Earliest History History on the Massacre

Since this came up during a recent exhibit, I am reprinting the entirety of the 1st historical reporting of the massacre published in 1921 in a propaganda piece trying to explain why things turned out the way they did.  Don’t blame me for the content.

The History of Tulsa, Oklahoma A City With A Personality Together With A glimpse down the corridors of the past into Old Indian Territory, The Five Civilized Tribes, The Creek Nation, Tulsa Recording District and Tulsa County How Oklahoma was Created and Something of the Builders of a Commonwealth by Colonel Clarence B. Douglas, vol.1, pages 620-627.


An incipient racial war, the most disastrous in the history of Oklahoma, was initiated in Tulsa on the evening of May 31, 1921, in a most surprising and unexpected manner.

The published report of the arrest of a Negro boy charged with an attempted assault on a white woman occasioned little comment among the white people who fully expected the law to take its course in the matter. Unfortunately, a group of Negros from the Negro section of the city, who according to facts developed after an investigation, had been worked upon by a lawless element of white agitators, reds and. bolshevists and who had been badly advised by members of their own race, were lead to believe that mob violence threatened the Negro prisoner who was in the custody of the sheriff at the county jail;

Without warning a number of armed Negroes under the lead of obnoxious and dangerous men of their race proceeded through the downtown business section of Tulsa to the courthouse and began a demonstration of defiance and lawlessness. They were advised that no attempt was being made to lynch the Negro prisoner and retired from the scene, only to return later with apparent reinforcements, many of them armed with pistols .and guns and one body of them were marching in columns of fours, showing military, or at least recent organization and drill. Insulting demands were made by these Negroes on the peace officers, a shot or two was fired and a race riot immediately started. The Negroes began firing indiscriminately and before they vacated the business section several white men and several Negroes had been killed.

The local police and sheriff’s officials seemed powerless to control the situation and several hundred white men armed themselves and by 10 o’clock P. M. the city was in the throes of a race riot of unparalleled magnitude and several pitched battles were in progress between the· Negroes and the white citizens. Hardware stores and pawn shops in the business section were broken into, arms and ammunition secured by white men and a lawless element of both Negroes and whites quickly joined in the fray, making a situation acute and dangerous in the extreme.

The Negroes were driven back towards their section of the town and half a block of business structures on North Cincinnati between the Frisco railroad and Archer Street, which section had been occupied by Negro pool halls, and other disreputable lins of business, and by restaurants, broke into flames. The Negroes who had taken refuge in these buildings were in a hot battle with the armed whites and were driven farther north to Greenwood, the principal Negro business street of the city, which was soon in flames.

The battle raged throughout the night and the flames of the burning Negro residences and business houses added to the intense excitement. The local companies of National Guard were mobilized, under the command of Maj. L. J. F. Rooney, and did what could possibly be done to stem the conflict, but with little result. With the coming of morning the situation was found to be so acute and danger to the entire city so apparent that the governor was apprised of the situation and the National Guard, under command of Adjt.-Gen. Charles F. Barrett, was ordered mobilized in Tulsa. General Barrett arrived about 9 A. M. with 150 members of the Oklahoma City companies and companies from Muskogee, Bartlesville and Wagoner were quickly brought to the scene.

All morning the fire raged, completely wiping out the entire business section inhabited by Negroes and 860 stores and homes owned by Negroes were totally destroyed together with all their contents. The fire department was helpless owing to the threats of the infuriated whites to shoot any man who attempted to lay a line of hose, and all morning the fire continued with intermittent shooting and scenes of riotous disorder, now practically confined to the Negro section.

The National Guard got into real action about noon and immediately the.process of rounding up Negro men, women and children began, and by night of June 1st probably 6,000 Negroes had been escorted and driven to Convention Hall, McNulty ball park and the Tulsa County fair grounds. The civic societies of Tulsa immediately got busy with preparations for feeding and caring for the homeless Negroes. The Red Cross, Y. M. C. A. and Y. W. C. A. agencies were put to work, all of the downtown churches were quickly filled with refugees and substantially the entire Negro population was under guard and .under protection by nightfall of the second day of the riot. Families were separated in the confusion and there was much distress for the first thirty-six hours following the outbreak.

Wednesday, June 1, at noon, martial law was proclaimed throughout Tulsa County. The civil officers ceased to function and the military took entire charge of policing the city. Guards were thrown out in the Negro section and whites were ordered to their homes and disarmed, and under the direction of General Barrett the situation was soon taken well in hand.

