On warrants issued by County Attorney Claude Hendon, C.M. Reber and Malcolm Couch were charged with rioting in connection with the whipping of Claude McCannon and Frank Cole, on March 10, 1922. They were arrested on September 12, 1923 and arraigned in Judge Edwin Moore's court.
HENDON FILES WARRANT AGAINST K.K.K.
On warrants issued by County Attorney Claude Hendon, C.M. Reber and Malcolm Couch were charged with rioting in connection with the whipping of Claude McCannon and Frank Cole, on March 10, 1922. They were arrested on September 12, 1923 and arraigned in Judge Edwin Moore’s court. After entering their pleas of not guilty to the charge, the two men were released on bond of $2,000 each.
The information filed charges that between three and four hundred Klansmen directed by Reber and Couch, took part in the flogging in which McCannon and Cole were whipped for about an hour with a prepared lash constructed of heavy leather thongs fastened to a wooden handle. Both men were beaten and bruised to near death by these alleged Klansmen who declared, the information charges, that they were 100 percent Americans and would make 100 percent Americans out of the two victims.
The information further charged that Reber, who was alleged to be the leader of the mob, was clad in the Ku Klux Klan regalia with the black headpiece and was armed with two army pistols. He was also charged with supplying the members of the mob with weapons, which were secured from the National Guard Armory at the Convention Hall. The scene of the flogging was in a large alfalfa field west of the Santa Railway shops on the Shawnee-Tecumseh road.
Hendon stated that he had sworn statements in his possession to the effect that the whipping of McCannon and Cole was planned and ordered by the Klan in its regular executive session and that these plans were revealed to Ira Sims, chief of police. The suggestion was that Sims favored such action and would not interfere with the proceedings in any way, and he also consented, the statement alleged. He allegedly said he would detail his men in different parts of the city on that night so they would not perchance interrupt the flogging plans.
Other officers and members of the Klan and several city officials were known to have taken part in the flogging, according to the county attorney. He said his office did not have sufficient evidence to warrant their arrest. He went on to say that more arrests would be made in the future.
Of course, Chief of Police Sims responded to the charges against him. He denied that he had ever heard of the purported plans for the whipping of any man in Shawnee or Pottawatomie County. He also asserted that in but one case since he had been chief, had a report been made to him of a whipping. He then issued the following statement:
“Any charges to the effect that I ever heard of a whipping plan and gave my consent to it are as false as false can be. I learned of a few floggings in this county during the years 1921 and 1922 through the initiation of my officers and through personal investigation, but with one exception. There was never a report of a whipping brought to my offices or made to my men.
“One negro, who had been held in the Shawnee jail on charges of looting a boxcar, was released, but came to my office the next morning saying that he wanted to confess to his guilt. On being questioned, he told me that he had seen “Ku Kluxers” the night before and they had made him promise to ‘turn over a new leaf.’
“As to any whipping of Claude McCannon and Frank Cole, I have no information, I do not recall the instance and any report that I gave my sanction to such plans. They are absolutely untrue and has not the slightest foundation of truth in it.”
HENDON ISSUES MORE WARRANTS
Dr. J.A. Walker, reputed to be the “Exalted Cyclops” of the Shawnee Ku Klux Klan, and C.M. Reber, former major of the Oklahoma National Guard, were charged with riot in an information filed on September 13, by County Attorney Claude Hendon.
The information alleged that Dr. Walker and Reber advised the flogging of Frank Cole, Claude McCannon, Will Cole, and George Jones. Others charged in the information were Malcolm Couch, former chief of the Shawnee Fire Department, Clay Pell, and Floyd A. Graves.
Both Reber and Couch were arrested on the September 12, on other charges growing out of the alleged flogging of the victims. Warrants were issued for the defendants, but the arrests were not made. Reber and Couch were already under bond. Dr. Walker was out of the city.
GOVERNOR PLACES ENTIRE STATE UNDER MARTIAL LAW
Martial law for the entire state of Oklahoma was proclaimed at midnight on September 15, 1923, by Governor J.C. Walton. Calling the full force of the approximately 6,000 troops in the Oklahoma National Guard to his command, the governor climaxed his spectacular fight against the Ku Klux Klan by declaring that any person who aids the organization in carrying out its “purposes” are enemies of the sovereign state of Oklahoma, and shall be dealt with by military forces.
Due to the existence of a “self-styled invisible empire,” Governor Walton declared that a state of insurrection and rebellion was in effect against the constitution and authorities of Oklahoma and that a general state of “public alarm and fear and jeopardy of life, peace and personal safety” had resulted.
The activities of the organization were centered in Oklahoma City and extended to every county in the state, the governor charged. The proclamation invoked absolute martial law in Oklahoma County, and Creek County, the latter of which joined Tulsa County, where military rule had been in effect since August 14.
Troops were placed at points in the state where they were needed. The places were at the discretion of the governor. No orders were out for the complete mobilization of the state militia, each contingent was held in readiness for service.
Accepting the recent challenge of the grand dragon of the Oklahoma realm of the Ku Klux Klan that “Governor Walton never could break the power of the Klan in Oklahoma,” the chief executive declared:
“The power of this criminal organization must be destroyed, and it is necessary to proclaim martial law throughout the state. The invisible empire has usurped the power of the political government. The power of this organization has been such that as many as 150 persons have been present when men and women have been flogged, whipped and beaten and their methods have inspired such terror that no mention of it was made even by the press.”
He went on to say that the head of this organization was in the capital city. He said Oklahoma City was the seat of power for the grand dragon.
Despite the state martial law, County Attorney Claude Hendon stated he expected no troops to be stationed in Shawnee or any part of the county. He said the governor assured him that he would not send the National Guard into the county, if no other floggings or other masked meetings were held.
Governor Walton told Hendon, “I will not send troops to Pottawatomie County unless they are desired by you in carrying out the probe which you have initiated.”
(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming sometime before Christmas. All three volumes are more than 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)
Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.