The Friends of Lake Barkley State Resort Park were elated to welcome 1,000 plus students from area counties to meet Henry Clay, Mary Todd Lincoln, Lucy Bakewell Audubon, Simon Kenton, Mark Twain, and even Grandpa Jones.In remembrance of the Tobacco Wars of western Kentucky, students from Christian County Middle School welcomed Price Hollowell to their Performing Arts Center, located at the end of the Main Street foyer in the artistically designed hallway. During the weekend, various events commemorating the Tobacco War were held in both Caldwell and Trigg counties. Recalling the events of what was known as the Tobacco War, known locally as the “Black Patch,” the frequent poor production of the crop resulted in violent reactions to James B. “Buck” Duke’s American Tobacco Trust.
Students may be assigned to read the history textbooks about what happened, or they may interact with a performer portraying a man whose family was terrorized.Price Hollowell enthralled the young students with tales of the “Night Riders,” also known as the “Silent Brigade,” who intended to intimidate unwilling farmers. William Turner, noted local historian from Hopkinsville, “These men donned black, hooded masks to ensure their anonymity and wore white sashes across their chests as they powerfully persuaded other farmers to join ‘The Association,’” saidWilliam Turner, noted local historian from Hopkinsville. “Their object was to intimidate — by any means necessary — farmers into joining a holding action, so Duke would be forced to pay a higher price for their tobacco. They scraped beds, sowing grass into the young fields, burned barns, lashed farmers with whips, and set fire to full tobacco warehouses in cities.”
With this brief history, the middle school students asked articulate questions which were difficult for any adult to explain, such as: “Why did they kill them? Why didn’t they like them? Why were they so mean?”Hollowell’s answer that the students could understand was his Monopoly Cheeseburger Strategy. “How many of you like cheeseburgers?” Hollowell asked.
With numerous hands waving in the air, Hollowell responded: “Well, I’m the cheeseburger owner. I own all the meat and all the cheese. I also own the bread buns. I also own all the condiments — like the mustard and ketchup and special sauce. I even own the pickles.
“Now, I have to buy the products to make the cheeseburgers to sell to you, and I can control the market, as I am the only person who has the store to sell them, so all the people who make the products to make the cheeseburgers have to sell to me—and only me,” Hollowell explain. “Nobody else can make cheeseburgers, so I can tell you what price I will pay for your products, and you have to sell to me or throw your products away.”
“Then, I have people who put the cheeseburgers together, and I can pay them whatever I want, and they have to take it or go without a job,” he said. “Then, on top of that, I can set the price for the cheeseburgers, because if people want them, then they have to pay whatever price I want.”
With that story in mind for the young middle school students, they had a lesson not only in Kentucky history, but also economics and fair play, along with a few lessons in marketing. One student, still nervously looking around the cavernous auditorium raised his hand at the close of the presentation and asked: “What kind of masks did they wear?”
“They’re gone; they’re not here anymore; you don’t have to worry about that,” soothed a nearby teacher. “That’s why we study history — so we won’t let people make the same mistakes.”
Later in the weekend, more activities were held for adults and newly interested historians of school age.A “Night Rider Raid Reenactment” was held on Saturday; a Tobacco Bus Tour: A Journey through Black Patch;” “How Say You?” a popular production from the Southern Kentucky Independent Theater was offered to the public.During a depiction of the 1910 indictment and trial of Dr. David A. Amoss, a rural physician from Cobb, and Guy Dunning, a farmer who had lived near Wallonia, the audience could hear of the sordid events. The two men were charged with leading a raid on Hopkinsville before daylight on Saturday, Dec. 7, 1907.
In next week’s second installment of a three-part series, Herald Ledger readers will become more acquainted with the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay, who possessed dubious dueling skills. They also will meet the man who desperately sought the presidency of the United States five times, and they will also meet the weeping Mary Todd Lincoln, who revealed that her first childhood “crush” was none other than Henry Clay, himself.