Attala County, Mississippi
The Star-Herald, Kosciusko, Miss.,May 24, 1979
The Klan Was Active In Attala In 1872
copyright © 1979, Joyce W. Sanders. All rights reserved.
By Joyce W. Sanders
Taking up where we left off last time, turkey gobblin' time was from the first of March till the middle of April. Ingenious hunters took the points of reed and made "turkey callers" which sounded like the turkey's gobble. The men would get up before daylight and go out and "call". Some old turkey would answer with a gobble and thus direct the caller to his roost in a tree; there the turkey could be easily shot.
Hunters also made turkey pens from split rails about three feet high, which they covered over the top. A ditch was dug under the pen, large enough for the turkey to walk through. The ditch was dug to the middle of the pen and was filled with corn; corn was also strewn on the inside and outside of the pen.
The turkey would eat until he found himself inside the pen; then, since the nature of a turkey is to look up
and not down, he could not get out of the pen. Often several turkeys were caught in one pen. Let us go from turkeys to "gobblers" of another kind...namely the Ku Klux Klan.
In 1872 there were about 40 persons in the Klan around Center and the Lobutcha area. Burrel and George Johnson had belonged to this group but had withdrawn and had been appointed Deputy Marshals by the government. One of their duties was to break up and arrest Klan members. Naturally this stirred up "bad blood" between the factions, as well as causing other Ku klux Klansmen to feel hard towards the Johnson brothers.
One day Burrel Johnson walked into Emmett Oldham's store in Kosciusko and asked for a kind of a saddle girth. Oldham replied that he would sell nothing to a dishonorable man. This led to the slaying of Oldham a short time later within the
courthouse. Oldham had threatened Johnson and was known to have a loaded gun at hand in his store.
Johnson, being a deputy, also carried a gun. The officers, to avoid a conflict, arrested Oldham and carried him to the courthouse. When he saw Johnson, Oldham ran at him, throwing his arms across Johnson's neck in an effort to disarm him. Johnson with Oldham's arm around his neck, pulled his gun and in the fray, Oldham was shot through the heart. Then Johnson ran and got behind a large tree in the courtyard, where he was soon arrested by the Sheriff. However, after a trial, he was not convicted.
Where the turkeys ate themselves into a place where there was no escape hatch, these Klansmen, and former Klansmen, also acted without forethought into calamity. Next time we will check on some Klan activities in another part of the county.
The above article appeared in the May 24, 1979 Star-Herald, Kosciusko, Ms. It is republished here with the knowledge and consent of Joyce W. Sanders.
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