American Farmers Resist Tax Foreclosures in 1930s

Today, a couple of tales of auction resistance from the U.S. during the Great Depression. First, from the Albuquerque Journal:

Iowa Farmers Resist Tax Sales; Prevent Bids in 3 Counties

 — Passive resistance blocked efforts of three county treasurers in Iowa to sell property on which taxes are overdue. Crowds attended the tax sales, but there were no bids.

With debt-burdened land owners unable to obtain funds to pay taxes, there was an unorganized but well developed movement to prevent county officials from raising revenue by selling land, both rural and city, on which payments are delinquent.

“There aren’t going to be any bidders,” said one of the overall-clad men who gathered in the Harrison county treasurer’s office at Logan. More than 2,000 pieces of property were to be offered for sale there, but there was not a bid from the 400 to 500 persons at the courthouse.

Next, from the Franklin and Oil City, Pennsylvania, News-Herald:

Farmers Resist Selling of Land for Back Taxes

Wherever Mortgage Sales are Scheduled, They Try to Buy in Farms at “Penny” Price.

Rebellion is Spreading

 — Farm rebellion against mortgage foreclosures spread into new territory today.

Encouraged by the sympathetic attitude of many high officials, farmers in Indiana, New York, Colorado, and Missouri joined a dozen middle western commonwealths in considering or actually resorting to the use of force in resisting foreclosure auctions.

In Iowa, heart of the farm unrest flames, new victories were won by farmers who succeeded in obtaining postponements in delinquent tax sales. Three sales were postponed and one was held without protest.

Lewis L. Taylor, vice president of the Indiana Farm Bureau, pleaded for tax relief and threatened to use force if necessary to prevent foreclosures.

In New York six relief measures were considered by the legislature and the possibility of forceful resistance to foreclosures was threatened.

In Colorado 500 farmers confiscated $3,000 worth of farm machinery that had been repossessed from a farmer by the implement company.

Missouri, hitherto unconnected with the Farmers’ Holiday Association, reported organization of branches in that state with the idea of declaring a moratorium on debts until farm prices rise.

Wherever mortgage sales were scheduled, farmers prepared to meet in a body, and, after bidding in the property at penny prices, return it to the owner. In several instances, nooses were suspended from barns and trees near the auction block as sinister warnings to outsiders who might plan to raise the bids.

Authorities in a dozen mid-west and southern states, meanwhile, took action through legislatures and administrative channels to effect conciliatory measures between burdened farmers and their creditors. In Minnesota, Gov. Floyd B. Olson prepared to appoint debts commissions in various parts of the state to arbitrate farmers’ debt problems. Gov. Olson declined to issue a foreclosure proclamation similar to those issued in Wisconsin and Iowa.

Delinquent tax sales, scheduled in Iowa , were postponed for the second time because of absence of bidders. Groups of farmers prevented bidding as a strategic method of preventing sales.

Milo Reno, national president of the Farmers’ Holiday Association, announced he will address a farmers’ mass meeting in Des Moines to discuss foreclosures and evictions.