Did You Know…
This Week in Sapulpa History – 100 Years Ago, Nights of Terror
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
This week in Sapulpa history, 100 years ago, the world was watching Sapulpa in their reaction to a potential race riot. Just over a year and half after the Tulsa Race Massacre, Sapulpa nearly had a similar situation*.
*Note: The nights’ events took place between December 31, 1922 and January 3, 1923. The following information is based on Oklahoma newspapers that have been digitized. Unfortunately, African-American owned newspapers that have been digitized have a gap between 1922 and 1925. The information gathered is not complete.
“S.E. Brumley, police patrolman, is dead and two other policemen are in the hospital suffering from painful wounds, as the result of a pitched battle between a detail of five officers and [African-American citizens] in a darked cafe. Damages estimated at $15,000 resulted from a fire of undetermined origin in which swept a half block of the [Black residences].
“Two hundred citizens, including the full force of the local sheriff and police department are scouring the surrounding territory and guarding all radiating roads from here, in an attempt to catch [the culprits] responsible in the shooting, the identity of one of whom is known.
“The shooting occurred in a restaurant belonging to Ed Glass, [owner of the African-American local funeral home, Glass Funeral Home]...*
*Note: restaurant address is unknown, but the funeral home was located at 210 Johannes.
“Police detectives had been called to the scene of the shooting by a call from an unknown party to this neighborhood with the information that there was a fight. Unable to locate the trouble, Officers Floyd Sellers and J.T. Hildreth went to the door of Glass’ cafe.”
The story continues saying that out of nowhere shots rang out from inside the store. It is unknown when or why other officers were on scene at the Glass cafe the instant shots began. The story only mentions Sellers and Hildreth were on the scene; then five other officers were involved without an explanation.
“The first of the officers to fall was Patrolman Brumley, with his partner R.D. Adams. Officers Sellers, Hildreth, and J.F. Loveland fought their way inside the cafe…when the [culprits] fled out a back door and into a waiting mobile.”
Loveland and Hildreth were both shot in their legs; Sellers nearly lost a finger and Adams nearly lost his nose. It is unknown how many citizens were inside the cafe that night, or their injuries during the shoot-out. One account said, “Sellers fired upon the [culprits] …one moaned ‘My God! I’ve been shot.’”
“Chief of Police Ralph Morey stated he felt sure the situation was well in hand and no race riot or disturbance was feared. Three [citizens] had been arrested as suspected of complications in the shooting; five others had been taken into custody for questioning…”
It was theorized later on why the unknown caller said there were fights in the area. Stories ran that it was a planned ambush. “Police are positive that the five officers were lured to the addition…a direct attempt at Chief of Police Morey’s life. For the past three nights, police say fake calls for policemen have come from the addition, and each time a request has been made that Morey answers the call.
It was stated that Chief Morey added patrol to the addition to keep order. “A delegation of six [African-Americans] from Colored Business Men’s Association appeared to the City Commissioners to ask that a [Black] Policeman be put in the addition. Their spokesman said that the fact that no [Black] officer was employed, was causing resentment and might lead to serious trouble. He said that the delegation represented the law-abiding element who wished to prevent any trouble.*”
*Note: In 1921 Sapulpa’s first Black officer and only Black officer at the time, Richard E. Nelson, was killed in a shoot-out.
Chief Morey, Mayor H.A. McCauley, and City Commissioners announced, “an applicable martial law form of maintaining peace and order will be effective this morning to assist police on special duty in the [Black] neighborhoods and to prevent any disturbances or possible race rioting…No national guardsmen will be called here, but details of special policemen will enforce the rule that no white citizens will be allowed in the addition, and [African-Americans] will not be allowed outside of their addition. Pedestrians will be halted at the Frisco tracks, and other limits in the addition, and automobiles must go around the addition. As much as possible, [Black] residents will be confined to their addition until the heat of trouble has cooled.”
Several homes in the addition were raided. Stories of officers looking for the culprits and stories of false officers invading homes were both listed as to these raids. However, little was mentioned on the effects of the raids. “No trouble has even been hinted as arising out of the shooting, and none is feared by authorities.”
One of the people apprehended was the wife of Edward Glass, Lula Glass. It was theorized that Ed Glass was the “leader of the band of [African-Americans] who ambushed the police officers.” She denied she knew of her husband’s whereabouts and the events of the night’s shootings.
Later that week, murder charges against Dr. James Rawls for his potential acts in the shoot-out. It was believed he was the one who allegedly called the officers to the addition, and pointed out Glass’ Cafe as to the destination of the supposed fight.
