The Ku Klux Klan planned a rally near Hayes Pond in Maxon, N.C. Jan. 18, 1958, with the intent of intimidating the area’s Lumbee Indians. Locals learned of the plans and decided to confront the Klan. As part of the annual Lumbee homecoming celebration, a North Carolina Highway Historical Marker will be dedicated July 5 to commemorate that Robeson County encounter. The 3 p.m. marker dedication will be part of a commemorative program that starts at noon. The dedication will be at the intersection of NC Highway 130 and Hayes Pond Road.
Rumors of a romantic relationship between a white man and Lumbee woman in St. Paul’s prompted the encounter. A cross was burned opposite the woman’s yard two weeks earlier, and that same night, one was burned in Lumberton near the home of a Lumbee family that had moved into a white neighborhood.
Klan activity had increased in North Carolina after the 1954 Supreme Court decision mandating the desegregation of public schools. The Klan initiated a campaign of terror seeking to reinforce Jim Crow laws that oppressed people of color, including American Indians in the Carolinas. Klan leader James “Catfish” Cole organized a rally in Maxton Jan. 18, 1958, after a failed planned rally in Union County the prior October.
The Jan. 18 nighttime rally in Maxton was broken up by a much larger group of Lumbee. The confrontation involved about 50 Klansmen and supporters, while the Lumbees numbered in the hundreds or perhaps thousands. One of the Lumbee shot out the light bulb suspended over the Klan’s public-address system. The Lumbees opened fire and the Klan could not offer effective resistance. The affair was over in minutes.
Many Klansmen fled, leaving their families behind. Others took refuge in vehicles and were escorted out by law enforcement. Four Klansmen received minor injuries but there were no fatalities. Klan activity against the Lumbee in Robeson County ceased and a significant change in the fight for native identity resulted. Interactions among the three major ethnic groups of Robeson County shifted as blacks, whites and Lumbee reevaluated long held positions.
The Battle of Hayes Pond commemorative ceremony organized by the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina will begin at 1 p.m. beside the Tribal Complex located at 6984 NC Highway 711 West, Pembroke, N.C. Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr. will unveil a memorial in honor of the battle immediately after the State of the Tribe address which begins at noon.
For additional information on the N.C. Highway Marker Program, please call (919) 807-7290. The Highway Marker Program is within the Office of Archives and History and administered by the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. The program is collaboration between the N.C. Departments of Natural and Cultural Resources and Transportation.