Black History Month: When the KKK came to Clinton County


By Neil Snarr - For The News Journal



Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a series written by Neil Snarr commemorating Black History Month.

The following question was asked in a 1922 Wilmington News Journal article: “Is the Ku Klux Klan getting ready to invade Wilmington and Clinton County?”

The article went on to say, “An attempt was made to organize a Klan at Xenia some time ago but the organizer went away without accomplishing anything.”

The next year on February 12 the WNJ headlines on the front page read, “Ku Klux Klan Burns Fiery Cross At Sabina.” The article stated, “The cross which was described as being about the size of a screen door, was planted by four men dressed in regalia of the Klan or closely resembling that worn by Klan members.”

The 1923 article continued, “The masked men drove through Sabina in a Ford automobile shortly after 6 o’clock and stopping in front of a restaurant, managed by James Johnson, colored, in the southern part of the village, burned the cross on which was inscribed the following message: ‘Bootleggers and gamblers take warning – 48 hours to get out of town. K.K.K.’” (The Klan advertised itself as a Christian organization returning morality to our country.) Another cross burning was reported in 1923 in Kingman. On page one: “Fiery Cross Is Burned: Kingman Much Excited.”

Just a few days later the WNJ reported: “Ku Klux Klan Organizer Is Working Here; Rumors Claim that Sufficient Members Have Been Secured.” Just three days later the following appeared: “Klan Purpose Explained”: “Purposes and policies of the Ku Klux Klan were explained at a meeting held here yesterday and addressed by a Klan representative.”

On May 16, 1923 on page one of the WNJ an article reads “Threat Made In Letter: Mayor is Warned to Stop Klan Meeting, Message Said to Be Written in Red Ink.”

Following, the article continues, “Mayor R.C. Greene today refused to say what action he would take in regard to a threatening letter received by him … Cards of admission have been handed out to persons supposed to be interested in the Klan here, and the place of meeting is stated to be the Junior Order U. A. M. Hall next door to the police station.”

In August of 1923 the following announcement appeared in the WNJ: “LEESBURG – Thirty-five members of the Ku Klux Klan, hooded and in full regalia, visited a camp meeting being conducted by Rev. Northstine of Rainsborro, and presented him with a purse of $37. The meeting was being held on the Elmer Garen farm, near Carmel.”

On July 22, 1925, a WNJ article appears on page one: “Klavern Dedication To Be Held Here Aug. 1.” It read: “Formal dedication of the Clinton County Ku Klux Klan’s newly constructed Klavern on Ludovic Street, Wilmington, is to assume proportions of a state demonstration of the Klan, honored by the presence of National officers … the plans are being made by 200 Clinton County Klansmen, constituting a number of committees, to receive more than 60,000 Klansmen of that date. On the day of the dedication a parade, sanctioned by the mayor and safety director, will follow, South on South Street from North End Park – the assembling point – to Ludovic Street; West on Locust Street to Mulberry Street; South on Mulberry Street to Sugartree Street; East on Sugartree Street to South Street; North on South Street to the park again.”

A Klavern is a word specifically referring to a local chapter of the K.K.K. The name of Ludovic Street has recently been changed to Quaker Way.

I was told when I moved here in 1965 that that building directly across the street from the Wilmington College campus was the traditional meeting place of the Klan. At a later date the college rented the building for use as a women’s gymnasium. It was later torn down.

To be continued…

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus at Wilmington College.

https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2021/02/web1_BHMgraphic.jpg

By Neil Snarr

For The News Journal