Read the article The KKK's last parade in Honey Grove.
Read about the 1924 July 4th event in Honey Grove, at which the KKK staged a big parade.
Read about a burial at Oakwood Cemetery in Honey Grove with "a beautiful, large fiery red cross from the Ku Klux Klan, which twelve white-robed Klansmen brought."
The following two articles were written by Tom Scott, then curator of the Fannin County Museum of History, and were published in the Bonham Daily Favorite on September 11, 1994 and September 18, 1994. Thanks to Larry Standlee for transcribing the second article.
Endorse the good work of the Klan
Seemingly the first notice of Ku Klux Klan activities by the area newspapers came in a short notice in the December 21, 1921 edition of The Honey Grove Signal. In what was its first act in the county the Klan moved to develop a positive image. This was however, a year or more before the increase in violent acts involving the Texas Klansmen.
The Honey Grove paper, on its front page, began its report by stating, "Many people have asked whether there is a Ku Klux Klan in Honey Grove. Until this time we have not been able to answer the question. We can say now without hesitation to fear that there is a Klan in Honey Grove."
The paper's editor went on to recount an incident that had taken place earlier that day. At some point unknown to the newspaper staff someone had entered the newspaper office and left an envelope on the editorial table. When the envelope was opened crisp new five dollar bills were found wrapped inside a note. The note read, "To The Honey Grove Signal, Honey Grove. Dear Mr. Signal. Enclosed find $25 in currency which kindly deliver to Mrs. T__ M__ a Christmas token from the friends of the needy. Ku Klux Klan #163 Honey Grove, Texas."
The effort was successful for the editor completed the article with glowing words of appreciation. "Whether one endorses the Klan as an organization or not, all will endorse the good work of the Klan. The world is in need of thousands of Klansmen of this type. The Signal congratulates its good officers and will deliver the money as requested."
It is not known how the hierarchy of the Texas Klan awarded the charter or permission to organize to regional groups. These local organizations seem to have been identified only by the name of the town and a number. Assuming that the numbers were issued in numerical order it appears that Honey Grove jumped ahead of Bonham in organizing its rank and file. The letter to the Honey Grove Signal was signed Ku Klux Klan $163. The Bonham Klan advertising its rally eighteen months later was designated as #194.
After the discovery of the Honey Grove group it was not until early eight months later before any further activity was reported in the county. This was not true statewide or nationally for local papers frequently reported a variety of incidents involving the Klan.
The Bonham Daily Favorite reported briefly in its August 10, 1922 edition that a barbecue and initiation were planned the next night east of town. The paper had few particulars reporting only that trenches were being dug in preparation for the barbecue of several hundred pounds of meat. The meeting site was just across Bois D'Arc on the Dodd City road. The newspaper admitted that it had no official source for its information but was dealing only with hearsay.
The next afternoon's edition of the paper carried slightly more information but the article was relegated to page 6. "On a high hill just east of Bois d'Arc a firey cross will shed forth its light tonight as two thousand or more Klansmen assemble to initiate a class of one hundrrd. The arms of the cross stretch eighteen feet across, and will be brilliantly illuminated. Those who want to see the firey cross ablaze and the the crowd gathering can do so - at a distance - soon after dark tonight."
The next day the Favorite returned the event to front page prominence but as before the reporter's information did not come from first hand observation but from information provided from other sources.
In something of a petulent tone the reporter opened his article with "There is no doubt that the Klansmen were here, and we have no reason to question that a big class was initiated and that a barbecue was held. The firey cross was in evidence we know for it stood upon a hill on the White farm just east of Bois d'Arc and everybody within five miles of town could see it if they looked. It was ablaze was electric lights!
The paper observed that late in the afternoon cards began arriving in town from all over the county and also from other counties. Cars were identified as being from Sherman, Denison, Paris, Greenville, and Dallas with a fair number representing still farther distant towns and a few carrying Oklahoma plates. The reporter did not hazard a suggestion as to the number of cars except to say that it was obvious that many hundreds crossed Bois d"Arc and drove onto the White farm.
