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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Southern Ohio and Emancipation in 1862: "Is Ohio to be Africanized?"


De Union! Used to be de cry –
For dat we went it strong;
But now de motto seems to be,
'De nig _ _ _ , right or wrong!'”

    After Emancipation, a growing number of Democrats opposed the abolitionist struggle

In the 1800s, fear of Negro migration was intense in the Midwest. Three factors – an agricultural economy, the Southern heritage of many Midwesterners, and the lower Midwest's common border with the slave South – made the residents keenly aware of the “dangers” of Negro migration. In general, the closer to the Ohio River a white Midwesterner lived, the more race sensitive he was. Southern Ohio fit all the criteria required for bitter opposition to this migration.

Without a doubt, poor whites in Ohio disliked Negroes for the same reasons Southern poor whites did. Most carried a burden of bigotry developed over generations. And at this time, Midwestern racists exploited this fear by accusing the Government of making emancipated slaves move north.

Make no mistake, resistance to abolition was common. Before abolitionism succeeded, it was strongly opposed. Even among Northerners who wanted to stop the spread of slavery, the idea of banning it altogether seemed fanatical It’s hard to accept just how unpopular abolitionism was before the Civil War. The abolitionist Liberty Party never won a majority in a single county, anywhere in America, in any presidential race.

During the campaign for state offices in 1863, the Ohio Democratic Central Committee asked the northern soldier if he liked the idea of returning home from battle to find his job taken by the Negro whom he had risked his life to free. When asked to support the proposed Thirteen Amendment shortly before the end of the war, Representative George Bliss of the Fourteenth District publicly refused because he feared passage would invite the former slaves to compete for jobs with returning Union veterans.

Yet, antislavery congressmen were able to push through the 13 Amendment in 1865 because of the absence of the pro-slavery South and the complicated politics of the Civil War. The passage was considered a surprise victory

I would like to offer two articles from the Portsmouth Times from 1862 that attest to the conflicting views on abolition. The first is titled “Is Ohio To Be Africanized?” It was printed in the Times on June 21, 1862. In the article, Mr. Samuel Cox of Ohio, member of the House of Representatives, charges that the Civil is being carried on with the emancipation of the Negro as the dominant purpose, and not the preservation of the Union.

Cox opposes the abolition of slavery and claims its result will be disastrous to Ohio because it will be made the home of thousands of free Negroes by immigration and will add a population that will be “vicious, indolent, and improvident.” He dwells at length on the character of the free Negro settlements in Greene and Brown counties of Ohio, claiming they are deleterious to the white population. He objects to the distribution of the colored race among the people of the free states because it will affect white labor and detract from the prosperity of the various communities.


*Note – Here is some background on the author of the article, Samuel Cox:

Samuel Sullivan "Sunset" Cox (September 30, 1824, Zanesville, Ohio – September 10, 1889, New York City) was an American Congressman and diplomat. He represented both Ohio and New York in the United States House of Representatives, and also served as United States Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

Cox attended Ohio University and Brown University, graduating from Brown in 1846. He practiced law in Zanesville and became the owner and editor of the Ohio Statesman, a newspaper in Columbus, Ohio. In 1855, he was secretary of the U.S. legation to Peru.

Cox was elected to Congress as a Democrat in 1856, and served three terms representing Ohio's 12th congressional district and one representing the 7th district.

After giving an impassioned speech in 1864 denouncing Republicans for allegedly supporting miscegenation (mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation), he was defeated for reelection and moved to New York City, where he resumed law practice.
The miscegenation hoax was concocted by Democrats, to discredit the Republicans by imputing to them what were then radical views that offended against the attitudes of the vast majority of whites, including those who opposed slavery. There was already much opposition to the war effort.

The pamphlet and variations on it were reprinted widely in both the north and south by Democrats and Confederates. Only in November 1864 was the pamphlet exposed as a hoax. The hoax pamphlet was written by David Goodman Croly, managing editor of the New York World, a Democratic Party paper, and George Wakeman, a World reporter.


The following are excerpts from the Portsmouth Times (Portsmouth, Ohio) article “Is Ohio To Be Africanized?” published June 21, 1862. The article itself was taken from an address delivered in the House of Representatives on June 6, 1862 by Ohio Rep. Samuel S. Cox. 

"Is Ohio To Be Africanized?"

“The right and power to exclude Africans from the States North, being compatible with our system of State sovereignty and Federal supremacy, I assert that it is impolitic, dangerous, degrading, and unjust to the white men of Ohio and of the North, to allow such immigration.

“By the census of 1860, in Ohio, we have 36,225 colored persons, out of a population of 2,339,559. As a general thing, they are vicious, indolent, and improvident. They number as yet one black to about sixty-three whites; but their ratio of increase during the last ten years has seen 43:30 per cent, while that of the white increase is only 17:82 per cent. (I assume the colon was used as a decimal period.)

“About one-tenth of our convicts are Negroes. I gather from the census of 1850, that four-tenths of the female prisoners are blacks, although they compose but one-eightieth of the female population of Ohio... In Ohio the blacks are not agriculturists. They soon become waiters, barbers, and otherwise subservient to the whites. They have just enough consequence given to them by late events to be pestilent. The resistance of the abolitionists to the Federal authority in Ohio, within the past three years, was abetted by colored men, some of whom had received schooling enough at Oberlin to be vain and ostentatiously seditious.

“The last Legislature of Ohio, by their committee, gave their proteges this certificate of character in their report:

'The Negro race is looked upon by the people of Ohio as a class to be kept by themselves – to be debarred of social intercourse with the whites – to be deprived of all advantages which they cannot enjoy in common with their own class.

'Deprived of the advantages here enumerated, it could not be expected that he should attain any great advancement in social improvement. Generally, the Negro in Ohio is ignorant and vicious.'

“If this be true, it would be well to inquire why energetic legislation was not had in view of the emancipation schemes here impending, to prevent this lazy, ignorant and vicious class from overrunning our State. Such legislation was asked and refused ...

“The Ohio Senator Sherman (John Sherman), speaking of emancipation in this district (District of Columbia), he balanced himself on the slack wire after this fashion:

'This is a good place to begin emancipation for another reason. This is a very paradise for free Negroes. Here they enjoy more social equality than they do anywhere else. In the State where I live, we do not like Negroes. We do not disguise our dislike. As my friend from Indiana said yesterday, the whole people of the Northwestern States are, for reasons, whether correct or not, opposed to having many Negroes among them, and that principle or prejudice has been engrafted on the legislation of nearly all the Northwestern States.'

