Recollections of 11th Circuit #4
Early Lawyers and Mob Rule
Only 8 years after the opening for settlement of the Great Sioux Reservation the Nation and the Rosebud would be rocked by the Declaration of War against Germany in April; of 1917 which would end with the Armistice which was reached on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918.
The Rosebud would become the center of super patriots and “Home Guards”.
The early lawyers of the Rosebud played an all too important part.
The residents of this area, who had arrived for settlement only 9-10 years earlier, were dramatically affected by that war.
The homesteaders came from a vast array of places, countries and ethnic backgrounds. They lacked the cultural interaction that many areas of the nation had enjoyed excepting the newly transplanted Bohemians and a large part of German farmers in Gregory County who would be questioned about their patriotism by the 100 percent America firsters.
They were different, but they had a great driving force to show that they were not. In dealing with this dilemma many adopted an attitude of “America First” and if you didn’t follow the
first philosophy you were a traitor. America
Many of those “firsters” became Home Guards and super patriots. An attitude which even to this day results in the blind following of our government leaders under the slogan,” my country right or wrong”.
My heritage entertains a different philosophy.
My great grandfather, George Riley Knapp, was a commissary sergeant endearingly called a” bummer” who fought with Sherman to the sea in the civil war. His commanding officer was General Kilpatrick, not so lovingly called “Kilcavarly” by his troopers.
In my home town of Madison SD a group of Home guard super patriots had captured a conscientious objector and were in the process of tar and feathering him when he was rescued by the old cavalry civil war veteran who taking charge of him promised to shoot any sob who interfered That was my great grandfather at 88 years of age
My mother’s father was all German. Like most German farmers he was successful. During WW1 the local Hutchinson county draft board headed by a young Irish attorney drafted every hired man he hired. The local attorney’s office was painted yellow by grandfather’s son. Needless to say the son was sent on the next train to
and the local attorney, being a super patriot, continued to draft those who showed German sympathy Camp Funston
Now that you know where my sympathies lie let me tell you my story of Rosebud lawyers during the Great War.
Much of Dakota, including the Rosebud, was settled by German farmers.
How could they be loyal Americans if they spoke German?
Governor Norbeck had a problem on his hands. It was two fold.
Not only were these farmers hard working and successful they were German and they had become a segment of the population that was ripe for membership in the Non Partisan League.
What to do.?
Dealing with the German language problem was easy.
Norbeck had appointed a “South Dakota Council of Defense” and that body had appointed councils of defense in every county. There was no statutory authorization giving the Governor such power. That didn’t botheranyone and not least of all the all attorney’s of the Rosebud.
The State council of Defense on June 1, 1918 passed an order: Prohibiting the use of the German language in public or quasi public meetings also in all educational institutions. They also passed a resolution “which prohibits the use of the German language to assemblages of three or more persons upon any public street , in depots, upon trains, in public places of business except in cases of extreme emergency, such as death, severe illness , fire, or call for police.”
A question of permits to allow the speaking of German was left to the local County councils of defense.
Unchecked, the local cities such as Bonesteel, Herrick, Burke, and Gregory with the queen city of the Rosebud, Dallas, leading the way established their own Home Guards.
Here is how Gregory County Council dealt with the German language problem.
‘Wm Haight, proprietor of what has been termed the pro German store in Gregory, was next on the carpet. It was shown that customers were allowed to talk all the German they pleased in the store and a consequence the loyal citizens of Gregory were becoming incensed over this flagrant abuse of the Council of Defense order.
It was shown that the property was in danger of destruction and that the personal safety of Haight demanded some kind of action by the council of defense. It was finally decided, Haight agreeing, that the store be closed, and the stock and the store is now in charge of Deputy Sheriff Huston”
Not to be outdone,
convened a meeting the Council of Defense as reported by the Dallas Gregory County News on Sept 5, 1918. Fairfax
At such meeting numerous persons were brought before and examined relative to speaking German in public.
