The following information was obtained with the help of
Mr. Orrin Murray, noted Kansas historian. We salute you Orrin Murray,
a Sumnerite to be proud of.
Naturally there are different versions of the story of the incident. However. even though there are several tales about the reason for the murder, one thing rings true, the fatality was the cause of blacks and whites being separated in the city's school system.
In a special interview with Orrin Murray, noted Black Kansas Historian, he pointed out that things didn't really happen exactly the way the newspapers printed it. Our staff could not find records of any Black publication during that time (1904) and the only Black version can only be obtained from those who lived during these days.
According to Mr. Murray, who obtained the information from Lura Gregory, the brother of the accused slayer. Louis Gregory, the lad (Louis) was only defending himself when the fatal shot was fired, killing the white boy, Roy Martin.
Murray said it was not unusual for a fisherman to carry his rifle while snaring frogs or fishing, because they could shoot the large frogs before they jumped back into the water. Since Gregory, 18, had gone to the pond to snare frogs, he too had carried his rifle along with his fishing pole, a gallon of drinking water and a sack of flour to put on his "catch".
The pond, which was located at 14th to 16th Street, between Ann and Barnett, was the rear part of what is now Ward Athletic Field. Armstrong to Ann was then known as Nugent's Ball Park. It was there that on April 12. 1904, that some white had arrived early for athletic activities. The boys were on the team of the Kansas City, Kansas High School, which at that time blacks and whites attended together, and is now Wyandotte, which was located at 9th and Minnesota.
Seeing that Louis was crippled, one leg shorter than the other, two of the boys decided to Harass the black limping youth and make him run. Since the white lads were coming after him with baseball bats, Louis did just that, ...he ran, but to where his rifle laid. He picked it up and as the boys continued to advance on him and the fatal, shot was fired. Roy Martin fell dead.
Orrin Murray says that still another version of the
incident was published by the Gazette Globe, the only daily publication
in Kansas City, Kansas, at the time The Gazette Globe stated that
the school team- had gone to the park for exercise, when a negro tramp
approached the white boys. The youths asked the negro to leave and
when he did not, a fight began, ending with the death of Roy Martin.
The negro tramp fled from the scene and was found a couple of days later
hiding in the basement of his home. The Kansas City Star printed
even another version and copies of the original articles are shown on this
Mr. Murray said that he doesn't really know which version is actually true but he prefers to believe that of the family, because he himself is black and he knows the prejudices of those days He said that he knows of only one person still alive, who was a student during those days of the riots. Her name is Lula Ellison.
According to reports collected by Murray, Louis Gregory was taken into custody and held in the county jail (where the Ramada Inn stands today), where his life was threatened by the existance of mobs who intended to lynch him. The Kansas City Star stated that the sheriff was a fair man who handled the situation fairly and that his actions canceled a race war. However blacks believed the sheriff to be quite prejudice.
A group of blacks saved Gregory's life by arriving on the scene. They called themselves the Springfield Rifle Immune Platoon. Yet another account of this incident was given by a newspaper reporter who said the blacks were there to stop a riot. According to Murray, the group of blacks was led by Rev. George McNeal who told the lynch mob that there there had been enough blood shed. He then said that anyone to cross the curbstone would open their eyes in hell.
An order was given to shot to kill anyone who crossed the line. With
this historic stand against the mob, the potential lynchers left and Gregory
was not harmed. Gregory was given. a very quick trial by a prejudiced judge
and a biased jury and was sentenced to prison.. After 30 years in
1934, he was given an unconditional pardon by the governor. He died
The following report of The Kansas City Star portrays the whites to be dogooders while blacks were of bad character and trouble makers.
After reading that report, and that of Orrin Murray who spoke to the Gregory family, it is up to you to decide which one you prefer to attach to the history of Sumner.
While the incident is in the past and one should not worry about it, notes should be taken, as some of the same political schemes and biases, actions still exist.. Will we let it happen again?