An Incident of Tar and Feathering

During the evening of April 13th and the early morning of April 14th in 1918 an incident occurred in Holland, Ohio, that represented two different viewpoints held in the United States during World War I. These ideas were first expressed with the re-election of President Woodrow Wilson in 1916 who ran on the Democratic ticket with the slogan “He kept us out of the war”. Charles Evans Hughes was the Republican Candidate. Although it seemed that a majority of people sympathized with British and French forces due to the harsh policies of the Germans, most Americans were opposed to entry into the “European War” and preferred negotiation with all parties involved in order to remain neutral. After the war began in Europe on July 28, 1914, President Wilson had declared that citizens should not take sides so as not to endanger the United States’ neutrality policy. Foreign policy maintained this stance even though there was increasing pressure on the President to take more aggressive action after the sinking of the British passenger ship Lusitania with 128 Americans on board on May 7, 1915. Negotiations with the Germans to halt using torpedoes on commercial shipping failed in 1917 when they started unrestricted submarine warfare. Shortly thereafter, neutrality was ended when it was found that Germany had been negotiating with Mexico to enter the war on their side. Mexico would then form an alliance with Japan when the United States declared war. Mexico was promised that they would have New Mexico, Arizona and California returned to them when the war was successfully completed. On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress to declare war on the Axis stating it would be “a war to end all wars” and could be used to build a plan for peace in the future that would prevent future catastrophic death and destruction.
Although this declaration was heralded by the anti-German and pro-war factions, there were many who had earlier agreed with Wilson’s declaration of neutrality and were strongly opposed to the war. Many of those against the war were declared “Socialists” and openly stated their objections. In this group there was also a faction that was of German descent or origin. On the other side were those who believed that the indiscriminate use of submarine warfare was not to be tolerated and that the “Kaiser” was using any method to dominate the world.
In order to help finance the war, bonds were sold to citizens. An aggressive campaign was begun by the Secretary of the Treasury, William Gibbs McAdoo. Bond committees were started in communities and volunteers would go to each home encouraging buyers. The effort even involved the Boy and Girl Scouts by using the slogan “Every Scout to Save a Soldier.” If a person did not buy a bond they were thought of as unpatriotic. Of course, those opposed to the war did not buy bonds in most cases and were the targets of tar and feathering and in some cases lynching, often supported or at least ignored by public officials and police departments.

This occurred with the “tar and feathering” of three Holland citizens in 1918. John J. Beattie, who was 32 at the time, was the main target of a group of Lucas County citizens who were associated with the “White Hats” or Ku Klux Klan. It is said that he openly opposed the war and discussed not only refusing to buy bonds, but also counseling men to get out of the draft by whatever means. Although the pro-war crowd thought he and others like him should be prosecuted for their efforts, President Wilson and others stated that if no law was violated these individuals were guaranteed the freedom to speak as they wished. John J. Beattie was at the time of the incident the Lake Shore Railroad Agent and Telegraph Operator in Holland and a Justice of the Peace. He later became the second mayor of Holland. His wife was Hazel Dell Wood, the daughter of Civil War veteran Harrison Wood, and grand daughter of Thomas Wood, one of the first Trustees of Springfield Township and a pioneer of the same. Mr. Beattie’s brother-in-law, Arthur H. Wood, was Chairman of the Liberty Bond Committee in Holland.
Perry Hall was the sheriff or constable of Holland at the time of the incident. His grandfather, Franklin Young Hall, is purportedly the person for whom the village of Holland was named (he built an addition south of the railroad starting in the early 1860s and called it “Hall Land”, which was mistakenly recorded by the county as “Holland”). Perry was 25 years old and worked as a telegraph lineman.
William Wagner was the son of a German immigrant, Daniel Wagner, and had married Bertha Ramsey, who was the grand daughter of another Springfield pioneer, Alfred King Rumsey. He was 42 and a truck driver.
The following two articles from the Toledo Blade and the Toledo Bee describe the events that took place (the Blade article is very graphic and seems to be written by someone who was at the scene). Two other small articles follow that show the results of a $60,000 lawsuit sought against the “12 prominent citizens of Toledo” for John Beattie and Perry Hall (have not found anything about Mr. Wagner’s case). These articles were found in the Newark and Sandusky papers.


