William C Pratt. American Communist History. Volume 17, Issue 2. June 2018.
On 28 April 1921, New York police and Bureau of Investigation agents raided a Greenwich Village studio, arresting several people and seizing a large cache of Communist documents. The raid was reported in the New York Times and later many of the documents were discussed at a 1924 U.S. Senate hearing on diplomatic recognition of Soviet Russia. Among the seized materials were two items that related to Communist interests in American farmers. The first of these documents was an “Agrarian Report,” which was prepared to brief the Comintern in Moscow; the second was a letter from the editor of the Nonpartisan League (NPL)’s daily newspaper in Fargo. In a way, these two artifacts reflect the dual character of the American Communist experience. On the one hand, Communists saw themselves part of an international movement directed from Moscow; on the other, they were tied to an older indigenous left as well. In this article, I explore these two themes in regard to Communist efforts in the countryside in the 1920s. In recent years, a treasure trove of documents from this era previously unavailable to scholars have been made available in Moscow. Much of what follows is drawn from those materials, but I also have utilized FBI documents and movement and local newspapers among other sources.
It is not clear who prepared the “Agrarian Report” that the agents seized in April of 1921, but it probably was Hal Ware, who also was the recipient of the undated letter from the NPL editor. Ware was the oldest son of “Mother” Ella Reeve Bloor, a prominent Communist with a history of involvement in earlier left-wing movements, and he was a graduate of a two year program at the Pennsylvania Agricultural College. He apparently had had contact with C. K. Gunnerson, the editor of the NPL paper, who now reported that his faction was in control of the League and sought to move it to the left as much as it could. As a practical matter, Gunnerson greatly exaggerated the strength of the left within the organization and nothing came of this particular episode, but Ware made other efforts to recruit among NPL members in North Dakota. He was appointed National Agrarian Organizer for the Party, and attended national farm meetings. In early February of 1922, a Party official sent a report to Moscow on recent Party activities. It was written as though it was a business letter in case it was intercepted, and Party names were used rather than the actual names of functionaries. Ware’s Party name was “Harrow.” The portion of the letter which refers to Communist efforts in agriculture reads as follows:
Mr. Harrow attended recent Agricultural Conference at Washington and made excellent connections for valuable trade. On the basis of these arrangements a big deal is likely to be completed if we are able to finance the transaction. You may tell the old man that active negotiations are being carried on with the North Dakota concern. The board of directors of the latter company have been interested in the new line of goods by Harrow. Were it not for a lack of funds we would already have been launched in an active sales campaign in the new field. Delay here is especially disastrous as the local market is ripe for our brand of goods.
It seems clear that Ware had made efforts to work with people in the NPL, some of whom he may have met on an earlier trip to North Dakota. A key point in the letter, however, was the comment about lack of funds. Though there has been a great deal of attention devoted to “Moscow gold” in regard to American Communism (and there is a great deal of evidence of Russian financial support to the American Party), Communist efforts in the countryside always were in need of money. Thus serious organizing among farmers was postponed until early 1923. The Party’s Political Committee addressed the “Agrarian Question” at its February 16, 1923 meeting, with Ware reporting “on general economic and organizational conditions in agrarian areas.” He was assigned the task of preparing “a) communist party program,” and “b) immediate, practical program.” It was also decided that he “make [a] tour immediately to establish contact with farmers’ organizations” and that the “work at first be concentrated in Northwest”. Ware had the idea that the Party should organize a farm front that would help lead farmers to the Communist cause rather than directly recruiting them into the Party. While traveling through the Plains states, these views were reinforced as he talked to left-wing farmers.
In April, while in Fargo, he printed a leaflet entitled Why Not a Farmers Educational League?, which attracted some response, including letters of interest from William Langer, a former Attorney General, and some NPL legislators. The leaflet mentioned two contacts by name, Ware and Alfred Knutson. A Norwegian immigrant and a graduate of the University of South Dakota, Knutson was a veteran of the Socialist Party and NPL, having served as a League organizer in several states and state manager in Washington. He was attracted to the Communist cause earlier on, though he remained with the League for several years. He had met Ware on an earlier trip he made to North Dakota, and the two of them began recruiting farmers for the new farm organization and the Workers Party.
