In early May 1906, the small farming community of Maud, Oklahoma Territory, learned that one of its own, Mont Ballard, had gained release from the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, and was returning home after seven years. This news was momentous for Elias Riddle and other of Ballard's friends, who quickly raised money and planned a welcoming celebration for their former neighbor, who had figured prominently in their small town's history.
At eight o'clock in the evening of May 7, hundreds of people jammed the high school auditorium for the welcoming ceremonies. The local band played "Home, Sweet Home" and "America," and Riddle, H. A. Bolinger, and the Reverend James D. Hodges, a Methodist preacher, made speeches. The formal program was followed by a feast, all in honor of Ballard and his wife, Sarah Jane, who had worked steadily for his release. 1
The celebration was a display of community solidarity, though Maud had changed a great deal since Ballard went away. It had been only a post office and general store when he left but was now a village with a business district, schools, and churches, located a half mile east of its original site. The town's growth had attracted newcomers, and among its people were many who did not know Ballard and had no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his imprisonment. Thus his official welcomers painted a picture of his crime that hardly fit the facts. In their speeches, they presented Ballard as