Hellraisers Journal: Night of Terror in Tulsa: IWWs Taken From Jail, Whipped & Tarred by “Knights of Liberty”

Strangle the I. W. W.’s.
Kill them, just as you would kill
any other kind a snake.
Don’t scotch ’em; kill ’em.
And kill ’em dead.
The Tulsa Daily World

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Hellraisers Journal, Monday November 12, 1917
Tulsa, Oklahoma – Fellow Workers Face Night of Terror

From The Tulsa Daily World of November 10, 1917:

WWIR, IWW Flog Tar Feather, Morn Tulsa Dly Wld, Nov 10, 1917

Three automobile loads of I. W. W.’s, in charge of policemen, were halted on Boulder avenue, near Archer, last night at 11 o’clock by a crowd of men garbed in long black robes and wearing black masks. The officers were forced to drive their prisoners to a secluded spot west of Irving Place, where, with impressive ceremonies each of the I. W. W.’s was lashed with a cat-o’-nine-tails. Then a coat of hot tar was applied to the bleeding back and feathers applied.

With each stroke of the brush the black-robed man in charge of the ceremony uttered the words:

“In the name of the outraged women and children of Belgium.”

With nothing on but their trousers the men were started toward the Osage hills. Hundreds of rifle and revolver shots were fired in the air and they sped into the inky darkness of the night.

[…..-See full article below.]

Among the victims of the “Knights” were J. R. Hill, a local printing pressman, and J. F. Ryan, former secretary of the I. W. W.’s, who took an especially prominent part in the trial. The latter was the first to feel the sting of the whip and the burn of the tar, according to the officers who were present. They must have wanted to give him an especially strong dose for he was whipped again after the tar had been applied, thus forcing the hot liquid into the flesh.

The names of the deported I. W. W.’s, according to the records at police headquarters, were as follows:

John McCurry, Tom McCafferty, John Myers, E. M. Boyd, John Doyle, Charles Walsh, W. H. Walton, Jack Sneed, I M. Mitchell, Joe French, J. R. Hill, Bernard Johnson, Bob McDonald, John Fitzsimmons, Joe Fisher, Gordon Dimikrow and J. F. Ryan.

[Emphasis added.]

Article in full:

I. W. W. MEMBERS FLOGGED, TARRED AND FEATHERED
—–

MODERN KU KLUX KLAN COMES INTO BEING;
SEVENTEEN FIRST VICTIMS
—–
Black Robed “Knights of Liberty” Take Prisoners
From Police to Lonely Ravine
—–
WARNING IS ISSUED TO COMPANIONS
—–
Placards Order Immediate Departure From
Tulsa of All Seditious People
—–

Three automobile loads of I. W. W.’s, in charge of policemen, were halted on Boulder avenue, near Archer, last night at 11 o’clock by a crowd of men garbed in long black robes and wearing black masks. The officers were forced to drive their prisoners to a secluded spot west of Irving Place, where, with impressive ceremonies each of the I. W. W.’s was lashed with a cat-o’-nine-tails. Then a coat of hot tar was applied to the bleeding back and feathers applied.

With each stroke of the brush the black-robed man in charge of the ceremony uttered the words:

“In the name of the outraged women and children of Belgium.”

With nothing on but their trousers the men were started toward the Osage hills. Hundreds of rifle and revolver shots were fired in the air and they sped into the inky darkness of the night.

That the plot was carefully planned was indicated by the machine-like precision with which everything was done. Later in the night, large printed signs appeared on the front door of the I. W. W. headquarters, in railroad stations, on telephone poles, and elsewhere. They bore these words:

Notice to I. W. W.’s
Don’t Let the Sun Set
On You in Tulsa

-Vigilance Committee.

According to the story told by one of the captured police officers upon his return to the city, the organization is known as “The Knights of Liberty.” He heard this name used by one of the men. The black robes, hoods and masks made it impossible for the officers to identify any of them. Not a word was spoken during the process of torture excepting by the man who applied the tar.

Seventeen Victims.

There were seventeen I. W. W.’s in the party. Eleven of them had been convicted in police court on a charge of vagrancy, following a trial lasting well into the night. They were fined $100 each and committed to jail. The police arrested six others who had appeared as witnesses in the trial of the original eleven and who had admitted on the stand that they belonged to the I. W. W. After a conference of police court officials it was decided to take the entire party to their headquarters in the Fox building on West Brady street and exact from them a promise to leave tho city before morning, in which event their fines would be suspended.