The following persons were given an opportunity to donate $25 to the Red Cross and chip in to defray the cost of the proceeding after promising not to speak German again.
Fred Witmus, Jacob Forman,Alberet Kreuger, Mike Diez,Fred Benz,Geo Ellwanger,Dan Schlacht and Jacob Kosh.
The local Lutheran pastor was called before the board and accused of holding holiday services in German. Silent night (Stille Nacht) had even been sung in its original German. A charge which he admitted together with admitting that he had kept a picture of the Kaiser in his study until his son destroyed it.
Mrs. Peter Stelle was charged with exploiting her German sympathy A cherished likeness of the Kaiser and his sons was presented to the council and turned over to the Fairfax Home guards for appropriate action.
The problem of foreign language and parochial education did not disappear with the end of the war.
None of our erstwhile Rosebud lawyers questioned the right to limit free speech. For that matter the no South Dakota lawyers, with few exceptions, made any objection.
In 1922 five states including
closed any loopholes in previous laws forbidding teaching in public or private schools in any language other than English. South Dakota
Missouri synod of the Lutheran Church and a Polish Catholic parish of South Omaha appealed to the Supreme Court of Nebraska where they were rejected and thereafter appealed to the US Supreme Court in the case of v Meyer Nebraska
On June 4 1923 the US Supreme Court ruled that such foreign language prohibition in schools was unconstitutional
Of significance was a further ruling by the US Supreme Court in 1925 declaring an Oregon law passed at the instigation of the KKK and Masonic bodies unconstitutional? The law required that all children between the age of 8 and 16 receive a public education
Thus the Supreme Court brought to an end the movement to impose legal restrictions on the use of foreign languages
The imposition of such language restrictions had been championed by “super patriots, xenophobes, champion of public school education, and later such organizations as the American Legion and Masonic Orders”
In fact the students of Yankton high school were highly praised when they threw all the German language books in the
Missouri River as they sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Thus did the Supreme Court clarify and enlarge American freedom.
Now these local Home Guards took their work very seriously. In August of 1918 “Major” A.T. Ware of the Dallas home guards printed this Notice “
I have received Orders from General Crowder to make immediate report on the home guard organization under my command. It is now compulsory duty for every man of draft age (18 to 65) to drill a certain number of hours in each week. In pursuant to that order I hereby command all men draft age to be present at the Armory in
, Friday evening August 30” Dallas
If you think that these fellas didn’t exercise their authority over the general public consider this:
paper of October 10, 1918 they printed the following notice: Dallas
Whereas, it has been called to the attention of the Executive Committee of the Gregory County Council of Defense that various and in some instances exorbitant prices are being asked by cornhuskers, and
Whereas after investigation of the prices being for such labor in other areas of this state as well as adjoining portions of Nebraska , it is
That a price of not to exceed 10cents per bu be paid for corn husking where the yield per acre exceeds 35 bu and where it exceed 25bu the price shall not exceed 9c per bu
J.F Frame Secretary
J.F. Frame was a local Burke attorney would later be appointed a Circuit Judge of the 11th circuit.
Non Partisan League and Home Guards
Independent party affiliation was not new to South Dakota.
In its first statehood election Republicans had 34,497 votes, Democrats 18,484 and Independent s 24,59, as shown by the race for Governor
In fact the Independent vote was far more than the Democrat vote until a Fusion Candidate, Andrew E Lee, was elected in 1898 The Independent Party was disbanded and Republicans returned to power with a two to one vote over Democrats s in 1902
This continued until the uprising by voters which resulted in the formation of the Non Partisan League. Don’t forget that women could not vote until 1920 nor were Indians allowed to vote.
In 1916 the right of Women to vote in SD was denied 58,000 to 53,000
Peter Norbeck elected in 1916, setting the stage for his “Home Guard” extra judicial appointments.