It is a fine thing, the Senator thinks, to free Negroes here: not so good in Ohio. Here they have a paradise: in Ohio it is opposite, I suppose. If the Senator could visit Green's Row, within the shadow of this capitol, henceforth 'Tophet (A place where children were sacrificed in Canann.) and black Gehenna (a small valley in Jerusalem where some of the kings of Judah sacrificed their children by fire) called, the type of hell,' and note the squalor, destitution, laziness, crime, and degradation there beginning to fester, if he could visit the alleys in whose miserable hovels the blacks congregate, he would hardly be reminded of the paradise which Milton sang, with its amarinthine flowers, (Laughter) its blooming trees of life, its golden fruitage, its amber rivers rolling o'er Elysian flowers, its hills and fountains and fresh shades, its dreams of love, and adoration of God. Alas! He would find nothing here to remind him of that high estate in Eden, save the fragrance of the spot and the nakedness of the inhabitants. (Laughter)

“If the rush of free Negroes to this paradise continues, it would be a blessing if Providence should send Satan here in the form of a serpent, and an angel to drive the descendants of Adam and Even into the outer world. If it continues, you will have no one here but Congressmen and Negroes, and that will be punishment enough. (Laughter) You will have to enact a fugitive law to bring the whites to their capital. (Laughter)

“But it may still be urged that in the North – in Ohio – the free Negro will work, will rise, will add to the security of the State and the prosperity of the people ... Greene County, Ohio, has nearly 1500 Negroes. The following article from the Xenia News, a Republican paper, will give us some idea of their condition:

'There are about one hundred Negroes here in Greene County who are always out of employment. A part of these are those who have lately been freed by their masters, and furnished with a bonus, on which they are now gentlemanly loafing. Our jail is continually filled with Negroes committed for petty offense, such as affrays, petty larceny, drunkenness, assault and battery, for whose prosecution and imprisonment the town of Xenia has to pay about five hundred dollars per annum. And to such persons going to jail is rather a pleasure than a disgrace. They are better fed and lodged there than when vagabondizing round our streets.'

'We have seen Negro prostitutes flaunting down Main Street, three or four abreast, sweeping all before them indiscriminately. We have seen ladies of respectability running upon the cellar doors, and even into gutters, to avoid being run over by these impudent hussies … Gentlemen have complained of the insulting boldness of their address. But we are sickened with the recital. It is a disagreeable task to lance the sore which has long been gathering unheeded; and it is equally so to probe this evil, which unawares is growing in our midst.'

“Some years ago, there was a Negro colony established in Brown County, Ohio, as to which the Cincinnati Gazette said that 'in a little while the Negroes became too lazy to play.'”

As evidenced in Cox's impassioned plea against racial equality, the resistance to emancipation in the Buckeye State was formidable. Those who believed in the fight to save the Union did not necessarily include blacks in their vision of a United States of America. 


The second article from the Portsmouth Times was published on July 12, 1862. It was titled “A Grim Joke.” It deals with opposition to the views of the Portsmouth Tribune, a rival paper. I present it here for your reading pleasure:

“A Grim Joke”

Intro: “The following article, which we take from the Logan Gazette, one of the most logical, vigorous and keen-witted papers published in the State, applies with so much force to the Portsmouth Tribune, and the heartless and reckless manner in which it has treated the question of Negro immigration, that we desire to bring it under its notice. But few papers in the State have dared to come openly in opposition to a law preventing the influx of Southern blacks. Yet the Tribune has sought to ridicule (it never argues) a movement for this purpose – just insert the name of that paper in place of the Cincinnati Commercial, and the article fits admirably and pinches to severity:

“The black immigration, by which the Free States are menaced, and which portends nothing but calamity to both races, is made the subject of merriment by the Cincinnati Commercial. The men to whose criminality and folly must be charged the invasion of our Free State communities, by the houseless, homeless, penniless, shiftless hordes of Negro slaves, affect to laugh at the black man's calamity, and mock at the very natural fear manifested by the white people. They find it very laughable, indeed, that these unfortunate freedmen should offer to work at ten cents a day. 

"It is so very funny to see the poor wretches, deprived of the guardianship which once provided them with food and raiment and shelter, now turned out upon the streets and highways, without a roof to shelter them from the storm, with a morsel of bread to appease their hunger, with none to care for or look after them, and impelled by imminent starvation to offer the toil of a day for the wretched pittance which will barely purchase bread for the day. It is a grim joke; but there are monsters who laugh at it.

“This very laughable affair has another feature which will probably be considered extremely funny. Every Negro that is hired at ten or twenty cents per day throws a white man out of employ, and must inevitably reduce the daily wages of those who are still so fortunate as to find employment. Is not this matter for increased merriment? The spectacle of a white man and his family deprived of the comforts of life, or haggard from absolute destitution, because of the influx of Negroes, whom meddling fanatics have cursed with a freedom for which their race is not fitted, will probably cause more joyous, hilarious, uproarious laughter among the monsters than the less funny spectacle of a gaunt, enfeebled Negro tatterdemalion (person dressed in ragged clothes) working at one cent per hour to keep his soul and body together.”

I offer these remnants from local history in an effort to “tell it like it was.” In doing so, I hope people can better understand the tremendous strides that have been made in race relations and also better comprehend that ethnocentric hatred still lingers in xenophobic, prejudiced individuals. So many stereotypes used to describe “the unwanted masses” of the past remain as do the same adverse conditions that confronted black slaves who made a desperate, mad dash to freedom.

Farewell, Ohio!
I cannot stop in thee;
I'll travel on to Canada,
Where colored men are free.

M.C. Sampson, free Negro, 1833

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

William H. Seward's "Irrepressible Conflict Speech" -- Southern Ohio and Slavery in 1858


“Our forefathers knew it to be true, and unanimously acted upon it when they framed the Constitution of the United States. They regarded the existence of the servile system in so many of the States with sorrow and shame, which they openly confessed, and they looked upon the collision between them, which was then just revealing itself, and which we are now accustomed to deplore, with favor and hope. They knew that either the one or the other system must exclusively prevail.”

William H. Seward, excerpt from his “Irrepressible Conflict” Speech

Willliam Henry Seward's October 1858 speech in Rochester, New York, is know as the “Irrepressible Conflict” speech. It was part of his campaign to secure the Republican party nomination and was widely covered in the press. His denunciation of the Democratic Party as the party of slavery and his stark call for the inevitable completion of the “revolution” for freedom electrified the antislavery movement and helped convince Southerners of the radical ambitions of the Republican Party.

William Henry Seward (May 16, 1801 – October 10, 1872) was United States Secretary of State from 1861 to 1869, and earlier served as Governor of New York and United States Senator. A determined opponent of the spread of slavery in the years leading up to the American Civil War, he was a dominant figure in the Republican Party in its formative years, and was praised for his work on behalf of the Union as Secretary of State during the American Civil War.

Seward's strong stances and provocative words against slavery brought him hatred in the South. He was re-elected to the Senate in 1855, and soon joined the fledgling Republican Party, becoming one of its leading figures. As the 1860 presidential election approached, he was regarded as the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. However, several factors, including attitudes to his vocal opposition to slavery, his support for immigrants and Catholics, and his association with editor and political boss Thurlow Weed, worked against him and Abraham Lincoln secured the presidential nomination. Although devastated by his loss, he campaigned for Lincoln, who was elected and appointed him Secretary of State.

