MAXTON — Hayes Pond near Maxton is sacred ground for the Lumbee, and on Thursday it got a historic highway marker near the place where the Lumbee drove the Ku Klux Klan from Robeson County a little more than 60 years ago.
It was fitting that the sign, located at N.C. 130 and Hayes Pond Road, was dedicated during the week of 50th Lumbee Homecoming. Woodrow Dial, who was 17 when he and and several hundred Lumbee men confronted the Klan at their called meeting, helped unveil the marker.
“I didn’t fire my gun,” Dial said. “The KKK never did show themselves.”
Ancel Maynor, who also was there, said, “They didn’t even say goodbye.”
When the Klan was gone, the news traveled around the world.
The sign reads: “The Battle of Hayes Pond: The Lumbee and other American Indians ousted the Ku Klux Klan from Maxton, January 18, 1958, at a rally one-half mile west.”
It is the 16th historical roadside marker in Robeson County and the 1,601st for North Carolina, according to Keven Cherry, deputy secretary of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources and director of the Office of Archives and History.
“The local community said ‘no’ to the Klan and ‘no’ to injustices and ‘no’ to hate,” Cherry said. “That was a battle they fought for all of us.”
Only a handful of Klansmen showed up for the rally that was called by a South Carolina KKK leader named Catfish Cole. Gunfire from the Lumbee prompted the outnumbered Klan to retreat quickly, with no casualties on either side.
“It’s not easy to get a historical marker,” Cherry said. “We get hundreds of applications each year for 10 markers.”
A committee of 10 historians makes the decision with the only guidance that the event or person must be of statewide significance. The decision about Hayes Pond was an easy one, Cherry said.
A member of the selection committee was on hand. Jaime Martinez, who teaches history at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, also initiated the application as a history project.
“It was a class project that I hoped would connect my students outside the classroom,” Martinez said. “It worked well.”
Chapell Brock was in Martinez’ class and helped write the proposal with seven classmates.
“It was eye-opening,” Brock said. “We attended the final meeting of the selection committee, which went very quickly.”
Brock and his classmates got the approval of the Lumbee Tribe before proceeding. It was a memorable history lesson, he said.
“This was extraordinary for 1958,” Brock said. “It influenced how the state would shut down the Klan’s future events.
“It was one of the earliest civil rights events in that era. For the Lumbee, it’s a huge matter of pride.”
A small gathering that included UNCP Chancellor Robin Cummings attended the unveiling and remembered many of the men who participated in the event. Almost all of them have passed away, Dial said.
“I was one of the youngest there,” Dial said. “I went with my father.”
“It was news that went around the world,” he added.
Lumbee Tribal Chairman Harvey Godwin Jr., who delivered the State of the Tribe Address earlier Thursday and dedicated a memorial to the Battle of Hayes Pond at tribal headquarters, called it “a good day.”
“This was a long time coming, but I’m glad it happened,” Godwin said.
Scott Bigelow can be reached at 910-644-4497 or [email protected]