Missouri and Ozarks History

Information and comments about historical people and events of Missouri, the Ozarks region, and surrounding area.

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I'm a freelance writer specializing in the history of the Ozarks and surrounding region. I've written sixteen nonfiction books, two historical novels, and numerous articles. My latest books are Wicked Women of Missouri, Yanked Into Eternity: Lynchings and Hangings in Missouri, and Show-Me Atrocities: Infamous Incidents in Missouri History.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Cleburne County Draft War

The so-called Cleburne County Draft War was a violent encounter in Cleburne County, Arkansas, near the end of World War I between local officials determined to enforce the Selective Service Act of 1917 and a group of Russellites (forerunners of Jehovah's Witnesses) who were resisting conscription.
On the morning of July 7, 1918, Sheriff Jasper Duke and four deputies traveled to a rural area southwest of Heber Springs in search of delinquents who had not registered for the draft, and they arrived at the home of Tom Adkisson, whose son Bliss had been delinquent since October of the previous year. A shootout ensued, and posse member Porter Hazlewood was fatally wounded.
Duke returned to Heber Springs to recruit more deputies. With approximately 25 men, he returned to the Adkisson home, but during the interim Adkisson had also recruited more men, other deserters and delinquents from the area. Another gun battle erupted, this one lasting about 45 minutes, before the resisters fled and set fire to the underbrush to discourage pursuit.
Later that day, sheriffs and deputies from surrounding counties reinforced the Cleburne County posse and bloodhounds were brought in. The next day, thirty members of the National Guard arrived to bolster law enforcement officials. During the next couple of days, the soldiers and posse members raided through the countryside arresting draft resisters and their sympathizers and confiscating goods and ammunition that might otherwise be available to the resisters. A Russellite preacher and his family were put in jail, and another man and his son were arrested for carrying a copy of The Finished Mystery by Charles Taze Russell (founder of the Russellites). The book condemned the federal government for demanding that "peace-loving men" sacrifice themselves to the "butchery of their fellows" in the name of heaven, and it urged resistance to military service. Such revolutionary notions as refusing to kill one's fellow men were, of course, considered subversive.
On July 13, the same day the National Guard returned to Little Rock, a son-in-law of Tom Adkisson surrendered in neighboring White County, and several other resisters, including the Adkissons, turned themselves in during the next few days. Tom and Bliss Adkisson were charged with the murder of Hazlewood. Tom was convicted of voluntary manslaughter, while Bliss was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 20 years in prison.


Anonymous Robin J White said...

My Grandmother was a witness to all of this. She lived to 102 years old and the youngest of his children.
This battle only happened after The Adkisson family was burned out of 2 homes, family business burned to the ground, livestock stolen and killed. He was the sole provider for a large family.

April 27, 2016 at 11:46 PM  
Blogger Larry Wood said...

Glad to hear from you, Robin. It's always interesting to hear from descendants of some of the people I write about. As you suggest, there's often a little more to the story than just what you can read in the newspapers and other historical documents.

April 28, 2016 at 1:47 PM  

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