Seward did his best to stop the southern states from seceding; once that failed, he devoted himself wholeheartedly to the Union cause. His firm stance against foreign intervention in the Civil War helped deter the United Kingdom and France from entering the conflict and possibly gaining the independence of the Confederate States.

Seward was one of the targets of the 1865 assassination plot that killed Lincoln, and he was seriously wounded by conspirator Lewis Powell. Seward remained loyally at his post through the presidency of Andrew Johnson, during which he negotiated the Alaska purchase in 1867 and supported Johnson during his impeachment. His contemporary Carl Schurz described Seward as "one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints.”

Portsmouth Times

It was the Irrepressible Conflict speech that drew my attention to the November 23, 1858 edition of the Portsmouth Times. The Times printed Senator Seward's speech on the front page in its entirety, and, in the same edition, the paper critiqued his views in a long editorial. Of course, the Times was not the only publication to criticize Seward. As you can expect, opposition to slavery was common in Southern states. Here is an excerpt from the Clarksville Jeffersonian (Tennessee) on November 24, 1858:

The speech lays down clearly and explicitly that doctrine that the slavery question must and shall continue to be an issue between parties and sections, until either the Free or the Slave States are completely subjugate, or in other words, that the contest must continue until slavery is entirely abolished and rooted out by the constitution, or until it is carried into every Northern State.

Now , while we can only regard such conclusions as the merest ravings of political fanaticism, we cannot blind ourselves to the fact, that Mr. Seward who enunciates them, is one of the ablest and shrewdest statesmen and politicians our Country has produced …

(Despite the veiled compliment) He has not sought to wage, as he now does, a war of extermination against slavery and slaveholders, and it is an important sign of the times that he had added so much virulence and malignity to his views. This face should be a not of warning the people of the South, and should impress them with importance and necessity of united action.”

Seward's speech proved divisive and quotable, alleging that the U.S. had two "antagonistic system [that] are continually coming into closer contact, and collision results. Seward believed it was an irrepressible conflict between opposing and enduring forces, and it meant that the United States must either become entirely either a slave-holding nation, or entirely a free-labor nation. White southerners saw the "irrepressible conflict" speech as a declaration of war.

Parts of the Portsmouth Times response are included in these (blue) passages ...

“Senator Seward We have chosen to print this document at length because we hate “excerpts,” and for the further reason that it is a bold, clear, systematic and authoritative exposition of the tenets and tendencies of the sham Republican party; set forth, withal, in the precise language and logical arrangement of it shrewdest Statesman ...

“On slavery per se, … the people of Southern Ohio have heard precisely similar talk from Father John Rankin, Rev. Dyer Burgess, and others of the old radical abolition school. Yet, even here, if the reader watch closely, he can detect the gravest errors both of principle and statement.

“Now, as the common sense of nine-tenths of the American people understands it, American slavery … reposes upon the fact that 'the white is the superior race (not class) and the black the inferior, that subordination, with or without Law, will be the status of the blacks in our mixed society, and therefore it is the interest of both, of the inferior race especially, and of the whole society, that this status should be fixed, controlled and protected by law.' In other words, the inequality of the negro leads to his subjection in American society. Substitute the idea of negro equality for this fact, and abolitionism is, of course, the logical sequence ...

“We merely remark that the character of Mr. Seward's mental organization is eminently speculative as that of Henry Clay was singularly practical. According, the whole speech abound in the grossest errors about common facts.

“We have gone into these minutiae to show up the utter unreliability of the statements brought forward by Senator Seward to support his positions. And, we will say, in all modesty and deference, that through the entire performance, the facts, – those stubborn things which it is not for man to make or invent, and from which all true reason is but the outcropping – the facts, we say are falsified in a most wonderful manner. Speaking of the Compromise of 1850, Mr. Steward says:

(Seward's words) “When, in 1850, Governments were to be instituted in the Territories of California and New Mexico. the fruits of that war, the Democratic party refused to admit New Mexico as a free State and only consented to admit California as a free State on the condition as it has since explained the transaction of leaving all of New Mexico and Utah open to slavery to which was also added the concession of perpetual slavery in the District of Columbia and the passage of an unconstitutional, cruel, and humiliating law, for the recapture of fugitive slave, with a further stipulation that the subject of slavery should never again be agitated in either chamber of Congress.”

Times “The Compromise of 1850, like those of 1788, were the triumph of patriotism over faction – of nationality over sectionalism. Then for once, Whigs and Democrats met and united for the sake of the Union.

“But the strong feature of this speech is the sentiment running through it, that slavery must be abolished or the Union dissolved. State rights are to be invaded, the guarantees of the Constitution set aside, and an institution coeval (equal) with the very existence of several States rooted out, and all because it is requisite to the permanence of this Union that the domestic policy of every one of the States do the same. Mr. Seward says that the two systems as embraced in the Confederacy are 'incongruous' – more than that, they are 'incompatible.'

“Fellow citizens of Lawrence and Scioto – conservative men, by whatever name you are called – you who love the Union of these States and pray for its perpetuity – read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this astounding document. The 'true issue' – the real point to which this agitation has been tending all along – is revealed, yea, avowed, at last – Choose ye, this day – For a “revolution” of this government or against it!”

In this editorial, the local paper acknowledges the controversy over slavery and a potential civil war. It is revealing that the Portsmouth paper defends Henry Clay, “the Great Pacificator,” and the Compromise of 1850 as triumphs of patriotism. Many historians do believe the resolutions delayed the Civil War for a decade.

But, it also caused tremendous controversy over the Fugitive Slave provision that decreed ordinary citizens of free states could be summoned to join a posse and be required to assist in the capture, custody, and/or transportation of the alleged escaped slave.

The law was so rigorously pro-slavery as to prohibit the admission of the testimony of a person accused of being an escaped slave into evidence at the judicial hearing to determine the status of the accused escaped slave.

And, consider Clay owned 60 slaves. Yet he called slavery “this great evil…the darkest spot in the map of our country” and did not modify his stance through five campaigns for the presidency, all of which failed. Clay maintained a so-called “moderate” stance on slavery: He saw the institution as immoral, a bane on American society, but insisted that it was so entrenched in Southern culture that calls for abolition were extreme, impractical and a threat to the integrity of the Union. He supported gradual emancipation and helped found the American Colonization Society, made up of mostly Quakers and abolitionists, to promote the return of free black people to Africa, where, it was believed, they would have better lives.

Also, the editorial berates Seward as a follower of a radical school of abolitionists like Rev. John Rankin, who now is acknowledged as a major force in abolishing slavery. No doubt, abolitionists were “agitating” the consciences of Americans by pushing the issue at a time when the Southern economy depended largely on their labor; however, the social and political movement had a great effect on emancipation and the abolition of slavery.

In his speech, Senator Seward boldly states a truth that had long confounded (and continues to confound) those who believe in liberty and justice for all Americans: the Founding Fathers knew that slavery would one day divide the United States. They knew bondage was wrong, yet they extolled the virtues of those who practiced slavery's unspeakable horrors. Seward believed that the breaking point was upon the country in 1858, and, rightly so. In essence, the nation had been in the throes of the Irrepressible Conflict since its birth.