Asked for a statement of the local situation, President Niles of the Chamber of Commerce furnished to the press associations of the country the following statement, which shows the general sentiment of the best people of this city:

“A minor arrest had been made and publicly announced, the defendant being a Negro boy. Under bad advice and led by a group of Negroes exhibiting a spirit of lawlessness, a group of probably fifty Negroes left the Negro section of the city, came through the business section and marched on the courthouse. There was no occasion for their coming. The member of their race was not in jeopardy at all, but under the inflammatory action of lawless Negro leaders demands were made of the sheriff and insults hurled at the white citizens attracted by the Negro mob. The shooting began and the riot was on.

“A bad psychological condition, occasioned by a spirit of unrest, and some unemployment, dovetailed into the lawlessness which grew like a snowball and rapidly got beyond control of officials. The situation was quickly taken advantage of by some of the lawless element among the whites. Stores were broken open. People with no authority were quickly armed and the situation became desperate in the extreme and wholly out of control.

“The deplorable event is the greatest wound Tulsa’s civic pride has ever received and every right thinking man and woman in the city, white and black, is now doing everything possible to heal the wound as quickly as may be. Leading business men are in hourly conference and a movement is now being organized, not only for the succor, protection and alleviation of the sufferings of the Negroes, but to formulate a plan of reparation in order that homes may be rebuilt and families as nearly as possible rehabilitated. The sympathy of the citizenship of Tulsa in a great wave has gone out to the unfortunate law-abiding Negroes who became victims of the action and bad advice of some of the lawless leaders, and as quickly as possible rehabilitation will take place and reparation be made.

“Tulsa feels intensely humiliated and standing in the shadow of this great tragedy pledges its every effort to wiping out the stain at the earliest possible moment and punishing those guilty of bringing the disgrace and disaster to this city.

“A city which put three military units in the field with more than seven thousand men in the service, which contributed in excess of $33,000,000 for war purposes and which established its reputation as a patriotic city during the recent war second to none on the American continent, can be depended upon to make proper restitution and to bring order out of chaos at the earliest possible moment.”

In the absence of competent authority to take charge of· the relief situation a meeting was called by President Niles of the Chamber of Commerce at 11 a. m., Thursday, June 2d, and after  addresses by General Barrett, Judge L. J. Martin and others the meeting, on the advice of. General Barrett and on his recommendation, selected an executive committee known as the Tulsa Executive Welfare Committee, consisting of seven men, to take immediate control of all civic and civilian operations. The meeting selected as members of this committee L. J. Martin, chairman, and the following named: H. C. Tyrrell, C. F. Hopkins, C. S. Avery, G. R. McCullough, S. G. Kennedy, H. L. Standeven, and this committee immediately went into session in the Chamber· of Commerce rooms and proceeded with the organization of the various civic bodies, the work of the Y. M. C. A. and the Y.. W. C. A., the Red Cross and other associations.

This committee appointed a committee on legal matters to assist in the apprehension and conviction of those responsible for the great outrage and for the arrest of looters and the lawless generally; appointed a financial committee to secure funds for the rehabilitation of the Negro homes; committees to have charge of policing the city and seeing to it that not less than one hundred American Legion men were sworn in as special officers to assist in preserving the peace, and through the action and operations of this committee a semblance of order was soon restored.

Martial law was revoked at 3 p. m., Friday, June 3d, by order of General Barrett and the troops returned tO their respective homes. Members of the American Legion were sworn in as peace officers. Col. P. J. Hurley, cooperating with the sheriff’s office under the direction of the executive committee, organized a force of 100 emergency minute men to act in conjunction with the sheriff’s office, and the civil authorities resumed general jurisdiction over the local situation.

The Red Cross work under the direction of Clark Fields, the Women’s Relief Corps under control of Mrs. A. W. Roth, the Y. W. C. A. under Mrs. J. A. Hull and other patriotic women began a systematic campaign for the relief of the sufferers; and an identification bureau was established at the Y. M. C. A. for the purpose of reuniting and locating families, and under the direction of

Maj. C. F. Hopkins and C. A. Border the construction of tents for the homeless was begun in the Negro settlement. N. R. Graham was in charge of the detention camp at the fairgrounds where probably 3,500 Negroes had been mobilized. J. Burr Gibbons was active in the work at Convention Hall, which was packed with sweltering humanity, and the local ministers of the city and patriotic business men took charge of the work in the churches ·and at the ball park, and the Negroes were fed and provided with bedding during Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights.

