This interesting article is from the Book titled Echoes of Yesteryear By Leslie McDonald, 1972.
Tobacco was the cash crop. Dark-fired tobacco was grown especially for its value to bring in money when everything else failed. Corn and wheat were bead for the table, hay was food for the livestock and sorghum was grown for a little sweetening. Tobacco remained the commodity that brought a little girl a doll for Christmas, for other cash crops were practically non-existent.
By the 1890's and early 1900's tobacco was grown almost everywhere in the county. There were large well-constructed barns on every farm to house and smoke dark tobacco. A long aisle of hot coals was maintained on each side of the barn to "smoke" the tobacco until it cured to the color desired by the grower.
Many farmers grew large acreage of tobacco and in 1904 the price of tobacco dropped below the price it cost to product it. This resulted in an organization called the Planter's Protective Association. This tobacco surplus was put into what was known as "in pool". Many planters refused to join the Association. At first a harmless band was formed to force these planter to act but later it evolved into violence.
The Night Riders climbed into their saddles with two purposes: The farmers must be forced to join them or not to raise tobacco. As lawlessness increased, due to the fact that their identity was covered by a black mask and white sheets, they grew bolder. They salted tobacco plant beds, tore up young plans and burned tobacco. They began to burn tobacco warehouses, growers' barns and generally cause trouble. Anyone who took sides against them soon met with their rage.
The Night Riders were soon out of control. They used whips and clubs on individuals for real or imagined moral transgressions. They shot into private homes for warnings. Thorn switching was their favorite method of chastisement. One man reported that bullets entered into the bedding of his sleeping sister.
Many threatening notes were the first indication of impending violence around Dycusburg. Dycusburg was the location of the buying, selling and shipping of the farmers tobacco crops.
The Bennett brothers owned the Distillery which the Night riders burned to the ground February 2, 1908. They also burned the warehouse for tobacco owned by Henry H. Bennett. They spared the warehouse of S. H. Cassidy.
They also decided to whip Henry Bennett and William Groves. These men had continued to buy tobacco after their warning. They were to be made into examples to warn others. The Night Riders unmercifully whipped William Groves. The beating crippled Mr. Groves permanently and he died a cripple, maimed and scarred some year later.
For the chastisement of Henry Bennett, they chose to give one of the thorn-switch whippings. One of his ears was almost torn off and he was left a complete invalid, though he lived two more years in agony. On his tombstone in the Dycusburg Cemetery is this inscription "Killed by Night Riders". This was March, 1908.
Soon the entire countryside was so incensed by these brutal beatings that the word began to get around that the Night Riders would be ambushed on sight. Some of the men would be riding in trucks while some continued on horseback. This stopped the Night Riders for good.
A couple of the old tobacco barns that were in Crittenden County.
They are all about gone now. Either fallen down, or being torn down for their lumber.