In this piece, the mixed feelings about slavery in Southern Ohio are revealed. Make no mistake, Scioto County in that era was not a cradle of absolute liberty for slaves. Senator Seward's words were meant with a great deal of opposition in a time when racism ran high. Still, according to Daniel W. Crofts, historian of American National Biography: "Seward and Lincoln were the two most important leaders spawned by the intersection of antebellum idealism and partisan politics. Lincoln, of course, will always overshadow Seward. Before 1860, however, Seward eclipsed Lincoln."

I will conclude this post with the words of William H. Seward taken from the “Irrepressible Conflict” Speech ...

The secret of the Republican Party's assured success lies in that very characteristic which, in the mouth of scoffers, constitutes its great and lasting imbecility and reproach. It lies in the fact that it is a party of one idea, but that idea is a noble one – an idea that fills and expands all generous souls; the idea of equality – the equality of all men before human tribunals and human laws, as they all are equal before the Divine tribunal and Divine laws.

I know, and you know, that a revolution has begun. I know, and all the world knows, that revolution will never go backwards … While the Government of the United States, under the conduct of the Democratic party, had been all that time surrendering one plain and castle after another to slavery, the people of the United States have been no less steadily and perseveringly gathering together the forces with which to recover back again all the fields and all the castles which have been lost, and to confound and overthrow, by one decisive blow, the betrayers of the Constitution and freedom forever.”



Speech of Senator W.H. Seward, delivered at Rochester, October 25, 1858.

“Mr. Seward's Speech.” Portsmouth Times. November 23, 1858.

“Mr. Seward's Speech.” Clarksville Jeffersonian (Tennessee). November 24, 1858. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Rube, the Lucasville Mystery Man, and His Rustic Poetry in Whittlers' Gazette


The Whittlers' Gazette, owned and published by Clyde Brant of Lucasville delighted local readers in the 1930s with news, stories, and poetry by a “hillbilly poet” with the homely and humorous pen name of “Rube.” Of course, everyone who read the Gazette knew Rube was a figment of Brant's imagination, but Brant loved to entertain his audience with tales of Rube's anonymity. He even wrote a post offering a reward for the person who could ascertain the true identity of Rube.

In this edition of the Gazette, Rube wrote ...

I have offered a $1.00 reward for the apprehension and identification of one hillbilly poet goin' by the name of “Rube.” He ain't worth that I am sure but I'll give that much to find out who he is. The following persons have been accused most often of bein' him: Esto Davis, Jack Hood, Mark Crawford, Nell Bricker, J.H. Finney, and Rev. Carter. I don't think it is any one of them for various reasons.

I asked Dave Hickman if he thot Rube ever lived on Miller's Run and he said, 'No, I never knowed of any educated fool livin' out our way.' They say Dave can make anything out of iron or wood, includin' a clucker for a hen, a quacker for a duck, and a pair of wooden tails for a rabbit.”

Here is a sample of Rube's homespun poetic work:

Farm Philosophy

By Rube

Says Em to me the other day,
Say, Rube, how come our hens won't lay?
I've fed 'em tons of fancy grain'
Their nests I've ined with cellophand;
Their vity-mines and calo-rees
I've figered out from A to Z;
But nary an egg will them hens lay –
I've got to find some other way.”

Why, Em,” says I, “I'm sure surprised;
Why don't you ever use your eyes?
Why don't you read the magazines?
It ain't no lack o' feed and things;
You've got to use 'psychology'
On hens as well as husbands, see;
Them hens had lived, year after year,
Without the 'proper atmosphere.'
Now just you leave this thing to me –
By cracky, Em, I'll guarantee
Inside o' ten or twenty days,
Them hens'll lay so many eggs
We'll have to borry Frailey's car,
To haul the durned things to the store.”

That afternoon at half past four,
I drove down to Brant's Village Store,
An' bought a Victor Phonygraph –
By gorsh, thinks I, just let 'em laugh.
I slipped in home by the back way,
An' hid the blamed thing in the hay.

That night, when Em begun to snore,
I rose, snuck out the kitchen door
An' got that dratted music box –
I felt as sly as some old fox;
I crept inside the hen-coop; then
(I'd get my sleep I knew not when)
I clapped a record on the thing,
As Bing Crosby begun to sing;
Them hems commenced to bill an' coo –
They laughed out loud at Bing's “boo-boo.”
Well, all that night I had to spend
With Rudy Vallee an' them old hens
An' Lawrence Tibbett an' John Boles.
(I'd grind them records into holes
But what I'd make them durned hens lay,
An' lay before the break o' day.)
Just as Caruso's tenor blare
Begun to fill the moring air,
Them hens, they cackled long an' loud;
My plan had worked – an' was I proud!

In another edition of the Gazette, Clyde Brant berates Rube for his refusal to reveal his true identity. In the article, the name calling is ironically erudite as it continues and continues to the point of absurdity. I will leave it to the reader to look up the definitions of the words used in the entry. Suffice it to say, it is quite a mouthful for a country store owner.

Rube, I ain't no coward like you are. I yam what I yam, you are nothing but a derned old sneak. You are afraid to let me know who you are. You are an old hypocrite, a little insignificant, whifflin' sophist. You buzz like a bumble bee but you are only a June bug. You wouldn't know a punkin pie from a custard. Em has got you right under her thumb. I ain't araid of no woman.

Talking about the weather, you are probably more familiar with moonshine than you are a wet moon. And talk about bein' modern, I'll bet Em makes you drink frog-pond coffee made in an old fashioned, inefficient percolator while I get up myself like a man and make my own coffee in an ultra-modern, efficacious, calisthenic, redoubtable, animative, and vivifying tricolator, which sucks every bit of the tasty, fragrant juice and soul and substance and quiddity and quintessence and sap right out of every granule of coffee.

“… I bet you are one of the Jello Boys and a salad gulper, and a gramnivorous (sp.), phytophagous, Gargantuan, spinach gastronomist. You can't see the difference between a pseudo-scientist and a man like me who has two big feet on the ground. Maybe you will learn something if you keep on readin' the Gazette, like you been doin,' as I can see you ain't missed much. But you will never amount to nothin' Rube, till you find out how to handle Em. Women is handy and a big comfort around the home if you know how to manage 'em.”

Of course, Rube has to reply to this verbal assault. He rails at Brant's “inadequacy” in his choice of vocabulary. And, Rube reveals he is blackmailing his wife Em to keep his identity hidden. And, oh yes, Rube gets in some foreign phrases to boot. He writes ...

I noticed by your bulletin board that you are offering a reward for me – a whole dollar. Now Editor, you should be ashamed. You should have seen me making tracks out of that store. And was my face red! Have only been back once since, and that was to get Em's new dress. You see, I didn't have any more brains than to go home and tell her, and she's been blackmailing me ever since; wants to turn me in just to get that durned, measly little old dollar. Now can you top that? Every time she gets het-up I have to promise her another dress. Have only had to get her one so far (one of those new prints or calicos you got in a week or two ago), but that old gal never forgets my promises. If the roads hadn't been so bad I can't get down very often, I'd have been out about five dollars by this time. And it's all your fault for teaching Em how to blackmail like you yourself did Liggett and Myers and the Leggett Company (sponsors of the Gazette).

