Oklahoma City Bombing, April 19, 1995

Firefighter holding one-year-old "Baylee" after Bombing at Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.  Iconic photo by Charles Porter IV.

Firefighter holding one-year-old “Baylee” after bombing in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.  Iconic photo by Charles Porter IV.

Today (April 19, 2015) marks the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in which 168 U.S. citizens were killed and more than 680 people suffered severe burns, bone fractures, and abrasions.  The ages of the victims ranged from 3 months to 73 years, with 19 of the deceased victims being babies and children.  Using a Ryder truck to explode a bomb which was manufactured from stolen materials in Kansas and transported to Oklahoma City, the blast could be heard and felt up to 55 miles away from the bombing site.  This was the worst act of domestic terrorism in American history.

The bombing was carried out by anti-government co-conspirators Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.  McVeigh, having been stopped on a routine traffic violation just an hour after the bombing occurred and taken to jail for unlawfully carrying a weapon, was identified as a bombing suspect two days later.   He was executed in 2001 by lethal injection.  Nichols is serving multiple life sentences with no possibility of parole in Colorado at a federal penitentiary.

On a side note:  April 19 is also the anniversary date of the lynching that occurred in Ada, Oklahoma, in 1909.

Lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, April 19, 1909.

Lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, April 19, 1909.   Iconic photo by Noah B. Stall.

 

 

 

The Ada Lynching: A Descendant’s Point of View

It was just a matter of time before I heard from one of the descendants of the four men lynched in Ada, Oklahoma.  During my research, I had occasionally run across articles written by descendants of the four accused men which tell of the Ada lynching as seen from their family’s view.  It is usually portrayed in such a way stating that their loved one, who had been accused of murder and hung from the rafters, had been terribly wronged.  Well, they would be right.

My first question is, however, to whom should the anger and the blame for the hangings have been directed?  Should it have been directed towards the mob?  I have no doubt that the four men lynched were entitled to have their day in court.  The fate of the four men hung should never have been decided by angry citizens, but rather by an honest jury.  And their demise should not have occurred at the force of fellow citizens masked in the dark night.  But again, is it accurate to put the blame on the mob?  After all, this is the hand the citizens were dealt.  Known assassins congregated in and around Ada because they knew they could.  They were even provided a saloon to be used as their gathering place.  Having already killed an unknown number of men, there was no adequate law enforcement available to the community so as to deal with the many assassins.  And at times when they were dealt with, the court system allowed assassin after assassin to be tried as murderers yet released back onto the streets free to continue roaming among good citizens.

When a system fails to protect its citizens, eventually the citizens will take a stand and protect themselves.   And when one of the most cold-blooded assassins arrived in town, the citizens did just that.  Were they right in doing so?  There is no right that has occurred here, and there are no winners in this story.  None whatsoever.  There are only those who have been wronged by a failed system.

Perhaps I could take the suggestion of the descendant (below) and tell his untold story of the four men lynched.  But in all fairness, I should also include the untold story of descendants of the innocent men who were murdered by assassins living in Ada at the time the story took place, whose families never received justice for the murders of their loved ones.  I have personally heard from a couple of them as well.  It appears to me that families – from all sides of the story of the Ada lynching – are still seeking closure.  They didn’t find it in 1909.   And most likely, they won’t find it now.

My own book review:  If you are looking for a story with a happy ending, then this book is not for you.

Descendant's view of Ada Lynching

About That Book Review

Ah, yes.  That lonely book review.

First, I want to express my gratitude to “sherifmd” for providing my first book review on Amazon.  I have no choice but to acknowledge that he only gave me two stars (one certainly can’t overlook that), but the review itself was fair, positive, and polite.  For that I am grateful.  Here is what he had to say:

Concise coverage of events.  If you have read much on the lynching, then pass on this book.  Nothing new is covered in this book.  If you have not read much on the lynching, this book provides all the known detail and is a good read.

When the majority of your readers consists of older men who are already well acquainted with the facts behind the lynching and who purchased the book through a local individual, it is difficult to get any online review at all.   So, therefore, I will be grateful for this one lone review.  But still, I can’t help but wonder why only two stars while claiming the book to be “a good read”.  It appears as though he gave my book a low score due to the fact that he already knew the story.

This book, Citizens and Assassins, was written for people with an interest in history who are not familiar with the Oklahoma lynching of 1909 and for those who want to call to mind the events leading to the hanging.  It was written in an effort to see that the story is never forgotten.  Even the city of Ada seems to have intentionally allowed the story to wane as they have taken out of the public’s view nearly all references to the lynching.   When I became interested in learning about the hanging of four men which took place in Ada, I had a difficult time finding a book that accurately told the story.  There are two known books which were written about the Ada lynching; one titled, Four Men Hanging, by Welborn Hope, and the other one, well, not even worth mentioning.  Both of these books are out of print and were written with a fictitious narrative making it difficult to determine facts from fiction.   I spent a great deal of time looking for these books, and was terribly disappointed once I was finally able to read them.

