Testimony of Laurel Buck

LAUREL BUCK called as a witness on behalf of the State, having been first duly sworn to testify to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, was examined in chief by Mrs. Van Leuven and testified as follows:

Q State your name.

A Laurel J. Buck.

Q A little louder, please sir. Where do you live?

A 1320 South Peoria, City of Tulsa.

Q How long have you lived in Tulsa?

A Eighteen years.

Q Were you present in the city on the night of the 31st of May and on the day of the 1st of June, Mr. Buck?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q Did you have occasion to observe any of the occurrences during the riot that occurred in this city at that time?

A Yes, ma ‘am.

Q What was the first information you had of the riot?

A I was on Main and Third when there was a rumor that there would be a lynching at the court house, and I left that block and came to the court house, and in the  meantime sent my wife home and came down here. There was quite a crowd gathered, I stood around a few minutes and some armed negroes came in a car at the front steps of the court house. Some of the crowd scattered, myself among them, and afterwards came back.  The negroes kept parading, armed negroes, both walking and in cars, kept parading then for some time till there was a shot fired and then a little interval and some more shots were fired and the crowd ran north on Main. I was on Main myself at the time and some shooting as the crowd was running, at any rate a negro –

Q Where did you go after that shooting, Mr. Buck?

A To the police station.

Q What did you go to the police station for?

A I thought they would deputize men.

MR LEAHY: Wait a minute, Mr. Buck. We object to any purpose in this fellow’s mind as to what he was doing as being immaterial.
THE COURT: Sustained.

Q Did you go to the police station at that night, Mr. Buck?

A Yes , ma’am.

Q, Did you have any conversation with the police authorities at

the police station?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q To whom did you talk?

A I wouldn’t know their names, I talked to several there.

Q Did you offer your services at the police station?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q To help put down that riot?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q Did they give you any authority to help put down that riot?

A They told me to get a gun and get busy and try to get a nigger.

Q What?

A Get a gun and try to get a nigger.

Q Did you get a gun?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q Did you get a negro?

A No, ma’am.

Q What did you understand by that?

MR LEAHY: We object to that, if the Court please, he has no right to tell what was said.

THE COURT: Sustained.

Q What did you do following up that suggestion?

MR LEAHY: Object to that as immaterial and incompetent unless it was in the presence of this defendant.

THE COURT: The objection will be overruled.

MR LEAHY: We except.

Q Answer the question.

A I went to the Tulsa Hardware Store and received a gun there.

Q Then where did you go?

A Went to the corner of Third and Boston, waiting there.

Q What did you there do?

A I was watching for negroes passing in cars that were armed.

Q Were negroes passing that corner at that time?

A Not after I got there, none passed.

A The negroes by that time had gone back over?

A Yes.

Q What time did you retire that night, did you go home?

A Yes, I went home about one thirty.

Q What time did you come down the next morning?

A About between seven thirty and eight.

Q Did you have occasion to go over into the negro district the next morning?

A I went as far as I could towards the negro district.

Q What did you observe there?

A Burning of buildings around Cincinnati and Archer and the Frisco depot.

Q Were the buildings burning when you got there?

A The buildings on the east side of Cincinnati were burning, between Cincinnati,– or between Archer and the Frisco track.

Q Now, what was the condition there, did you attempt to go into that district where these buildings were burning?

A I went as far as they would let me go, the Frisco tracks.

Q As far as who would let you go?

A The officers.

Q The officers wouldn’t let you go where the buildings were burning?

A No, ma’am.

Q, Did you see any people in that block over where the buildings were burning?

A Yes, ma’am. Two people.

Q Two people?

A Yes.

Q Were you close enough to tell who those people were?

A They were officers, uniformed police.

Q Uniformed police?

Q What were those two uniformed police doing in that block?

MR MOSS: To which we object as incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial, not binding on the defendant.

THE COURT: Overruled.

A They were knocking out the plate glass window of the buildings on the east side of the street and going in them, and after they came out there was fires, smoked rolled out.

Q They knocked out the plate glass windows and then entered the buildings?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q After they came out of the buildings smoke began to come out, is that right?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q, How many buildings did you see those two uniformed officers enter?