After Officer “Shep” Brumley’s funeral took place, and the state’s eyes were still on Sapulpa. Oklahoma newspapers’ headlines read like from Cushing, “Sapulpa [Black] Section Scene of Battle,” and from Nowata papers, “Near Riot at Sapulpa,” and Oklahoma City newspaper, “Sapulpa Scene of [Race] Riot,” and Frederick newspaper stated, “Race War Follows Murder by [an African-American] at Sapulpa.”
Many newspapers compared Sapulpa to Tulsa. Sapulpa citizens also compared themselves to their neighboring city in their response to the shoot-out. “Race feeling is running high and two hundred citizens, with the full force of the local police department, are scouring the surrounding territory and guarding all roads in a desperate attempt to catch the [culprits] responsible for the shooting.” Although, some actions were similar to Tulsa’s, but many responses and effects were not that of Tulsa’s.
The very first morning, an immediate response of the town unlike Tulsa’s. “Keep Cool. Now is the time for cool, deliberate judgment. Sapulpa is sitting on a powder keg, lighting matches. The city is stirred perhaps as never before. One or two hotheads can easily produce a race riot. Sapulpa does not want the stigma attached to her name that Tulsa has. No use to condemn the entire [Black] race for what a half dozen irresponsible [culprits] have done. Let’s be calm, quiet, deliberate and above all let’s preserve the fair name of our city…There is no need for more bloodshed. There is no need for further killings unless some one drops the match into the powder keg. Surly, no one in Sapulpa wants that responsibility…Let’s protect and preserve the fair name of the best city in the southwest…
“...Cool heads at a time when members of two races are engaged in bloodshed, that more than often than not results in uncalled for damages, killings, and injuries, are something to be highly valued. They can give community a reputation for careful, timely action that points toward a commendable enforcement of the law. Lack of them, replaced by the panicky element, can stamp the blackest of marks across the community’s name…The result is that a crisis has probably been passed and Sapulpa will not add a costly, uncherished chapter of race rioting to her history. A handful of [people] are blamed for last night’s trouble…These are the ones to be captured and punished…Cool heads can do Sapulpa a big service now. Let’s see that congratulations stay in order.”
Many members of the town reached out to the officers and City Commissioners to aid in their efforts. “Plenty of tasty, hot coffee and a bite to eat may be found at the grocery store of S.L. James, [an African-American], in the business district of the addition. James, his wife, and other [Black] citizens have kept an open house every night since the shooting affray and all guards are welcome for hot coffee and choice variety of food to make the long nights seem shorter.”
“City and County Department heads were profuse in their admiration of the manner in which Sapulpa citizens conducted themselves, both by keeping down any racial trouble and through their services as members of the patrol squads in the addition.”
A letter was given to the local officials. This letter of appreciation was sent to the Herald by a group of African-American citizens thanking officials for their prompt handling of the situation and pledged their support for keeping mob violence down. “‘We, the undersigned [Black] citizens, feel that we are voicing the sentiment of the better element of our people when we say that we thank the city and county officials for their stand taken in protecting our part of the city from any mob violence that might have arisen. We also want to go on record as protesting against all murders and other law violators, and shall cooperate with the officials in stamping them out, that our city may be a decent place in which to live. We pray that those who have taken part in protecting our lives and property may live long to do much good for falling humanity.’” The letter was signed by W.I. Nall, W.H. Furrie, P.J. McAlpin, W.M. Roberts, A.B. Hollis, S.L. James, and I.C. Clardy.
Many Sapulpa citizens stepped in to keep measures calm. “The good name of Sapulpa should stand before the world as a criterion of honor as a city without a stigma of unwarranted bloodshed, cooperating to uphold the fair name of Sapulpa…The powder was there, and the matches were handy, but Sapulpans prevented an explosion after grueling hours of watchful waiting in the midst of the powderhouse.”
The Tulsa Tribune ran an editorial letter praising the officials of Sapulpa and its citizens. In said letter, “officials were blessed with a working crew of real citizens in which the affair was handled.”
The week’s events do not have a clear conclusion. Many stories over the next years indicate Ed Glass escaped the area and could have lived in California or Mexico. Some stories said he lived closer, such as Arizona or Texas. Rumors spread that he was killed while being arrested a few years later. Other stories said he was captured, but turned out to be the wrong man. By 1928, Glass would be arrested, brought back to Sapulpa, charged for murder. He was sentenced to 99 years. However, there are stories, too, he escaped. Twice. Mrs. Lula Glass continued the Glass Funeral Home until at least 1936; it is believed the funeral home would become the Dyer Funeral Home.
(Cushing Weekly Citizen, January 4, 1923; Frederick Leader, January 2, 1923; Nowata Times, January 4, 1923; Oklahoma News, January 4, 1923; Sapulpa Herald, January 2-6, 1923; Sapulpa Times, January 24, 2019)
The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.