In 1904, when tobacco farmers of Kentucky and Tennessee formed an association to unite against the American Tobacco Company, a vigilante splinter group decided to deliver its own brand of rough justice.
Deepest night in southern Kentucky, the humid air thick with the sprightly scent of tobacco plants. The men approach the darkened farmhouse silently, draped in black, hoods covering their faces, their horses’ hooves wrapped in burlap to muffle their step. They would have been unseen, even if anyone had been watching for them, until it was too late.
As they surround the property a dog barks and the night is split apart with successive bursts of gunfire. Flame belches from the muzzles of deer rifles and double-barrelled shotguns, windows explode and wood splinters. A gutter is severed and slides like the arm of a dying man down the front of the façade. The shooting ceases as the front door tremulously cracks open. A young woman appears, her nightgown bright with blood about the neck from a gunshot wound, and staggers weeping into the yard. A man, similarly garbed, follows close behind her, entreating the mob for mercy. Sobbing hysterically, a child reels out of the door and falls on his knees to the porch, his nightclothes stained with his mother’s blood. He watches wide-eyed as the masked men surround his parents.
To read this article in full you need to be either a print + digital subscriber, or else have purchased access to the online archive.
If you are already a subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.