The wildest rumors were given general circulation and as usual were believed in preference to the real facts and the statement was made even by officials that 25,000 white lawless men were running rampant through the city armed and pillaging, which was of course not true, and the statement was also made that machine gun fire had mowed down the Negroes by the score. A checking up of the fatalities brings the number of white dead to ten and the number of Negro dead is placed at twenty-four. The burned district included a portion of blocks 43, 44, 45 and 46, practically all of block 47, a portion of blocks 54, 55, 56, 57 and 58, between the Frisco railroad and the M. K. & T. railroad; also a portion of blocks 23 and 50 and half of blocks 15 and 17, in the original plat of Tulsa; also substantially all of blocks 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 in Washington Addition, and blocks 2, 3, 4 and 5 in Gurley Hill Addition; also blocks 1, 2, 3 and 4 in Skidmore Addition and portions of blocks 1, 2 and 9 in Fairview Addition, and some residences in Liberty and Rose additions, with the occasional loss of a house in Greenwood Addition. The greatest loss was in the Negro business section on Greenwood Street for a distance of four blocks, which was totally destroyed on each side of ‘the street.

The Associated Press and the United Press sent special men to Tulsa and many of the large newspapers of the Middle West were represented by special writers. Numerous telegrams were received by the executive committee from various cities in the Union offering aid, but the policy was quickly adopted that this was strictly a Tulsa affair and that the work of restoration and charity would be taken care of by Tulsa people. ·

There are reasons to believe that previous to the outbreak, perhaps for the past year, a vicious white influence has been at work among the Negroes aided and abetted by vicious members of the Negro race; that meetings were held, incendiary speeches made and that preparations for racial trouble had been made by the assembling of a large amount of high powered ammunition and modem weapons of offense. The consensus of opinion is, on the part of those who have made the most careful investigation, that through such meetings and through such bad advice a number of the Negroes were led into committing this great crime and that as a result of those teachings, as must inevitably happen, the Negro race was in the final analysis the greatest sufferers and in every way the losers in the conflict.

It is thought that out of Tulsa’s greatest tragedy will come a better understanding between the races and that in the future the lawless white element or the lawless Negro element which preaches race equality and racial hatred and incites the Negroes to revolt, rebellion, lawlessness and disorder will be promptly dealt with by the best citizenship of both white and black and that a recurrence of this deplorable event is practically impossible.


Under date of June 7th, the executive committee of ·the Board of Public Welfare issued the following statement:

To the Citizens of Tulsa:

The undersigned members of the Welfare Executive Committee of Tulsa desire to make the following statement:

On Thursday,  June 2d, while martial Jaw was in effect in Tulsa, following the race riot a meeting was called by President Niles of the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce at II o’clock A. M. for a conference with Adjt.-Gen. Charles F. Barrett in command of the troops in this city. General Barrett addressed that meeting and recommended that the citizens of Tulsa organize an effective piece of machinery to immediately take charge of the situation and bring order out of chaos and assist in restoring the local situation to a normal condition. That meeting elected the undersigned members of Tulsa’s Executive Welfare Committee to take immediate control and get into action.

The committee went into session on the afternoon of that date and has been in practically continuous session ttp to the present time. Systematic organization of relief forces was perfected through the Red Cross, the churches and by and with the co-operation of hundreds of patriotic citizens, control was assumed of the burned area, provisions made for properly policing and protecting the city against sporadic outbreaks, conferences were held with judicial officials relative to the immediate· calling of special grand jury to investigate the causes of the riot and to initiate the punishment of those guilty, the work of the charitably inclined was systematized, headquarters established for the Red Cross and the working forces in the schoolhouse and in tents in the burned district, tents were secured and an erecting organization perfected, a grocery store was opened in the burned district where supplies could be secured, a medical corps perfected and a sanitary detachment organized, labor was furnished to those seeking work, at living wages, the removal of the debris from the burned area begun, a strong legal committee appointed to handle the cases which might be presented to the Police Court and for their fuller prosecution in the higher courts, the Real Estate Exchange was organized to list and appraise the value of properties in the burned area and to work out a plan of possible purchase and the conversion of the burned area into art industrial and wholesale district, and a detention and sustenance camp established at the fairgrounds, dozens of automobiles assigned to Red Cross service, identification bureaus for the search and identification of separated families were established, thousands of articles of wearing apparel and household utensils were assembled and distributed to the needy, a Negro publication resumed to quiet the Negroes, a dominant and effective emergency police organization was perfected, the avenues leading to the city were patrolled, properly guarded and protected and a strong finance committee organized to take charge of the necessary financial requirements.

