Thoughts from the Author

Ada, Oklahoma Monument Placed In Far Off Location

Ada Lynching Memorial

Ada Lynching Memorial

The monument pictured above memorializing the Ada, Oklahoma, lynching of 1909, has been put in public view once again.  It was first erected in 1997 on private property in downtown Ada (close to the lynching site), at the expense of historian Bill James.  However, the monument was removed by city workers and placed into storage during the aftermath of a fire in a nearby building in 2009.  It was there the black granite stone remained until October 2014.

The memorial briefly describes the lynching of four men and it displays the infamous picture taken by photographer Noah B. Stall of the four men hanging.   There is one detail on the monument, however, that no longer holds true.  That is, “The four were taken to the Frisco Livery Barn only a few feet from this marker and lynched.”  Unfortunately, this stone monument now sits in Box X Cemetery, which is located between Oil Center and Beebe.  The Ada, Oklahoma, lynching memorial now sits more than 11 miles away from the location of the lynching and away from Ada.

Yes, I do realize that the organization (OKOLHA) which placed the memorial in Box X Cemetery most likely chose this location due to citizens’ opposition to having the monument in public view.  And Box X Cemetery is certainly a respectable cemetery.  But we are now living in a time in which history is being removed from our school books, flags are being burned, and monuments are being destroyed and/or removed from public view (as is happening in Oklahoma City).  Bad events, such as the lynching in Ada, have certainly happened in the past, but shouldn’t memorials of these events be reminders to all of us and lessons to our children which help ensure history does not repeat itself?  I would hope Ada residents would not join in with the, “That offends me!  Take it down!” crowd that seems to be so prevalent these days.  These fights which these monuments memorialize were fought in the past.  We were supposed to learn from them and grow closer.  We shouldn’t still be fighting them.

It’s history, folks! And history can’t be changed, but only respected and learned from.  So leave it alone.  And put the monument back in Ada, where it belongs.

Ada Lynching Photo


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.


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.

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.

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 truly grateful.

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 ensure 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 amongst 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 of 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.


Was Ada, Oklahoma, Another Tombstone?

On this day (October 26) in 1881 occurred the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.  A deadly shootout in which Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and his brothers killed the Clantons and McLaurys.  Holliday and the Earp brothers were wounded.  The gunfire lasted only 30 seconds and it is still debated today as to who fired the first shot.  Holliday and the Earps were arrested for murder, but were released a month later when a Tombstone judge ruled they were “completely justified in committing these homicides.”  The two groups were fighting for control in the town of Tombstone, which had become one of the richest mining towns in the Southwest.

Similar to Tombstone, Ada, Oklahoma, in the early 1900s had two groups fighting for control . . . the groups were Gus Bobbitt and his gang vs. Jesse West and Joe Allen and their gang.  As happened in Tombstone, the feud in Ada resulted in death.  Tombstone, however, went on to become a tourist town wherein according to the city’s website:

“Each year many thousands of visitors walk where old west heros and villains lived, worked and fought.”

Movies have been made depicting the shootout as well.  Ada, on the other hand, tried to sweep away any remains of the feud and the murders that occurred in its community.  Over 40 people took part in lynching Jesse West and Joe Allen after they had been arrested for the murder of Gus Bobbitt.  Yet, of those 40, not a single person ever spoke publicly of the killings.   I suppose Ada could have become a tourist town much like Tombstone, by celebrating the history of the heroes and villians of their town.  But the citizens chose to live in a quiet way.  Perhaps that is one reason why I so admire the town as I do.

Shootout at OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, October 26, 1881

Shootout at OK Corral, Tombstone, Arizona, October 26, 1881


Moore, Oklahoma: Knocked Down But Not Destroyed

Ada's Facebook cover photo.

City of Ada’s Facebook cover photo.
(May 2013)

Once again, the city of Moore, Oklahoma suffers great pain and loss due to disaster caused by a horrific tornado.

Whether natural or man-made disaster, Oklahoma has certainly had its share.   And while the recent news reports state, “Many homes destroyed,” I can’t help but think that the lives and homes of the numerous victims may be knocked down, but they are not destroyed.  Oklahoma has earned a reputation for rebuilding.  The families always get back on their feet again.  And I have no doubt they will this time as well.  May we all keep them in our prayers.Dog found after Moore, Tornado

Upper picture:  The City of Ada changed it’s Facebook cover photo to show it’s support for Moore.

Lower picture:  A dog found among the tornado wreckage in Moore, Oklahoma.  He was guarding his deceased owner and wouldn’t leave his side.