Hayes Pond: the strong-willed Lumbee fight back against the Klan

Publisher’s note: This is not usually a topic we would breach on GoCoogs, but it’s helpful in understanding the Sampson family. They are each proud of their Lumbee Tribe heritage. Kelvin’s father, Ned, taught and coached in Pembroke, a majority Lumbee town in North Carolina. Karen is on the Board of Trustees at UNC-Pembroke, where she and Kelvin graduated college.

Today, in 1958, members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina stood up to the Ku Klux Klan in a scuffle known as the Battle of Hayes Pond. The Lumbee drove the Klan out of Robeson County that night and garnered national attention for their efforts. One of the Lumbee gathered to fight back against the Klan was Ned Sampson, a local school teacher, coach, and the father of Ursula, Suzanne, and two-year-old twins Kelvin and Karen.

The KKK terrorized almost all non-white people in the triracial Pembroke area. In the fall of 1957 and early 1958, the Klan began targeting the Lumbee specifically, the tipping point being the burning crosses in the yards of two Lumbee families on January 13. Following those attacks, the Klan planned a rally in a field near Maxton, NC, for the night of the 18th. Grand Wizard James “Catfish” Cole was the ringleader of a group of Klan members intending to strike fear in the Lumbee community.

Between 50 and 100 Klan members met that night, ready to continue their attacks against a group they perceived to be weak. The Klan boys were unaware of the strong will that permeated the Lumbees. Seeing leaflets advertising the KKK rally, the Lumbee men decided they would fight back.

Around 500 Lumbee men, including Mr. Ned, met the Klan in the field that night. Writer Dick Brown, in a Raleigh News and Observer Sunday cover story, documented what happened next:

A motley collection of men gathered in the field around a car and a loudspeaker set. It was growing dark. A lone electric bulb, fed by a portable generator, burned on a stick.

The men were armed. They carried shotguns and carbines and pistols and revolvers. They talked tough. They waggered. The “reverend” James “Catfish” Cole and the Ku Klux Klan had come to Robeson County, and they were prepared to give the Indians a chilling exhibition of KKK strength.

Suddenly, the field was filled with Indians. There were war cries and shots. The light was smashed. The loudspeaker set was yanked from the car. The “reverend” Catfish Cole and his strongmen scattered into the ditches and the woods, leaving behind their Klan regalia, their cars and their frightened wives and wailing children.

The Klan demonstration was ended–in a total victory for the Indians.

Not mentioned in that account is the story of Carolyn, the wife of Catfish Cole. Scared and abandoned, she ran her car straight into a ditch. A Lumbee leader, Alfred Oxendine, drove her to a house in the next county as other Tribe members helped get her car out of the ditch.

The night became known as the Battle of Hayes Pond, although there was very little fight from the Klan. Life Magazine featured the story in pictorials and stories, and the event was on the front page of the New York Times.

The Lumbee Tribe celebrates Hayes Pond to this day, proud of their parents and grandparents standing up for themselves. Generations pass down the story of the Lumbees refusing to be put upon by the Klan as others had been. A stubborn streak runs through their strong-willed community.

Called stubborn and strong-willed himself, Kelvin Sampson fondly shared stories told among Lumbees regarding Hayes Pond and the men who stood up to the Klan:

Raleigh News and Observer – January 26, 1958
Banner that the KKK abandoned // Photo by Bill Norment (Raleigh News and Observer, 1958)

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