A The first building they entered was the first store room of the one story brick buildings, it was the south end. Then they took the buildings right on down, going north to the two story buildings.

Q Were you familiar with the faces of those officers in that you had seen them acting as police officers in the city before that time?

A I have seen them on the police force but I don’t know either of their names.

Q You didn’t know their names?

A No.

Q How long did you stay there?

A About forty minutes.

Q About forty minutes?

A Yes, ma’am.

MRS VAN LEUVEN: That is all; examine the witness—


Q Where do ·you live. Mr. Buck?

A 1320 South Peoria.

Q What is your occupation?

A Brick layer.

Q You have lived how long in Tulsa?

A Eighteen years.

Q How old are you now?

A Twenty six.

Q How long have you been engaged in the business of brick laying?

A About eight years.

Q That is the only occupation you have, is it?

A Yes. sir.

Q What time was it when you came to the court house on the evening of May 31st?

A About between eight thirty and nine.

Q What did you see when you first arrived here?

A Just a crowd of spectators.

Q About bow many?

A Oh, I should judge upwards of a thousand.

Q White people?

A Yes, sir.

Q, How long after you came was it before negroes commenced coming?

A About twenty or thirty minutes.

Q Where did you see the first negroes that you saw?

A Came in a car right here to the foot of these steps.

Q On Sixth Street?

A Yes, sir.

Q How many were in that oar, about?

A I should judge ten or twelve, maybe fifteen .

Q What did they do?

A They got out of the car and stood around with their guns .

Q Where did they go?

A I don’t know, I left then.

Q You left then?

A Yes, sir.

Q Were you here when the shooting occurred?

A I was at Sixth, at Sixth and Main, just around the corner on Main when the shooting started.

Q How long after you left here was it before the shooting started?

A Oh, it was nearly an hour.

Q You had been gone nearly an hour before the shooting started?

A I had been gone from this corner, I was around on Main street then.

Q, Had you stayed on Main Street all the time?

A Yes, sir.

Q In the vicinity of where you were when you heard the shooting?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you hear the first shot that was fired?

A Yes, air.

Q Where was it?

A Someplace here on Sixth Street.

Q You didn’t see it?

A No, I just heard it.

Q You don’t know how many squads of negroes came around the court house?

A I don’t know how many came from this direction, there was an armed body of men walked down Sixth Street, across Main and then I saw at different times two or three carloads of armed negroes.

Q Did they turn towards the Court House?

A They would go in, yes, going towards the court house.

Q You saw several cars of armed negroes and one squad of armed negroes that were walking, is that the way it is?

A Yes, sir.

Q You don’t know what took place around the court house at all with reference to those negroes?

A No, sir.

Q Why did you go away from here?

A I thought it was best for me.

Q You thought it was the only safe thing for you to do, did you?

A Yes, sir.

Q Then you went down to the police station and volunteered your services to somebody there at the police station?

A Yes, sir.

Q You didn’t know who that was?

A No, I didn’t know the man’s name.

Q On what floor of the station were you?

A On the ground floor.

Q On the ground floor?

A Yes.

Q Were you inside or outside of the station?

A Inside.

Q Were other men being mustered into the service at that time?

A I didn’t see any.

Q You didn’t see anybody else there?

A Yes, I saw other people there but I didn’t see anybody being mustered into the service.

Q Was there a large crowd there?

A Quite a good many people out in front.

Q Did you see anybody being loaded into automobiles and sent out?

A No, sir.

Q What did you say you done when you offered your services?

A I asked them if they needed any help?

Q You were talking to some police officer downstairs?

A Yes, sir.

Q And he told you to go get a gun and get a nigger?

A Yes.

Q You went and got a gun?

A Yes.

Q, And went to get a negro?

A Tried to.

Q, Why didn’t you?

A I didn’t see any.

Q Didn’t see any; would you have brought a negro in if you had seen him?

A If I had saw him armed.

MRS VAN LEUVEN: Wait a minute. Objected to as incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial.

MR MOSS: A man that would commit unprovoked murder ought not to be believed like any other citizen.

MR FREELING: We ask that the remark be stricken.