The committee has selected a public safety committee of minute men of Tulsa, consisting of 250 leading and representative business men and taxpayers to respond to call to meet any emergency that might arise and to serve for an indefinite period, and all of those things apparently necessary to be done have been taken charge of and performed by this committee to the best of their ability.

The civic organizations of Tulsa and the various church congregations of the city have given their unqualified approval of the work of this organization and have tendered their earnest support in carrying out such further duties as may arise and this committee now asks and has a right to expect the earnest and active co-operation of every good citizen of Tulsa, white or black, when called upon to act in any emergency.

The headquarters of the committee are in the executive offices of the Chamber of Commerce where its membership may be reached at any time during the present crisis, and it will continue to function as long as may be thought necessary in restoring Tulsa to normalcy. The committee feels that with the assistance of the other forces co-operating splendid results have been secured to date and accepts the authority to act in this great emergency conferred on it by the citizenship of this city and pledges the continued performance of its manifold duties to the extent of the ability of its individual membership.



L. J. MARTIN, chairman.


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).

Women’s Klan in Tulsa

While researching something else this morning, I came across this image, from the Sunday, 15 October 1922 Tulsa Tribune.  As a note, W.A.P. meant White American Protestants according to Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s, by Kathleen M. Blee.  All text after this is quoted from the newspaper article accompanying.

Members of the Tulsa KKK and the WAP at the inaugural meeting, October 1922. -- Tulsa Tribune, 15 October 1922.

Members of the Tulsa KKK and the WAP at the inaugural meeting, October 1922. — Tulsa Tribune, 15 October 1922.

Good Morning Mrs._____; Are You In This Picture?

This is the first photograph ever published of members of the women’s Ku Klux Klan.  It was taken a few days ago at the organization of the Tulsa Chapter of the W. A. P., the Women’s Auxiliary of the Klan.  The robed figures at the left are Klansmen,  The women at the right and in the rear are charter W.A.P. members.   Can you pick out yourself?  What W.A.P. stands for is a secret.

The accompanying picture of the first class of Tulsa women into the W.A.P., the women’s Ku Klux Klan, was brought to The Tribune by a woman who said she was a member.  This is the third class of the kind organized in the United States, it is said, and the first pictures of members of the women’s organization to be published anywhere.

As can be seen in the picture, the W.A.P. has at least the semi-official sanction of the Ku Klux Klan.  Members of the local chapter of the klan are here presenting the American flag to the women, who have just banded together to further the same principles advocated by the invisible empire.  The photograph was taken a few days ago.

The W.A.P., said to be the only women’s organization that has received commendation in the klan national papers at Atlanta, Ga., and Washington, D.C.,was organized at Claremore a few weeks ago.  National headquarters have since been established in Kansas City.

The order claims a membership of 4,000 in Oklahoma.  It is said to have chapters at Claremore, Miami, Tulsa, Vinita, Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Pryor, Wagoner, McAlester, Henryetta, Okmulgee, Haskell, Sapulpa, Bixby, Broken Arrow, Skiatook, Collinsville, Avant, Bigheart, Pawhuska, Pawnee, Stillwater, Perry, Oilton, Drumright, Yale, Cushing, Stroud, Chandler, Guthrie, Edmond, Yukon, El Reno, Kingfisher, Enid, and Ada, in this state,  while others are being organized almost daily.


Klan resources at The University of Tulsa

The Department of Special Collections and University Archives at McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa has a few collections of interest to people researching the KKK.  The collection is growing slowly.

  • Ku Klux Klan (KKK) papers, 1924-1936, 1995. Coll No. 1993.001.  Consists of a ledger containing membership records for the Tulsa Klan chapter for the years 1928-1932 and ephemera which includes: pamphlets pertaining to the organization, structure, and rituals of the Klan; typescript and carbon copy typescript of an acceptance speech given by a newly elected Exalted Cyclops [i.e., Chief Officer] for the Klan #2, Realm of Oklahoma (c1936); membership applications; robe and supply requisitions; and mimeograph copies of 11 official Ku Klux Klan documents dating from 1924-1927; sheet music for the song “The Bright Fiery Cross.”