Monday, April 15, 1918 – The Toledo Blade


Police Still Hold Feathered Men – Mayor
Issues Plea for “Sober Judgment
to Uphold Law”

Here are Monday’s developments resulting from the tarring and feathering of three residents of Holland Saturday night. The county grand jury is investigating the activities of the crowd which administered the tar and feathers; federal authorities may investigate the victims; the police are holding the three men on instructions from Federal Judge Killits, and Mayor Schreiber issued an appeal to “the sober to uphold the supremacy of the law.”
The three victims are:
JOHN J. BEATTIE, 32, Lake Shore station agent and telegraph operator at Holland, justice of the peace and a Socialist.
PERRY J. HALL, JR., 25, village marshal of Holland and a telegraph lineman.
WILLIAM WAGNER, 44, truck driver.
Common Pleas Judge Curtis T. Johnson and County Prosecutor John C. D’Alton are behind the grand jury inquiry into the actions of the crowd which applied the tar and feathers and then brought them to Liberty court, on Madison avenue, and made them kiss the flag and swear fealty to the government.
Judge Johnson said the “constituted authorities must vindicate the law,” that it must disregard public opinion and “do its duty at all hazards.” He called attention to the published statement that “police were present to preserve order.”

Had Been Probing for Weeks.

Assistant District Attorney E.J. Lynch said Monday the federal authorities have nothing to do with the “tar and feathering” party. That is for the local authorities to handle. He said that they had had “the situation at Holland” under investigation for some weeks, and whether the Saturday night party will spoil their investigation he doesn’t know.
The men were held by the police Saturday night and Sunday, and Monday morning were delivered to the office of L.M. Contrell (sic?), special agent of the federal bureau of investigation, in the federal building.

Tells Chief to Hold Them.

Cantrell said that no complaint had been lodged against the men, and declined to have anything to do with the case. Chief Herbert telephoned Federal Judge Killitts (sic?), who consulted with Lynch, and then instructed the chief to hold the men pending investigation. Lynch was busy in court and said he would confer with Cantrell during the afternoon. The police then came and took the men back to the Central station.
Lynch said that Cantrell was in error. He said he made complaint about one of the men involved, and that when Liberty bond salesmen communicated with him Saturday he told them that the man could not be prosecuted merely for refusing to buy bonds, but that other phases were under investigation and for them to leave the situation alone.

Lynch Wants to Get Notice.

Lynch said: “I wish you would print an ‘ad’ advising the people to speak to this office before they have any more such parties.”
William Patterson, leading member of the Socialist party and once its candidate for mayor, is a member of the grand jury. He said: “When I reported to the White Line office for work this morning there was a message awaiting me from Judge Johnson to report to his court this morning.”
Patterson was not on the regular panel. He was called from the audience to take a seat and was sworn in. There are only five of the regular panel on the jury. They are:

Members of Panel.

Hudson Fitch, Chebro apartments.
Dennis McCarthy, 254 Bloomfield street.
J.E. Wilcox, Maumee.
Charles Harsch, 1217 Starr avenue.
Dennis Lynch, 228 Jervis street;
These were added from the audience, in addition to Patterson.
William Mayo, former fire chief, Point Place.
A.A. Kujawa, 823 Detroit avenue.
W.W. Betts, 2421 Putnam street.
C.M. Fellbach, 2351 Putnam street.
C.H. Weed, 2123 Ashland avenue.
C.H. Green, 3138 Kimball avenue.
Walter G. Watson, 1721 Michigan avenue.
A.D. Lewis, Sylvania.
L. VanNoorden. 1069 Lincoln avenue.

Talks Against Mob Law.

In charging the jury, Judge Johnson said:
“The purpose of the criminal laws is to preserve the peace and dignity of the state of Ohio.”
“There is no unwritten law in this state, and the people who take the law in their own hands must be brought to justice.”
“I will ask the prosecutor to question each one of you concerning your attitude toward mob violence.”
“The constitutional authorities must vindicate the law.”

Tar Party Mentioned

After the court admonished the jurors to keep all matters that come before them secret, telling them that if any information should go from the jury room as to what witnesses said or how members voted, the jury would be discharged and another impaneled. Prosecutor D’Alton inquired:
“I think I know what the court has in mind, and,” — the court interrupted with:
“I have in mind the tar and feathering demonstration, in which it was said “the police were there to preserve order.’ “

Want Vote According to Law.

D’Alton continued: “I will ask you gentlemen if public opinion will rule in your deliberations or whether you will support the authorities in the enforcement of the criminal laws of Ohio.”
Not a word came from the jury box, and D’Alton added:
“I wish to say that this may be the most important grand jury we have had for years. I take it that you men will not vote according to public opinion, but according to the laws of Ohio.”
In closing, Judge Johnson said:

Says, “Let No Man Pass.”

