Quakers and the Ku Klux Klan
Some Interesting Quaker-Roots Threads
Quakers and the Ku Klux Klan


Paul Thomas [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 3:53 PM Mon 1/29/2001 3:53 PM

I was in the process of doing some research work about Daisy Douglas Barr, a Quaker minister that became the high empress of the Ku Klux Klan. Now this was upsetting enough but when the article gave figures that a high percentage of the Klan members in Wayne Co., IN had been Members of the Friends church, this really upset me. This was back in the 1930's, a mere 60 or so years since our forefathers had risked their lives and homes to help the slaves to freedom. This just makes no sense to me at all. I was doing this research for an article that I was putting into The Grant Co. Beacon, the quarterly newsletter that I publish for the Grant county Genealogy Club. I have stopped working on this project, and am wondering what our list thinks of this information.

Jackie Penrod Thomas

Mary Young [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 8:39 PM

I remember my mother saying that they would visit my father's relatives during the late 1920's in the Xenia, Bowersville, Ohio area. The family would have their "sheets" hanging on the back of the bathroom door! I always found this fascinating. By that time they had fallen off the Quaker boat and were mainline Protestants. I always thought it was our dirty little secret!

Mary Young

Mary Young [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 8:36 PM

My father came from a long line of Quakers (Butcher/Antrim/Zelley etc.) in the Xenia/ Bowersville, Ohio area. When my parents were newlyweds (1930ish) my mother remembered visiting my father's relatives and they had their "sheets" hung on the bathroom door!! I don't think the core of the family was still Quaker anymore. But I always found this little tidbit of information fascinating.

Mary Young

Ken Hollowell [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 7:57 PM

The early original KKK had nothing to do with Blacks or slaves, so don't get appalled with your new findings. How ever, if you are into the current political correctness of playing the race card and the rewriting of our nations history , please disregard my statement


dh [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 7:36 PM

"William J. Simmons, a former Methodist preacher, organized a new Klan in Stone Mountain, Georgia in 1915 as a patriotic, Protestant fraternal society. This new Klan directed its activity against, not just blacks, but any group it considered un-American, including any immigrants, Jews, and Roman Catholics. The Ku Klux Klan grew rapidly from here and had more than 2 million members throughout the country by the mid-1920's." Another (Britannica) read:

"The 20th-century Klan had its roots more directly in the American nativist tradition. It was organized in 1915 near Atlanta, Ga., by Colonel William J. Simmons, a preacher and promoter of fraternal orders who had been inspired by Thomas Dixon's book The Clansman (1905) and D.W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation (1915). The new organization remained small until Edward Y. Clarke and Mrs. Elizabeth Tyler brought to it their talents as publicity agents and fund raisers. The revived Klan was fueled partly by patriotism and partly by a romantic nostalgia for the old South, but, more importantly, it expressed the defensive reaction of white Protestants in small-town America who felt threatened by the Bolshevik revolution in Russia and by the large-scale immigration of the previous decades that had changed the ethnic character of American society."

I know Cheska would be the first to point out that this goes far afield from Quaker genealogy, but I did want to point out that the group was considered more patriotic than anti-black or anti-civil-rights as we all came to know the Klan in the 40s-60s. I don't think it's a matter to cause shame or embarassment in any Quaker descendants. This is an issue where historical context really does matter.

Kim Day, Boise

Karen Conley [[email protected]]
1/29/2001 6:19 PM

I’m glad that this subject came up for discussion. My grandfather was raised Quaker and was a Klan member in the 20's. I've been told that my entire family on that line was both Quaker and Klan. I thought that I was the only one who had come accross this sort of thing. These people lived in Columbus, Ohio.


Jerry Richmond [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 6:18 PM

There is an interesting essay entitled "Civil Liberty and the Civil War: The Indianapolis Treason Trials", remarks by Chief Justice William Rehnquist. The URL is http://www.law.indiana.edu/ilj/v72/no4/rehnquis.html

In 1863 a split occurred in Indiana between so-called "War Democrats" and "Peace Democrats". The latter group sought to end the Civil War thru a negotiated peace rather than thru victory on the battlefield. It is not difficult to comprehend Quakers being involved with the Peace Democrats. Evidently much of the discussion and planning that went on was done thru "Secret Societies". Some of the leaders of this Peace movement were arrested and put on trial by a military tribunal in Indianapolis for treason in 1864.