Some of this material is available online.

Searching the regular Library Catalog and limited to Special Collections.

Other collections do have some Klan materials, although they are currently unprocessed.

[Note:  Updated 11/18/2017 to reflect new URLs]

Methodology example – 1921 Klan initiation

One of the issues with historical research is being aware that even documentary sources can have a bias. Let’s look at an example of two articles where, although they appear to cover the same event (the 1921 August 31 Klan initiation) they present the events in dramatically different ways.

Tulsa Tribune, Thursday, September 1, 1921
(part of front page was damaged so there are some lacunae in the text)

“[3]00 Klansmen Take Oath at Cross of Fire

[S]ilent Empire Swears in New Members

Like a spectral army, a crowd of [m]en estimated at 1,500 stole out of [Tu]lsa in more than 300 automobiles [la]st night and assembled at a lonely [sp]ot surrounded by overhanging hills [wh]ere Tulsa’s chapter of the Ku [Kl]ux Klan held what is believed to [be] its first initiation.

About 3 o’clock yesterday after[no]on a reporter for The Tribune re-[ce]ived a telephone call. The voice [se]emed to be that of a business man. […] was quick, sharp and to the point. [T]he reporter was informed to be at [th]e corner of Third and Main street [a]t 8 o’clock last night and he would [b]e tipped off to one of the biggest [stor]ies that ever “broke” in Tulsa.

The reporter was inquisitive but [c]ould elicit no further information [ot]her than the assurance that the [pe]rson talking was reliable and the [st]ory worth while.

It lacked two minutes to 8 by the [re]porter’s watch. The theater [cr]owd was bulging in the streets and [th]e stream of automobile traffic [po]uring across the intersection at [Th]ird and Main was growing stead[ily] heavier. A man tapped the re[po]rter in the shoulder.

“Are you The Tribune man?” he [as]ked. Receiving the affirmative re[ply] he said, “Get into my car and I w[il]l drive around to the office. I [ha]ve some big inside stuff on the […]li[…]ation you are interested in [b]ut can’t afford for it to be know [th]at [I g]ave it out.”

Reporter Blindfolded.

They walked around the corner and climbed in a big Cadillac roadster. The reporter noticed that the [cur]tains were up. The car dashed [ra]pidly west and stopped in the [sha]dows Sixth Street and Denver Avenue, when one of the men said “We [are] going to blindfold you and take [you] where you can get a real story. [You] wont’ be harmed but you had [bet]ter keep still. You are at liberty [to] write about all you see on this […]”

The automobile traveled at what [se]emed to be a rather high rate of speed [fo]r a long while. The occupants of [th]e car were silent. Sitting between [t]wo of them on the rear seat, the [re]porter could tell that the car went [up] hill and down hill many times [an]d made a number of turns as it traveled.

Finally it stopped. The car door [op]ened and a few seconds the blindfold was removed. Only the [u]nknown driver was there. He in[s]tructed the reporter to make him[s]elf at home and said he would re[tu]rn later.

The car stood on the brink of a [hi]ll overlooking a little valley sur[ro]unded on all sides by hills. Several [hu]ndred yards away, a strange sight. In the heart [of] the valley [h]undreds of automobiles were as[se]mbled in a great circle, The head[li]ghts of all converged on a spot [wi]thin where nearly 100 men in [th]e long white robes of the invi[si]ble empire stood ghostlike beneath [a] giant tree.

The Fiery Cross

Standing in the glare of the powerful lights their forms were distinctly outlined. The reporter saw the hood and the gown barred with the signs that have come to be known [as] the mark of the Ku Klux Klan. [A] tall man stood directly beneath [th]e tree. Beside him was a giant [fi]ery cross held high by a man in [si]milar garb. Standing near it [w]as a great American flag unfurled. On the outside of the circle of cars were other automobiles at intervals with their lights streaming outward into the darkness. They

(At this point most of the text is too badly damaged to get anything be the last half of each line.)

…ftly on guard. Past
…the spectral figures under
…nd the giant cross that
…e a thing alive as its
…flame leaped and play-
…them. The tall man ad-
…few paces. Rapidly men
…civilian garb and wear…”

You get the point.