“You will fulfill your duty as grand jurors at all hazards. You will excuse no one because of mere attitude. Let no man pass because conviction is not practical.”
“We rely on you to exhibit in this community that our patriotism means that peace and order be preserved.”
Mayo was selected foreman of the jury. The jurors then retired to the grand jury room to begin deliberations.

Visited State, U.S. Officials.

Members of the party said that on Saturday they sent a committee to confer with the prosecutor, Sheriff Gardner, Assistant U.S. District Attorney, F.J. Lynch and Special U.S. Investigator Cantrell to inquire about what could be done in the case of disloyalists who were hampering the sale of Liberty bonds. Spokesmen for the vigilantes said that each of the foregoing officials told them there was no way of punishing the disloyalists under the federal or state laws, except in the case of Beattie, if he were found guilty of having assisted men to evade the draft, as was informally charged.

Why They Decided to Act.

“The special investigator for the government, Cantrell, said he had so many investigations on hand that he couldn’t say when he would be able to give his attention to the Holland cases.” Said members of the vigilantes. “We got so little encouragement that we decided to take the matter into our hands and deal speedy justice. If the authorities are without power to act in such cases, then we will act for them again and again as we did Saturday night, and the authorities had better keep their hand off this matter.”
“Beattie, Wagner and Hall were sent Monday morning from the police station to the federal building. Their cases will be taken up, it is expected, by the federal authorities.”
“Toledo’s Ku-Klux-Klan will ride again.”
Names of alleged pro-Germans on the “blacklist” in possession of the “Supreme Thirteens,” the Klan’s committee of 13, which will rule on all cases, will be checked off as fast as the vigilantes can apply tar and feathers to the marked men.
The Klan took its initial ride to a tar party Saturday night. There were 86 in the party that pulled out of Toledo at 8. There were 17 automobiles, including one truck, in a string.

Bring Victims to Toledo.

It was 2 Sunday morning when the vigilantes returned to the city with the three Holland men, tarred and feathered, under heavy guard, in the truck.
The victims were:
JOHN J. BEATTIE, 32, Lake Shore station agent and telegraph operator at Holland, and justice of the peace. He is a Socialist.
PERRY HALL, Jr., 25, Holland village marshal and telephone lineman.
WILLIAM WAGNER, 44, truck driver. He also lives in Holland.
Police Chief Herbert said, early Monday, they will be held for the federal authorities.

Forced to Kneel Before Flag.

After a public demonstration on the platform in Liberty Court, in which the three were forced to kneel before the American flag and swear fealty to the Stars and Stripes, they were turned over to the police.
The vigilantes gathered in different sections of the city Saturday night, following receipt of an “investigating” committee’s report on complaints ‘lodged’ against Beattie, and pulled into Spielbusch avenue at 8:15 sharp.

Put on Ku Klux Klan Costumes.

When within two miles of Holland the procession stopped, covered license tags with white muslin and all, but those in three of the automobiles, donned white cowls and gowns.
The appointed leader and two picked “Thirteens” went to Beattie’s home. They were told that Beattie had gone to Toledo and would not be home until late.

Stop and Search All Cars.

Men were “planted” in various parts of the town. The leader and six men were stationed at the Toledo & Indiana Interurban station. All cars were stopped and searched. When Beattie failed to arrive on the 10:30 car, the vigilantes turned back to Reynold’s Corners, where they waited for the last car, due there at 12:01.

Beattie Gets Warning.

Beattie was not on the 12:01 car, but the searching party were told that two occupants of an auto had stopped the car nearer Toledo and taken Beattie off, after warning him that a “tar and feather party” was awaiting him. Within a few minutes, an automobile was seen approaching at a high rate of speed. Wagner, who was driving the auto, denied that Beattie was in the machine. The man who had flourished a revolver said his name was Hall and that the third man in the care was his brother. The identifying committee, however, pointed out the “brother” as the man the vigilantes were looking for.

Beattie is Handcuffed.

Beatty was handcuffed and a gunny sack pulled over his head. Wagner and Hall were taken into custody. Two loaded revolvers were found on Hall and Beattie and a loaded 12 gauge repeating shotgun was found in the car. The trio were placed on a truck, and the party of 86, then greatly increased in number by several parties autoists, including two women, sped to a point near Ottawa park. The string of autos halted where the road forks just across the bridge.

Vigilantes Take Oath.