In the 1918 election
Constitutional amendments passed which were parts of the NPL agenda
Granted suffrage to women
Permitting State to mine and sell coal
Authorized state to engage in works of internal improvement
Contract for state indebtedness for internal improvement
Empowered state to engage in hydro-electric development
Allow State to manufacture and sell cement
Allow State to engage and sell hail insurance
Allow State to own and operate elevators, warehouses, flour mills and packing plants.
Enactment of Richards’s primary law
The Reps and Dem were scared stiff of the NPL.
In 1920 NPL out polled Deems and in 1922 the combined vote of Deems and NPL was 20,000 votes more than the elected Rep Governor.
By 1922 NPL became known as the farmer Labor party and by 1926 with the election of Democrat lawyer Bill Bulow the NPL was dead.
Bulow, a graduate of Michigan law school, started his practice with Joe Kirby in Sioux Falls and later moved to Bereford South Dakota
Bulow would later serve two terms as United States Senator, and Tom Berry .a West River cowboy. (Father of Baxter Berry, who you will hear about later when Georg e and a young Rick Johnson with help from Sam Masten defended him in a notorious murder trial) succeeded Bulow as governor.
Bulow was known as a cracker-box humorist and a bull's-eye tobacco spitter, drawling, beaked Bulow won the moniker of "Silent Bill" by speaking on the Senate floor only six times in two terms.
List of characters Home Guard
County Council in Gregory in Gregory county led by J.R. Cash with P.J. Donahue and J.F. Frame as members. Prominent lawyers all J.R. Cash would later be appointed Circuit Judge by Norbeck. P.J. Donohue was a noted orator and father of Parnell and J.F. Frame would also become a Circuit Judge.
Cash became a notorious sentencer. Arlo Horst, proprietor of Arlo’s bar in Mission was sentenced to 10 years for statutory rape. This at a time when the SD Federal judge considered statutory rape on the reservation “as a mere social indiscretion.”
Rosebud Bar legend has it that when Judge Cash asked Arlo if he had anything to say, Arlo looked up and said “You are awfully free with my fucking time.”
Opie Chambers of
Dallas was the most prominent and outspoken member of the Home guards. along with Jarvis, McLain and Dallas OM Sinclair, SE Lindley,
Protest against the Non Partisan League erupted in
in the Spring of 1918 Gregory County
Considering the NPL’s entire platform was passed by the enactment of the Constitution provisions Norbeck and his Democrat adversaries knew they were in serious trouble with the electorate.
They immediately embarked on a program of tying the SD NPL to be the arm of German sympathizers and were not 150% true Americans.
No place did it become more apparent than right here on the opened portion of the Rosebud.
Notwithstanding he had no statutory authorization to do so , Norbeck established a State Council of Defense which appointed County wide Councils and in turn each city on the Rosebud had its own Council of Defense.
The Rosebud became the focal point of the fight between the powers that be against the intrusion of the NPL into their political bailiwick
In early March of 1918 an altercation between the Home guards and the organizers of the NPL occurred in Gregory.
The NPL men were attacked, their luggage sacked and rummaged and they were forced out of town to Burke where they were jailed overnight and placed on the train the following morning to Sioux City and told not to get off until they were out of South Dakota.
While there are different versions to the events perhaps the statement given by Opie Chambers in the Gregory paper of March 21st makes the point of mob rule most effectively.
He stated that they confiscated the papers of the NPL organizers and what they found proves how unpatriotic they really were.
All who examined the NPL pamphlet found it to be seditious
Quoting from the pamphlet Opie Chambers related:
“We therefore urge before proceeding further in support of our European allies, insist that they, in common with it, make immediate public declaration of terms of peace , without annexation of territory, indemnification, contributions or interference with the right of any nation to live and manage its own affairs, thus being in harmony with and supporting the new democracy in Russia in her declaration of these fundamental principle”
“To conscript men and exempt the blood stained wealth coined from the suffrage of humanity is repugnant to the spirit of America and contrary to the ideals of democracy”
“We declare freedom of speech to be the bulwark of human liberty, and we decry all attempts to muzzle the public press or individuals upon any pretext whatsoever. A declaration of War does not repeal the Constitution of the US, and the unwarranted interference of the military and other authorities with the rights of individuals must cease.”