Compare this to:

Tulsa Daily World, Friday, September 2, 1921

“Klux Klan initiates

Thirty candidates were initiated into the mysteries of the “invisible empire” at the first open air meeting of the klansmen held in an open field 11 miles south of town on the Broken Arrow road at 9.30 Wednesday night.

The cars containing about three hundred and fifty members of the Ku Klux Klan left Fifth and Cincinnati at 7:30 o’clock. Armed guards stations along the road halted the cars for inspection and a second inspection was had upon arriving at the scene of operations. The cars were parked in a circle with all lights out except those with high powered spotlights which furnished the illumination for the business session of the klansmen.

The proceedings were the same as the previous meetings held in Convention hall. Guns were carried so that the klansmen could be prepared for any emergency that might arise, one of the participants said.”

So, the real question we get from this is – What previous meetings? Clearly more research is required since virtually every academic source has referred to this as the first Klan event in Tulsa.

KKK Roster

(This was originally posted on my Livejournal, but I have moved it here and updated it).

The University of Tulsa, McFarlin Library, Department of Special Collections and University Archives has in its collections a roster of the KKK in Tulsa for the years 1928-1932. It is part of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) papers, 1924-1995, bulk 1924-1936. Coll. No. 1993.001.

Since 1993, it has been the Department’s policy has been to not show the original to anyone, but let them use the photocopy, out of concern that it might be damaged.   This roster was, according to legend, one of four, and only covers the declining years of the Tulsa Klan.

In 2011, Special Collections had it digitally transcribed.

Using that transcription I was able to make the following determinations:

In 1928 registered membership was 975 members, consisting of 720 Democrats, 251 Republicans, 3 Independents.

In 1929, membership was 240.

In 1930, membership was 199.

In 1931, 87.

In 1932, 28.

There are 16 memberships with no discernible year.

Conversely, membership in 1921 (August 31, after the riot), the Tulsa Klan enrolled its first 300 members. By 1924, when the Governor declared martial law in Tulsa, there were reputedly upwards of 10,000 members, not including the women’s auxiliary and children’s groups.

Greenwood Scrapbook

Last year, the Department of Special Collections at McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa acquired a deteriorating scrapbook.  This was brought to Special Collections by Lee Roy Chapman. There are photos from as early as 1922 in Greenwood.  They are otherwise unidentified.  They do show some of the rebuilding.

They have now been digitized and can be seen at http://cdm15887.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/searchterm/Scrapbooks./mode/exact

If anyone has any idea who these people might be, please let me know.

Wesley W. Shobe

One of the aspects of researching photographs is trying to find out more about what’s in the image.  Not long ago, The Department of Special Collections at McFarlin Library, The University of Tulsa acquired a photograph from Lee Roy Chapman.  This undated photograph:guys001It shows a number of men, in front of an unidentified building.  Written on the back is W. A. Shobe.

The only possibility in the Tulsa Directory is Wesley W. Shobe (Lillian) Billiards, 112 N Greenwood, r. same.

Unfortunately, I can not identify the uniforms or medals, but it does appear to be a fraternal organization.  The building behind is not Mount Zion (either pre or post riot configurations), St. Monica’s or Vernon AME.  The window configuration doesn’t match the ruins of the masonic hall in Greenwood in the post-riot images.



“Federal Report on Vice Conditions in Tulsa” (1921)

If I haven’t mentioned it earlier, my interest in history is ultimately, people – the normal, real people who may or may not be remembered after they are gone.  People like most of my ancestors, and quite likely me.  Most people are interested in the upper names, the people “of name”, but I am more interested in the “all other men” in the quote.  This leads me down some pretty strange paths at times.One of the areas I research is the Tulsa Race Riot, and related things.  Recently I ran across the “Federal Report on Vice Conditions in Tulsa”, and thought I’d share that here, with pictures of some of the locations mentioned.  My comments are in green.

Federal Report on Vice Conditions
in Tulsa.

1.  State of Oklahoma.

2.  City of Tulsa

3.  Date: April 21, 22, 23, 25, 26 1921  that would be Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday.

4.  Agent:  T. F.G.

5.  Summary of conditions:  Vice conditions in this city are extremely bad.  Gambling, bootlegging, and prostitution are very much in evidence.  At the leading hotels and rooming houses the bell hops and porters are pimping for women and also selling booze.  Regarding violations of the law, these prostitutes and pimps solicit without any fear of the police, and they will invariably remind you that you are safe in these houses.

