BUMBLEBEE PEOPLE: CENTURY OF RACISM IN A SMALL OKLAHOMA TOWN

Trail of Tears

Sunday Supplement 

Part One Published September 30, 2018


The Bumblebee People is a new Sunday supplement to Hate Trackers exploring the evolution of racism in a small Oklahoma town from the late 19th Century to the early 21st Century.


Each week readers will be taken through the struggles of Indigenous People and African Americans, who experienced great oppression, indignities, and injustices brought to them by white settlers and townspeople. 


PART ONE: The Beginning


“The Negro prayed and shrieked in agony as the flames reached his flesh, but his cries were drowned out by the yells and jeers of the mob.”


A small Oklahoma town built on an unholy cornfield soaked with the blood of cannibals and cursed by Medicine Men, becomes the scene of another ghastly murder. Locals begin whispering about Satanic sacrifices and looking for a culprit. Talk of a lynching stirs up memories of Negro Bennie’s torture and hanging. The ghosts that haunt the Bumblebee People have returned and in this true-life story anyone considered an outcast could supply the fresh blood needed to exorcise a haunted town’s darkest demons. 

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The haunting of what is now Anadarko, Oklahoma began on October 24, 1862 – thirty-two days after Abraham Lincoln issued the first Emancipation Proclamation. 


Accused of ritualistic cannibalism and condemned as outcasts by the dominant Southern Plains Indians, a small band of Tonkawa, known Confederate sympathizers, were attacked by Union-friendly braves angered at the abduction of a young boy. Barely twelve winters old, the child was roasted over a camp fire after being butchered by the nomadic tribe. Supper was interrupted and the blood of the “eaters of humans” flowed heavy down the hill from which they had camped that day. Many of those who fled the attack were tracked down and slaughtered. The Tonkawa narrowly avoided extinction and lost their taste for human flesh.


After their victory Shawnee and Osage warriors spat curses upon the bullet-riddled bodies of the cannibals they’d slain and ancient words, now long lost, were uttered upon the hill that condemned any that would dare tread the unholy site in the days and years to come.


Legends claim the blood of the Tonkawa pooled towards the north and onto a cornfield just below the Burning Bush that was set afire by the holy men of the victors that day and chosen to forever guard the hill and punish all trespassers.
 

Two generations later the first white settlers, ignorant of the cursed land, established a settlement at the foot of the haunted hill. 


The Indians knew they were going to be facing a greater danger than the Tonkawas ever presented, as the “white devils” came to take their land, steal, rape, abduct their children, and murder them.


On August 6, 1901 a cornfield on the north side of the hill bearing the remains of dozens of cannibals was cut down to erect Ragtown, a tent city for 5,000. The town was officially named Anadarko, derived from the Caddo word Nadá-kuh, which translates to the Bumblebee Place. 

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INDIAN CITY USA

he massacre site overshadowing Anadarko, which was considered unclean and rife with bad spirits by Native Americans, would in 1954 become an economic boon to the white citizens of the town. They opened Indian City USA for the tourists. Impoverished tribal members were hired to dance atop the bones of the human eaters. Overpriced “Authentic Native American” souvenirs, bearing “Made in Japan” tags, such as rubber tipped arrows and tomahawks, as well as dyed chicken feather headdresses, were sold to the Ozzies and Harriets of America coming to see the world’s only authentic Indian village. The town’s white men had found away to exploit the Indians’ tragedy. 

Barely a decade after its founding, townspeople from the accursed land of corn fertilized by cannibal blood strung Negro Bennie Simmons from a cottonwood tree. Accused of murdering a 16-year-old white girl named Susie Church (who by all accounts was God’s chosen embodiment of purity and wholesomeness) on Caddo land north of Anadarko, Bennie was taken from his jail and drug to a landing near the Washita River west of the Bumblebee Place. There he was soaked with coal oil, hung off a branch, and set on fire. 


The photo to the right is Mr. Simmons.


The local paper reported “The Negro prayed and shrieked in agony as the flames reached his flesh, but his cries were drowned out by the yells and jeers of the mob.” 


Unhappy with a still-breathing hung and burning man, the lynch party shot the screaming Bennie to death. Justice that day came with laughter and ridicule lodged at another outcast, who was convicted and executed on mere rumor. The only facts established on June 13, 1913 were that Bennie was a Negro and couldn’t run fast enough. 