All but one powerful spotlight, were turned off. This one lighted “the courtroom.” The leader called together the vigilantes and ordered them to raise their hands. He then read this oath, which every man repeated: “I hereby solemnly swear, as a loyal member of the Ku-Klux-Klan of Toledo, that I will uphold the constitution of the United States and protect the dignity of our government, our flag, our president and our soldiers and sailors. And I further swear, that I will never take a life or damage any property, and that I will never discuss in public, the order of the Ku-Klux-Klan, or divulge the names of any of our members, so help me God.”

Town Marshal on Stand.

The trials proceeded. Hall was the first “defendant” ordered to stand. He gave his name, occupation and address. He was asked if he were registered for the draft. He produced a Class 1-A card. He said he was town marshal of Holland “but didn’t carry my badge.” Wagner was next. He said he was “a good American citizen.” But the committee decided “not” when witnesses were produced who swore Wagner hadn’t bought a bond and was a sympathizer of Beattie’s. “I’ll buy a bond tomorrow,” Wagner pleaded. “You’ll buy it in a suit of tar and feathers,” the “court” spoke up. “It’s too late to repent now.”

Worries About His Uniform.

Beattie followed Wagner. He said he hadn’t bought any bonds and wouldn’t until “I see my supervisor about the cost of my uniform.” The “court” said: “Beattie, you were the only man this committee of patriotic American citizens were after, But we have two others who will fare as you will. We have information, and witnesses in this crowd to back it up, that you have been working openly against the draft and against the liberty bond sale.”

Beattie Denies Charge.

Beattie denied the accusation.
The “court” continued: “You have been making rounds from house to house in Spencer township, telling the people not to buy bonds; that they wouldn’t be worth a dollar in a year; that the government has issued more bonds than it could ever retire, and that the streets of Toledo would be littered with the “no good” bonds in a short time. What do you say?”
The accused again denied he had made any such statements, but when witnesses were produced he admitted he had said “something,” but hadn’t “said it just that way.”

Admits He is a Socialist.

The “court” again spoke: “We also have information that you have sworn falsely to affidavits to aid registrants to evade the draft. That you were in constant communication with Scott Nearing since the organization of Nearing’s gang, is still another charge that has been preferred against you. “You’re a Socialist, aren’t you?” Beattie admitted he was. He said he had attended “one or two” of Nearing’s meetings. But protested innocence. He said he was an American, born in Bryan.

“Guilty”, Crowd Shouts.

At this juncture, the crowd, which had held silence, yelled they were ready to vote. The leader then asked: “Gentlemen, remember your oath, keep sacred these Stars and Stripes. What is your verdict?” The 86-plpus voices shouted in chorus: “Guilty as charged.”
“You pretty little gang of pro-Germans, Socialists and what-not, you’ve heard the verdict. The sentence of this court is that you be be smeared with tar from head to toe, with the exception only of that part around your eyes, and showered with feathers until you resemble the tribe to which you belong. Gentlemen, I hereby appoint you (turning to a committee of three) a committee to execute the sentence, while the rest of us judge your qualities as the tar and feather party of the Ku-Klux-Klan.”

Beattie Tarred First.

Beattie was the first tarred. He stripped all clothing from his body and the committee proceeded. A five-gallon can of tar have been prepared. The “chairman” of the committee spoke: “I wish to announce that these feathers came from Pennsylvania 40 years ago. It’s just about 40 years ago that Germany started preparations for this war. I picked these particular feathers for the occasion, and I’ve enough to reserve for a few others on our list.”

I Don’t Like Kaiser Very Well.

After Beattie had been lathered with the soft tar and rolled in the feathers, the crowd yelled: “Well, how do you like the Kaiser now?”
The victim, trembling muttered: “Not very well.”
“Louder,” the vigilantes demanded.
“I don’t like him very well now,” Beattie answered.
Hall was second, and Wagner third. The three, allowed to don their clothes, were placed in the rear of the truck, under guard, and the cortege sped on into the city. The truck followed the leading machine. The auto behind the truck turned its bright lights on the trio and the autos sped down Jefferson avenue, tooting horns.

Stars and Stripes Unfurled.

The autos pulled into Liberty Court, where the three men were marched onto the platform. An American flag was unfurled. They were forced to kneel and the lay down before the flag, but the “committee” would allow none of the trio to touch the American standard.
People came from all directions. The vigilantes were unmasked, and made no attempt to hide their identity. They were wildly cheered when the onlookers were told why the ‘party” had occurred. They cheered again when told that other such “parties” were slated for the near future.
Two soldiers put in their appearance. They were asked to recite their oath to their country. They did so and Beattie, Hall and Wagner were made to repeat the words after them. The three were then turned over to police, together with the guns, and the crowd disbanded.