“While engaged in righteous war against German imperialism why should the United States aid England (help) any other country in their imperialist designs?”
“Let us drag these questions out before the whole world and settle them before the bar of public opinion. If the German people and government are now willing to settle this war on the basis of the demands of our government, we should no longer continue to war.”
“We cannot know that we are not sending our young, strong capable men to die in the trenches not for democracy, but for imperialism, unless the things for which they fight be explicitly specified.”
Shall we deny to the patriotic young men, the flower of our nation, who go to suffer and die in foreign lands the reason for which they die?”
A free press and freedom of speech are the bulwarks of human liberty. Rights surrendered may never be regained; Therefore no attempt to muzzle the public pres or individual upon any pretext whatsoever should be permitted. A declaration of war does not repeal the constitution of the US and the unwarranted interference of the military and other authorities with the right of individuals must cease. It is the duty of those remaining to defend these rights, not for themselves only, but also in the interest of the patriotic youth battling in foreign lands, in order that they shall not have fought in vain”
Here’s what the chairman of the Gregory Council of Defense stated”
“After such positive proof of disloyalty on the part of the organizers and sedition on the part of the founders and controllers of such organization, it is feared that any attempt to hold meetings to further the work of the organization in Gregory County will result in riot and bloodshed, and acting in the interest of America and for law and order I, Opie Chambers, Chairman of the Council of Defense for Gregory County , South Dakota, do hereby order that no more public meeting of said National Non Partisan league be permitted in said county and that no organizers for said NNPL be permitted to solicit subscriptions in said county , and I further direct each local or precinct chairman of said Council of Defense to see to it that no meetings of said league be held and no solicitors of said league operate in Gregory County, and I charge and direct the officers and members of the home guard in the said county of Gregory to see that any person or persons attempting to hold public meetings under the name of the Nonpartisan League or any of its known branches, be arrested and the I or whoever may be acting for me at my office in Dallas, be notified, and that said party or parties be held until appropriate action may be taken.
Signed Opie Chamber County Chairman of Council of Defense.
March 16, 1918.
GOVERNOR NORBECK CAMES TO GREGORY COUNTY ROARING LIKE A GALLOWAY BULL
Norbeck deposed Chambers the following May and appointed H.H. Jarvis a Herrick Lawyer, as Defense chairman.
In late March Chambers had issued an announcement that if the NPL persisted in organizing and holding meetings in
he would not be responsible for riots and that there would be killings. Gregory County
“I have issued an order that no more: public meetings of The NPL will be held in
” Gregory County
Dated March 15, 1918.
Notwithstanding his firing by Norbeck Chambers continued to speak at meetings around the county promising that he would break the law and lead mobs to break up NPL meeting not matter what.
The NPL and Gregory county had reached national attention.
President Wilson and Secretary of War Baker issued a proclamation denouncing the mob violence.
Norbeck attended a meeting where A.L. Putnam, a NPL candidate for Lt Gov attempted to question him. About the proclamation
One paper reported:
“Putnam did not have a chance to put the questions to the governor. No Galloway Bull ever bellowed more lustily than Governor Norbeck. He bounced up and down and pawed the air”
Where were the supporters of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights when all of this was happening? Where were the lawyers who are trusted with protecting our basic rights?
Where was J.R. Cash, P.J. Donohue, J.F. Frame?
In May of 1918 Milo Sonner a farmer living a few miles south of
was hauled before a Bonesteel Council of Defense kangaroo court presided over by J.R. Cash, local attorney, and faced charges involving his solicitation of membership in the NPL.
P.J. Donahue a democrat lawyer was placed in charge of Sonner’s prosecution.
Cash’s secretary, soon to be his wife, was made the court reporter.
