The incident occurred when 12 members of the IWW were convicted by Judge T. D. Evans of the crime of not owning a war bond. Judge Evans also convicted five men who, though they were not members of the IWW, were witnesses for the defense. After sentencing, the police rounded up the 17 men and delivered them into the custody of the black-robed Knights of Liberty, a short-lived faction of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Knights of Liberty abducted the men at gunpoint and drove them to a deserted location west of town. The men were then, one by one, bound to a tree, whipped, then tarred and feathered.