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Thu May 18, 2023, 06:11 AM

Battle of Hayes Pond


The Battle of Hayes Pond, also known as the Battle of Maxton Field or the Maxton Riot, was an armed confrontation between members of a Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organization and Lumbee Indians at a Klan rally near Maxton, North Carolina, on the night of January 18, 1958. The clash resulted in the disruption of the rally and a significant amount of media coverage praising the Lumbees and condemning the Klansmen.

In 1956, James W. "Catfish" Cole, a KKK member from South Carolina, established the North Carolina Knights, a Klan organization aimed at defending racial segregation. In early 1958 Cole focused his efforts on upholding segregation in Robeson County, North Carolina, which had a triracial population of Native Americans, whites, and blacks. Many of the Native Americans were members of the recently recognized Lumbee Tribe, a group having its origins in other indigenous peoples but had grown into a single community around the county. Cole oversaw two cross burnings meant to frighten the Lumbees from racial mixing, and scheduled a Klan rally which he hoped would have a large turnout.

Cole and his Klansmen widely advertised their event, driving throughout the county in a truck outfitted with a loudspeaker to broadcast their plans. The announcements infuriated the Lumbee community and some decided to try to disrupt the meeting. Fearing violence, local law enforcement officials pleaded with Cole to suspend his plans, but he refused. On January 18, 1958, Cole and about 50 Klansmen, most of whom were followers of his from South Carolina, gathered in a leased cornfield near Hayes Pond, a place adjacent to the town of Maxton. Several hundred Lumbees, many armed, arrived and encircled the group and jeered at them. After an altercation in which the single light in the field was destroyed, the Lumbees began firing their weapons and most of the Klansmen fled. Cole hid in a swamp while the Lumbees seized Klan regalia and carried them to Pembroke to celebrate. Police restored order on the field and arrested one Klansman.

Afterwards, Cole and the arrested Klansman were indicted and convicted for inciting a riot. The event was widely covered in the local and national press, which blamed the Klan for the disorder and praised the Lumbees for their actions. Cole never organized another public rally in Robeson County after the incident. In 2011 the Lumbee Tribal Council declared January 18 a "Tribal Day of Historical Recognition".

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