Oklahoma Outlaws Lawmen History Association mentioned my book in its recent OKOLHA Journal (Winter 2014) . . . and I am thankful to the members for doing so. Especially for the “this is an excellent book” comment. However, I feel I need to make some important clarifications.
In their description of my book they state, “The Masons kidnapped four innocent business men from the jail and took them next door and murdered them by lynching – not hanging.”
There are a handful of claims made in that one-line description which bother me quite a bit. First of all, and most importantly, never in my book do I state that the Masons were the ones who lynched the four men. I have not made this claim about the Masons for one simple reason . . . I have not found any proof to support such a claim. Did the Masons do it? There are good reasons to believe the Masons played a large role in the lynching:
- The Masons consisted of prominent people in the community who were viewed as leaders.
- The planning to proceed with the lynching took place in the same building/room in which the Masons held their regular meetings.
- Masonry is a secret organization wherein its members are sworn to secrecy.
If the Masons did in fact take part in the lynching, I do not believe they acted alone. Lets not forget, Governor Haskell formed a grand jury to identify the people involved in the lynching. But not one single citizen was willing to provide any information to assist in the investigation. The town residents had a reputation of banding together, just as they did when there were lot jumpers trying to steal land from members of the community (my book, page 11). While the Masons may have lead the way (and most likely did), I think it is fair to say that the community as a whole participated in the lynching of four accused men on April 19, 1909.
Now back to that one-line description in the OKOLHA Journal: “The Masons kidnapped four innocent business men from the jail and took them next door and murdered them by lynching – not hanging.” While an accused man is innocent until proven guilty, I do lean towards the belief that these four men were guilty of murder. One of these four men was James B. Miller, who was one of the most cold-blooded assassins of the Old West. Therefore, I never stated in my book that they were innocent. And to say “the Masons kidnapped” the four men is misleading as well since kidnapping is usually viewed to mean a person was taken by force and held as hostage usually for ransom. Which obviously was not the case.
In addition, the lynchers (whether they were Masons or others or both) killed these men – they did not murder them as stated in OKOLHA’s description. Yes, in my view there is a difference. And they did so with a lynching – by hanging. How can we accurately claim that the four men arrested for murder were innocent yet in the same breath say the Masons were murderers when neither group of men ever had a trial to determine such facts. Afterall, the Masons were never even arrested.