The prisoners were taken from the jail and placed in three touring cars, the public safety wagon being out of commission. An officer was placed at the wheel of each car. They went west on Second to Boulder and then north on Boulder, expecting to reach I. W. W. headquarters without attracting the attention that would occur if they were to go down Main street.

Knight Heavily Armed.

Just after passing the Frisco tracks on Boulder a number of the “Knights of Liberty” jumped from behind a pile of brick and with leveled rifles and revolvers ordered the drivers to stop. None of the policemen had a chance to reach for his gun as they were surrounded by armed men.

The I. W. W.’s, startled beyond expression, were quickly searched. Their hands were then tied with rope and the drivers were ordered to proceed. Two blocks farther north on Boulder six automobile loads of men, similarly clad and armed, joined the procession.

They went north to Easton, then west thru Owen park and Irving place, into a wild ravine beyond Irving monument.

Fifteen or twenty of the “Knights” with rifles were stationed at 50-yard intervals. Several cars that tried to reach the spot were turned back by these guards who threatened to shoot if they did not move quickly.

Tied to Tree.

The automobiles in the party were placed in a circle with their lights shining on an oak tree. The 17 I. W. W’s. were made to strip to the waist. The “knights” stood guard with guns pointed at each man. One by one the ropes were taken from their wrists and they were tied to the big tree. One of the party then stepped forward with a lash and then applied it until the blood ran. Then another stepped up with a whitewash brush and pot of boiling tar. This was applied over the back deliberately. Several handfuls of feathers were then thrown into the tar.

The I. W. W’s. talked but little, according to one of the policemen, who was forced to witness the ceremony with an armed man on each side of him. Several of them boldly claimed their allegiance to the I. W. W. An old man pleaded for mercy. “I have lived here for 18 years,” he said, “and have raised a large family. I am not an I. W. W. I am as patriotic as any man here.” But someone In the party remembered that the speaker had been arrested at I. W. W. headquarters and he so informed the others.

Warned Never to Return.

When the last man had done his in at the whipping post they were all lined up with faces toward the west. “Let this be a warning to all I. W. W.’s. to never come to Tulsa again,” said the ringleader. “Now get!” The frightened and half-naked men ran with their bare feet thru the brush with the speed of kangaroos. The “knights” fired volley after volley into the air.

Then the captured policemen were ordered to start their cars toward town.

It was after midnight when the cards of warning were noticed. One of them was tacked on the door of the office of Charles Richardson, the lawyer who defended the I. W. W.’s.

The captured officers stated last night that there were fully fifty men in the party that participated in the “ceremony” in the woods. They were all attired alike.

Among the victims of the “Knights” were J. R. Hill, a local printing pressman, and J. F. Ryan, former secretary of the I. W. W.’s, who took an especially prominent part in the trial. The latter was the first to feel the sting of the whip and the burn of the tar, according to the officers who were present. They must have wanted to give him an especially strong dose for he was whipped again after the tar had been applied, thus forcing the hot liquid into the flesh.

The names of the deported I. W. W.’s, according to the records at police headquarters, were as follows:

John McCurry, Tom McCafferty, John Myers, E. M. Boyd, John Doyle, Charles Walsh, W. H. Walton, Jack Sneed, I M. Mitchell, Joe French, J. R. Hill, Bernard Johnson, Bob McDonald, John Fitzsimmons, Joe Fisher, Gordon Dimikrow and J. F. Ryan.

———-

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SOURCE & IMAGE
The Tulsa Daily World
(Tulsa, Oklahoma)
-Nov 10, 1917, Morning Edition
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85042344/1917-11-10/ed-1/seq-1/

See also:
For an account of the night of terror by Secretary Ryan-

Rebel Voices
An IWW Anthology

-ed by Joyce L. Kornbluh
Page 332
(search: tulsa november 9)
PM Press, Sep 1, 2011
https://books.google.com/books?id=n2ATBwAAQBAJ

The Liberator
(New York, New York)
-April 1918
Page 15: “Tulsa, November 9th”
Note-first set of [ ] are found within article.
https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/culture/pubs/liberator/1918/02/v1n02-apr-1918-liberator-hr.pdf

The Liberator, Ed by Max Eastman, April 1918

From The Liberator of April 1918:

Tulsa, November 9th

[EDITOR’S NOTE:-In this story of persecution and outrage at Tulsa, Oklahoma, told in the sworn statement of one of the victims, there is direct and detailed evidence of one of the most menacing by-products of the war. Here in Tulsa, as in Bisbee and Butte and Cincinnati, patriotic fervor was used by employers with the connivance or open co-operation of local officials, as a mask for utterly lawless attacks upon workingmen who attempted to organize for better conditions. This false resort to loyalty on the part of certain war profiteers is emphasized in the recent report of the President’s Mediation Commission. These cowardly masked upper-class mobs, calling themselves “Knights of Liberty” and mumbling hypocritical words about “the women and children of Belgium,” will not succeed in terrorizing the labor movement of America, nor will they tend to make it more patriotic.]