MR MOSS: I am addressing myself to the Court

MR FREELING: That is the reason I am asking that it be stricken — there is no proof that this man had any idea of committing unprovoked murder. It ought to be stricken and the jury instructed not to consider it.

MR MOSS: If he had done exactly what he says –

MR FREELING: He asked him if he would have brought in a negro if he had seen him.

THE COURT: The motion to strike the statement will be sustained. You, gentlemen of the jury, will not consider the remark of counsel.

MR MOSS: To the ruling of the court the defendant excepts.

THE COURT: You will not be influenced thereby. The objection to the question will be overruled.

Q Read the question so that the witness will understand it.

(Question read by the Reporter)

A If I had saw one shooting into a crowd of white people I would have tried to have got him, that would have been the only way.

Q What do you mean by getting a negro?

A If I had saw him shooting at white people I would have tried to kill him.

Q If you had seen a negro shooting at white people you would have tried to have killed him?

A Yes, sir.

Q Prevented the killing?

A Yes, sir.

Q That is what you understood you were sent out for, was it?

A Yes, sir.

Q In other words, you were out to protect the lives of white people?

A Yes, sir.

Q Under specific orders from a policeman at the police department?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you go alone or were you by yourself?

A I was alone.

Q Did you go along with anybody else.

A No, sir.

Q How long did you stay on the street?

A Till about one thirty. I went home at one thirty.

Q Where did you stay during all the time after you got your gun and up to the time you went home?

A I put in most of my time around Third and Boulder and on Third Street.

Q, Did you see any armed negroes around there?

A No, sir.

Q Any armed white people around there?

A Yes. sir.

Q How many?

A The streets were full of them.

Q Hundreds of them?

A Yes, sir

Q, Mr Buck, during the night they were all walking around just like you were, were they?

A Yes, sir.

Q And during that time did you hear any shooting going on in the oity?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where was that?

A There were people shooting out of cars, shooting just to hear the gun go off.

Q Shooting in the air?

A Yes, sir.

Q Where was that shooting?

A On Main Street, as they crossed Third Street two shots was fired out of a car there in the air and then I heard other shots all around town; that is the only ones I saw.

Q Those are the only ones you saw?

A Yes, sir.

Q You heard other shots?

A Yes, sir.

Q Any in the direction of the Frisco depot?

A Yes, I heard shooting in that direction.

Q As the night wore on that shooting grew more frequent and intense, didn’t it?

A No, I didn’t notice any more shooting as long as I was down town.

Q What time did you come back to town in the morning?

A About seven thirty or eight o’clock.

Q Did you have your gun then?

A Yes, sir.

Q And you took your gun with you when you went over in the negro settlement?

A I took it back to the hardware store where I got it.

Q You carried it back to the hardware store where you got it and you went over unarmed?

A I went over to the Frisco tracks.

Q You didn’t have any arms with you then?

A No, sir.

Q You had stopped then the proposition of trying to get anybody?

A Yes , sir.

Q You say you met some officers?

A I saw some officers there at the Frisco tracks, yes, sir.

Q Just at what place?

A There was one officer right on the track, they wouldn’t let anybody go any further down Cincinnati, and there were two officers down in the block.

Q They wouldn’t let any unarmed men go down that way?

A No, sir.

Q He let men who were in the service of the city as police to go by, didn’t he?

A I didn’t see any of them try it.

Q How long did you stay there?

A I was there about forty minutes.

Q And where did you go from there?

A I went back up to Young Brothers’ Cigar Store.

Q, The place at which you saw the policeman, what street was that?

A Cincinnati .

Q Cincinnati and the railroad crossing?

A Yes, sir, one police was there.

Q How many policemen were there?

A There was one there stopping the crowd and two others on down in the block.

Q One was stopping the crowd from going over towards the negro settlement?

A Yes, sir.

Q There was a big crowd trying to get over there, was there?

A Probably a hundred or two hundred people when I was there.

Q And he was holding them back from going over there?

A Yes. sir.

Q You went up to Young’s Cigar Store you say?

A When I left there, yes, sir.

Q Then where did you go from there?

A I think I went home from there.

Q While you were at the crossing at Cincinnati and the Frisco station you saw the houses burning?

A Yes, sir.

Q That was when the officer was holding back the white people from going over?