They were eventually freed but not before some significant civil liberties issues were raised, as Chief Justice Rehnquist points out. Now these Peace Democrats were referred to as "copperheads" by their Unionist opponents. The Secret Societies had various names. One of the groups was known as the Knights of the Golden Circle and was headquartered at French Lick in Orange County,IN which was an early bastion of Quakerism as was Wayne County. In Southern Indiana the Knights of the Golden Circle is definitely held to be the forerunner of what would subsequently be referred to as the KKK. The other side of the coin is that these societies considered themselves to be patriotic organizations and are reported to have publicly appeared and marched in 4th of July parades as late as the time of World War I.

I think it quite likely that there was an organization in Wayne County that grew out of this political environment of 1863 and continued to exist up until 1930. Fortunately, I suppose, no one from Wayne County was involved in these treason trials. There were I imagine, strong feelings held, on every aspect of the Civil War. Even though these Secret Societies may have been the forerunner of the KKK in Indiana, that would not necessarily mean that their actions and beliefs were or could conceivably have been the same as those of the KKK in the Deep South. I may be mistaken, but I do not recall ever hearing of a racially motivated burning cross incident, or church bombing, or a lynching in Indiana. It was this latter sort of evil behavior that made the KKK of the Deep South such an abomination to all right minded people.

Regards, Jerry Richmond

Tom Townsend [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 5:22 PM

As reprehensible as it sounds today, many people were Klanners in the early part of this century, including the governor of Indiana in the 1920s.


Christie Brown [[email protected]]
Mon 1/29/2001 5:03 PM

By family tradition, my gt-grandfather John Edward Walton was a Klan member. He would have been a member of the Caesar's Creek or Spring Valley or Xenia MM in Ohio. I have not been able to confirm his personal membership although his whole family were Friends.

Apparently he did not react too well when my grandmother married a nice Irish Catholic boy. This would have been in the early 1920s.

Christie Brown

[email protected]
Mon 1/29/2001 9:35 PM

I'm not sure why you've stopped working on this project, but I think you should continue. Genealogy and history are both methods of pursuing the truth and, since you've just encountered some, you ought not to shy away from it.

My grandfather, Thomas Kenworthy, grew up near Richmond in Wayne County, Ind., and was among those who belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. Why? I have no idea. I didn't learn about it until after his death and, when I asked my aunts and uncle about it, they just got quiet, then insisted that Uncle Osa (Coryell) "dragged him" into it. I only hope all they did was burn a few crosses and not physically injure anyone.

Don't be surprised, though, that Quakers could be part of such organizations. People tend to deify their ancestors and, in most cases, it's not justified. Besides, hero worshippers usually make damn poor genealogists.

Mark E. Dixon, Wayne, PA

dh [[email protected]]
Tue 1/30/2001 12:32 PM

What do you mean by the 'early original KKK'? Do you mean the group who were formed at Pulaski, Tenn in May 1867 with Nathan Bedford Forrest as the first Grand Wizard? The announced aim of this Klan was to destroy Republican political power and establish white supremacy in the Ex-confederate states. If you do mean this group I think that you have mis-read your history very badly or are depending on the mythology that arose from that period and is still believed by those who mis-understand what Reconstruction or the Civil War was about.

Southern white secret societies grew out of a desire of Southern leaders to re-establish all white control within the ex-Confederate States. Knights of the White Camellia, the Constitutional Union Guards, the Pale Faces, the White Brotherhood, the Council of Safety, the '76 Association, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and other state and local organisations spread across the South, formed, without doubt, to overthrow the Republican government in the post Civil War South in order to re-establish white rule. They always made that very clear.

