IF YOU THINK THIS HAS BEEN A NASTY ELECTION YEAR - Consider Fists, Rocks And Clubs In Sunny Cal

SUNNY CAL JOURNAL - Hur's 1928 Election "Fists, Rocks And Clubs"

Republished from 11/2003

By Bob Weaver

It would have been worthy of TV news, but was never mentioned by either of Cahoun's weekly newspapers. The election day riot at Hur in 1928 was a political affray which resulted in neighbors fighting neighbors, injuries and possibly death.

It was General Election time, a cold and snowy November day, with temperatures well below freezing.

The ruckus broke loose at the one-room school and polling place down Buckhorn Hill, at the backside of the small village. At least thirty men used fists, rocks and clubs in a squabble which lasted most of the morning, driven by the passion of their politics and liquid spirits.

The political stakes between the Hardman and the Knotts family had widened with the advancement of the Square Deal party. The infighting amongst the Democrats had reached a boiling point, with anger and threats spilling over in disputes between families.

The Hardman-Knotts political battle began in 1912 when Robert Joseph Knotts, Sr. of Frozen threatened Hardman control by becoming the Sheriff of Calhoun County.

Each community had its leaders and clans. Will Sturm, a Hur storekeeper and sometimes county Democrat chairman , was an arch adversary of the Hardmans. The McCoy's of Hur, close friends to the Hardman's, owned a competing village store.

Political leader George Washington Hardman, 83, lived in his plantation house on Barnes Run, a few miles downhill from Hur. A large landowner, stockman and banker, Hardman had served as Sheriff of the county and had once ran for Congress. His father had fought in the Mexican War and had been captured during the war between the states.

A few days before the election, old George received a letter "edged in black," with an ominous threat upon his life. The letter said "You will be carried away feet first," if you come to Hur this election.

My grandfather, John Ira McCoy, who was raised by the Hardman's, went to see his foster father. John Ira and George's son, Allie, spent most of a day trying to convince the old man to let the younger ones handle it. The idea infuriated the old politician. He had become even more feisty after his wife Diana died four years earlier.

On election day, George Hardman mounted his steed and rode to Hur to visit with his friends, influence voters and cast his ballot. His son Allie, then 60, came along. Shortly after his arrival, old George dismounted his horse and walked toward a huge bonfire, around which a large number of men were warming themselves.

One of the Stouts, a close friend to Will Sturm, said to Hardman, "Georgie did you get my note?" Before he could answer, one of the Stout boys kicked madly at the burning logs, sending embers on Hardman's clothing. His son Allie threw the first punch. "When Allie hit a man, he wouldn't come back for a long time," they said.

Tempers escalated and the brawl began.

Howard McCoy, John Ira's son, fought Rich Slider all over the steep hillside, and finally used a two-by-four on him. Someone sent word to Ida McCoy at the McCoy Store, to send her boys, Harley and Paul, to help with the fight. Soon, a large man had Paul McCoy on the ground, pounding him hard, when his aunt Sadie Ball intervened, saying "Let go of Ida's boy! Let go of Ida's boy!" She flogged the man with her pocketbook, and he desisted.

Having cast his ballot, Amos Smith walked down from the school to walk through the squabble. "Someone took him to the head, knocking him over the hill," said Lexie Miller, a small boy at the time. "He came up out of the woods and said "Show me the sonofabitch who did that?" No one did.

John Ira McCoy, who was working the polls, heard the noise and left his station. Not far from the bonfire he saw his oldest son, Ernest McCoy, on the ground with one of the Stout's. A Calhoun school teacher, Ernest was crippled from polio, but was still known to be a good scrapper. John Ira moved toward his son to discover he was being held with a knife at his throat. In one sweeping motion he picked up a rock and brought it down on the man's head, knocking him out.

When the smoke cleared, several men were still on the ground with injuries, including Stout. He was unconscious with blood coming from his head. Someone had called the Sheriff, who managed to get to the village through the ruts, mud holes and snow. They carried Stout to the Sheriff's car and took him to a physician's office in Grantsville.

The Sheriff fined a number of the participants, and old man Hardman paid all the fines, even for those who did not support him.

A few months later Stout died.

Unlike some of his boys, John Ira McCoy was a man of peaceful compromise, who had considerable regrets about the incident.

He tucked the bloody rock in his pocket that day and took it home, placing it under the basement steps. There it stayed for the next 32 years until he died in 1950. Some years later it came in my possession, a reminder of that election day in 1928.

POSTSCRIPT - The election day story has been told to me by at least seven old-timers, and much detail has been documented. This is the first public account of the tale. BW