Trials by noose were seemingly tolerated by the average person of the era. After Sheriff Frank Smith and Deputy George Beck were killed by highwaymen near Anadarko, the Guthrie Daily Reader reported on January 16, 1902, “A large posse of men has been organized and gone in pursuit, and lynching will in all probability be the fate of the robbers if captured alive.”


Bennie lives on in the minds of the Bumblebee People, but over the years was somehow renamed Jeremiah and at times identified as an Indian youth who committed suicide. His ghost is said to have haunted Jeremiah’s Bridge until the aged structure was swallowed up by the river after being hit by a truck. 


Prior to its destruction, locals had over the years reported seeing a man hung on the bridge, whose blood dripped down on their windshields. A glowing orb floating through the air has also been rumored in the area.  

In 2004 a now defunct metalcore band originating from Anadarko dubbed itself Jeremiah’s Bridge, incorporated a pentagram into its logo, and marketed a completely erroneous version of the ghost tale. 


Five years later a different metalcore band called Napalm Reign, who are fond of Satanic symbols and lyrics, were in the Bumblebee Place when the ritualistic murder of Pastor Carol Daniels occurred inside the Christ Holy Sanctified Church . 


In what many locals still refer to as Nigger Town, the 61-year-old black minister was discovered n what has been reported as ritualistic fashion and stabbed multiple times. The nearly decapitated and nude body of Pastor Daniels was laid out like a crucifix and there were elements of burning present, including that of her hair.


Investigators, fueled by the superstitions of the Bumblebee People, looked briefly towards the band members as possible suspects. Although they’ve yet to solve the murder, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation did manage to obtain a warrant to search Napalm Reign’s MySpace account – NapalmRain666.


A now gone posting on MySpace stated, “I want to burn the city, mothers and fathers, and their little children. Beatings, shootings, suicides, and those who care about nothing but themselves. But they will drown. They shall drown in their own blood. I want to burn them all."


It’s a lack of sophistication that causes the Bumblebee People to be drawn to satanic conspiracies. It’s much too easy to blame dabblers in the occult or young outsiders lost to the status quo and seeking a different path. 


In reality, Satanic human sacrifices are unfounded and more media hype and folk lore than anything. The pastor’s death may have aspects of ritual murder, but those are more likely going to be found to stem from extreme mental illness or a calculated killer’s attempt to confuse the crime scene than from cult activities.


Jared Pedersen, a member of Napalm Reign, has stated, “This whole investigation has turned out to be nothing short of a witch-hunt. The only reason they are looking at us is because we have satanic lyrics and I am well known to be a Satanist.”


But, beyond the bands, the Bumblebee People have now found another outcast, another Negro Bennie, to condemn and the truth will not get in their way of a good lynching. 


Years had gone by without Anadarko being able to solve the brutal slaying of Pastor Daniels. Facing reelection and an agitated base, the district attorney declared he had a suspect – a dying Kiowa woman. 



Part II: Ragnarök & Where the Blood Pools

Darnell Cooper was the prettiest girl in our junior class at Broxton High School just a short fifteen miles southwest of Anadarko. In 1978 I wanted her badly.

Some dreams come ture. Some dreams turn to nightmares.


Sitting three miles off the nearest main road the unincorporated community of Broxton wasn’t much of a place at all. It consisted of a school for the Broxton and Pine Ridge students divided into two sections: K-8 and 9-12. The entire student body barely surpassed 100. 


Other features included, an ag barn for the Future Farmers of America, a baseball field, the janitor’s house, a trailer house, and the Mt. Zion Church.

In the 1990’s Broxton was consolidated with Fort Cobb eight miles to the north. The Broxton and Pine Ridge Indian and farm kids now all go to Fort Cobb-Broxton schools.   


Broxton is now all abandoned and in ruins. 


That was until Thor and Asgard discovered the place. 


In a Marvel Comics storyline, after Loki brought about Ragnarök Thor and his fellow Asgardians fled their realm and took up residence above and just outside Broxton, Oklahoma where they were welcomed by locals. Said locals would’ve been predominantly Kiowas and farmers.


That went on for a few years until Norman Osburn ceased control of S.H.I.E.L.D. and decided to attack Broxton/New Asgard with the Dark Avengers, a line up that included Venom. The regular Avengers came in and a big tussle happened in Broxton where the bad guys were defeated, but everything left in ruin - Broxton’s usual fate be it in comics or reality.     


