A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Green Corn Rebellion’

Sasakwa, Oklahoma

Posted by graywacke on September 16, 2017

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2366; A Landing A Day blog post number 798.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (34o59.649’N, 96o 25.851’W) puts me in Cen-SW Oklahoma:

My local landing map shows (not surprisingly) only my titular Sasakwa:

You can see that I landed very close to Little River (only my 2nd hit).  But check out the streams-only map below:

The Little discharges to the Canadian (48th hit); on to the Arkansas (128th hit).  Although not evident, all river-lovers know that the Arkansas discharges to the Mighty Mississip (919th hit).

Moving right along to the Google Earth (GE) random yellow pushpin landing:  click HERE to watch it unfold before your very eyes:

As you might expect, there are many more small towns in the general vicinity of my landing:

I started with Sasakwa and obviously found a hook.  But of course, I dutifully checked out all of the towns on the above map.  Holdenville is actually fairly substantial (pop 5800); but all of the rest measure their populations in the hundreds or tens of people (and are totally hookless). 

Bottom line:  Holdenville has a couple of native sons of some interest:  Clu Gulager, an actor I remembered well from his role as Emmett Ryker on the 1960s TV western The Virginian; and T. Boone Pickens, who knows how to make money.  But neither of these folks elevated Holdenville all the way to titular status.

So:  Sasakwa (pop 150) it is.  From Wiki:

A post office was established in 1880, and took the name from that given his trading post by Gov John E Brown, from the Seminole word meaning “wild goose”.

And no, I’m not featuring Gov. Brown or wild geese.  Back to Wiki:

In 1917, hundreds of men gathered on a farm near Sasakwa to protest the draft in World War I, an event called the Green Corn Rebellion.

Well, now.  It turns out that Green Corn Rebellion was clickable, and click I did.  As you’ll see the Rebellion was associated with far left politics, not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th century in the United States.  I’ve run across this theme in numerous posts.

The following might seem a little dry for ALAD, but please bear with me; it’s well worth the read.  I did my usual editing for clarity and brevity. 

From Wiki:


On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson (newly elected with campaign slogan:  “He kept us out of war”), asked congress for a declaration of war against Germany. Congress readily obliged the President’s request, voting to declare war on Germany by a margin of 373-50 in the House and 82-6 in the Senate.

On May 18, 1917, a draft bill became law that called for all eligible young men nationwide to register for the draft on a single day — June 5, 1917.

While isolated hotspots of anti-conscription activity sprang up in some urban centers, the registration process was generally an orderly affair, with the vast majority of young American men accepting their fate with what has been characterized as “a calm resignation.”

Opponents of American participation in the war continued their efforts to change the country’s course, holding meetings and distributing pamphlets.  Among the leading opponents to the war was the Socialist Party of America, which at its April 1917 National Convention had declared its “unalterable opposition” to the war and urged the workers of the world to “refuse support to the governments in their wars.”

The Situation in Oklahoma

A strong radical tendency sprang up in Oklahoma, in which the impoverished tenant farmers of the southeastern part of the state seized upon the fervor of the early Socialist Party in an attempt to improve their lives.  In the 1916 election, despite Woodrow Wilson’s siphoning off a portion of the anti-war vote for the Democratic ticket, the Socialist Party garnered more than a quarter of the votes cast in the 1916 election in Seminole County [right next to where I landed].

Nor was the Socialist Party the only active organizers in the area — in 1916 a radical tenant farmers’ organization called the “Working Class Union (WCU)” claimed a membership of as much as 20,000 in Eastern Oklahoma alone.

Some 76% of Oklahoma farmers under age 24 rented their land, while 45% of those between the ages of 25 and 33 found themselves tenants.  Tenant farmers were both white and African-American.

Many of these young “dirt farmers” found their economic prospects hopeless, squeezed between a ruthless credit system practiced by stores and substantial crop liens inflicted by landlords.

