THE DESTRUCTION OF GREENWOOD
AFRICAN AMERICANS FIGHT BACK
HORACE "PEG LEG" TAYLOR HELD HIS GROUND
First, the armed whites broke into African American homes and businesses, forcing the occupants into the street, where, at gunpoint, they were marched off to Convention Hall. Anyone who resisted was shot, as were, it appears, men in homes where firearms were discovered. Next, the whites looted the homes, pocketing small valuables, and hauling away larger items on foot.
Finally, the rioters set the homes on fire, using torches and oil-soaked rags. House by house, block by block, the wall of destruction moved northward.
Some of the fires, it seems, were set by whites in uniform. Eyewitnesses later reported that white men clad in World War I army uniforms, probably members of the 'Home Guard' a loosely organized group of white veterans, were observed setting fires in Deep Greenwood. Others claimed that some Tulsa police officers set fire to black businesses along Archer.
African Americans fought back. Black riflemen positioned themselves in the belfry of the newly completed Mt. Zion Baptist Church, whose commanding view of the area below Standpipe Hill allowed them to temporarily stem the tide of the white invasion. But when whites setup a machine gun, perhaps the same weapon that was used at the granary and riddled the church tower with its devastating fire, the black defenders were overwhelmed. Mt. Zion was later put to the torch.
A deadly firefight erupted at the site of an old clay pitt off of Standpipe Hill, where several black defenders went to their deaths fighting. Stories have also been handed down over the years about Horace "Peg Leg" Taylor, who is said to have singlehandedly fought off dozens of white invaders. And along the northern edge of Sunset Hill, the white guardsmen briefly found themselves under attack. Black Tulsa was not going without a fight.
Patricia Nesbitt heard from her grandmother Lena Taylor Butler, Peg Leg's daughter, that after he sent his family down a ravine that led to the Midland Valley tracks and safety from the advancing mob, Peg Leg and his son stood their ground on Standpipe Hill, holding off the vigilantes until airplanes began firing down on them and the mob grew. Peg Leg offered his son fire cover to escape. His story of bravery has become folklore. According to Mrs. Butler, in an interview before she died in 2000, he had lost his leg when Ku Klux Klan members tied him to a railroad track, after dispute in the cotton field of rural Oklahoma. All but dead, he was found by two white women, and nursed to health by them. After the incident the family moved to Tulsa, where he became a landowner and entrepreneur. His body was never found. It can be assumed Peg Leg is among the unidentified buried in unknown places. His wife, daughter and son would join relatives in Seattle, Washington.