In early July of 1923, Ware attended a farmer-labor convention in Chicago, ostensibly representing the fledgling United Farmers Educational League. Farmer-Laborism had emerged as a real political possibility in the early 1920s, as left-wing agrarians and unionists were increasingly estranged from the two party system. Many of them had high hopes of forming a new national party, and the organizers of the Chicago meeting helped to further this cause. The Workers Party saw this as an opportunity to become a major factor in farmer-labor politics and set out to “capture” the convention. Ware’s participation was part of this effort. Over the protests of other elements, Communists and their allies took over the gathering and orchestrated the formation of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party. In so doing, they had the cooperation of non-Communist insurgents who were willing to work with them. These included Tom Ayres and Alice Lorraine Daly from South Dakota and William Bouck from Washington state.
Ayres was a veteran of third party politics in South Dakota. In the 1890s, he had served as secretary to the state’s Populist governor; more recently, he had been a mainstay of the state’s NPL. Daly, his political ally, was a former college instructor and had been the League’s gubernatorial candidate in 1922. Both of them participated in the Chicago convention. Bouck had been the head of the Washington Grange until he was pushed out for his left-wing views in 1921. Now, he led a small farm group, the Western Progressive Farmers, which had a limited following in his home state. He was picked as chairman of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party, but had little day-to-day responsibility for the organization. As a practical matter, the new party was directed by Communists, though it had supporters who clearly were not affiliated with the Workers Party.
Knutson also attended the Chicago meeting. Upon his return to North Dakota, he and the newly appointed Agrarian Organizer of the Workers Party, J. E. Snyder, began a serious organizing effort. Later, the Party secretary reported to the Central Executive Committee and the Comintern that the two of them reportedly recruited 100 farmers in August and September of 1923. Knutson now headed the United Farmers Educational League and Snyder edited its paper, the United Farmer. It is not entirely clear how many of the recruits enlisted in the League, but this group was affiliated with the new Federated Farmer-Labor Party.
Communist publications seemingly devoted more attention to insurgent politics in South Dakota than in North Dakota in 1923. The Worker featured several stories on South Dakota developments, including the formation of the state’s Farmer-Labor Party. Ayres and Daly were given very favorably coverage in contrast to the limited amount of attention provided Knutson in North Dakota or the radical enclave in northeast Montana, where a left-wing group dominated Sheridan County politics. The Montana Farmer-Labor Party also was formed in late 1923, and “[i]ts statement of principles and Program [was] word for word that of the Federated Farmer-Labor Party.” Communists played a key role here, as they did a few months later when a similar party emerged in North Dakota. Communist farmer-labor politics hoped to ride the larger wave of Farmer-Laborism in this era.
Communist agrarians worked hand-in-hand with non-Communist counterparts such as Ayres, Daly and Bouck for much of 1923 and 1924. Their hopes to launch a new national third party, however, were dashed by Robert La Follette’s independent Presidential campaign. La Follette had a broad following among insurgents since World War I, and the nomination of any significant third party effort was his for the asking. While the Workers Party had no illusions about the Wisconsin Senator, its leaders told members that it would support him if he were the nominee of a farmer-labor party. Plans had been made by Minnesota Farmer-Laborites and others to launch a new national party at a St. Paul convention, scheduled initially for May and then June of 1924. Communists were prominently identified with the effort, and anti-Communist labor figures and others denounced the convention as Communist-dominated. La Follette, perhaps under pressure from AFL and Railroad Brotherhood leaders, issued his own denunciation of the gathering, and in so doing, deterred many delegates from attending. These attacks had the effect of producing a self-fulfilling prophecy. Communists and their allies turned out in full force, while many other farmer-laborites stayed away.
From the outset, Communists were in control of the St. Paul gathering. On virtually every vote they demonstrated their dominance and rejected any attempt to endorse La Follette. A new farmer-labor party was formed, and it nominated a labor leader for President and William Bouck for Vice-President. Realistically, despite the hopes and efforts of many, the attempt to build a viable farmer-labor vehicle had failed. La Follette was endorsed as an independent candidate for President at a well-attended Cleveland convention backed by the officialdom of organized labor and other more moderate progressive elements. As a practical matter, the Workers Party had been divided over the issue of a farmer-labor party, and the Comintern indicated its disapproval prior to the St. Paul convention. That disapproval, however, was not publicized until later.
