED PRESS

Holdenville, OK August 6 - Reinforcements for armed posses
scouring the country for anti-draft rioters hurried from here
this morning to Spaulding, a point twelve miles southeast, where
a posse is reported to have surrounded forty rioters.

The death toll of the anti-draft rioting reached three, when
J.F. Moose of Okemah was shot and killed Sunday night by a posse
guarding the roads leading to Holdenville. Moose was killed when
he failed to heed the warning of the possemen to halt, being
riddled with buckshot rifle bullets. He was in an automobile and
tried to escape.

Ed Blalock was killed and two possemen injured when a band of
thirty rioters were trapped in a school house southeast of here
Sunday afternoon.

Jack Paige, former marshal, was shot in the leg and Henry
Johnson shot in the head.

A special train took 56 arrested rioters from Holdenville to
McAlester this morning. All jails of surrounding towns are
filled. A total of 225 have been arrested in Seminole county
since the outbreak started. Reports from Ada and Wewoka this
morning state that everything is quiet. Posses are still
scouring the country arresting all individuals in the groups of
rioters. Many are giving themselves up to the authorities.

SOCIALIST LEADER ARRESTED

This afternoon W.H. Conley was brought in from Allen and placed
in jail in connection with the anti-draft troubles. Conley is a
prominent socialist, politician and was the nominee of the party
against Tom McKeown a year ago.

FROM WEDNESDAY'S DAILY

No new developments in the anti-draft trouble have been reported
today. It is stated that many are coming in to the various towns
in the disturb district offering to tell all they know. It is
reported that forty of fifty have come to Allen for this purpose.

>From Shawnee it is reported that conditions in the south end of
Pottawatomie county are not yet fully normal. Two men, one near
Asher and the other not far from Wanette were warned that the
W.C.U. was coming for them and they promptly left their homes
and sought safety in town. A number of arrests have been made in
the vicinity of Asher and the cities have organized a company of
home guards.

The arraignment of the men taken to McAlester was scheduled to
begin Tuesday, but was carried over until today. The preliminary
hearings will begin immediately afterwards.

It has developed that the house burned Monday was not that of
the Indian Barney Fixico who was arrested as a suspect a few
days ago, but belonged to another of the same name.

Mike Harman
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Sep 13 2007 09:56

http://libcom.org/node/add/history !!!!

David in Atlanta
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Sep 14 2007 22:01
Quote:
Oklahoma’s dispossessed rebel against poverty and a ‘rich man’s war’ By Chris Mahin

There is a great deal of talk these days about “red states” and “blue states”. Some people would like us to believe that the South, the West, and the rural areas of this country have always been conservative and anti-union. August contains the anniversary of an event which disproves all that.

On August 2, 1917, the Green Corn Rebellion began in rural Oklahoma. This little-known chapter in U.S. history was an armed rebellion led by impoverished tenant farmers and former railroad workers who had lost their jobs when the railroad strike led by Eugene V. Debs was defeated in the 1890s.

The rebellion took place just weeks after the federal government moved to institute military conscription. (The United States had declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and joined the British and French side in World War I, which had been raging since 1914.) While the Green Corn Rebellion included African-Americans and Native Americans, the overwhelming majority of the insurgents were white Southern rural people.

Times were hard in Oklahoma during the early 1900s. After the Civil War ended in 1865, the wealthiest capitalists – “robber barons” -- made huge fortunes. The expansion of the railroads drove many small farmers into poverty. Farming in Oklahoma was commercial. Tenant farmers were wage laborers and cotton was king. Cotton production doubled between 1909 and 1919, making Oklahoma the fourth-largest cotton producer among the states. The state’s other major industries were oil production and coal mining. These industries spawned boom towns and attracted many transient workers.

More than 60 percent of mortgaged farms were lost to foreclosure during the two years before the Green Corn Rebellion. More than half the farms were worked by tenants. The rates were even higher in the southeastern Oklahoma counties where the rebellion took place (Pottawatomi, Seminole, Hughes, and Pontotoc counties.) Only a fifth of the farms in that region were worked by their owners. Fifty percent of those were under heavy mortgages with interest rates of 20-200 percent.

Here was how the conditions in the area were described in an unpublished thesis submitted in 1932 to the Graduate Faculty of the University of Oklahoma by Charles D. Bush:

“A majority of these people were from the hill country of Arkansas, Tennessee, and other Southern states, migrating from the poorer sections of these older communities. These people were generally lacking in education. Actual illiteracy was common and even a grade-school education was very rare. A man was locally considered well-educated if he was able to write a little and read the columns of the weekly paper.”

“Their schools, for the most part, were poor and attended by the children only during the seasons when the crops were ‘laid by’ in July and for a brief period in winter. Frequently, they did not attend at all. Good schools could not be brought to these people because the districts were poor.…

“Economically these people were generally very poor and chronically in debt. They were too restless to stay long in one location and consequently they accumulated little property. Practically all were tenant farmers. Farm improvements, provided by absentee owners, were of the very poorest kind. Untutored even in agriculture, they generally depended on one crop – cotton – and measured their prosperity or poverty by the price of cotton and the prevalence of the boll weevil.

“In many respects these men were little more than serfs or peons, slaves to a ‘cash crop’ demanded by their landlords.”

Far from being right-wing conservatives, the tenant farmers and rural workers of Oklahoma of that time were often very radical. Between 1906 and 1917, the Industrial Workers of the World and the Socialist Party recruited many people in Oklahoma. In 1914, the Socialist Party had more dues-paying members in Oklahoma than in any other state (57,000 members organized in 1,500 locals). That year, Oklahoma elected more than 100 Socialists to office.