A The fire was on the east side of the street when I first got there, everything was burning there then.

Q Everything was burning when you got there?

A On the east side of the street, yes, sir.

Q Did you see any people other than the two men you described as seeing where the buildings were burning?

A No, sir.

Q That was all you saw?

A Yes, sir.

Q You say they were officers in uniform?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did you know them?

A No, I didn’t know either of their names, I have seen the two of them on the force.

Q You have seen them?

A Yes, sir.

Q Could you point them out now?

A Yes, sir, I believe I could point them out.

Q Are they here in the Court room? All the policemen in the court room stand up. Please, all the men on the police force stand up that are here.

(A number of men in the court room stand up )

A None of them.

Q None of them?

A No.

Q Could you go down to the police station and look over the police station and pick them out?

A I wouldn’t swear I could pick them out.

Q You wouldn’t swear you could pick them out?

A No, sir.

Q How far were you from those two men?

A Possibly half a block, half a block or lees, more or less.

Q What was it you saw them do?

A Take a pool que and break the plate glass windows in the one story buildings on the west side of the street and they entered the buildings and after they came out smoke started in the rooms.

Q How long afterwards?

A A very short time after they left the buildings.

Q After they went in and stayed a while and came out and then the smoke started?

A Then the smoke started, yes.

Q At the time you saw them you were in a crowd of two or three hundred people?

A Yes, sir.

Q And they were in just as good position to see that as you were?

A Yes, sir.

Q And all the men there that were around where the buildings were burning were Just those two policemen?

A Yes, sir.

Q Nobody else there, nobody else in among the burning buildings that were in sight at all?

A No, sir.

MR LEAHY: That is all.


Q You say that when you went to the police station you offered your services to them. Did you offer your services to them in the capacity of a commissioned officer, ask for a commission?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q Did you get it?

MR LEAHY: Wait a minute, if your Honor please; he has a right to say what he said to the police.

THE COURT: The objection will be sustained. State

MR LEAHY: We ask that the jury be instructed to disregard that.

THE COURT: The answer will be stricken, the jury will not consider it. It is the statement of a conclusion.

Q What did you say to the police down there?

A I asked them if they were deputizing — if they would deputize me as an officer .

Q What did they say to you?

A He told me no, that they could take care of the situation.

Q What else did he say?

A And they told me that I better go out and try to get a gun and get a nigger.

Q You say you went down to a hardware store and you were issued a gun?

A Yes, ma’am.

Q I want to know who issued you the gun?

A I don’t know the man that issued me the gun, but he issued everybody guns as they came in there.

Q What place was that?

A Tulsa Hardware.

Q Did you take it it was some proprietor or clerk in that store?

A Yes, ma’am.

MRS VAN LEUVEN: That is all.


Q Then when you first told here on the witness stand today what was said when you first got to the police station, you didn’t tell just exactly what it was, did you?

MRS VAN LEUVEN: That is objected to.

Q About what .you said when you went to the police station, when you first told it here on the witness stand you didn’t tell exactly what transpired?

MRS VAN LEUVEN: We object to that, your Honor, he answered a direct question, he answered a question I asked him. I didn’t ask him that.

THE COURT: The objection will be sustained.

MR LEAHY: We except. That is all.


Q Just a minute. Did you sign a receipt for this gun?

A Yes, sir.

Q Did the other parties who got guns at that time sign receipts for the guns? A Yes, sir.

Q You returned your gun to the place where you got it?

A Yes, sir.

Witness excused.

North Detroit Ave.

I find that I need to note that I have found an analytical issue, and I wanted to share it..  There are some issues regarding  identifying the houses on Detroit.


1915 Sanborn Map, Sheet 4, courtesy of the Tulsa City County Library.

You will notice on this map, dated 1915, there are only a few houses and addresses shown.  One of them is 523, which is Dr. Jackson’s house.    I recently received a more clear version of Beryl Ford collection A2455, thanks to Ian Swart of the Tulsa Historical Society.


Beryl Ford, A2455. Tulsa Historical Society.

You will notice it depicts the back side of Detroit, and clearly shows the foundations of the houses – including the unfinished foundation that was not burned.

