I never thought much about Klan activity in Caddo until I was looking for something else and ran across this little item in the Caddo Herald (July 1922):
“Thanks to the Klan-Rev. C.W. Mowdy has received a letter from the Caddo Ku Klux Klan enclosing $15 to aid him in his sickness. Also assuring him of their support in his work. Mr. Mowdy therefore asks us to print this card- ‘I thank you very much for your kindness to me. Not only is the money very welcome and needed, but I appreciate your standing by the work of Jesus Christ in the community more than the money. Be assured that you will ever be remembered in my devotions. There can not be too many who favor the work of the Master in any community. C.W. Mowdy’” Huh?? I sat in the library just pondering that for a few minutes. It totally clashed with my limited understanding of the KKK.
Well, after a little more research I was able to uncover a few facts about the activities of the Klan in the twenties. According to Hooded Progressivism by Jesse Walker, “Race may have been paramount in other parts of the South, but in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, the Klan’s activities indicated a strikingly small amount of hostility to Negroes. Instead the Klansman’s conception of reform encompassed efforts to preserve premarital chastity, marital fidelity, and respect for parental authority, to compel obedience of state and national prohibition laws, to fight the postwar crime wave, and to rid state and local governments of dishonest politicians. These Klansmen were more likely to flog you for bootlegging or breaking your marriage vows than for being black or Jewish.”
According to this letter published in the Herald, the Klan was well established in Caddo: “This is an official announcement of the Ku Klux Klan of Caddo with the official seal affixed. We here and now announce to the public that we have nothing to do with any lawlessness nor anyone using disguise of any kind whatever to intimidate anyone doing a legitimate business provided his business is according to the laws of the land and according to the constitution of the state and nation. We stand for law and order, the protection of the peace of the community and strictly behind the officers of the law to help them to see that the law is properly enforced. We are 85 strong and take none but men who are law abiding citizens. We have never sent a letter except it had on it the seal of the Klan, and never will. We are for the church and everything that is good. Done by order of the E.C. of the Invisible Empire. Ku Klux Klan No.188, Caddo, Okla.”
Apparently there were still some doubts about the intentions of the Klan because in 1922 Governor Robertson issued this order to the Oklahoma National Guard: “if any guardsmen have membership in any organization, the purpose of which and principles of which might conflict with their duty to the state or nation, they must immediately forswear the organization or get out of the guard.”
There are numerous items in the paper about Klansmen suddenly appearing in church services or holding “silent parades”. There were also speeches given in several churches and other public buildings. In April of 1922 ten Klansmen visited the Caddo Methodist Church, leaving them a written message, fifteen dollars, and an American flag. “The Klansmen left an American flag at the church which will be always displayed so that those who come to meeting may know that the church reverences the flag that protects it.”
June 2, 1922- “Saturday night about 11 o’clock a band of some forty horsemen paraded through Caddo, coming from the north and going down main street to the depot thence to the northeast, disappearing by the cemetery. They made no threats, spoke no words, and carried no banner except a U.S. flag. They were dressed in white sheets and hoods, but without the distinguishing insignia of the regulation Ku Klux Klan.”
In July there was a huge “welcome meeting” by the Baptists, and in October the Rev. John Tabor of Dallas spoke at the Baptist Tabernacle in defense of the Klan. There is also one item in the paper about “most of Caddo” being gone to Durant for a KKK parade!
In hindsight we know that the KKK overstepped it’s bounds, resulting in violence and bloodshed. However, it’s interesting to take a glimpse into the mood of the times and try to understand how some good citizens might have joined the group with the best of intentions. That’s what makes history so fascinating- the good, the bad, and the ugly all joined together to create what we have today.
Stay tuned- I’ll keep writing if you’ll keep reading!