Author’s Note–A 12 foot cross was erected near Chambers Street on April 28,1926. A month later a second cross was burned on the outskirts of town and a third cross a week later at Rideau Heights. In mid June a fourth cross was burned on Franktown Road, a mile and a half north from town.–These notes are files from —Smiths Falls by Glenn J. Lockwood–also available at Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls ( open seasonally)
CROSSES BURNED AT SMITHS FALLS
Ku KIux Klan Demonstration Attended by Several Thousand
With files from the Almonte Gazette– Sept. 24 1926
That the Ku Klux Klan- of Canada is strongly organized in Smiths Falls was evidenced at a mammoth Klan demonstration there Sunday afternoon and night in *McEwen‘s open field. Impressive demonstrations were given, concluding before midnight. It is estimated that between *six and seven thousand people were in attendance at the demonstration, Hundreds motored to Smiths Falls from Kingston, Belleville, Brockville, Perth, Ottawa and the whole countryside. Klansmen and Klanswomen were also from Kingston, Brockville and Smiths Falls which exemplified the degree work in initial meetings.
The celebration was given over the initiation of 22 local candidates. During the ceremony 6 huge crosses burned while the demonstraton proceeded. Programs held both afternoon and evening were under the chairmanships of a Klan’s knight leader from London, Ontario. A brother Klan leader, who is known with the local movement gave the addresses and told them that the Klan was part of Scottish legacy and insisted that only the stores of white Protestants be patronized.
The square in which the services-were conducted were marked off with British flags, as well as an elevated platform for the speakers. On another platform was stationed a twelve piece orchestra under the leadership of Mr. Wm. Yarwood which led in the singing of sacred and patriotic selections.
All taking part in the ceremony were gowned in white, with white hoods and masks. The horses used were likewise draped. A noticeable feature was the omission of names of knights or those taking part. Against a beautiful moonlit sky the evening service was most impressive and included the full initiation and obligation. For the evening service crowds most were assembled before six o’clock and automobiles formed a long procession from the town to the field.
An impressive part of the service was the announcement given by the London speaker about a railway accident the previous night. A former Smiths Falls resident, a C.P.R. engineer, and one of the first to join the Klan in western Ontario, had been dangerously injured. A two minute silence was observed and prayers offered. The injured man, whose three comrades were killed outright, had expected to be at the Smiths Falls demonstration that day.
At the afternoon meeting the speaker informed thousands that the Klan had received 150 new local members of which 22 members were women. At its first meeting in Smiths Falls some time ago, the Klan had steadily grown in numbers until today- with a large membership of several hundred. A cloud of secrecy entirely surrounded all proceedings and numbers of Klansmen fully robed from out-of-town stationed themselves among the crowd. The Vice Wizard spoke to the crowd many times on the evils of white women marrying outside their race and contaminating the blood line.
Author’s Note–So what did it bring to the then depressed town of Smiths Falls? They received more than their share of sensational media and Protestant unhappiness with the local Orange Lodge. Half the folks were from out of town and the only reason it was held in Smiths Falls was because it was easily accessible by train as it was a hub. There never was another Klan meeting that anyone knows of in the area, and no evidence to say how long the Smiths Falls membership met in secret. Luckily, the Klan was on their way out in Canada by 1927.
*McEwen‘s Field became the Rideau Regional Centre now OPP Centre
*It was estimated there were actually 12,000-15,000 people not 5 or 6 thousand.
Hannah Munro-Wright– Growing up in Smiths Falls this was something not taught to me by teachers in school but by class mates who found it in history books… also my parents and their friends knew of this. A lot of them believed the burning of the crosses at the 4 corners of town put some bad karma on the town.
Larry Cotten–I found the picture of the KKK in Smiths Falls interesting. Many don’t realize that the Klan was well organized across Southern Ontario in the mid 1920s. There are similar pictures of parades in Collingwood, Barrie, Penetanguishene and Owen Sound in Central Ontario from the 1920s. A Catholic Church in a major city in Ontario was torched … allegedly by the Klan during that time period.
Come and visit the Lanark County Genealogical Society Facebook page– what’s there? Cool old photos–and lots of things interesting to read.
Information where you can buy all Linda Seccaspina’s books-You can also read Linda in Hometown News and now in The Townships Sun