And by the way, there were several names you forgot to call me in your 'comments' on my so-beautiful and inspiring poem. By Cracky, I'm surprised at the extreme inadequacy of your vocabulary. And you a big Editor! Think of it! Now for instance, there's hick, moron, nit-wit, runt, boob, flat-tire, bum, scab, half-breed, shrimp, nonentity, hay-seed, skunk, cuss, scum, half-pint, scallaway, half-wit, scamp, anguis in herba, lusus naturae, ame de boue, un sot a triple etage, advocatus diaboli, and so on. Oh, yes, and a dirty so-and-so.

Now see that you do better next time. Just think of all those nice things I said about you in my poem. And you'd better look up the correct spelling for 'graminivorous,' or have your printing company do it. It was probably their fault, like the mistake they made on my poem. They took a line off the first stanza, and tacked it onto the second. Did you notice it? They durned near ruined the effect of my old-maids, teachers, brides and widows.”

In one of the last issues of Whittlers' Gazette, Clyde Brant admits defeat and holds out hope that the government will crack the mystery ...

All the local detectives have failed utterly to uncover the identity of Walt and Rube, Whittlers' Gazette poets. Better watch out boys, if the Government finds out what a big income you are getting' from your writings, the G-Men will get you for evasion of taxes, like they did Al Capone, and are thinkin' of doin' with the *Black Legion leaders.”

Note – The Black Legion was a secret vigilante terrorist group and a white supremacist organization in the Midwestern United States that splintered from the Ku Klux Klan and operated during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

I hope you enjoyed this small sample of Clyde Brant's genius. May it inspire some local wit to take up the cause and begin a new local journal of homespun news and entertainment. I don't see many folks whittling anymore, but maybe a tweeting club would sponsor a paper because they do just as much loafing and manipulating their fingers as the old whittlers did… that is, if they could find the time to put down their electronic devices and compose.


The Whittlers' Gazette. The Official Publication of the Whittlers' Clubs of America Clyde Brant, Owner and Publisher. National Headquarters Brant's Village Store, Lucasville, Ohio.

Editions of the Gazette used: December 1935; February, March, and July 1936.

Enjoy reading the Gazette issues in their entirety. Click here:

Monday, March 19, 2018

"Father Lumpkin" of the Portsmouth Spartans: The Original "Rambling Wreck"


For good old-fashioned blood-and-guts football, Roy “Father” Lumpkin was your man.He was a knee-churning, stiff-arming menace of a running back … He refused
to wear a helmet in the pro league and liked to show off a sizable lump planted on the back of his head when he tackled Bronco Nagurski.”

Back in the day when professional football was a fledgling sport, Portsmouth, Ohio, had a team in the National Football League. By all accounts, the Portsmouth Spartans developed into a great team with the acquisition of many skilled players. Perhaps the favorite of local fans was a standout back from Georgia Tech. With the seemingly benevolent nickname of “Father,” the man might be mistaken as a tender athlete. But, closer to the reality of his brutal play, his last name “Lumpkin” ironically confirms he delivered bruises and bumps like no other.

Roy Lee "Father" Lumpkin (January 27, 1907 – March 31, 1974) was a native of Jefferson, Texas. Lumpkin attended Oak Cliff High School in Dallas. Howard Allen, his high school coach, once said Lumpkin was “the toughest hombre to ever set a cleat on a high school turf.”

An incredible athlete, Lumpkin scored 25 touchdowns for Oak Cliff in 1926 in a seven-game schedule. During a playoff game with Cisco when two opponents were coming at him in an open field, he threw the ball down and stiff-armed both of them. Sportswriter Harold Ratliff, who covered Texas high school football for nearly 50 years, once said Roy was better than such Texas high school greats as Kyle Rote, Glynn Gregory and Steve Worster.

In 1927, Lumpkin enrolled at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, planning to study textile engineering. As a freshman in 1927, he was given the nickname "Father" because of his fatherly manner. He played college football for Georgia Tech and was an All-Southern fullback for the undefeated 1928 Georgia Tech Golden Tornado football team that defeated California in the 1929 Rose Bowl.

One writer called Lumpkin "the most powerful individual factor" on that 1928 Georgia Tech team and noted: "This big, fast and powerful backfield star, who is just as valuable as an offensive interferer as a runner, passer and pass-receiver, is the best protectionist we have seen this year in staving off opponents who attempt to reach the player who is carrying the ball."


Portsmouth Spartans

Lumpkin did not return to Georgia Tech for his junior year in 1929. Instead, he joined the professional football team in Ohio called the “Portsmouth Spartans.” Southern Ohio semi-pro football was dominated by the Ironton Tanks during the 1920's. Portsmouth, while occasionally beating or tieing the Tanks, chafed under their dominance.

In 1928, Portsmouth began seriously importing players who would form the heart of later Spartan teams. After a 5-2-2 record in 1928, the team came into its own in 1929. Soon, five former Tank players, John Wager (C), Tim Hastings (T), Gene Alford (B), Tex Mitchell (E), and future All-Pro Glenn Presnell (B) moved thirty miles downriver to join the Spartans.

To the former Spartan and Tank players Coach “Potsy” Clark added center Clare Randolph, who had played the previous season with the Chicago Cardinals, and five outstanding rookies. The rookies included ends Harry Ebding and Bill McKalip, tackle George Christensen, guard Grover "Ox" Emerson, and All-American back Earl "Dutch" Clark.

An article from the Charleston Daily Mail on January 8, 1931 said ...

“Lumpkin, who stood out as a spectacular backfield player with the National Professional Football league team from Ohio last season and the season before that, has been signed for next season at a salary of $6000. This is equivalent to $500 a month, on a yearly salary basis and $300 per game if the Spartans play another 20-game schedule like they did in 1930. From this salary figure an idea can be formed as to the salaries of such players as "Red" Grange, Dill Classgow, Nagurski, Crist Cagle, Joe Savoldi and few others who are now members of the professional ranks. Lumpkin joined the Spartans after leaving Georgia Tech where he was known as the 'Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.'"

Coach Clark established his authority early. On the first day of practice he threw Father Lumpkin off the field for "too much horseplay." The spectators and the team were shocked by Clark's action, but it worked. The next day Lumpkin apologized to Clark, and Clark, with discipline established, named Lumpkin captain of the team. Glenn Presnell remembers Clark as an excellent coach. "Potsy trained us like a college team: hard physical practice, attention to detail, and discipline," says Presnell. 


* Note – The Spartans were an improbable story. After all, Portsmouth, population 42,560, was barely bigger than Green Bay, the only small-market team that made it through the Depression. But the Spartans were terrors in the early '30s, finishing second in '31 and '32.