We know that one of the lot borders comes down, just south of center of Easton coming over the hill.  Another is halfway between that and the portion of Easton that runs along the south of the block (at the edge of the photo).

We know this because of this version of the same photograph:


A slightly different angle from one of the panoramas:


From that we can make some estimates of width of the lots.


Which means we can place 503 and 523.

Looking at the Census, the Directories, and the Events of the Tulsa Disaster, we get:

503 N Detroit Wright, Mary Alice Wid: Arthur.  2 story frame with basement
505 N Detroit
507 N Detroit Bridgewater, Robert T. Wife: Mattie M. Physician 103 1/2 N Greenwood  1 frame story with basement
511 N Detroit Bridgewater, T.R.(owner) Smitherman, Andrew J. Wif: Ollie Editor, Tulsa Star 1 frame story with basement
515 N Detroit McKeever, Joseph J. Wife: Myrtle Dentist 1 frame story with basement
521 N Detroit Woods, William H. Wife: Eliza pastor Union Baptist Church 1 frame story with basement
522 N Detroit Digney, Mary A.
523 N Detroit Andrew, Andrew C. Wife: Julia A. Physician 503 N Greenwood. 1 frame story with basement
527 N Detroit Stovall, Jesse Wife: Birdie Janitor
529 N Detroit Magill, Harrison M. Teacher BTW HS 1 frame story with basement
531 N Detroit Woods, Ellis W. Wife: Anna Principal BTW HS 1 frame story with basement
533 N Detroit Stoval, Jesse (See above) 1 frame story with basement
537 N Detroit Gentry, Thomas R. Wife Lottie E. W. Gentry, Neeley & Vaden 1 frame story with basement
541 N Detroit Brown, Curtis D. Wife: Alleze. Porter 1 frame story with basement
602 N Detroit Beard J, L
625 N Detroit Hughes, John W. Wife: Jessie M. Principal, Dunbar Grade School 1 frame story with basement
627 N Detroit Singer, Charles E. Wife Pearl. Blacksmith at Tulsa Boiler & Mach Co. 1 frame story with basement

Taking a look at the aerial drawing (1918) we see:


503 is 2 stories.  Unfortunately the drawing has some scale and placement issues, and the buildings are oversized for the block.  But we do see a second 2 story building.

If we look at the satellite map we see:


The shift from Easton west of Detroit to east of Detroit is about hundred feet which means that we have to fit eight addresses in that distance, technically seven since 522 would be on the west side.

So what do we see from the other side?





If the 2 story building is 503 then unfinished house must be 505, particularly as there is only one two story house listed in Events of the Tulsa Disaster on the 500 block.  Or if we look at the aerial drawing (1918) then the two story structure might be 523.

I believe this may actually be the case because of this image.


The two building fronts remain and the gray patch at the bottom of the picture may be Easton.   This means that what I believe we are looking at is this:


Why is this important? Because previously I had previously placed 523 a bit further north (about a hundred feet further north).

A Simple Experiment regarding fire in a open cockpit aircraft

One of the questions regarding the Riot and the burning is whether burning materials were thrown from the aircraft. This has nothing with any of the other theories about how the aircraft could have been used.

It occurred to me that this is actually easily testable, and testable without access to fancy equipment. And we performed the experiment today. Feel free to reproduce the results if you want.

The aircraft most likely to have been used during the Invasion the morning of June 1, 1921 was the Curtis Jenny, an open cockpit aircraft. The stall speed of the Jenny is about 45 miles an hour. That means the slowest the plane could travel and not fall out of the air.

IMG_0152We chose to reproduce that speed in the back of a pick up truck driving down a road. We elected to see if we could light a match, a lighter, and if using a lit cigar we could light a fuel soaked rag.

Safety precautions were taken, including a fire extinguisher and a bucket full of water to take the burning rag if necessary.

The lighter. We used a Zippo, which was a more advanced lighter than those available in 1921, but based on similar principles. It would not light at speed.
The matches. We used a cluster of three wooden strike anywhere matches. They lit perfectly and were immediately extinguished in the wind.

Finally, lighting a fuel soaked rag with a cigar. We could not get it to light.

Analysis is that it is unlikely that burning materials could have been lit and thrown. If somehow lit, they would have been extinguished leaving the plane.