The issues of a farmer-labor party and La Follette’s candidacy already had been a bone of contention within the Workers Party’s leadership, and representatives of the different factions had traveled to Moscow to have the matter resolved by the Comintern. The Ruthenberg-Pepper group had promoted the idea of a broad farmer-labor party, beginning in 1923, and felt that they had Comintern approval of the approach. On the other hand, the rival Foster-Cannon faction felt that their opponents devoted too much attention to farmers and not enough to workers. At times, they claimed the Ruthenberg-Pepper group actually wanted to base the Party on farmers! But what happened in Moscow came as a surprise to both factions. The Americans were told that they had to abandon their effort to work with a farmer-labor party and must not support La Follette, even if he became the candidate of such a party. Since they had been very public in their efforts to participate in the upcoming farmer-labor convention, both the Ruthenberg-Pepper and the Foster-Canon factions saw this abrupt shift in policy as disastrous. Despite their arguments, the Comintern told them that the decision was final. What had happened was explained by developments within the Russian party, particularly efforts to isolate Trotsky. He was totally opposed to the inclusion of farmers in Communist parties, and his opponents felt that it was tactically unwise to argue against that position. More concerned with the power struggle in Russia and unfamiliar with American conditions, Comintern leaders over-ruled the Americans, and required them to pursue a course that they knew would isolate them for some time.
In mid-summer of 1924, American Communists dropped the Fitzgerald-Bouck ticket in favor of a Workers Party campaign headed by William Z. Foster and Benjamin Gitlow. This about face, in the wake of Communist heavy-handedness at the St. Paul gathering, alienated many non-Communists who had been willing to work with them earlier. Communist attacks on La Follette in the fall only added to this estrangement. Yet in North Dakota, as already indicated, Communists had earlier made some modest inroads. They had recruited more than 100 farmers and others to the Workers Party, many of whom obviously were former Socialists and NPLers. In Williams County, situated in the northwest corner of the state, the new recruits included Andrew Omholt and A. C. Miller, both of whom were NPL candidates for local office in 1924. Omholt was a Norwegian immigrant who had homesteaded in the Grenora area, north of Williston. He had been active in the Socialist movement prior to the emergence of the NPL, and in 1924 was the League’s candidate for sheriff. Miller also had homesteaded and had been involved in the Socialist Party prior to World War I. He was a NPL candidate for legislature from Williams and McKenzie Counties this year. Both had been endorsed at the county convention and then nominated in the primary. This section of North Dakota was strong NPL country, and League endorsements usually resulted in election victory.
In the summer of 1924, however, the Workers Party filed nominating petitions to put William Z. Foster on the ballot in North Dakota, and it soon was publicized that Omholt and Miller were among the signers. Neither backed away from being identified with Foster’s candidacy, and Miller explained in a paid advertisement why he did not support Robert La Follette’s independent Presidential bid. The NPL in North Dakota was a strong La Follette backer, and local Leaguers recruited sticker candidates to run against Omholt and Miller. While Omholt was defeated handily, Miller attracted a plurality of the vote and became the first state legislator in the United States who publicly acknowledged himself as a Communist.
Communist attacks on La Follette during the 1924 campaign clearly had undercut Workers Party efforts to recruit among farmers and a number of earlier allies opted for the Wisconsin Senator. Thus despite initial gains, Communist agrarian efforts had little to show after more than a year’s work. The United Farmer had stopped publication after four issues and the United Farmers Educational League apparently was shut down as well. North and South Dakota together composed the Party’s Agricultural District, and Alfred Knutson served as District Organizer, its only paid functionary. In 1924 and 1925, though the Party claimed as many as 17 branches in these two states at one time or another, the total membership averaged about 100. Most of the membership was found in western North Dakota and northeast South Dakota. The single largest permanent branch was in Frederick, South Dakota, a rural Finnish community north of Aberdeen, a short distance from the North Dakota line. In neighboring Montana, there also were a number of active Communists in Sheridan County in the northeast corner of the state, but their relation to the Agricultural District was ambiguous at times.
