okemah lynching bridge

from woody guthrie posted in music


okemah lynching bridge
n3710 rd and hwy 56
okemah, oklahoma 74859

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posted by crabapple #

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In May of 1911, a posse was formed to investigate a stolen cow near Okemah, OK. The posse went to the Nelson family farm, and in the ensuing confusion a deputy was shot in the stomach and bled to death.

The father pleaded guilty to larceny and was sent to the state prison in McAlester. However, the mother, Laura Nelson, and her son, L.D. Nelson, were sent to the Okemah County Jail.

The two were kept there until late in the evening on May 24, 1911, when a lynch mob kidnapped them and hung them over the North Canadian River (from a different bridge, but probably at this same location). Several photographs were taken to be made into postcards- a common tactic of the day. These were the only photographs made of a female lynching victim in that era.

Woody Guthrie wrote many songs that reflect on this incident near his home town: "Don't Kill My Baby and My Son," "Slipknot," and "High Balladree."

photo: George H. Farnum