dee_burris: (Default)
2011-01-18 06:50 pm

Could it have been the Klan?

Because I am not sure if I will renew them, I've been giving my subscriptions to Footnote and Genealogy Bank a workout lately.

They are good resources for finding some of that historic information that helps to add that "third dimension" to my relatives that I discussed here - particularly old newspaper articles.


I found an article from a Dallas newspaper that discussed the uncle of some of my cousins, so I emailed it to them. When one of them replied to thank me, I asked him if he was also interested in seeing news articles about the fire that gutted Subiaco Abbey in 1927.

He said he was. Then he added a very interesting thing...

I remember old stories of the KKK going after Subiaco and the Catholics who moved in that area. I wonder if the fire was an accident or not?!?!? B can tell you a story of our grandmother's house getting shot at in the middle of the night by the Klan. A bullet was lodged in her headboard...while she was sleeping.

I had already wondered if the German Catholic families who settled Logan County in the 1880s had experienced any hostility from their neighbors during World War II, when anti-German sentiment was high.

But I hadn't considered the Klan.

Until now.

I sent my cousin the articles and started my research.

Photobucket
St Albans Daily Messenger, 21 Dec 1927

PhotobucketDallas Morning News, 22 Dec 1927



The Ku Klux Klan had an extensive and high profile history in Arkansas. Still does, to this day.

That's why I was astounded as I was Googling and searching databases for reports of Klan hostilities in Logan County to run across this:

Another faction of the disorder arose in the secret sinister organization known as the Ku Klux Klan. The group was originally organized in Tennessee by a group of Confederate veterans and later spread to other states, including Arkansas, operating as a terrorist organization. Masked, robed, and armed, its members sought to kill or frighten into silence black leaders and their white Unionist allies. The Klan's life was short-lived because law-abiding southern whites turned their backs on the organization that dealt in murder, an action that many of the Klan's early leaders denounced. The Klan's presence had virtually disappeared from Arkansas by the early 1870s. (emphasis added.)
Excerpted from "Powell Clayton and Reconstruction," by Jeannie Whayne, as published in the Fort Smith Historical Society Inc. Journal, Vol. 33, No. 2, September 2009, at page 16. See full issue, here.

With all due respect to Ms. Whayne, I vehemently disagree that the Klan has "virtually disappeared" from Arkansas.

I suspect the writer of this 25 Apr 2009 article in Newsweek would, too.


I knew there had been a fire at Subiaco, but I didn't realize there had been two.

The first was in 1901 in the wooden monastery, which burned to the ground. Construction had already started in 1898 on the current Abbey, which is made of "Subiaco" sandstone, and was thought to be safer from fire.

As seen in the news articles, the fire was believed to have started in the basement. The Abbey's website does not mention a cause of the fire, nor does its blog, although the blog post explains that due to the fire, which completely destroyed the north wing of the Abbey (and two thirds of the monastery), St Benedict had to be repositioned to face south.

Nor does the "official" Encyclopedia of Arkansas article give a cause for the fire.

That's a real puzzle to me. Damage estimates placed monetary loss at the Abbey at $1 million.

That was in 1927.

As of 2009, that loss would be estimated at $12.4 million.

And everyone would want to know exactly what happened.


If my cousin heard talk in days gone by about harassment of the Catholic community in Logan County by the Klan, it's possible others did also.

I can imagine that locals may not have discussed such things with law enforcement, fearing retaliation if they did.

Or that if they did take their concerns to the police, those concerns were swept under the rug.

And I'd sure be interested in hearing about those incidents now...