Night Riders



Written by : Tina Easley

This is one of my first attempts at writing so bear with me.

Tina Easley



In 1908 the outbreak of the Night Riders movement , in Northeast Arkansas , hurt the cotton market in the state of Arkansas , Mississippi ,Tennessee , Alabama , Missouri and terrorizing the Tobacco farmers of Kentucky. The Night Riders , midnight terror of arson , fueds and lynchings left a trail of violence in our south cotton country history .

The first real acts of violence were reported September 29 , 1908 it was reported armed men meet a farmer near Mainwood on the border of Greene and Craighead County about 15 miles from Paragould . The band of riders forced him to alight from his wagon , bearing four bales of cotton , the farmer being ordered away and returning the next day to find his wagon and cotton in ashes.

The Night Riders were a group of ruthless , masked armed men , riding horseback going from town to town burning wagons of cotton and intimadating the farmers of the plantations not to market cotton unless they received 15 cents per pound through the Farmers Union Warehouse . The Night Riders used brutal force to attain their goals and advance their cause .

There were reports in the newspaper of Night Rider attacks in Marmaduke , Bethel , Walcott and Lake City and Jonesboro in Craighead County and other small farming communities in or near Greene County . The Riders were threatening to close down the cotton gins or burn them to the ground if they purchased cotton from the farmers instead of the Farmers Union Warehouse . Notices were posted by the Night Riders on the gins instructing "Owners not to gin any more cotton until futher notice. If gins operated the owners would suffer the consquences " . Farmers were mailed letters of threats to leave the state or vengeance would be done. The communities lived in fear of the Night Riders midnight terrors.

A anonymous tip from Walcott stated , "The Night Riders organized in gaining control of the cotton market and was 200 men strong in their community . " It is feared serious trouble will result unless conservative men take action to control the situation. Accusations were made that the Night Riders were members of the Arkansas Farmers Union . The band of riders grew even stronger in the following year causing even more destruction and terrorizing of farmers and gin owners that did not agree to their demands.

R.H. McCollough of Bebee the chairman of the Arkansas Farmers Union and secretary of the national orginazation , released this statement to deny earlier accusations about the Arkansas Farmers Union , to a Little Rock Arkansas , newspaper September 14 , 1908 . " I have heard of no movement on the part of union farmers in Arkansas to take to night riding , an was greatly astounded when I read an account of night riding in Mississippi . However, some of the union farmers are sore over the way in which the condition of the cotton crop in Arkansas has been misrepresented by cotton men , who desire to keep the price of cotton down , and who are claiming a big cotton crop ahead , which is not true , whereas I would not be suprised if some of these people adopting drastic measurers . However anything in that line is not done in the name of the union . The union has authorized no such movement or measurers or at least if so I have heard nothing of it ." He declared that the union would not stand for any damage or destruction of property.

On September 27 , 1908 , The Farmers District Union of Marmaduke passed a resolution , requesting merchants and others to buy no cotton . Paragould also held a emergency meeting at the Greene County Courthouse asking merchants to refrain from buying cotton as a way of restraining the Night Riders. As the destruction and fear of the Night Riders spread through the south the goverment was forced to take action in stopping these crimes against the cotton communities. The state ask for goverment help and brought in the military to capture the Night Riders and put a stop to this malice . In the Reelfoot Lake , Tennessee incident November 30 , 1908 the Night Riders grand jurys returned 15 indictments in the lynching of Captain Quentin Rankin . The victims in Arkansas that could identify some of the riders were sent threatening letters if they testified against the Night Riders making it hard for the authorities to make arrest since the victims were fearing for their lives. In 1909 the capture of the Night Riders in the southern states led to several hundred of indictments for each county and night riders receiving death sentences .

The Night Riders began as the result of economic grievance the men believed they were striking at the cotton co-ops . In reality the co-ops was injured very little compared to the cotton farmers and the communties . The farmers and communties that refused to join the Night Riders suffered the greatest direct property loss. Property of all kinds decreased in value . Businesses standing still not knowing what to expect for living in fear of the masked men . It is evident that this affected Marmaduke and the surrounding communities in Greene County . With farmers leaving their farms and running in fear, resulting from the Night Riders destruction to use brutal force on their strikes.

Tina Easley
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