A neo-Nazi who made headlines when he bought land in a small North Dakota town with plans to turn it into an all-white hamlet is now setting his sights on Kansas and Nebraska.
Craig Cobb has purchased property in two small south-central Nebraska towns and inquired about property in two north-central Kansas towns, including Smith Center.
Cobb said in an interview that he plans to sell the property at deep discounts to young white couples as part of an effort called Pioneer Little Europe that would create planned communities for white nationalists. The strategy, which was described earlier this year in a Star series about domestic terrorism, is a national movement.
Cobb’s actions already have stirred fear in some of the Kansas and Nebraska communities.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Once Cobb’s identity was discovered in the small towns, word circulated quickly and residents warned owners to be wary of selling property to him. In Red Cloud, Neb., dozens gathered for a town hall meeting.
“There was a good showing of the people, good attendance,” Mayor Gary Ratzlaff told The Star. “Let’s just say everyone is concerned.”
Cobb said other white nationalists have been buying up property as well.
“We have property and people in place in the area,” he said. “I’d rather not speak to precisely what we have and what we bought except to tell you it’s a lot more extensive than just this.”
Cobb purchased the Nebraska property at a Webster County sheriff’s sale on Sept. 23. He bought a house in Inavale for $3,410 and two properties in Red Cloud for $25 and $100.
Cobb, who was raised in St. Joseph, Mo., first created a stir when he started buying plots in the tiny town of Leith, N.D., in 2011 and later announced plans to turn the area into a white enclave.
Cobb bought some of the plots in the names of white supremacists, including Tom Metzger of White Aryan Resistance, Jeff Schoep of the National Socialist Movement and Alex Linder of Vanguard News Network. He flew Nazi flags on his property and sought to acquire enough power to run the town.
But in 2013, Cobb was charged with seven felony counts of terrorizing some of the town’s residents with a gun. He was arrested that November in North Dakota, not long after attending a National Socialist Movement rally in Kansas City. After spending several months in jail, Cobb pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor menacing counts and one felony terrorizing charge and was sentenced to four years of probation.
Cobb, 64, has been living in Sherwood, N.D., near the Canadian border. He’s the subject of a documentary, “Welcome to Leith,” that is now appearing in selected venues around the country.
In Kansas, Smith County Appraiser Kathy Hansen said Cobb recently dropped by her office to ask about distressed properties in Smith Center, a town of 1,800 about 15 miles from the Nebraska border.
“I didn’t have any idea who he was,” Hansen said. “I told him we’d just had a tax sale, so a lot of those properties had been purchased.”
She said she gave Cobb the names of the owners of two properties he was interested in.
“He asked about the little town of Lebanon, too, and wanted to know how they took care of condemnations,” she said.
Hansen said Cobb also talked to the economic development director.
“I knew he was a little different when he came in,” she said, “but I didn’t know like that.”
Hansen said, however, that there’s nothing preventing Cobb from purchasing property in the county.
When word spread, Hansen said, “A lot of stories were flying around town. Some had looked him up on the Internet and found out who he was. But at this point we have nothing showing that he’s bought anything in Smith County yet.”
Still, residents are concerned. Someone posted a warning about Cobb on the Facebook page Discover Smith Center:
“This man is trying to purchase run down property in Smith Center and Lebanon. Seller beware.”
Cobb said he also checked out some property in Franklin and Riverton, Neb. He chose the areas in Kansas and Nebraska, he said, because “I’m on the council of the Creativity Movement, and it came to my attention that we have extensive people in that particular area.”
The Creativity Movement, formerly known as Church of the Creator, promotes what it says is the inherent superiority of the white race.
Cobb said he paid cash for the Red Cloud property. The money, he said, came from an insurance settlement he received after a tree branch fell on his vehicle during a windstorm.
Cobb won’t become the official owner until a district court judge confirms the sale in court — something that could happen in the next several weeks. Cobb said he wasn’t sure whether he would move to Kansas or Nebraska or stay in North Dakota. He said he’s not trying to intimidate anyone by his actions and noted that he even called the sheriff in Webster County.
“He was pretty nice, actually,” Cobb said. “I said, ‘I know you don’t want us in town.’ He heartily agreed.”
A woman who answered the phone at the Webster County sheriff’s office Thursday said they were declining comment. The Red Cloud city attorney also declined comment.
Cobb said he didn’t violate his probation by going to Kansas and Nebraska.
“I went to visit my mom (in St. Joseph), and I asked my probation officer if he cared which way I came home, and he said no,” he said. “So I went directly west and directly north.”
The Star interviewed Cobb for its domestic terrorism series. In the interview, Cobb described himself as a national socialist and said he was a friend of F. Glenn Miller Jr., the avowed neo-Nazi who was sentenced to death last month for killing three people outside Jewish centers in Overland Park.
Cobb told The Star in that interview that whites needed to take the country back.
“We’re literally in a racial war in this country,” he said, “and we’re losing really badly.”
The Pioneer Little Europe movement was launched more than a decade ago. The movement’s 85-page prospectus describes it as “a conscious white community” that “comes to dominate a geographical area.”
The manual describes a plan to “swamp” a target area by taking over its local political and economic systems, forcing out those who don’t share their beliefs. White nationalists would live in close proximity to businesses that offer cultural facilities and services, some of which would openly support their political revival.
The movement has gained some traction in Montana.
In the past few years, dozens of white supremacists have relocated to the Flathead Valley, where civil rights activists say they are forging alliances with anti-government Patriots because of their shared hostility toward the government.
Those who monitor the white nationalist movement said Cobb’s actions are a concern.
“This strategy is recognition that the rest of the United States is becoming too multiracial for these white nationalists,” said Leonard Zeskind, president of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights. “For this plan to be ultimately successful and build a whites-only territory, it would require tearing the United States apart in a civil war.”
Cobb said this week that building the Pioneer Little Europe network will “take some work.” He tried to purchase property earlier this year in Antler, N.D., but the city bought it to prevent him from getting control of it.
“For this type of work, you have to be a zealot,” Cobb said. “I’m a zealot, and not so many are. But the system will create more and more over the coming decade.”