Disaffection was rife and proposals for radical solutions found ready ears.  The draft would have depleted much needed farm labor, and many farms would have been foreclosed leaving women and children destitute. There was no oil boom yet and little alternative work, and no welfare system.

Town dwellers were verbally attacked by radical public speakers as “robbers, thieves, and grafters.”  They were thoroughly convinced that the Socialists and the secret WCU were part of a single radical conspiracy to launch a long-desired revolution.

In early August 1917 (arguably launching the rebellion), large numbers of African-American, European-American, and Native American men gathered at the farm of Joe and John Spears in Sasakwa (at Roasting Ear Ridge) to plan a march upon Washington, DC to end the war.

The Rebellion

At nearly the same time (August 2, 1917), a Seminole County sheriff and his deputy were ambushed (although there were no deaths or injuries) near the Little River.  Radical raiding parties followed this action, cutting telephone lines and burning railroad bridges.

The uprising seems to have been spurred by the agitation of the WCU, which was reported in one newspaper as having called its supporters to arms with a manifesto which declared:

    “Now is the time to rebel against this war with Germany, boys. Boys, get together and don’t go. Rich man’s war. Poor man’s fight. The war is over with Germany if you don’t go and J.P. Morgan & Co. is lost. Their great speculation is the only cause of the war.”

Quick note on why J.P. Morgan & Company was singled out:  By the early 20th century, they were the largest private banking enterprise in the world, and financed much of the rapid industrialization in the US.  As such, the Company was a symbol of rampant capitalism & materialism. From Wiki (specific to World War I):  “Beginning in 1914, J.P. Morgan loaned about $1.5 billion (approximately $21 billion in today’s dollars) to Britain and France to fight against the Germans.  The company also invested in the suppliers of war equipment to Britain and France, thus profiting from the financing and purchasing activities of the two European governments.”

Now I’ll move over to excerpt from GreenCorn.org, a website commemorating the centennial of the Green Corn Rebellion:

100 years ago, in early August 1917, between 800-1000 people (including impoverished African-American, European-American and Native Americans), gathered at the farm of Joe and John Spears in Sasakawa, Oklahoma, to plan a march upon Washington to stop the draft and end US involvement in what would later be called World War I.

They would eat roasted “green corn” and on the way (so it was later said), eventually joining up with countless thousands of likeminded comrades who would together march on Washington, DC where they would repeal the draft act, and end the war.

But this march didn’t happen, as one or more informers contacted authorities.

The truth of the details of what happened after this point is shrouded in mystery and conflicting eye-witness statements, but what can be said with some degree of accuracy is that local and state authorities, as well as hundreds of members of informal armed militias, some coming from as far away as Oklahoma City, converged and crushed the rebellion.

Three marchers were killed, and 450 were arrested. Of those arrested, 266 were released without charges being filed. Of the remaining 184 participants who were charged, 150 were either convicted or pleaded guilty, receiving jail and prison terms ranging from 60 days to 10 years.

The aftermath of the rebellion was a radical change in Oklahoma politics, which included a severe crackdown on the Socialist Party of Oklahoma (which had been marginally involved in the Green Corn Rebellion) and the Industrial Workers of the World (which wasn’t involved at all). There was also a crackdown on all forms of dissent against the draft and World War I, and a large scale orientation of Oklahoma politics towards the right — a major change in a state which had once had the strongest and most active Socialist Party in the USA.

It’s hard to imagine what it was like to be a tenant farmer near my landing, or a townsperson in Sadakwa in early 1917.  Well, maybe it’s not so hard to imagine, considering the crazy politics in 2017.

Ahem.  Moving right along. 

Here’s a Wiki picture of the Little River, taken near where the initial rebellion meeting occurred (and quite close to my landing):

Here’s a GE Pano shot by LightBenders, taken near Calvin, about 7 miles SE of my landing:

I’ll close with another by LightBenders, this of the erstwhile Sasakwa Town Hall:

That’ll do it . . .




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