There was an enclosure of some sort where the initiation took place. Estimates given to the paper suggested that the number ranged from fifteen hundred to three thousand. As indicated by the writer, making allowances for exaggeration did not lessen the fact that the number was very large.
In addition to those who actually gained access to the initiation site Bonham police reported that several thousand additional sightseers crowded the roads from the eastern limits of Bonham to the other side of the hill past Bois d'Arc. All traffic policemen were put into service to control the crowd. The paper stated that it was an almost continuous mass of cars, buggies, wagons, and persons on foot which surged over the countryside.
The informants to the paper said that it was "a sight to impress one, especially if he were gifted with some imagination. The firey cross, the white robed figures, the indistinct light of a starry sky, the moving throng, all combined to make an impression on the onlooker."
Concluding his article the Favorite reporter very tersely stated that no invitation had been forth coming for him to view the events first hand. Therefore it was impossible for him to say what took place under the blazing cross.
His informants gave the information that a class of about one hundred new Klansmen were initiated and more than two thousand men partook of the barbecue that followed.
In no sense of an apology the reporter then stated that if the information was incorrect the Klan had no one to blame but itself.
In summation the article ended with, "Even though he may be opposed to the Klan, as he is to other things, this reporter always tried to give the actual facts as near as he can get them and lets it go at that. This is what he did this time."
The KKK Paraded Last Night As Many Thousands Watched
The intense revival of Ku Klux Klan activities after the cessation of World War I seemed to lose steam early in the 1920's. The calming of the post war turbulent economic waters was one of the factors influencing the decline. After a brief recessionary period throughout the county, the jobless rate dropped markedly by 1923 which also eased the general dissatisfaction that had prevailed among the ranks of labor. No longer was the competition for jobs as fierce as it had been at the opening of the decade.
The relatively brief but stormy period of violence perpetrated by various Klan groups through the country caused many members of the organization as well as society in general to speak out against these activities. The violence was far from being Southern isolated for almost daily the newspapers reported incident after incident from all quarters of the country.
Despite the inroads made by the Klan in political office, politicians of the day found it more and more expedient to distance themselves from the Klan and its activities and many political hopefuls took the dangerous position of attacking the Klan at every
opportunity. Additionally it was suspected that many of the violent acts were committed by groups without official Klan sanctioning but who adopted the Klan persona for its cover.
By late 1922 a growing number of anti-Klan organizations sprang up throughout the state and as the politicians stumped the circuit on anti-Klan platforms more and more Klansmen became former Klansmen. Many political analysts consider that the election of Miriam Ferguson to the governor's chair and the election of dynamic young prosecutor Dan Moody as the state's attorney general to have been keystones in the destruction of the Klan in Texas. Both Ferguson and Moody ran successful campaigns with strong anti-Klan planks in their platforms. Moody had even successfully prosecuted some Klansmen for various illegal activities before his entry into statewide politics. By 1924 the Klan's influence was rapidly declining.
In Fannin County the Klan went out with a last hurrah. The summer of 1923 saw the beginning of the end although there was some slight evidence to suggest that the Klan as an organization still thrived, to some degree, into the 1930's.
The June 4th edition of the Bonham Daily Favorite contained a small but noticable advertisement that there would be a Ku Klux Klan parade in town on the night of the 7th followed by a speaking on the square. The announced subject of the parade, rally, and speaking was "The Ku Klux Klan As A Factor In American Life."
The editions of the paper of June 5th and 6th contained identical ads with instructions for assembling of the Klansmen, for the parking of automobiles along the parade route, and the actual route to be taken by the procession.
The Sherman Daily Democrat on June 6th contained a small notice under the heading KKK Will Put on Parade in Bonham. Information provided by the article was that a group of individuals from Bonham had been in town that day distributing circulars advertising the parade and speaking on June 7th with participants from Sherman most cordially invited.
The day following the event, The Bonham Daily Favorite featured the previous evenings activities on the front page under the headline THE KKK PARADED LAST NIGHT AS ANNOUNCED AS MANY THOUSANDS WATCHED.
