I document history for the young readers of the future. Good or bad– I feel it must be documented so we learn from it. The fact that hate groups are multiplying these days scares me… read this and spread the word that hate should not exist. Thanks- Linda
Actually after reading the above article in the Almonte Gazette from 1927 the local Rideau Klavern was hiding more than racism under the bedsheets. J. S. Lord stated that one of the purposes of the establishment of the Klan was for the protection of the physical purity of current and future generations. They also had a complicated financial system built on receipts from sheet sales, “Wizard” taxes and Klavern dues. Through the mid-1920s, representatives of the Ku Klux Klan would creep into Canada, sprouting branches from Vancouver to the Maritimes and enlisting thousands of followers.
Klansmen believed that Canada’s immigration policy made it the dumping ground of the world and in Smiths Falls and other Lanark County towns they encouraged folks to buy from locals, white locals, and stay away from those merchants that had just immigrated here. In the western provinces like Saskatchewan where they had a heavily saturated foot they falsely stated that out of Regina’s 8,000 recent immigrants, only 7 were Protestants. In July 1927, a Klan organizer claimed that there were 46,500 members in Saskatchewan.
They promoted a “100 percent Canadian” policy to deter the declining influence of Protestant Anglo-Saxon Canadians as a result of increasing immigration from Europe, particularly Eastern Europe, which was primarily Roman Catholic and Jewish. On April 28th, 1926 the first Rideau Klansman’s cross was burnt. After a fourth cross was burnt by Klansman on Franktown Road, people had to wonder what it all meant.
On September 26, 1926, Smith’s Falls found our what it meant s evidenced at a mammoth Klan demonstration there Sunday afternoon and night in McEwen‘s open field (McEwen‘s Field became the Rideau Regional Centre now OPP Centre). The estimated at one point there was 5-6000 at that field but in reality there were 12,000 to 15,000 evidenced at a mammoth Klan demonstration that Sunday afternoon and night. Read-The Day the Ku KIux Klan Came to Smiths Falls
Larry Cotten commented on one of my stories that–‘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’.
Of course only Protestants were allowed onto the Smiths Falls grounds and the vicinity was guarded by members of the Rideau Klansmen in full costume and carrying swords. The trains dropped off hundreds, and hundreds of cars bearing American and Quebec license plates entered the town that day. All taking part were gowned in white with white hoods and masks. The horses used in the ceremonies were draped in white. A twelve-piece orchestra furnished the music, and during the ceremonies six large crosses were burned.
As the King Keagle said that day: “The Klan is here in Smiths Falls”, he said, “and it has been here for some time. At first there were only 20 members, but you can now multiply that number and put some 0’s on
it”. That night in Smiths Falls 105 new candidates were accepted in to the Rideau Klansmen and a ladies’ degree team from Kingston took a prominent part in the initiations as 22 were women. The town of Smiths Falls now had a solid group of over 700 members.
Hannah Munro-Wright commented on one of my stories and said: ‘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.‘
It wasn’t the only places in Lanark County the crosses were burned as the Perth Courier and other local newspapers continued to report on cross burning incidents. Stories about local Rideau Klavern cross burnings appeared in print from 1926-1927 with various cross burnings every 4 to 6 months. One report that coal oil filled the scent of the evening one night while a cross burned in Scotch Corners.
I found an article by accident that even in the small hamlet of Richmond, Ontario a hop skip and a jump from Carleton Place– an event occurred on Sept 12th, 1929.
Imagine the astonishment on Sept. 12, 1929 when bewildered residents of Richmond,Ontario awoke to find large, white arrows painted on the village’s main street. The arrows were not through traffic directions for Model T’s, wagons or carts, but were part of one of the most bizarre incidents in the Valley’s rich history: The day Valley men embraced the Klan.
On that quiet Sunday, the Klan held a mass rally on the village’s outskirts in a field opposite what is now St. Paul’s United Church cemetery. The arrows were placed there, mysteriously, in the dead of night, to direct Klan members to the meeting place. And in the morning, an unlikely gaggle of men, many all gussied up in white sheets and hoods trundled through town on white horses clattering along to the strains of coronets and the hollow thump of bass drums.
An eerie day, indeed. One former village resident, a young girl at the time, recalled recently how terribly frightened she had been. “We could not see their eyes. There were just dark slits tn the hoods. I recall thinking at the time there were men from the area, but I could not be sure.” Another remembered: “We were on our way home from church and I recall looking across the field and seeing a great number of people milling about the field. There were men in white costumes on horseback. It was all very mysterious to us.”
Unlike Its infamous namesake of post-civil war days in the United States, the Richmond Klan was more of a protest group of rural poor folk caught in an age of change. There was little similarity between them and their race-bating U.S. counterparts. There was no swooping through the night terrifying the Innocent. There were no midnight floggings, shootings, or hangings from the nearest tree. Quite likely there were no Grand Wizards, Grand Titans, Grand Dragons or other silly titles bestowed upon chief bigots of U.S. Klans.
The Richmond Klan was a sorry group formed out of frustration. They were mostly farmers protesting falling incomes and glutted markets in the 20s. Men also rising against the erosion of family life and the decaying morals of the Jazz age. Today, for at least the agricultural reasons they march with placards on Parliament Hill, dump their milk in fields or drive processions of tractors, ant-like along highways, to snarl traffic and make their points. Braver men today, too. They don’t disguise themselves in ghostly sheets or burn crosses on the agriculture minister’s lawn.
Another aspect of the Richmond Klan was a call for a single, dominant language an issue which did not die with the Klan, but more of a scape-goat issue In those times for all the problems farmers faced. On that Sunday in Richmond a newspaper of the times estimated a crowd of 5,000 took part in the proceedings. Old accounts also say the Klan’s Richmond branch probably began about 1927 and fizzled around 1930. Lack of interest killed it And many men suspected of gliding about in bed sheets, put them back where they belong out of good old-fashioned embarrassment.
18 Oct 1976, Mon • Page 3
Note: This material was condensed from an essay prepared by Peter Robb, and three others during the summer of 1976. It is from material gathered under a research grant from the ‘ Ontario government to study the history of the town of Richmond, Ontario. Peter Robb is now the city editor for the Ottawa Citizen at Post Media.
The Ku Klux Klan Rally in KingstonThe Ku Klux Klan Rally in Kingston– Linda Seccaspina