Their aims were to use fear and intimidation to do this. This often took the form of beatings, threats and murder [lynching]. The KKK can truly be said to have had nothing to do with slaves because by the time it was formed the 13th Amendment [18 Dec. 18, 1865], had been passed and slavery had been abolished and therefore had ceased to exist. It did, however, have a great deal to do with black ex-slaves who were trying to exercise their right to vote and act as free citizens. The 'early original KKK's' entire reason for existence was based on the overthrow of what they viewed as the corrupt governments established by the voters in the Southern states. It was a white supremacist organisation first and foremost in spite of the funny names and silly regalia.

The revised KKK formed in 1915 was a somewhat different kettle of fish, while it was basically anti-black, anti-Jew, anti-catholic and generally anti-foreign while viewing itself as the enforcer of sexual morality as well. It existed across the USA and was not merely a southern organisation. In 1923 it had a membership of 2 and a half millions. Most people joined out of fear and frustration, without an idea of what the organisation's constitution advocated. In the late 1920s this KKK ran into difficulties and was effectively disbanded when its major leader was convicted of violation of the Mann Act and other of the leaders were involved in various financial shenanigans In the 1950s and 1960s KKKs and whatever they call themselves now, were essentially hate groups aimed at the 'hate flavour of the day'. Without doubt the KKK old and/or new was an organization based on using threats and violence, and at times murder, to intimidate and control groups or individuals with whom they did not agree. There were not and there still are not any redeeming features whatsoever about these groups whatever excuses, from Protestant Christianity and 'states rights' to xenophobia, which they chose to hide behind. Please try and learn what they stood for in the 1860s and 70s and what they or similar groups stand for today before you come to their support. This has nothing to do with 'current political correctness or playing the race card' it is a simple understanding that the individual use of fear,.threat and force to win your political desires is wrong.


[email protected]
Tue 1/30/2001 12:58 PM

How odd that so many of us have been keeping this "little secret" to ourselves. A couple of years ago one of my second cousins told me her mom once told her of overhearing a conversation one night between her father (my great uncle) and mother--also Quakers and from a long line of Quakers. The subject was that Uncle wanted to join something and apparently the choices at that time and in that area of Kansas were--the Ku Klux Klan and the Odd Fellows. Her mother said she had always been so happy the Odd Fellows won!!

Burnis Argo

Thomas Hamm [[email protected]]
Tue 1/30/2001 8:42 AM

As an Indiana Quaker historian (I grew up in one of the meetings that Daisy pastored, and family remembered her well), this is something I've long pondered. A lot of good background can be found in the book by Leonard Moore, Citizen Klansmen, published by the University of North Carolina Press. It focuses on Indiana and Wayne County.

How could Quakers end up in the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s? Partly it represents declension. After the Civil War, the ideas about race of many Friends became much like those of most of their white neighbors, in part because so many people from non-Quaker backgrounds had come into the Society. Perversely, it partly represents idealism. Quakers were nearly all committed Prohibitionists, and the Klan was enthusiastically committed to Prohibition. Partly it's politics. Here in Richmond, Indiana, the Klan represented the faction of the Republican party that was relatively progressive on some issues and attacked the corruption of the other Republican faction. Probably most Friends shared the anti-Catholicism and anti-Semitism that were common among smalltown Protestants in the 1920s. And as others have pointed out, the Indiana Klan, while it was intimidating, did not engage in illegal violence like lynchings.

Some Indiana Quakers were outspoken critics of the Klan. In 1922 Indiana Yearly Meeting officially condemned it. But it did nothing about members who joined it.

By the way, if anyone is interested in the experience of Quakers with the Ku Klux Klan in the South in the 1860s and 1870s, take a look at Linda Selleck's book, Gentle Invaders, published by Friends United Press in 1995. It deals with Quaker women teachers and ministers during Reconstruction. It certainly would have been news to those Quakers that the Klansmen and other assorted thugs who were burning the schools and orphanages they built and murdering their black associates weren't motivated by race.

