Friday, April 25, 2008

The History of Lyon County Kentucky - Part 4

In the first decade of 1900, Lyon County was a principal participant in the Black Patch War or Night Rider Movement. James Duke of North Carolina had gained a monopoly on dark fired tobacco and was literally stealing the tobacco from area farmers for one, two and three cents per pound. Tobacco was a cash crop that farmers had depended on for years to feed and clothe families. When people are hungry, they sometimes take drastic measures. West Kentucky and west Tennessee was the central belt for the production of dark fired tobacco.

To counteract Duke’s monopoly, the Dark Fire Tobacco District Planters Protection Association of Kentucky and Tennessee was formed. The purpose of this organization was for farmers to band together and hold all tobacco off the market until a suitable price was offered. One tactic was to advise tobacco buyers and warehousers not to buy tobacco for the Duke trust.

The tobacco interest scoffed at these backwood farmers. Many members of the association bonded themselves together into a somewhat secret guerilla army and met at night at schoolhouses and other remote places to plan strategy.

The leader of this group was Dr. David Amos, a country doctor from Cobb, in Caldwell County. Dr. Amos by nature was a military strategist. This group of farmers later referred to as the “Night Riders” trained at night under Dr. Amos.

Tobacco warehouses had not cooperated with the Association and plans were made to burn several warehouses filled to the hilt with tobacco.

Several warehouses were burned, Princeton and Hopkinsville the most noteworthy. At Princeton, hand-picked men trained by Dr. Amos, at the same exact second, took captive the police station, the telephone station, and the fire station. These facilities were held at gunpoint and the town was helpless.

Night Riders who gathered outside the city, swarmed in taking their time, pouring kerosene throughout the warehouse and set the torch. They waited for a while to see that they had done a good job and vanished into the darkness. Not a drop of blood was shed and several million pounds of tobacco lay in ashes. A few weeks later the same thing happened in Hopkinsville.

Night Riders had infiltrated every segment of society in Lyon and surrounding counties to the extent that they boasted that they “feared no judge and no jury”.

Some farmers did not join the Association and others in desperate need for cash broke their promise and sold tobacco. This action pitted one farmer against another and acts of violence resulted, such as destroying plant beds, burning tobacco barns, and visiting some that did not comply, in the darkness of night and inflicting a brutal whipping.

Many public officials as well as businessmen were members of the Night Riders. Lyon County Sheriff Sam Cash was one such person. These were perilous times and fear reigned supreme in Lyon County as well as surrounding counties.

By 1908, several factors brought this lawlessness to an end. Federal and state laws had broken the tobacco monopoly. A successful lawsuit in Federal Court in Paducah struck a fatal blow. A regiment of the State Militia came to the area and their presence intimidated the Night Riders.

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