Early highlights for the Spartans also include the "iron man" game against Green Bay in 1932. In that game, Spartan Coach Clark refused to make even a single substitution against the defending NFL champion Packers. Portsmouth won 19–0 and used only 11 players all game.

Blizzard conditions in Chicago meant the 1932 title game was moved from Wrigley Field's outdoor field to the indoor field at Chicago Stadium, which allowed for only an 80-yard field. The game was won 9–0 by the Bears, on a touchdown pass from Bronko Nagurski to Red Grange. The resulting interest led to the establishment of Eastern and Western conferences and a regular championship game beginning in 1933.

Then the economy caught up with the the Portsmouth Spartans, with the failures of the steel mills and shoe factories that had kept their fans gainfully employed, and they had to relocate to the greener grass of Detroit in 1934.

Five years later, after the Spartans had left for Detroit, a story ran in the Portsmouth Times. "FOOTBALL FANS PLAN TO ENTER TEAM IN LOOP," the headline read. "Former Spartan Star Proposed As Coach For New Gridiron Organization." The paper said, "Local promoters were in the process of acquiring another NFL franchise for Portsmouth, one that would begin play that season. Three former Spartans were being considered for the coaching job: Presnell, Lumpkin and center Clare Randolph, who appeared to be the frontrunner. This never came to be. Professional football was gone forever in Portsmouth, Ohio.

 Father Lumpkin

Father Lumpkin was an immediate hit in Portsmouth, and he became one of the brightest stars of the 1929 team that compiled a 12-2-1 record. The two losses were to the 1929 N.F.L. champions, the Green Bay Packers, 14-0, and to the Ironton Tanks, 3-0, but the Spartans later crushed the Tanks, 38-0. Part of Lumpkin's appeal was his hard-nosed play on the field, an image he maintained by refusing to wear a helmet when he played.

Lumpkin played five seasons for Portsmouth from 1929 to 1933 and was selected as a second-team All-Pro in 1930 and a first-team All-Pro in 1932. He earned a reputation as an excellent blocker, leading the way for the Spartans' other backs, Dutch Clark (inducted in the Pro Football Hall of Fame), Glenn Presnell, and Ace Gutowsky. Lumpkin remained with the Spartans as they joined the National Football League (NFL) in 1930 and through their move to Detroit as the Detroit Lions in 1934.

Glenn Presnell, a fellow Spartan who set the league single-season scoring record in 1933 while leading the league in total offense (and later Detroit Lion star) described Lumpkin …

“He was one of the toughest human beings I ever saw. I remember seeing him wrestle during the off-season. He was just a very athletic individual. He was a great blocker, and he would say if he didn't take out two men on each play, then he wasn't doing his job. He meant putting them on the ground, not just bump them and go ahead."

The Ironton Rivalry

"Attending Ironton-Portsmouth games is like sitting on a seething volcano. Tension in
the crowd is painfully taut. Intercity rivalry races at fever heat. That's why the first-down marker was manned by one delegate from Ironton and one from Portsmouth, just to
make sure there was no hanky-panky.)

The Portsmouth Times

As Dr. Harry March, one of NFL's founding fathers, said, "Proximity seems necessary for real enmity in football," and Portsmouth and Ironton had both in abundance. A mere 27 miles separate the towns in the southeast corner of state, where Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia converge. When the teams met, the Model T's and Model A's were bumper to bumper on the Gallia Pike. Portsmouth dressed in vivid purple (headgear included), Ironton in scarlet. So, yes, a Spartans-Tanks game – any Spartans-Tanks game – was a colorful must-see.

There was such an attachment between the cities and their teams -- even stronger, perhaps, than in pro football today. Most players rented spare rooms from fans and regularly sat down to dinner with them. They were treated like members of the family (and as a result, never wanted to let that family down on the field).

The Portsmouth-Ironton rivalry had been taken to another level in 1929, when the Spartans were still an independent team. Dick Young of the Portsmouth Times called the Oct. 13 bloodletting "the roughest football game ever played, and the officials seemed to turn a cold shoulder to open attempts at hostility... Ironton devised every means known to football to injure Portsmouth [players] and remove the stars from the game. Leg-twisting, slugging and kneeing were the main Tank objective."

At the end of the game, which Ironton won 3-0, irate Portsmouth rooters jumped the officials. The umpire and head linesman got punched in the jaw, and the crew needed a police escort to get off the field. An editorial later that week in the Ironton News bemoaned the brutality on both sides.

"The one play when three Portsmouth players picked up [Pat] Knieff and carried him back 10 yards and threw him on the ground on his head, after carrying him with his feet in the air, was the worst play we ever saw any team get away with," the newspaper said. "This kind of play is sure to kill pro football."

The paper also was concerned about fan-on-fan violence: "If Ironton rooters are to be beat up when they go to Portsmouth, and Ashland (Ky.) rooters treated the same way when they come to Ironton, pro football is dying a fast death. It won't be safe for rooters to follow the teams, and without attendance, football is over in the Ohio Valley."

During the offseason, the antagonism between the teams spilled over into the boxing ring when Spartans quarterback Roy "Father" Lumpkin and Tanks end Dick Powell, fledgling heavyweights, duked it out for four rounds before a capacity crowd at the Elks Hall in Ironton. The end came when Powell landed "a series of right and lefts to the head and a terrific right uppercut to the chin" that left Lumpkin "in a heap near his own corner," the Portsmouth paper said. "He took the count of 10, completely on his back, and had to be carried to his chair."

(Soon afterward, Lumpkin turned to wrestling, where results could be prearranged.)

The day Lumpkin fought Powell, Lumpkin's wife filed for divorce, claiming she hadn't seen much of him since, well, the first month of their marriage. The fans so adored him that they gave him write-in votes for city council and state senator.

"He was a lot of fun," Presnell said. "Loved to play cards" -- among other activities. "They got pretty rowdy," he went on. "Did a lot of carousing around. There were a lot of bootleggers in those days."

Detroit Lions

On September 23, 1934, Lumpkin scored the first touchdown in the Detroit Lions' first game (It still stands as the first in Lion's history.), intercepting a pass and returning it 45 yards for a touchdown in a 9-0 victory over the New York Giants before a crowd of 12,000 persons at the University of Detroit Stadium.

In May 1935, the Lions sold Lumpkin to the Brooklyn Dodgers. According to Dutch Clark, the Lions dropped Lumpkin because he refused to give up professional wrestling. He played for Brooklyn from 1935 to 1937. Lumpkin concluded his football career with the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1935 to 1937.


* Note – When Art Modell, NFL team owner, was a youngster, he developed a passion for football, rooting for the Brookly Dodgers. Attending the Thankgiving Day game between the Giants and Dodgers became a annual ritual for him. He and a cousin would walk to Ebbits Field and pay 25 cents for seats behind the Dodgers' bench. Modell was enthralled by Roy “Father” Lumpkin. "He played without a helmet and he was my first real hero," the Browns' owner often said. "I enjoyed all the sports, but as a fan, I had a passion for football." Modell and his pals would field their own teams in the streets and synchronize pass plays using manhole covers and sewer grates as markers.

