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The Black Patch Tobacco War

Info: 1147 words (5 pages) Essay
Published: 29th Oct 2021 in History

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The Black Patch Tobacco War was not a war as you may typically think of one. This was not a war fought between two opposing countries with armies and massive weapons. This was a war between small town farmers and “big business”. It was a “complex series of events”, not a planned-out response by a group of people under one leader, but a period when several issues came to a head. [1]

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It all began when the people settling Tennessee began growing a unique type of tobacco in Montgomery and the surrounding counties. This tobacco was a dark olive-green color with a unique flavor and when smoked the flavor became even better. The dark-fired tobacco is what gave this region its nickname: The Black Patch. [2] Soon, the tobacco industry began to flourish, which meant more competition would come to the area.

By 1904, the tobacco tycoon, Buck Duke, and his company, The American Tobacco Company (ATC), also known as The Duke Trust, had full control of the tobacco market.  The monopoly was able to set the prices for tobacco and this caused growers to lose money, and eventually their farms. This caused outrage within the community, sparking a plan to take back what they had lost. [3]

Citizens of Adams, Tennessee created a plan to counter the Duke Trust. Farmers banded together to hold off for a higher price. Over 5000 farmers gathered to create The Planters Protective Association (PPA) to try and raise the tobacco prices.[4] They did this by keeping their crops from the market until the large companies offered higher prices for the product. The PPA built its own barns and storage buildings to house the tobacco until a deal could be made. If the companies did not have the tobacco, they would eventually have to close. This was the best chance the farmers had at getting back their worth.[5] However, some farmers who were desperate to sell their crops decided to deal directly with the big corporations and not join the PPA.

When tobacco prices did not rise in 1905, some PPA farmers turned to darker and more violent ways of persuasion. They became armed and hooded vigilantes on horseback, known as the Night Riders. “Night riding” began almost at once to force the outsiders (or Hillbillies, as they were called) into the PPA. They destroyed plant beds, equipment and burned barns. They also physically attacked and sometimes killed the farmers supporting the corporations.[6] Night Riders often attacked workers and burned property of the ATC. It became so bad that Governor of Kentucky, A.E. Wilson sent troops to try and stop them.

This activity frightened nearly 10,000 men into joining the PPA. By 1908, the association had gained immense control over the tobacco crop. The Night Riders achieved their success through highly illegal actions. In order to protect themselves from the government, they gained high-power government positions. By getting offices, they took control of the courts and officers of the judicial districts, effectively keeping them completely safe from any legal retaliation. Attorneys for some victims began to transfer their clients out of the state to qualify for suit in the higher courts.

This fractured the local power of the Night Riders and brought them under the judicial process.[7] The PPA denied any connection with the Riders. However, the group helped the association raise tobacco prices and allowed them to stay profitable from 1905 to 1914. There is little doubt that most, if not all, Night Riders were also PPA members. The members of the PPA had the most motive out of anyone to do the things the Riders did.[8]

Several things caused the end of the Night Riders. The Governor of Kentucky, A. E. Wilson kept sending troops to areas that were most affected, as well as the civil suits brought upon specific and individual Riders. However, the final nail in the coffin for the Riders was the loss of local community support due to the rising tobacco prices and a larger number of protestors of the violent behavior.[9] Without the support of the people, the Night Riders lost almost all their final protection. The PPA finally stopped all operations in 1914, when WWI closed most European markets for dark-fired tobacco.[10] With the end of the PPA, came the final death of the Night Riders and the Black Patch Tobacco War.

Works Cited

Goodwin Productions. 2014. Tobacco and The Black Patch War. Youtube, 2 14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srrLrq1MfsE.

Gregory, Rick. 2018. Black Patch War. 3 1. Accessed 11 14, 2019. http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/black-patch-war/.

Kentucky Historical Society. -. Western Kentucky Black Patch way, 1904-1909. - -. Accessed 11 14, 2019. https://history.ky.gov/pdf/Library/LEGM016-Western%20Kentucky%20Black%20Patch%20War.pdf.

Lochte, Kate, and Matt Markgraf. 2014. "Understanding the Black Patch Tobacco War of West Kentucky and Tennessee." WKMS. 9 22. Accessed 11 14, 2019. https://www.wkms.org/post/understanding-black-patch-tobacco-war-west-kentucky-and-tennessee#stream/0.

The Tennessee State Museum. 2017. Black Patch War. 10 8. Accessed 11 14, 2019. http://www.tn4me.org/article.cfm/era_id/6/major_id/20/minor_id/56/a_id/139.

W, Troy. 2017. History Of The Night Riders & Black Patch Tobacco Wars (1904-1911). 7 25. Accessed 11 14, 2019. https://baccypipes.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/history-of-the-night-riders-the-black-patch-tobacco-wars-1904-1911/.


[1] (Lochte and Markgraf 2014)

[2] (Goodwin Productions 2014)

[3] (Goodwin Productions 2014)

[4] (Gregory 2018)

[5] (The Tennessee State Museum 2017)

[6] (Kentucky Historical Society -)

[7] (W 2017)

[8] (Gregory 2018)

[9] (The Tennessee State Museum 2017)

[10] (Gregory 2018)

 

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