On November 9, 1917, seventeen men, taken from the custody of the city police of Tulsa, Oklahoma, were whipped, tarred and feathered, and driven out of the city with a warning never to return.

In a letter dated December 21, a resident* of Tulsa, writes:

I think it is only fair to say that the bottom cause of this trouble locally was that a few men, presumably belonging the I. W. W. came into the oil fields something like a year ago and were meeting with considerable success in getting oil-field workers-especially pipe-line and tank builders-to fight for better wages and shorter hours.

Not long after the outrage was committed in Butte, Mont., on the crippled I. W. W. leader (Frank Little), the home of J. Edgar Pew in this city was partly destroyed by some kind of explosion and Mr. And Mrs. Pew narrowly escaped being killed. The news agencies at once published it as a dastardly act of the I. W. W.’s.** Mr. Pew is the vice-president and active manager of the Carter Oil Co., which by the way, is owned and controlled by Standard Oil and is one of its largest producing subsidiary companies. A few weeks after the Pew home incident, an explosion followed by a fire partially destroyed an oil refinery that is located at Norfolk, Okla. This property was under the Carter Oil Co. management. Two men lost their lives in this accident. The news agencies without exception (so far as I know) exploited this as another I. W. W. outrage.

From this point we take up the story in a sworn statement made by the secretary [J. F. Ryan] of the Tulsa local.

—–

*Names of informants are withheld for reasons of safety. The names are in possession of the National Civil Liberties Bureau, 70 Fifth Avenue, New York, which has the case in hand.
**Several men are now reported in the press to be under arrest in Oklahoma for dynamiting the home of Mr. Pew and the oil refinery, none of whom have any connection whatever with the I. W. W.

There then follows the account of J. F. Ryan, local IWW secretary at the time of “tar party.” (See link above, scroll down to page 15.)

Note: Ryan names the men whipped and tarred:

Tom McCaffery, John Myers, John Boyle, Charles Walsh, W. H. Walton, L. R. Mitchell, Jos. French, J. R. Hill, Gunnard Johnson, Robt. McDonald, John Fitzsimmons, Jos. Fischer, Gordon Dimikson, J. F. Ryan, E. M. Boyd, Jack Sneed (not an IWW.)

[Emphasis added.]

I use this list of names for Tags below.

The Liberator article continues:

In answer to special inquiry the writer [J. F. Ryan] added to his statement as follows:

It was very evident that the police force knew what was going to happen when they took us from jail, as there were extra gowns and masks provided which were put on by the Chief of Police and one detective named Blaine, and the number of blows we received were regulated by the Chief of Police himself, who was easily recognizable by six of us at least.

The above account is substantiated at every point by a former employee of The Federal Industrial Relations Commission, who at the request of the National Civil Liberties Bureau made a special investigation of the whole affair. His reprot names directly nine leaders of the mob, including five members of the police force.

The part played by the press in this orgy of Patriotism” is illustrated by the following excerpts from an editorial which appeared in the Tulsa Daily World on the afternoon of the 9th:

GET OUT THE HEMP

Any man who attempts to stop the supply for one-hundredth part of a second is a traitor and ought to be shot!…

The oil country can take care of its own troubles. It does not need the I. W. W….

In the meantime, if the I. W. W. or its twin brother, the Oil Workers’ Union, gets busy in your neighborhood, kindly take occasion to decreased the supply of hemp. A knowledge of how to tie a knot that will stick might come in handy in a few days. It is no time to dally with the enemies of the country. The unrestricted production of petroleum is a necessary to the winning of the war as the unrestricted production of gunpowder. We are either going to whip Germany or Germany is going to whip us. The first step in the whipping of Germany is to strangle the I. W. W.’s. Kill them, just as you would kill any other kind a snake. Don’t scotch ’em; kill ’em. And kill ’em dead. It is no time to wast money on trials and continuances and things like that. All that is necessary is the evidence and a firing squad. Probably the carpenters’ union will contribute the timber for the coffins.

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One Big Industrial Union – May Day Chorus of Asheville
Lyrics: Paint ‘er Red by Ralph Chaplin
http://www.library.arizona.edu/exhibits/bisbee/docs/027.html#PAINT