Like their baseball namesake, the Dodgers brought distinction and pride to Modell's working-class borough. Walking down neighborhood streets on game days, Modell would hear the voices of radio broadcasters Red Barber and Vin Scully coming from each row-house stoop.


After spending 1938 as a professional wrestler, Lumpkin signed in 1939 as the head coach of the Louisville Tanks of the American Professional Football League.After retiring from football, Lumpkin and his wife lived in Dallas, Texas. In his later years, Lumpkin sold bowling supplies. Lumpkin died in 1974 at age 67 in Dallas.


"Father Lumpkin". Sports Reference LLC.

Death certificate for Roy Lee Lumpkin, born January 27, 1907, died March 31, 1974. Texas Department of State Health Services; Austin Texas, USA; Texas Death Certificates, 1903–1982. Texas, Death Certificates, 1903-1982 [database on-line.

"Lumpkin Making Good in Georgia'" The Waco News-Tribune. December 12, 1927. p. 3 – via

"Georgia Tech Has Colorful Line Plunger".The Montana Standard. November 6, 1928. p. 12 – via

Michael R. Steele (October 16, 2012). "The Notre Dame Football Encyclopedia". Skyhorse Publishing Inc. p. 60.

"Vaughn Chosen On All-Southern Team By Florida U. Scout" PDF. The Technician. December 1, 1928.

"This Boy, Father Lumpkin". The Greenville (SC) News. December 12, 1928. p.13 – via

"Father Lumpkin Is Lost To Tech". Daily Clarion-Ledger. August 25, 1929. p 1 via

"Spartans Massacre Ironton Tanks, 38 to 0". Portsmouth Daily Times. November 25, 1929. p. 16 – via

C. Robert Barnett (1980). "The Portsmouth Spartans"(PDF). The Coffin Corner. Pro Football Researchers. Retrieved October 29, 2017.

Chris Willis (2005). Old Leather: An Oral History of Early Pro Football in Ohio, 1920-1935. Scarecrow Press.

"1930 NFL All-Pros". Sports Reference LLC.

"1932 NFL All-Pros". Sports Reference LLC.

Tod Rockwell (September 24, 1934). "Lumpkin Sprints 45 Yards for Lone Touchdown of Game.” Detroit Free Press. p. 13 – via

"Lumpkin Is Sold To Brooklyn Club.” The Indianapolis Star. May 30, 1945. p. 14 – via

George Plimpton (2016). Mad Ducks and Bears: Football Revisited. Little, Brown.

"Tanks Sign Lumpkin As Card Formed.” The Courier-Journal. July 24, 1939. p. 10 – via

"Roy L. Lumpkin".

History of the Portsmouth Spartans.

Robert W. Peterson. Pigskin: The Early Years of Pro Football. 1997.

Jon Morgan. Glory for Sale: Fans, Dollars and the New NFL. 1997.

Dan Daly. “The Battle of Ohio.” Sports On Earth. November 27, 2013.

Tom Peeler “Sports Gridiron Greats: Dallas' All-Everything High School Players. D Magazine. November 1981.

Roy 'Father' Lumpkin.” The Charleston Daily Mail, January 8, 1931.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Billy the Killer Miller: Pals with Pretty Boy Floyd Hiding Out in Green Township

 Billy "The Killer" Miller
The slim, dapper Miller, a bigamist with two wives, became known to police throghout
the Midwest as the “torpedo” of various Ohio gangs who had already killed five men. After being arrested twenty-eight times, Miller boasted he would not be taken alive.”

When Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd was killed by federal agents near East Liverpool, Ohio in October 1934, the Portsmouth Times reported “the end of the career of the last of the nation's public enemy who sought refuge in Scioto County. The report went on to say, “While not a resident of this county, Floyd in the earlier days of his career as a public enemy, frequently visited a hideout in the hills of Green Township. In 1930 he often visited the community of Ohio Furnace.”

Pretty Boy was “a pal of Scioto County's public enemy No. 1, William Miller, known nationally as 'Billy the Killer.'” It seem that Floyd and Miller often stopped at Miller's home waiting for the trail of officers to “cool.” They “brushed” now and then with local officers but managed to escape, sometimes in gun battles.

Their last reported trip together to Green Township was during the week preceding Miller's death at the hands of police of Bowling Green in 1930. The pair had robbed a bank in Kentucky and returned to Miller's home

Pretty Boy Floyd's companion in crime was born in Ironton in 1906. William Miller first earned his nickname "Billy the Killer" when, on September 18, 1925, the 19-year-old Miller killed his brother Joseph in a fight over a woman. Billy was living in Midland when he and Joe, 29 – known as the "King of the State Line Bootleggers" – became infatuated with Mrs. Hazel Campbell Anthony. Jealousy turned to bloodshed Sept. 18.

Evidently, the killing was no accident. Determining his girlfriend was near a spring up the hill 200 yards east of the Ohio line, Billy approached Joe, “pulled out a revolver, and began firing without saying a word.” Police later reported Joe had been beaten severely about the head with the handle of the revolver after he had fallen

After the shooting, a witness – Jake Eckert, longtime proprietor of the state line tavern – said, “Mrs. Anthony ran to Billy and threw her arms around his neck. They then walked down the path toward the streetcar tracks, Billy warning Jake to stay where he was” (which Jake evidently did). Billy and Mrs. Anthony reportedly went to the home of Louis Campbell, brother of Mrs. Anthony, after the shooting, then they disappeared.

According to police, the Miller brothers had arrived in the area about three years prior, and were blamed for a number of offenses linked with "Hell's Half Acre,” reported to be during Prohibition “one of the nation's worst concentrations of bootleggers, gunmen, and bank robbers.

Joe Miller had been released from the Allegheny County (Pa.) Workhouse a month before, serving a year on a liquor charge in Beaver County for which he had been fined $1,000. He had been sought for several months on that offense, making several sensational escapes before he was captured. He had been living at the state line since freed from the workhouse.

Billy Miller had earned a bad reputation as a youth around Ironton, Ohio. Billy had returned to the state line area that spring after serving six months in the Allegheny workhouse on a liquor charge. He reportedly had resumed his bootlegging enterprises, and a city illegal liquor charge had been filed against him.
In June 1925 Patrolmen Herman Roth and Chester Smith had gone to the state line looking for Billy, locating him on the Ohio side. When Roth told him he was under arrest, Miller bolted. Roth fired at him, the bullet hitting in the leg, and he surrendered.

Billy was admitted to City Hospital where, eight days later, he escaped, apparently with the help of outsiders, one a woman. He climbed down from a second story window using sheets tied together to form a rope. Police said he was taken to New Castle Where he recovered from his wound, and went to Midland where he got a job in the mill and took up residence.

It was reported that “just a few days before shooting his brother Joe, Billy indicated he wanted to 'go straight,' and had almost arranged with police to turn himself in on the liquor charge and pay his fine in installments.”