The Socialists even borrowed a tactic from evangelical Christians: The Socialists held week-long encampments with dynamic speakers, both male and female. In 1915, 205 such mass encampments were held.

The Socialist Party’s percentage of the Oklahoma vote increased from 6 percent in 1907 to 16 percent in 1916. In 1914, the Socialist Party candidate for governor of Oklahoma won 21 percent of the vote.

The Green Corn Rebellion was organized by the Working Class Union (WCU), which formed the militant wing of the working-class movement in Oklahoma and Arkansas. The constitution of the WCU said that all members of the working class over the age of 18, “regardless of race, sex, color, or occupation” could join, and that “any means necessary” would be used to better the conditions of the working people. Their first demand was for the “total abolition of the crime, disease, and death-producing practice of rent, interest, and profit-taking as iniquities that have been and are now being imposed upon the working class of the world.”

Even after two of its leaders – “Rube” Munson and Homer Spence – had been indicted for obstructing the draft, the Working Class Union continued to organize in eastern Oklahoma. By midsummer 1917, it had recruited a membership of between 18,000 to 35,000 people. On August 2, the Seminole County sheriff and some deputies set out from Wewoka to investigate alleged radical activities in an area known for its WCU sympathies. The lawmen were ambushed and forced to flee by five black men who were part of the WCU. That evening, the WCU called a secret meeting on a sandbar in the Canadian River and decided to act.

Munson and Spence – who were free on bail – urged resisters to arm themselves and prepare for a fight. Opposition to the war and the draft had been on the rise since the spring. The country folk had no intention of allowing President Woodrow Wilson and his agents in the county seats to send them to die in France.

On the morning of August 3, resisters gathered on a bluff near the farm of “old man” Spears. (He had hoisted the red flag of rebellion above his barn a few days before.) During the night, raiding parties went out to cut telegraph and telephone wires and burn railroad bridges in the area. They also blew up some oil pipelines. Other rebels moved into the poor cotton country south of the Canadian River, where they called for armed action against the draft.

The main group of militants on Spears’ Bluff assembled more supporters from the surrounding tenant country. This support included a group of black sharecroppers who were members of the WCU and several Native Americans, one of whom was a relative of the leader of the last armed Native American rebellion against white rule in the Indian Nations eight years earlier.

At Spears’ Bluff, “Rube” Munson told the group that other uprisings were taking place throughout the West. He said that a large army of Wobblies would march on Washington and put an end to the war and the draft. The Working Class Union should start its own march to Washington and link up with thousands of other farmers and workers who would be up in arms.

However, the rebels never started for Washington. After hearing about the insurgents’ violent activities, a posse of 70 men mobilized immediately and headed for the rebels’ encampment. When the insurgents saw the armed posse headed toward them, they dispersed. “The papers said we were cowards, but we weren’t,” one rebel explained. “Some of the men in the posse were neighbors of ours and we couldn’t shoot ’em down in cold blood. That’s the way we felt ’bout the Germans too. … We didn’t have no quarrel with them at all.”

For the next week, huge posses hunted down and arrested hundreds of suspected insurgents. They fought several bloody engagements with hold-outs, but within seven days, the authorities had crushed the organized rebellion. Of the 450 men arrested for participating in it, 184 were indicted and 150 were convicted. Many Socialists who had not taken part in the rebellion were seized in the wave of arrests.

Once the rebellion was crushed, the backlash was brutal. The rebellion’s leaders were given stiff sentences in Leavenworth. Some of the leaders were not released until they received a presidential pardon in 1921. The supporters of U.S. participation in World War I and the enemies of the labor movement seized on the defeat of the Green Corn Rebellion to blame the Socialist Party for the rebellion. There were cross-burnings all over the state, as the Ku Klux Klan grew.

The attacks on civil liberties in Oklahoma coincided with a nationwide assault on free speech and the labor movement. Ultimately, this attack destroyed the Socialist Party in Oklahoma and the Industrial Workers of the World throughout the entire country.

In the years since 1917, very little has been written about the Green Corn Rebellion. The proponents of the “red state/blue state” line of argument have a hard time explaining why thousands of Oklahoma-born tenant farmers and laborers – most of them white -- supported the Socialist Party and wanted to march to Washington to stop the draft. The few articles and books about the rebellion often mocked the rebels, frequently depicting them as country bumpkins because the insurgency was defeated. But despite its failure, the Green Corn Rebellion has much to teach us today. In a time of great turmoil, when the wealth of the country was concentrated in the hands of a tiny group of robber barons, the poor of the South took a stand against economic injustice and a war they felt this country had no business being involved in.

The wisdom of the Green Corn rebels can be seen in the words on one of their posters, found along the country roads in Marshall and Bryan counties: “Now is the time to rebel against the war with Germany, boys. Get together, boys, and don’t go. Rich man’s war. Poor man’s fight. If you don’t go, J.P. Morgan Co. is lost. Speculation is the only cause of war. Rebel now.” While the world is very different today than in 1917, one thing hasn’t changed: When this country fights wars, it is still the rich who benefit and the poor who do the fighting and dying. The fact that the Green Corn rebels failed does not relieve us of the responsibility of changing that situation. It’s up to us to learn the rebellion’s lessons and finish the job of creating the better world the Oklahoma rebels (and so many others) fought so hard for.