6.  Open houses of prostitution: Fourteen.

102 North Boulder Street.   Entrance in rear.  Madame a well built woman, and two girls rooming here.  Was directed by the madame to the front room facing North Boulder Street, for improper relations with  girl about thirty years old.  Her price $3.00.

102 N. Boulder

102 N. Boulder and Forbes Hotel


The  1921 City Directory  lists this as “Arnie T. Kennemore (Susie V.) Cook.

Over 322 East First Street.   The Madame not being in, three girls “hustling” here. Was solicited by a light haired girl to go to bed.  This girl’s price $3.00; She is about twenty-two years old.

The  1921 City Directory  lists this as  “Bessie Phillips, Furnished rooms”.

318 1/2 East First Street.  Madame Nell Russell.  Two inmates.  Was solicited by one of these girls to go to bed.  Price $3.00

The  1921 City Directory  lists this as  “Warner Dennis, Restaurant”.  Nell Russell is listed as working at 326 1/2 E 1st, and rooming at the same.

320 1/2 East First Street.  The Madame told me her girl was out, and instructed to return later and hire a room, and she would have this girl come to the room; also being told that the girl’s price was $3.00.

The  1921 City Directory  lists this as  “Oil City Flour and Feed Co”.


320 1st St

320 1st St

An amusing note:  324 (or 326) East First is the site of the infamous “May Rooms”, which was Tulsa’s longest running brothel, in existance from the 30s until Madame Pauline Lambert  (nee Clara Palmer) died in 1979.

20 1/2 East First.  One Madame and one girl.  This girl is about seventeen years old, who told me she makes good money here, and also “hustles” on the streetsl her price to go to bet $4.00.

The  1921 City Directory  lists this as  “Finklestein and Gordon Clothing”.  David Finklestein and Philip Gordon.


20 1/2 East 1st St.

20 1/2 East 1st St.

405 1/2 East First Street.  Rooming House.  I was solicited by a young girl, very slender.  Going upstairs, I was taken to her room.  The Madame, Maud Fleming, asked no questions.  The girl’s price was $3.00.  This same house was raided by the police about two hours  afterwards, for gambling.  Two gamblers were shot, one dying a few hours after.

The  1921 City Directory  lists this as  “Loose-Wiles Biscuit Co”.   I have to say that “loose wiles” is a dandy name for a brothel.  Next  door, in the old Tulsa Paper Company, is now McNellies Pub.

409 1st St

409 1st St

Empress Rooms, East First street near Main.   The madame told me  to wait a minute, later directing me to a room in a rear of house.  In the room were three girls, one of them remarked to take my pick.  Price $3.00.  The madame offered to let a room if I picked up a girl on the streets.

The Empress rooms aren’t listed in the 1920 City Directory.  I assume from the address that they are around this location:

Empress Rooms

Empress Rooms

Queen City Rooms, Detroit near East First Street
.  Five inmates rooming here.  The madame was out when I called, but was solicited by a woman about thirty years old to go to bed.  She informed that the madame and four girls were out riding horses.  This house is over a livery stable.

This would be the Queen city livery stable at 110 S. Detroit, run by Thomas Miller.  It’s pretty much where the garage is here:

Queen City Rooms and Livery Stable

Queen City Rooms and Livery Stable

Forbes Hotel, East Archer street, corner North Boston
.  I called here in the afternoon.  Four girls were scrubbing floors, cleaning rooms, etc.  I inquired for a room, and was told by a young woman (not the madame) that they were all taken, but if you want a girl you have got the right place, and then telling me that her price was $3.00.

Central Hotel, 15 1/2 North Main Street.
  The madame (Mrs. Francis Watson) told me that she had four girls rooming here that they were “hustling”.  She then called a very heavy set woman who was sitting in the rear of the hallway to me.  This woman called “Bessie”; she telling me her price was $3.00.  While there I saw four men gambling with cards in the main hallway.

Central Hotel

Central Hotel

Wisteria Rooms, 1084 East Second Street.  Three Girls, the colored porter, calling a girl for me.  Her price $3.00 to go to bed.  The porter insists upon a fee of one dollar.  I saw two other girls here that are “hustling”.

There is no 1084 East Second Street in the 1921 Directory, but there is a 108 1/2 , “J. L. Smith furnished rooms.”

Next, the north side of the tracks…


Below are colored houses:

505 East Archer street:  Having “Rooms” sign on house.  I saw a piano just inside the entrance, ad an old colored woman as the madame, and four inmates.  Was solicited by a young colored yellow woman to go to bed.  Price $3.00.

