Black Patch Tobacco Wars
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The Black Patch or dark fired tobacco area included counties in southwestern Kentucky and adjoining districts in Tennessee. On September 24, 1904, American tobacco planters formed the protectionist Dark Tobacco District Planters' Protective Association of Kentucky and Tennessee (usually called the Association or PPA) to oppose the corporate monopoly of the American Tobacco Company (ATC) (or "Trust") owned and operated by James B. Duke. What followed was the most violent civil uprising since the American Civil War. The New York Times declared, “There now exists in the State of Kentucky a condition of affairs without parallel in the history of the world.”
Formation of the Silent Brigade
The ATC was formed by the amalgamation of many smaller tobacco companies and produced a single market that purchased all tobacco at a fixed price. No competitive bargaining was allowed. Many farmers found they could no longer sell tobacco profitably at the prices the ATC was offering. Despite the establishment of the protective association, which fought the monopoly by practicing boycotts of tobacco sales, more militant farmers formed the Silent Brigade. Led by Dr. David A. Amoss, it tried to terrorize farmers into joining the Association and supporting its boycott by not raising tobacco or selling it to the Trust. In 1906, the Silent Brigade burned ATC barns in Trenton, Kentucky and dynamited the ATC warehouses in Elkton, Kentucky.
The Night Riders
On December 1, 1906 the Silent Brigade (now known in the press as The Night Riders) raided Princeton, Kentucky and burned the largest tobacco factories in the world. On December 7, 1907 the Night Riders seized control of Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and burned the Latham warehouse and the Tandy & Fairleigh tobacco warehouse. Reported the New York Times, “Whole towns were mob governed; others besieged. Terror reigned, and from one end of the State to another the night riders were busy.”
The Wars Come to an End
In April 1908 a Kentucky National Guard detachment commanded by Captain Newton Jasper Wilburn (then a lieutenant) led a series of raids against the Night Riders' leaders. Even though most eventually escaped justice, Capt. Wilburn's actions helped bring law and order to the region.
On May 9, 1911, the United States Supreme Court ruled in United States v. American Tobacco Co. that the Duke trust, ATC, was indeed a monopoly and was in violation of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890. Dr. Amoss then accompanied his son, also a physician, to New York City, where he practiced until his death in 1915.
- Adams, James Truslow. Dictionary of American History. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1940.
- Cunningham, William. "On Bended Knees." 1983.
- “Secretary's Books to be Turned over by Night Rider Leader,” Hopkinsville Kentuceian, 18 APR 1908
- Vivian, H.A. “How Crime Is Breeding Crime in Kentucky.” New York Times, 26 JUL 1908