For the rest of the decade, Knutson was the Party’s most important functionary assigned to working with farmers, as Ware now was completely out of the picture. In 1925, Knutson was elected to the Central Executive Committee and went to Moscow for a meeting of the Krestintern, or the Peasant International, and reportedly brought back specific instructions for work in the agricultural field. Though the Krestintern had been organized in 1923 as a parallel organization to the Comintern, it seemingly did not have much contact with the Workers Party agricultural efforts until 1925 and even then it was of little significance. The United Farmers Educational League was revived in early 1926, and it again began publishing the United Farmer. As initially conceived by Hal Ware, the League was intended to have an educational role within existing farm organizations rather than compete against them. At one point, when the UFEL program was criticized by the Krestintern, Knutson wrote back that it was very difficult to recruit farmers directly into the Workers Party and that the League was the most practical way to influence farmers initially. The Krestintern encouraged Knutson to continue working with non-Communist farmer-labor elements such as Tom Ayres in South Dakota and William Bouck’s efforts to expand the Western Progressive Farmers into the Northern Plains. C. E. Ruthenberg, the Party’s general secretary, was in full accord with this approach, and his correspondence testifies to that. In 1926, especially, the Krestintern itself made efforts to establish relations with left-wing farm spokesmen. Letters from Moscow were sent to a number of non-Communist farmer-laborites, including Ayres, Alice Lorraine Daly, Bouck and others. Ayres and Bouck seemed flattered with such international attention, and Ayres wrote a detailed reply, saying at one point: “I think the Russian revolution was the greatest event in all history and holds out promise to humanity everywhere.”
The Krestintern and the Ruthenberg faction of the Workers Party still had hopes of building a Communist-led farmer-labor movement. Knutson, who was a kind of one man band, tried to help Ayres and the South Dakota Farmer-Labor Party and apparently did quite of bit of work with Bouck and the Western Progressive Farmers. Ruthenberg and Knutson were well aware that Ayres and Bouck were trying to get assistance from Communists without much in return. Ruthenberg and others believed that the Western Progressive Farmers and its successor, the Progressive Farmers of America, had the potential to become a mass farm organization on the left and felt that Communists would have a real opportunity to influence and perhaps control it. In 1927, however, the organization floundered, largely because of poor leadership, and over the next year seemingly disappeared everywhere in the region but in Sheridan County, Montana.
Knutson and others also worked to build a Farmer-Labor Party in North Dakota. Here, they backed an effort by NPL figures such as William Lemke and state senator Ralph Ingerson to transform the League into a third party. When that attempt failed, a separate Farmer-Labor Party was formed in 1925 and ran candidates the following year and again in 1928. By the second election, however, it was pretty much a Communist operation and had very little support.
Though Knutson had responsibility for the Agricultural District as its organizer, his primary task was to make sure the United Farmer was published. That was no small job, as he was its editor and chief fund raiser. On one occasion, he sold his car in order to pay printing costs and was left without reliable transportation for more than a year! At its peak, the paper had a circulation of more than 2100, but it always had a precarious financial situation. The bulk of its subscribers were in the Dakotas, with a significantly smaller number in Minnesota, and almost none in Montana. Knutson reported subscription numbers to the national office in early 1927. South Dakota had 735 subscribers, North Dakota 380, Minnesota 146, and Montana 14. While there were left-wing farmers scattered across the Northern Tier, many of them in Minnesota were Finnish, and they subscribed to Finnish language papers, while left-wing agrarians in Montana were more apt to take Producers News, a feisty weekly paper published in Plentywood.
Communist numbers on the Northern Plains remained small throughout the decade. In 1924, at one point, Knutson had reported 91 members in the District. More than four years later, after Montana had been assigned to the Agricultural District, the membership figure was about the same. In late 1928, Knutson announced the apportionment of delegates to the upcoming district convention. These figures suggest the basic distribution of members in the region. Montana was assigned five delegates, one for each of Butte’s two units; one for Great Falls, and one for each of Sheridan County’s two units. North Dakota was entitled to the largest number of delegates. Williston, Bismarck and Fargo each were assigned one, while Mountrail County was awarded five delegates, one each for White Earth and Sanish, and three for Belden, which was entitled to two Party delegates and one Young Communist League delegate. Frederick was the only South Dakota unit, and like Belden, it was entitled to two Party delegates and a YCL representative.
