In the 1980’s I had an interest in my ancestry. I did research in libraries and went digging through family records. A cousin sent me copies of the family tree. However, my progress stopped short when I entered Ball State for my Master in Library Science.
I started the process again here in Clarksville by joining the Captain William Edmiston Chapter National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. I attended my first meeting Tuesday. I was captivated by our guest speaker Dr. Rick Gregory. Dr. Gregory held his audience’s attention with the history of the Tobacco Wars or the Black Patch Wars, so named for the regions Dark Fired Tobacco. These conflicts came about when the American Tobacco Company started fixing prices. The farmers, hurting financially, formed an alliance called Dark Tobacco District Planters’ Protective Association of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Some farmers joined, but the hold outs caused a problem. The alliance wanted to withhold their tobacco from the market, the non-members sold theirs. The depression in the area was worsening. The alliance farmers started visiting the non-members, peacefully at first, to convince them to join their group.
Eventually a sub-group formed called the Night Riders. If you think it sounds like these men meant business, you’re correct. This violent group’s raids peaked 1907-09 and diminished over the next few years. Eventually the Night Rider’s came to an end when Kentucky Governor A. E. Wilson dispatched troops; several victims brought civil suits against several people; and most telling, the communities condemned the mass violence.
Dr. Gregory’s telling of the bit of local history is much more colorful and entertaining than my poor attempt at writing it.