Dakota Datebook

Kass Kounty Klan

Friday, September 1, 2006

A large, glowing red cross was suspended from an airplane as it flew through the streets of Fargo. The plane preceded and later followed a parade of men clad in white robes and hoods. Because of a North Dakota state law that forbade concealment of faces during a parade, marchers were forced to abandon their customary masks. Following the parade, these members of the Ku Klux Klan again congregated at the Fargo fairgrounds to continue the Kass Kounty Klan konklave. In the meantime, the plane circled the fairgrounds and staged a short pageant during which three crosses were set afire. The evening meeting of the Kass Kounty Klan was open to the public and was about to begin. Awaiting their arrival were other Klansmen who had stayed and listened to the “great titan,” or district leader, Judge Wallace Campbell of Bismarck speak.

The konklave took place today in 1927. Delegates of the Ku Klux Klan came from North and South Dakota, Montana, and Minnesota. It began at 3 p.m. today with a private meeting for members. The Imperial Wizard, or national leader of the Klan, Dr. Hiram Evans was to be the principal speaker at the konklave, but was unable to make it because his airplane broke down.

The public meeting began at 8:15 pm with a welcome address from J.G. Halland on behalf of Mayor J.H. Dahl. “[It is my] duty and pleasure to extend to you tonight a full-hearted welcome to the city,” said Halland to the estimated 1,000 attendees. “We welcome all organizations which support American principles and ideals and the constitution of the United States…I hope you will like us and will come again.”

Judge John A. Jeffrey, imperial representative for North Dakota and other states, followed the welcome with an appeal to “preserve the culture and civilization of the Saxon white race,” and preached “American ideals” that were being corrupted by the “crime and filth” of other races. Despite remarks such as these made by Jeffrey, the Klan claimed they were not “anti-anything,” but instead were only pro-American. “The Klan is as absolutely American as chewing gum, crooked district attorneys, or chautauquas,” stated the Voice of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan which was reprinted in Grand Forks in February 1923.

The Klan was fairly active in North Dakota, especially in the Red River Valley through the 1920s. The Kass Kounty Klan was among the more boastful, if not prosperous, Klans in North Dakota. “This is a real He Man’s Organization standing for everything that is good, namely our Flag, Public Schools, Protestant Churches, Sanctity of the Home and respect for Law and Order,” wrote Harry Divine, head of the Kass Kounty Klan, in a letter to fellow Klansmen. The letter was an appeal for pledges that would go toward the purchase and financing of the Elks hall as the home of the Klan. “The Kass Kounty Klan No. 5 now has a splendid organization, we have made a nice growth…We are asking you to do your little part to help us make the Kass Kounty Klan not only the biggest Klan in the Northwest, but one of the best in America. Our Kass Kounty Klan No. 5 will be just what you and I, each one of us individually, make it.” The Klans, however, passed out of existence.

By Tessa Sandstrom

Sources:
“Evans due by plane today for Ku Klux Klan Konklave,” Fargo Forum Morning Edition. Sept. 1, 1927. :1.
“First of two Klan sessions scheduled for this afternoon,” Fargo Forum Evening Edition. Sept. 1, 1927: 1.
Harry J. Divine Manuscripts (#20720). State Historical Society of North Dakota small manuscript collection MS 21000, Series 20635-20726.
“Jeffrey addresses Klansmen after parade through Fargo,” Fargo Forum Evening Edition. Sept. 2, 1927: 5.
“Klan to meet here Thursday,” Fargo Forum Evening Edition. Aug. 31, 1927: 6.
State Historical Society of North Dakota General Reference File, Ku Klux Klan.
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Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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