Monday Evening, April 15, 1918 – The Toledo Bee


Toledo patrolmen who witnessed the demonstration of the mob that tarred and feathered three Holland residents early on Sunday, will be summoned to appear before the grand jury, county officials announced on Monday afternoon.
The policemen, it is said, were present in Liberty Court, Madison-av, when the Holland citizens were forced to disrobe and show their “coats” of tar and feathers.
“I speak of that disgraceful tar and feather scrape on Madison-av, on Sunday morning, when I ask you new jurors whether you will uphold the criminal law of Ohio regarding mob violence, regardless of public sentiment,” Common Pleas Judge Johnson said to the new Lucas-co grand jury impaneled on Monday.
Judge Johnson referred to three Holland citizens, Perry Hall, 24, town marshal, J. J. Beatty, 32, railroad station agent, and William Wagner, 44, truck driver, who were taken by a mob from Holland to Toledo, tarred and feathered on the way in, and forced to kiss the American flag before a crowd of 500 at the Liberty Court on Madison-av early on Sunday. The men were accused of pro-German sympathies.


Speaking of the “tar and feather party”, Federal Attorney Edwin J. Lynch said on Monday.
“Any time the citizenry of Toledo and vicinity has a tar and feather planned, federal authorities should be communicated with to find out if the parties to be tarred are under observance. Such work as the Saturday night affair might upset the government in some important work. Such actions forewarn people.”
Louis M. Cantrell, special investigator of the Department of Justice, said no complaint has been made to him against the three men and that he will not take action until such a complaint is made.
The three were taken to the Central Police Station on Sunday morning and they are being held until city, county and federal authorities complete an investigation.


Fifteen or 20 strangers were in Holland early on Saturday evening looking for Beatty. Marshal Hall learned of it. Arming himself with two revolvers and a shotgun he started for Toledo with Wagner. Both knew Beatty was in Toledo and possibly start home on the last interurban car. At the second stop out of Toledo, they took Beatty from the interurban and started back to Holland. They had not gone far when they were met by a number of men in Autos.


Most of the men were from Toledo. They pulled Beatty out of the auto. When Hall objected they grabbed him and Wagner.
The crowd then started for Toledo. After reaching Ottawa Hills the three Holland men were forced to disrobe. A coat of tar and feathers was applied.
At Liberty Court, in front of the Central Postoffice, the men were again forced to take off their clothes. They were put on a platform where they were jeered and hooted by more than 300.


A man who appeared to be the leader made a short speech.
“These men have refused to buy bonds,” he said. “And they‘ve spread reports that the bonds are worthless. That kind of talk has got to stop or there will be a lynching in Holland.”
Police then took Hall, Beatty and Wagner to Central Police Station, where they are being held for the government.


All day on Sunday men and women went to the station eager to see the men. Beatty’s wife and brother-in-law, Arthur H. Wood, postmaster of Holland, visited the trio Sunday afternoon and made arrangements to have the tar removed. Wood, who is chairman of the Liberty Loan Committee in Holland, said he did not know if the men had purchased bonds or whether they had ever been asked to buy. Beatty, Hall and Wagner admitted they had not bought bonds.
Statements of Common Pleas Judge Johnson and Prosecuting Attorney John C. D’Alton before the April term grand jury on Monday indicated that the grand jury will take up the “tar and feather party.” Former Fire Chief William Mayo was appointed chairman of the jury. The jurors are: Dennis McCarthy, Hudson Fitch, Dennis Lynch, John Wilcox, Charles Harsh, C. M. Fellbach, A. A. Kujawa, Louis Van Norden, Walter Watson, D. C. Lewis and William Patterson. The last named is a former Socialist candidate for mayor.

Friday, October 31, 1919 – The Newark (Ohio) Daily Advocate


Toledo, Oct. 31 – John J. Beattie of Holland, O., who was tarred and feathered here during the war for supposed disloyalty, lost his $20,000 damage suit brought against 12 prominent citizens of Toledo. A jury in common pleas court returned a verdict in favor of seven defendants after the court had quashed the action against five earlier in the day.


Wednesday, June 1, 1921 – The Sandusky Star Journal


TOLEDO, June 1 – Perry Hall, Holland, Ohio, one of the victims of famous tar party in Toledo, growing out of a Liberty loan campaign in 1917, won a verdict for $500 against the county from a jury in common pleas court here today. Recently, John Beattie, another victim of the tar and feathers, was awarded $50 by a jury. Another suit by a third victim is pending.