Upon a visit to the local historical society in Ada, I inquired about information on the lynching.  A kind lady referred me to Four Men Hanging.   While this book was “a good read” (borrowing sherifmd’s words), it failed to cover the history of the people associated with the lynching.  Once I mentioned to the kind lady that I had already read the book, she replied, “Well, that book has all there is to know about the lynching.  There is nothing else to know.”  Just a quick internet search told me this was not correct, as there was much more to the story than what this book had to offer.

For these reasons (and for others), I was compelled to write a book on the subject.  While Citizens and Assassins may not provide new information for “sherifmd” (though I feel I have a good argument against that point), I encourage him to show me where one can find a “concise coverage of events” of the lynching in one single location as has been provided in this book.

Amazon Review Screenshot

Screenshot of “sheriffmd” review on Amazon.

 

Gravestone: “Murdered By Human Wolves”

Katherine Cross In Violet Springs Cemetery near Konawa, Oklahoma, sits a 1917 gravestone with an epitaph that reads, “Murdered by human wolves”.  This is the grave site of an 18-year-old woman named Katherine Cross who died while under the care of Dr. A. H. Yates.   Dr. Yates was charged with performing a “criminal operation” on the young woman who was expecting a child.  Dr. Yates was a married man and father of four.

Miss Cross was Dr. Yates second victim, as a woman named Elise Stone (also 18-years-old) died at the hands of Dr. Yates just two months prior.  Dr. Yates claimed that Elise’s death was due to a “congestive chill.”  But an investigation by the Attorney General (as was requested by suspicious citizens) resulted in a court order being obtained to have the body exhumed and an autopsy performed.  It then became known that Elise’s death was the result of a “criminal operation.”   Dr. Yates was arrested for the death of Elise.  Also arrested for Elise’s death was a man named Fred O’Neil.   O’Neil was a teacher in his 30’s, married man, and father of three who had (it is believed) impregnated Miss Stone.  Yates performed an abortion, with O’Neil as his assistant, in an attempt to keep the pregnancy from becoming public.   Although news reports are hard to find, it appears as though Dr. Yates and Fred O’Neil were both acquitted.

This story had been forgotten over the years, and the epitaph on Katherine Cross’s stone would lead local legends to arise claiming that the young Katherine Cross was killed by werewolves (among other stories).  However, news reports printed at the time indicate that both Miss Cross and Miss Stone were the victims of botched abortions performed by a local doctor and a teacher.  Miss Cross is buried next to her grandmother, and her accused killer (who died years later) is buried only a short distance away in the same cemetery.  The words carved on Katherine’s gravestone were requested by her grieving parents.

Katherine Cross

Blake Shelton and Bringing Back The Sunshine

Bringing Back The SunshineI am thrilled to see “Ada” shown on Blake Shelton’s newest album cover, “Bringing Back The Sunshine”.  Ada, Oklahoma, is Shelton’s birthplace, and a great little town it is!  This album will be released by Warner Bros. Records on September 30, 2014.

Way to go, Blake.

A Man Called “Hookey” Miller

George Hookey MillerThere were many fast-draw gunfighters of the Old Wild West, but few (if any) of them compared to a man called “Hookey.”  And there are many past stories to tell about this man, George “Hookey” Miller  — the good, bad, and the ugly.  But this article is meant to briefly detail this man’s amazing skills as a gunfighter.

Hookey lost his right hand and the first joints of three fingers on his left hand during a shootout in Oklahoma Territory on March 5, 1896, with U.S. Deputy Marshals who were hunting down a cold-blooded killer named “Red Buck” Waightman.  Hookey himself was a cattle rustler at the time.  Later, after being released from prison, he was fitted for a steel hook in place of his amputated hand, which gained him his nickname, “Hookey.”  (This story is told in much more detail in my book.)

Before the shootout of 1896, Hookey was considered to be quick fingered and one of the fastest draw in the entire Wild West.  This was a skill he maintained after his amputation, despite the fact that he wore a steel hook strapped to his right arm and he had partial fingers on his left hand.  Hookey mastered drawing a pistol with his left hand and shooting a rifle with his right arm while pulling the trigger with his hook.  Eventually, with this skill in place, Hookey became a bodyguard and bartender at Jim McCarty’s saloon near the Canadian River in Pottawatomie County.  Hookey was hired by McCarty to protect him from outlaws who frequently visited his saloon.  Certainly one of the best gunfighters of his time.

Remains Of Sacred Heart Mission Near Konawa, Oklahoma

Bakery

Bakery house built in late 1800’s.

“May 12, 1877, three strangers descended a bald hill in the then Pottawatomie Nation, Indian Territory, and took possession of what was to be the future Sacred Heart Mission.” (The Indian Advocate, June 01, 1902.)  This Mission would become a monastery which would be the center for Catholicism in the Indian territory.