1921 City Directory lists this as “David R. Roland (Alice) (c)”

The 1920 Census  shows:

505 E Archer   David R. Roland b Furn rooms Roland, Dave R. Farmer D.R. Roland b furnsihed rooms D.R. Roland, Rooms 2 story frame, $5,000
  Ollie Roland b Roland, Ollie Boarding House Manager
  Roland, Earline None
  Clayton, Thelma None
  Roland, John Bootblack
  Battles, Will B Janitor, Office Building
  Blackbriar, Flora B Domestic
  Cross, Annie Chambermaid, Hotel
  Cross, Emmet Porter, Hotel
  Dillard, Dolly B Maid
  Hendeson, Mabel Maid
  Jerrell, William Laborer
  Lovis, Will B Cook, Restaurant
  Nelson, Chester A B Laborer
  Phillips, Sperling Hotel Porter
  Phillips, Theresa None
  Stovall, Willie B Fireman
  Tete, Ethel Cook
  Tete, Henry Carpenter
  Vann, Gale B Domestic
  Wash, Bessie Chambermaid, Hotel
  Wheeler, Laura Chambermaid
  Williams, Coy Porter, Hotel

503 East Archer street:  “Rooms” sign on house.  Two young girls solicited me on doorstep to come inside and go to bed; their price being $2.00. 

Edward Durham, Furnished Rooms (Amanda)

503 E Archer   Edward Durham b laborer Durban, Eddie Office Building Janitor Edward Durband b furnished rooms
  Amanda Durham b Durban, Amanda None
  Bailey, Alex B Restaurant Waitress
  Johnson, Henry B Restaurant Pantry Boy
  McClarkin, Melvin B City Schools Teacher
  Patterson, Homer B Rooming House Porter
  Walker, Albert Restaurant Busboy
Archer and Frankfurt

Archer and Frankfurt

420 East Archer street, Midway Hotel.  I was picked up by a colored girl standing outside on the sidewalk and requested to go to her room No. 22, her price being $2.00.

Midway Hotel

Midway Hotel

7.  Street conditions, etc.  The streets surrounding the Frisco depot being worked and found bad.  Just an aside, this was the area that formed the main battle groundduring the race riot  only a month  after this report was written.  On East and West First street, especially on a Saturday evening, the porters at the Carlton (24 1/2 E), DeVern  (not found), and Imperial (118 1/2 E) Hotels stand in front of their entrances soliciting men to go upstairs with their “keen” women.  These hotels I had visited previously , and was solicited by each of them to go upstairs.  The prostitutes “hustle” on North and South Main, East and West First , Second, Third, and Fourth streets, later taking them men to their respective rooming houses.  I had seen eighteen solicitations upon the above mentioned streets by the women.  At the DeVern Hotel I saw a porter take three men upstairs within half an hour.  At the other hotels I mentioned, I did not see any men go upstairs with the porters.

8. Hotel conditions:  Very bad.  The above mentioned hotels I have classed as open houses.  All the hotels that have been covered I found prostitutes operating, or the proprietor would gladly let you a room for immoral purposes should there not be any women with rooms there.

At this point, the author lists 24 hotels (major and minor)  where girls could be ordered in for a fee.  As much as $10. at the Hotel Tulsa.
There are also 5 houses where rooms could be rented for immoral purposes.

14.  Number of prostitutes seen in all places during investigation; 64.

14A.  Total number of prostitutes seen in open houses; 25.

15.  Total number of prostitutes seen in hotels; 5.

16.  Total number of prostitutes seen in rooming houses; none.

17. Total number of white prostitutes seen; 57.

18.  Number of colored prostitutes seen; 7.

19.  Total number of prostitutes seen on streets; 19.

20.  Total number of prostitutes seen in dance halls, etc.; 5

I saw eight prostitutes at the Armory Dance Hall, whom I had also seen in open houses or upon the streets above mentioned.

21.  Total number of prostitutes seen in cafes, restaurants and cabarets; none.

22.  Total number of pimps seen; 19 (all colored porters or bell hops at the above mentioned hotels).

23.  Weather 21st Fair; 22nd Fair; 23rd Fair; 25th Rain; 26th Fair.



Map of the Brothels mentioned in the “Federal Report on Vice Conditions in Tulsa” (1921)

(Minor editing 11/25/2015)