As a practical matter, Sheridan County, Montana, and the two Finnish communities, Belden and Frederick, were the strongest Communist enclaves in the region for most of the decade. Without their financial support, Knutson’s thankless task would have been more difficult than it actually was. It is unclear from available sources exactly when Sheridan County “reds” joined the Party. This locale had had a strong Socialist presence in the World War I era, and was one of the NPL’s strongest counties in the state. From 1918 until 1928, left-wing elements dominated county politics, running the court house and sending legislators to Helena. Key figures here included Charley “Red Flag” Taylor, editor of the Producers News and a state senator, and Rodney Salisbury, a former Wobbly and sheriff of Sheridan County from 1923 through 1928. Both of them and a small number of others apparently enlisted in the Communist movement in the 1921-23 era, but continued to work through the local Farmer-Labor Party, which had a strong following in northeast Montana. Their organizational relationship with the Workers Party was not always clear, and they did not publicly identify themselves locally with the Communist cause in this era, though their political opponents routinely denounced them as Communists. Taylor played a key role in helping Communists take over the St. Paul convention where efforts to nominate La Follette were thwarted. He was elected permanent chairman of the gathering and did what he could to advance Workers Party objectives. Four years later, he spoke at the Communist national convention. At the time, he was identified simply as a Montana state senator.
The Sheridan County “reds” were a farmers’ movement, though some of their leaders such as Taylor also were involved in “get-rich-quick” schemes and were at times more free-lance radicals than disciplined Party members. William Bouck’s Western Progressive Farmers took hold here, and this county probably was the organization’s strongest outpost in the region. The Sheridan County reds worked hand in hand with Bouck, as they saw the Progressive Farmers organization as another way to recruit support for the Farmer-Labor movement which they dominated. In 1926, Taylor and Bouck solicited the Garland Fund for a total of $20,000 in grants to back the Western Progressive Farmers and to establish a paper in Sheridan County that would help promote the Farmer-Labor cause. Though this joint project was not funded, Workers Party functionaries attempted to help them obtain funding. Taylor, Salisbury and some of their comrades were colorful figures, but controversies that surrounded them, including the alleged fire-bombing of a rival newspaper in a neighboring county, the reputation of Plentywood as a haven for bootleggers, gamblers and car thieves, not to mention the robbery of the county court house in late 1926, help explain their defeat at the ballot box in 1928.
Though neither Belden nor Frederick have attracted as much attention as Sheridan County, these two Finnish communities were more consistent in their involvement with the Communist movement in this era. Both of them had left-wing groups that earlier had been affiliated with the Socialist Party and the Finnish Socialist Federation. Following the Bolshevik Revolution, Socialist movements around the world split. Out of such splits, Communist parties emerged, and this was the case in the U.S. as well. The Finnish Socialist Federation severed its relationship with the Socialist Party and ultimately helped form the Workers Party in late 1921. In Frederick, the original Socialist group simply became the Workers Party, while in Belden it is not as clear what happened. That there was organizational continuity from the earlier Socialist group to the Workers Party is indicated in the fact that the same minute book was used by the Socialists from the 1913 era and the Communists as late as 1929. Here, the Husa family was the moving force on the left for over two decades. Significantly, John Husa was secretary of the Socialist Party local in 1913 and held the same position in the Workers Party more than a decade later. Non-Finns also participated in left-wing politics in these two communities, and two non-Finns, Helge Tangen and John Sumption, played a significant role in the Frederick left for years. Thus the story of radicalism in these two communities is not exclusively a Finnish one.
Belden and Frederick left-wingers, like their counterparts in Sheridan County, took part in the NPL and the subsequent Farmer-Labor movement. John Husa was elected register of deeds in Mountrail County on the NPL ticket in 1920, and John Sumption a county commissioner in Brown County two years later. Frederick Finns were involved in Workers Party activities by 1922, and John Husa was publicly identified with the effort to put Foster on the ballot in North Dakota in 1924. Despite the fact of La Follette’s popularity among Dakota farmers, Foster drew a strong vote in these two townships. The persistence of left-wing sentiment was evident in the next two elections as well. Farmer-Labor candidacies pretty much fizzled throughout the Dakotas, but still attracted a significant portion of the vote in these two locales. In 1928, the year of Hoover’s landslide victory, Foster actually carried both of these precincts. John Husa was one of the Foster North Dakota electors that year, and Emil Niva was one of three men from Frederick serving as Communist electors in neighboring South Dakota. The South Dakota Farmer-Labor Party made its last stand in 1928, and several Frederick men were on the ballot, including John Sumption as its gubernatorial nominee. Though swamped across the state, the Farmer-Laborites carried Savo Township. Tom Ayres and Alice Lorraine Daly had been mainstays of the South Dakota Farmer-Labor movement. Neither of them were Communists, but they had close ties to the Frederick community. Local left-wingers had bought the Frederick Free Press and arranged for Ayres to be its editor. In 1928, he turned it into a left-wing weekly, in some ways a South Dakota counter-part to Plentywood’s Producers News. At the time of the 1928 election, Frederick seemed to be one of the very few bright spots for the American left. Frederick now had at least five co-operatives, and local left-wingers had major roles in them. Though there probably were only 40 or so Party members here, Communists and their allies were quite influential. Frederick reds also provided significant financial support to Knutson’s efforts in promoting the United Farmer. One year, they gave him $700 for the paper. This locale probably was the most important Communist outpost on the Northern Plains in this era.