Miller later was tried in Beaver County for first degree murder in connection with his brother's death., and the jury returned a not guilty verdict. Miller was acquitted of murder on the grounds that he had suffered emotional trauma due to the death of his brother. He also claimed he fired his weapon only after Joe attacked him. The Toledo News-Bee reported his brother Grover said Miller had “a dislike for farm work and the desire to be on the loose,” which was the “cause” of his criminal career. Instead, according to Grover, Billy liked “good clothes and a good time.”

Although Miller was acquitted, the trial judge ordered him held under under an old English law requiring him to post $2,000 as guarantee for future good conduct. Unable to raise the money, he spent a year in jail until the bond was reduced to $500. It was posted by his mother who, it was said, mortgaged her home in Ironton, Ohio.

Pretty Boy

Then, Billy began drifting to other parts of Ohio, engaged in illegal activities, and six years later
in August 1930, he was arrested by police in Lakeside, Michigan and charged with a series of bank robberies committed in Michigan and Ohio. On September 2, Miller escaped from custody while imprisoned in Lucas County, Ohio and fled to Oklahoma where he eventually joined up with George Birdwell and Pretty Boy Floyd. (Floyd had escaped from a train taking him to the Ohio Penitentiary.)

On March 9, 1931, Miller joined Birdwell and Floyd in a $3,000 bank robbery in Earlsboro, Oklahoma. While Miller and Floyd headed for Kansas City shortly afterwards, Birdwell chose to remain in Oklahoma and began dating sisters Rose Ash and Beulah Baird. At the time, Rose was married, and Beulah was dating her brother-in-law. On March 25, Miller and Floyd murdered the brothers William and Wallace Ash, and left their bodies in a car which was found on the outskirts of town days later. Meanwhile, Rose and Beulah joined the outlaws as they continued their crime spree.

Miller and Floyd headed east, robbing a bank in Elliston, Kentucky for $2,262 on April 6 and, turning back west, raided another in Whitehouse, Ohio for $1,600 eight days later. Police in Bowling Green, Ohio, became suspicious of a foursome who were spending plenty of money,

On April 16, they were confronted by Bowling Gree authorities and a shootout occurred. Floyd attempted to come to Miller's aid, killing Patrolman Ralph Castner, but Miller was already dead by the time the battle had ended. His life of crime ended as he had boasted – he was not taken alive. While Floyd was able to escape back to Oklahoma, Rose Ash and Beulah Baird, the latter being wounded during the gunfight, were both arrested and charged with harboring fugitives. 


The body of “Billy the Killer” was removed from the scene of the shootout and taken to Deck Funeral Home in Bowling Green where it was reported “throughout the night and the following day police kept close watch as 'public enemies' lined up to pay their last respects.” Among the most notorious was Ma Barker and her gang. Two women, both professing to be the wife of Billy Miller, claimed the body. Only one could produce a marriage license. Billy was then transported to Ironton, Ohio where he was buried beside his father and brother, both of whom had also been shot to death.

As told to Kraig Hanneman, funeral director and embalmer, by his grandmother, Hildreth, previous owner of the funeral home …

I lived on Prospect St a hundred feet or so away from the shoot out of April 16th 1931 with BG Police, “Pretty Boy” Floyd and 'Billy the Killer' Miller. A friend and I were sitting in the kitchen when we heard a thump on the door and gunshots. Without thinking jumped up and ran to see what the ruckus was and saw Ralph Castner (policeman) along with another man down on the ground. (The thump on the wooden screen door was discovered to be a strayed bullet.)

We had a lot of women trying to claim the body (Billy); eventually one did produce a marriage license. Only during the time of claiming the body did I feel frightened. One of the women wanted me to release the body to her and was threatening, but unknown to her was the police and FBI agents were hidden behind curtains around the room, and they quickly removed her.

The FBI was watching out for any public enemies wanted in the State of Ohio . (My grandma explained that these killers could move around freely in a State where they did not committee a crime) I felt secure with the police and FBI watching out, but it’s a very strange feeling being in a room filled with known murders. I noticed the presences of a well dressed woman surrounded by younger men, they were very polite to me, and I was informed they were Ma Baker and her boys.”

“Pretty Boy Floyd” became one of legendary folk song writer's Woody Guthrie, more popular ballads. The song seemed a pretty long stretch of the truth about the criminal, as in the tune, the outlaw supposedly helped the poor. The song is essentially a Robin Hood story – a thief steals from the rich banker to give to the poor farmer, though one finds little evidence to support this benevolent version of the real Pretty Boy Floyd.
Roger McGuinn of The Byrds said: "I love 'Pretty Boy Floyd.' It's very typical, that killer-outlaw as hero, just because during the depression, banks were considered more the enemy than the people who robbed them. A few killings here and there were allowed."

“I love a good man outside the law, 
just as much as I hate a bad man inside the law,” Woody Guthrie once wrote on a lyric sheet for his song “Pretty Boy Floyd.”The tale of Charles Arthur “Pretty Boy” Floyd must have appealed to Guthrie. Floyd was an Oklahoma native who turned to bank robbing and violence in the 1920s as the country faced economic difficulty.

Floyd’s exploits were well known during the era, and Guthrie, eight years younger than Floyd, would have likely followed the outlaw’s story in newspapers and local gossip. By the time Guthrie wrote his outlaw ballad in 1939, Pretty Boy Floyd had been dead some five years, though his story must have seemed as relevant to Guthrie as other topical subjects like the Grand Coulee Dam or the USS Reuben James.

Pretty Boy Floyd
By Woody Guthrie

If you'll gather 'round me, children,
A story I will tell
'Bout Pretty Boy Floyd, an outlaw,
Oklahoma knew him well.

It was in the town of Shawnee,
A Saturday afternoon,
His wife beside him in his wagon
As into town they rode.

There a deputy sheriff approached him
In a manner rather rude,
Vulgar words of anger,
An' his wife she overheard.

Pretty Boy grabbed a log chain,
And the deputy grabbed his gun;
In the fight that followed
He laid that deputy down.

Then he took to the trees and timber
To live a life of shame;
Every crime in Oklahoma
Was added to his name.

But a many a starving farmer
The same old story told
How the outlaw paid their mortgage
And saved their little homes.

Others tell you 'bout a stranger
That come to beg a meal,
Underneath his napkin
Left a thousand dollar bill.

It was in Oklahoma City,
It was on a Christmas Day,
There was a whole car load of groceries
Come with a note to say:

Well, you say that I'm an outlaw,
You say that I'm a thief.
Here's a Christmas dinner
For the families on relief.

Yes, as through this world I've wandered
I've seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen.

And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won't never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.

Songwriters: Woody Guthrie


Deck-Hanneman Funeral Home and Crematory

“Floyd Had Hideout in Scioto County in Early Days of Career.” Portsmouth Times. October 23, 1934.

Michael Newton. The Encyclopedia of Robberies, Heists, and Capers. New York: Facts On File Inc., 2002. (pg. 197-198)

“Pretty Boy Floyd.” Songfacts.

Michael Wallis. (1994). Pretty Boy: The Life and Times of Charles Arthur Floyd. Macmillan.