Posts Tagged ‘Green Corn Rebellion’

The Green Corn Rebellion

July 2, 2018

The Green Corn Rebellion

Oklahoma is, today, noted very much for its Conservative tradition. And that’s fair. But the State also has quite a radical tradition. With a high number of poor and working class citizens, radicalism can come pretty easily. My grandparents were tenant farmers (for most of their working life) and had a radical touch in them that flared up sometimes. Take, for instance, the Green Corn Rebellion.

Back in August 1917 the United States was newly at war with Germany. The federal government instituted a draft that many in Oklahoma thought disproportionately targeted the poor. The tenant farmers of Seminole County (that’s just east of Oklahoma City), a rather significant number of which were Socialists, decided the draft, and the economy, was rigged and rebelled against the draft. They actually made something of an alliance with the local black and American Indian community to form the Working Class Union. It was radical, it was Socialist, and it didn’t like the way things were going in Oklahoma. On 2 August a group of farmers attacked the local sheriff and the “Green Corn Rebellion” was on. It lasted all of two days. The farmers were stopped by a local group and a handful of people were killed and others arrested.

My grandparents were living in northeast Oklahoma. They’d been married three years and when word got to them about the “Rebellion” they decided to help the union men. My grandmother packed some food, my grandfather hitched up a farm wagon, and they started off. Along the way they went by several other farms, found a number of like-minded tenants and something of a procession started to Seminole County. My grandfather liked to say they had twenty wagons on the road (my grandmother said it was more like 10) when word got to them that the rebellion was crushed and heading on southwest was useless.

What to do? Well, you have a bunch of people, including, apparently some children, a lot of food baskets, there was a river nearby (in August it didn’t have much water in it), and some open fields. So the procession pulled off, set up the baskets on the bed of a couple of wagons, and had an impromptu picnic. And after you finish eating at a picnic in 1917, what do you do? Well, someone had brought along a ball, there were tree limbs around, and the men started playing baseball in the big field. My grandfather said he even got one hit with an elm branch that cracked when he connected with the ball. I never heard a score.

It seems the local sheriff paid a call on the caravan. They convinced him they were out for a picnic, offered him some chicken, got him to umpire the game, and managed to stay out of the local jail. They spent the night sleeping in the wagons, got up the next morning, and headed back home. That seems to have ended my grandparents radical days.