Odin took the Asgardians and consolidated them back into Asgard.


Broxton is also featured in Season Two of Agent Carter where it is said to be the childhood home of villain Agnes Cully, aka Whitney Frost, aka Madame Masque. The comics, however, have a different backstory for her. The fictional television version based her looks on that of actress Hedy Lamarr and made her a post-WWII inventor and mad woman that would end up in an insane asylum. 

In 1978 both Darnell Cooper and I enrolled in our junior years at Broxton. She was considered the prettiest girl in school and I the smartest. Whereas I was a bit reserved, she had a wild streak. I was drug free and she not always sober. By the time we hit our senior year, she was a troublemaker always looking for fun and I was the class president trying to decide which college to go to.  

I asked her to the junior/senior prom. After all, I was smart and she was the prettiest Kiowa girl I’d ever seen. And that body! Teenage boys are shallow.

Darnell accepted. We went to the prom and dated for about two months until she dropped out and I readied for graduation. During those two months I got a taste of both Darnell’s wild bed habits, but also discovered a young woman running from very deep wounds and medicating herself with drugs and pleasures of the flesh.


Darnell and I had some fun dates too. One Saturday we went to a pow wow in Apache, Oklahoma, just a few miles south of Broxton, where she introduced me to an old Apache woman named Mildred Cleghorn, who as a child was in Geronimo’s band and later interred with them at a Ft. Sill concentration camp. Mildred was showing her Cochina dolls.

In 1976, Just three years before our meeting Mildred, the United States government had officially recognized the Chiricahua tribe and she was elected their first leader - a position she held until her retirement in 1995. 

Mildred Imoch (En-Ohn or Lay-a-Bet) was born a prisoner of war two weeks before Christmas in 1910. She and the Chiricahua Apache were kept locked up in a stockade that still stands on the grounds of the Fort Sill Army Base. Her grandfather had fought the United States and Mexico as a member of Geronimo’s band. 


Geronimo was a powerful leader and medicine man from the Bedonkohe band of the Chiricahua Apache tribe. From 1850 to 1886 he allied with members of three other Chiricahua Apache bands - the Tchihende, the Tsokanende and the Nednhi - to conduct raids in New Mexico and Arizona. They were eventually captured and sent to various American concentration camps in Florida, Alabama, and the military stockade in Indian Territory, which would become Oklahoma three years after Mildred was born.

Once freed of their captivity in 1913 many of the Apache would migrate to the Mescalero Reservation in New Mexico. Those remaining including the by then three-year-old Mildred stayed in the area. They would come to be known as the Ft. Sill Apache with many having farms around what are now the cities of Apache and Lawton. Mildred would go on to earn a university degree in home economics and became a school teacher, all while becoming a noted dollmaker.     

Darnell and I talked to Mildred about the dolls she was exhibiting on a table at the pow wow. Even by that time her handcrafted Apache Kachina dolls were known as great historical representations of Apache women.   


I’d only seen Darnell once since high school, when she was working as a Pizza Hut waitress in Carnegie. She flirted with me in front of my new wife and sister-in-laws. I hadn’t thought about her much in recent years, until in 2017 I discovered that not only had Darnell died, but that she was the primary suspect in a brutal ritualistic murder in Anadarko and was also accused of being an actual serial killer. 


But at the table with the dolls I saw Darnell’s eyes darken. She pulled me away and started talking about stealing one of the sacred Kachina dolls. I resisted and she stomped to the car. Following her, I thought it best we both leave the pow wow.

We ended up driving to Fort Cobb - a small town that used to be an old Army fort - one where Custer resupplied before committing his massacre along the Washita River in 1868. We picked up beer at Nowhere by the lake. Driving back towards town, Darnell decided to head to the a local haunt known as the Bleeding Church.   

Lots of blood pools at the Bumblebee Place.

From the hills to the south where the Tonakawa were punished for their cannibalism, to the hills housing the Bleeding Church to the west, to the blood of the Southern Cheyenne carried down the Washita River, as it wind its way through Anadarko after first flowing beneath the haunted bridge where the spirit of the lynched Negro Benny is still said to roam.   

     
Part III Coming as soon as the white folks settle their asses down.