Needless to say Sonner was found guilty of something or other and ordered to use the money he had collected for membership in the NPL to buy War saving stamps.
Affidavits were afterwards filed which stated:
On March 12th, 1918 Sonner and a Mr. Nellermoe were holding a NPL rally at a hall in Herrick.
The hall was entered by a Mr. A Zorba and a mob of 20 persons (including Tom Hoy, (ancestor of Tex Hoy, who would give warning to Sonner) who ordered and then threw Sonner and Nellermoe out of the hall and busted up the meeting.
Mrs.Sonner was also at the meeting and in attempting to help her husband stated that she was more patriotic than Zorba since she had a brother in the trenches in France.
Zorba wheeled, grabbed her by the arm and told her; “that if she had a brother in the US Army he was there as a German spy.”
Thus two of the leading lawyers in town found Sonner Guilty, made him buy Liberty Stamps and never bothered to do anything to the mob which had forcibly broken up the meeting.
Oh yes- J.R Cash would become Circuit Judge and his wife Claudia, would become his court reporter. She would later become Hysge Don Drieves reporterand a great friebd of mine.
P.J. Donahue would raise a son, Parnell, who would become Attorney General of SD.
The clashes continued;-lawsuits were filed in federal court-suing Chambers and his cohorts.
Finally Norbeck acted (One month before the WW 1 Armistice)
Four seven months mob violence had reigned on the Rosebud.
On Wednesday afternoon on October 9th, 1918 Governor Norbeck made a special trip to Bonesteel to guarantee law and order for a meeting to be addressed by candidates that had been endorsed by the NPL
The Governor first went to the Sheriff and told him he wanted him to uphold law and order and that the governor meant what he said.
The Governor then went to the Bonesteel Home guards and told them that the NPL League meeting would be held and there would not be another mob outrage in
. Gregory County
And there wasn’t
Six husky Sanborn county farmers had escorted the NPL candidate for governor to Bonesteel where they were met by Gregory county farmer supporters
They had 100 farmer protectors and they drove on to Bonesteel. where they found the hall too small and went to the fairground and used the grandstand for their meeting.
Norbeck went even further he told the Sheriff and 8 deputized Home Guard to accompany the NPL candidates at another meeting in
At the meeting a crowd of the Opie Chambers people gathered outside the hall. The Sheriff then rose and deputized everyone in the hall as his deputy-strode outside and told the mob what he had done The mob silently crept away
At the meeting in Winner, the Tripp county Sheriff told the gathered mob they could go straight to hell. Instead they sat in the audience an acted like good citizens and listened to the speaker.
Thus did the mob rule come to a whimpering end- and the end of the war itself would soon follow.
In the peace process that would follow
would find out that its European allies weren’t much interested in making the world safe for democracy. America
If those who showed some sympathy for German or NPL farmers were treated to the indignities offered by the mob rule on the Rosebud- what happened to those Hutterites in SD who were conscientious objectors.
Four Hutterites, Jacob Wipf and three Hofer brothers, Joseph, David and Michael of the Rock port colony wrre arrested for failure to sign army enlistment papers and were sentenced to 37 years in prison.
They were taken to
Alcatraz and put in solitary confinement where they were placed in dungeon like filthy cells.
They were given no clothing other than underwear and were only given a ½ glass of water every 24 hours and no food.
They were beaten with clubs and with arms crossed tied to the ceiling. After 5 days they were removed from the hole. For the remaining 4 months at
Alcatraz they were allowed only one hour of exercise every Sunday.
After 4 months they were transferred to Fort Leavenworth. They were exposed to much cold and were made to stand at attention in the cold with little clothing. They were made to stand nine hours each day with hands tied hanging with their feet barely touching the floor
When their wives were finally allowed to visit Joseph was dead and Michael died two days later
As an ironic gesture the two dead bodies of Joseph and Michael were dressed in army uniforms before being sent to the colony for burial.