The parade had been announced for 8:30 but in deference to a service at Union Presbyterian Church the starting time was pushed back an hour. To kick off the evening's schedule an unidentified man on the dais which had been erected at the corner of Fifth and Main Streets, introduced the speaker, the Reverend Dr. William H. Knight of Baton Rouge, formerly of Fort Worth.
The newspaper remarked that several thousand persons were on the square, most of whom were trying to hear the speaker but many on the fringes of the crowd were unable to do so for the noise and confusion created by the movement of so many people. The reporter stated that some estimates of the crowd size ranged upwards of 10,000 persons, but he would hazard the guess that four to five thousand were in attendance, opining that four or five thousand people on the Bonham square made quite a crowd.
Most impressive was the great firey cross which was suspended twenty feet in the air in front of the speaker's platform shedding its colorful glow on the face of the speaker and the milling crowd. Despite the size off the crowd order was maintained with only one incident involving two spectators who "attempted to adjust an old difference by the use of fist power."
As the speaker concluded, he turned to his right and dramatically raised his arm pointing in the direction of the well-timed and approaching line of robed and hooded Klansmen headed by ten men on horseback one carrying another flaming cross and one a large American flag.
After the introduction of Dr. Knight he asked the crowd to bare their heads and join together in singing the first and last stanzas of America.
Following this Knight opened his speech with, "My Friends, from the looks of this crowd, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan couldn't be dying out. I want to talk tonight upon the position of the Ku Klux Klan as a vital factor in American Life."
Briefly Knight gave a history of the Klan's second birth in 1915 stating that about half of the original gathering were original Klansmen from the era after the Civil War.
The body of his speech was predicated on three phases of the Klan, it character, its principles, and its enemies. In describing the character of the Klan the emphasis was placed on the Klan being an American organization which excluded any foreign born from membership. It was a white organization which precluded membership by any person of any color. It was a Christian organization which eliminated all but the Protestant faith.
Then figuratively wrapping himself in the flag he declared that the Klan stood for protection of the American home, old time religion, and morality. He did however fail to mention apple pie.
The remainder of the speech was a long rambling diatribe against the Roman Catholic Church, Knights he claimed were engaged in a conspiracy to take control of the American government and placing the Pope on "the throne of our country." Finally the newspaper reported that it was an address that appealed to many of his hearers and met with much applause and seeming approval.
The Ku Klux Clan was very active in Fannin County and in Honey Grove in the 1920s. We are fortunate to have some accounts of their activities from the local papers, as presented below.
Honey Grove Signal, July 27, 1923
KU KLUX PARADE DREW MAMMOTH CROWD
The Ku Klux parade Tuesday night drew perhaps the largest crowd ever seen in Honey Grove; we are sure it was the largest crowd ever seen on Honey Grove’s public square. People began arriving by the middle of the afternoon and from then until 9 o’clock a constant stream of humanity was poured out upon the square and adjoining streets. The people came from everywhere—Bonham, Windom, Ladonia, Hugo, Dallas, Paris and all the region roundabout. Some say there were 5000 people here while other estimates run as high as 8000. In spite of the very large crowd the best of order was maintained. There was no trouble of any character, no accidents and nothing, save the extreme heat, to mar the pleasures of the evening. Huge tanks of ice water were placed around the square and there was abund ance of good water for all.
In the parade there were about 370 Klansmen, all in full paraphernalia of the order. About 50 of the paraders were mounted, the horses also being in full regalia, making the parade a very imposing and impressive scene. Mr. Henslee, of Greenville, after an introduction by Dr, W. B. Vaughan, delivered an address on the objects and work of the Klan on the square park. On account of the extreme heat, the address was not lengthy, but was well received.
After the parade the Klansmen repaired to the athletic park, where hot barbecue and other choice edibles were served.
Advertisement from the Honey Grove Signal, July 13, 1923
Advertisement from the Honey Grove Signal, June 1, 1923