The Mission consisted of a church, a boarding school for Indian boys, a convent for the Sisters, a school for girls, and a college which trained students for seminary.  A beautiful self-sustaining community, it had a farm with orchards, gardens, vineyards, herds of animals, and agriculture to supply food for the institution.  It had its own bakery (pictured above) wherein the Sisters baked 500 French loaves of bread each day.  The Mission had its own publication (The Indian Advocate) which was a quarterly review printed in the bakery house.  In addition, it had stables, a tool house, a carpenter shop, and a blacksmith shop.

Two-story log cabin.

Two-story log cabin.

But on the night of January 15, 1901, fire broke out and destroyed Sacred Heart Mission.  The Indian Advocate reported that the fire began in the dinning room of the boy’s school and then spread first to the chapel, then to the monastery, and finally the college.  No lives were lost.  The light from the blaze could be seen 60 miles away.  The community that took nearly 25 years to build was destroyed in just three hours.

This weekend I went on a guided tour of the remains of Sacred Heart Mission.  Leading the tour was a member of Oklahoma Outlaws Lawmen History Association who had a wealth of knowledge to share.  While a church was rebuilt atop the hill, only two of the original buildings remain standing today — the bakery and a two-story log cabin — which are in excellent condition.  Also still in existence next to the Mission is a cemetery for the Priests and Brothers and a cemetery for the Sisters of Mercy which contains an old crucifix of Jesus.  While I found Sacred Heart Mission to be a beautiful place, I also found it to be quite grim.

 

The priests cemetery.

The priests cemetery.

 “Dear old Sacred Heart!  Where art thou?  What has become of thee?  If these crumbling walls could speak, they would tell us what they have witnessed of holy prayers, self denial and hard labor, during the lapse of twenty-five years.  . . .  If the courageous and noble hearted pioneer, Rt. Rev. I. Robot, whose remains rest in peace near the sad ruins, would stand up and speak, he would tell us many a thrilling story of the early days of what fatigues and hardships ‘Sacred Heart Mission’ cost him.”   

(The Indian Advocate, March 01, 1901.)

Crucifix in Sisters of Mercy cemetery.

Crucifix in Sisters of Mercy cemetery.

Four Days Of Seclusion Near Ada, Oklahoma

A view of family farmland.

A view of family farmland.

Just returned home after spending four days near Ada, Oklahoma, visiting the family farmland, which is now going on its third generation in my family.

I just can’t accurately express the love I have for this land.  When visiting this place, one gets to experience total seclusion and the feeling of going back in time.   Much of this land looks just as it did in the mid 1800’s and early 1900’s.  And I feel blessed to be able to walk the same land on which my grandmother raised my father.   While here, I recall the stories my dad shared about roaming the land on his horse, milking the cows at 4:00 a.m. before heading to school, and taking cream and homegrown vegetables to Ada on Saturday morning hoping to make a little money to buy groceries.  What a hard life it must have been living here during the time he grew up, but he loved it a great deal and probably wouldn’t have changed it for any other.

For more glimpses of my family farmland, see this post on Facebook.  Be sure to send me a friend request as well, and let me know you first met me on this website.

Did The Masons Lynch Four Accused Men?

Ada Lynching: Who lynched these four men?

Lynching in Ada, Oklahoma, 1909.

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:

  1. The Masons consisted of prominent people in the community who were viewed as leaders.
  2. The planning to proceed with the lynching took place in the same building/room in which the Masons held their regular meetings.
  3. 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.

 

 

For The Love Of The Land In Pontotoc

Road leading to my father's farmland in Pontotoc County.

Road leading to my father’s farmland.

As I read daily about the state of our country and the Middle East, I find it difficult to write about my book and the happenings in my own little corner of the world.

How petty are my struggles to protect my father’s land compared to what Israel is challenged with on a never ending basis in its efforts to protect the Holy land.  My father’s land is not big by any means, and it will never compare to Israel.  But it is the land in which God has placed in my hands.  And I am very proud of it.

During one of my last visits to Ada with my father, he told me of a time in which his father told him, “Son, whatever you do, never let go of the farm.”  It was a request his father made to insure that if ever a family member needed a place to go, he/she could go to the farm.  And while dad and his siblings divided the land among themselves after their father passed many years ago, they managed to this day to honor their father’s request by keeping the land in the family.   After explaining this, my dad made the same request to me . . . that I “keep the land in the family” as a safe haven should we ever need it.  As I recall this request today, I am reminded (as a Christian) of one of the Ten Commandants which has great meaning to me:

“Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.  (Exodus 20 KJV.)

The land in and surrounding Pontotoc County has a wonderful history.  It speaks of a time in which citizens regained control over their land which was being overrun by assassins.   As I read much about our nation struggling to protect our freedoms which are written in our Constitution, I wonder if such citizens still exist.

Below is an inspiring video that makes one tremble.

It shows thousands of Jews gathering at the Western Wall in Jerusalem for a Priestly Blessing over their nation during the Passover festival of 2011. It is a ceremony that has become a tradition since the Six Day War of 1967.  When I watch this video, I can feel the love the people have for their land and I am reminded of the sacrifices they make to protect it.