The Battle of Hayes Pond

Don’t you love it when the good guys win and hate loses?

Recently I saw this charming picture, and it drew me in so much that I had to learn the story behind it. And it was quite the education, indeed. First, it introduced me to the largest state Native American tribe east of the Mississippi River, the Lumbee. You’d think I’d have heard of this tribe before, given their size, but no. Next, it introduced me to their bravery in the face of hate. It makes me admire them greatly.

In 1954, when the Supreme Court ruled against desegregation, this stirred up many people out on the racist lunatic fringe, including members of the Ku Klux Klan. Then, in 1956, the Lumbee tribe achieved some limited federal recognition. That, of course, really got the KKK’s attention.

The Lumbee have been living mostly in Robeson County, North Carolina for many a generation. In 1957, the Grand Dragon of the KKK, Catfish Cole, decided to focus on Robeson County with a campaign of harassment. The Klan burned crosses. They drove through the streets spewing their hateful message, and did their best to intimidate the Lumbee, whom Catfish called a “mongrel race”.

On January 13, 1958, Catfish decided to have a KKK rally in Maxton, North Carolina, and invited 500 Klansmen to attend. The goal was to force the Lumbee to stay in “their” place. Only about 50 Klansmen showed up. But 500 Lumbee did, too.

Shots were exchanged, but no one was seriously injured, because the Lumbee agreed to shoot over the Klansman’s heads, and the Klansman were too busy running to hide in the swamp, their silly white dresses fluttering behind them, to do much damage. As a matter of fact, Catfish Cole ran into the swamp, leaving his wife sitting alone in the car. The car got stuck in a ditch during the melee, and several Lumbee had to lift it out for her. Catfish and wife parted company a year later.

After everything was pretty much said and done, the authorities finally arrived. The KKK banner was torn down and two tribe members, Charlie Warriax and Simeon Oxendine, wrapped it around themselves to show their victory for a Time Magazine photographer.

Catfish got a two year sentence for inciting a riot. It’s said that the KKK has stayed out of Robeson County ever since. That makes me smile.

The Lumbee celebrate the Battle of Hayes Pond every year. Good on them! Don’t you just love it when the good guys win and hate loses?


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