Nineteen twenty-nine was a turning point for American Communism. That year, the Party leadership was replaced, as Jay Lovestone and company were ousted and expelled, and the Comintern initiated the Third Period line. Communists reevaluated earlier positions and strategies in light of the new line, and this had implications for Party work in agriculture. Knutson had been in the Ruthenberg-Lovestone camp since the early 1920s, but quickly lined up with the new leadership. He wrote an article for the Daily Worker, denouncing Lovestone, but his days as a key functionary were numbered.
The shift in leadership also resulted in a harder stance toward a traditional source of Party support: the Finnish cooperative movement. Finnish left-wingers had built the Cooperative Central Exchange, which served a network of Finnish co-ops in the Upper Midwest. Its leaders were Communists or close to the Party, and they provided substantial sums of money to advance the Communist cause. In mid-1929, however, Party leadership demanded a $5000 loan from the Exchange, which sparked a major controversy within Finnish-American Communism and resulted in a Finnish defections from the Party in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ultimately, it would have impact upon the Finnish left in Frederick, South Dakota, as well.
Communist difficulties on the Northern Plains in this era were not entirely the result of shifts in Party policy, as local developments also played a role. Following the 1928 defeat, the Sheridan County radicals began to drift away from the Party, stopping dues-payments and flirting with both Trotskyism and A. C. Townley’s American Temperance League. Realistically, Taylor and others were adrift politically, seeking to find a workable political approach. Taylor attacked Knutson in Producers’ News, saying at one point: “Fight the right wing danger and Knutsonism!”
In South Dakota, Tom Ayres found himself in a fight with former allies in Frederick, and he began attacking local Communists, especially Helge Tangen. A key Ayres associate in this battle was John Sumption, who earlier had been in the Party and a member of the executive committee of the United Farmers Educational League. The source of this controversy is obscure, but it divided the left-wing forces in the community and the cooperative movement which they had built and directed. While this fight began prior to the Party controversy in the Cooperative Central Exchange, the two fights soon merged. The Ayres-Sumption assault led to legal action against some local co-ops, and this controversy weakened the local cooperative movement. Ayres had a great deal of coverage of the dispute from his perspective in the Frederick Free Press. After some of the local coops stopped advertising in the paper, he moved it to Aberdeen and changed its name to the Dakota Free Press. While Ayres earlier was glad for Communist support, now he had become a strong critic of the Party.
Yet some farmers had been recruited to the Communist banner on the Northern Plains. In many cases, it was a linkage between a new international movement and an older, agrarian left. In Williams and Mountrail Counties in North Dakota, especially in the Belden area, and in Frederick, South Dakota, and other scattered locales, Communist farmers and their neighbors read Tyomies, or the United Farmer, or the Daily Worker, and dreamed of a better day. Perhaps those dreams were misplaced, but they saw themselves as part of a dynamic international effort, anchored in the Soviet Union. With the coming of the Great Depression, some of them would play a key role in sparking the last great farm revolt in American history. Hal Ware’s mother, Mother Bloor, was sent to North Dakota to run the 1930 Congressional campaign. Soon after arriving in Minot, she married Andrew Omholt (Knutson’s replacement as district organizer), and the two of them proved to be a good team, recruiting farmers to the Party and the United Farmers League. Frederick, Belden and Plentywood, which Bloor and Omholt re-organized Sheridan County as a Party outpost, were in the midst of the rural storms of protests in the early 1930s. That, of course, is a different story, but not one entirely unrelated to Communist efforts in the countryside of the previous decade.