T. Hamm

Ila L. LaRue [[email protected]]
Tue 1/30/2001 9:40 AM

I have to agree with Mark. Finding that your ancestor was not a 'perfect' specimen of humanity, so to speak, is not a reason to let him go by the wayside as far as genealogy is concerned. I had a gggg? grandfather who was a notorious Tory who stole and killed, but that has nothing to do with what I am as a person. I, too, write a newsletter for our local genealogy group, and while I do not search out these particular items of history, if they come my way, I surely will not back away. All information is relevant when it comes to genealogy. Best wishes


Joyce Lewis [[email protected]]
1/30/2001 5:22 PM

Sometimes this puts a little spice in our otherwise dull list of names and dates. No matter what our ancestors did doesn't change who we are, in fact it is because of them that makes us who we are. I for one am excited each time I find a new piece of the puzzle and after all no one is perfect. Good hunting,


Leslie Hope [[email protected]]
Fri 2/2/2001 4:42 PM

I like Christine R. Heyrman's Commerce and Culture (chapter 3) on the connection between the Salem witch trials and the persecution of the New England Quakers. Right now I'm reading Quakers and the American Family by Barry Levy (I believe someone summarized it in an earlier post). And for a bit of historical fiction by a descendant there is Mary Coffin Starbuck and the Early history of Nantucket if you can find it. I have Immigration of Irish Quakers into Pennsylvania that I haven't tackled yet. I also liked the early chapters (on Nantucket Quakers) of the recent best seller In the Heart of the Sea:the Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick (he's a descendant too I think). Don't neglect de Crevecour's Letters from an American Farmer. He has a section on the Nantucket Quakers and their migration to North Carolina. I also like to read the poems John Greenleaf Whittier has written about my ancestors tho they are highly fictional. He has one on Ezekial Worthen and Hannah Martin's courtship called The Witch's Daughter. There is the Exile about Thomas Macy's move to Nantucket. He has also written about the Southwicks (Salem Quakers) and Samuel Shattuck (not in my direct line but his sisters Sarah and Gertrude? are). But the very best reading is right here on this list! My sister is no longer on the list (she hasn't figured out the delete key yet) so I fwded her part of the discussion on the Ku Klux Klan and some of the individual Quakers who belonged. Her comment on reading Tom Hamm's post was that there is nothing anyone could say about about Indiana Quakers that would surprise Tom Hamm.

Leslie Hope

LEE-ANNE DAHMS [[email protected]]
ed 2/7/2001 3:41 PM

I dont understand how a Quaker could ever be in the Klan, I would say from what I have learned that maybe they call themself a Quaker but by every sense of the word, their not a true Quaker in my opinion. I just found out that some of my descendants from down south had slaves, and I was suprised. I dont know why. It made me feel bad because I really hate that. I recently found out that my great grandmother that moved to Maine from KY refused to sew someones dress because they were black. I couldnt beleive it, and thought that was awful. My dad reminded me that though he didnt like it either, she was from a different place and time. If you were black, or are black, are you welcomed into the Society of Friends? I would hope so , if they thought all people had the inner light.


[email protected]
Wed 2/7/2001 2:56 PM

Review of recent discussion:

I fear that many of us with Quaker ancestors, particularly with those who lived in lower Virginia in Colonial times, must realize that some of these ancestors held slaves. However, especially those living in the deep South in the years ca. 1780-1820, should not be judged too harshly in some cases for retaining legal title to certain African-Americans associated with their families for many years. Often the manumission of these Blacks would have left them vulnerable to re-enslavement by unscrupulous neighbors.

In the years following the Civil War, many new members were brought into Friends Meetings through the revival movements of the time, particularly in the Midwest. Children of long-time Quaker members came under the influence of frontier evangelists who preached a neo-Calvinist theology which stressed the basic depravity of man, as contrasted to the ancient Quaker affirmation of "that of God in everyone." These new converts were more concerned about their individual escape from eternal damnation than about the social implicaations of recognizing the worth and dignity of even the downtrodden Negroes.

Having spent the greater portion of my life in Iowa, I have been conscious that there was a resurgence of Ku Klux Clan activity in Iowa and throughout the upper Midwest in the years following World War I. Probably scarcely any Quakers were involved, but I know of at least one Quaker family in Iowa who had relatives who seemed to share the Clan orientation. I do not know that any lynching can be verified in Iowa after about 1901.

In the recent discussion of the Ku Klux Clan in this internet forum, I have noted two comments about which I have question:

In his mailing of 01/29/2001, Jerry Richmond has written: "I do not recall ever hearing of a racially motivated burning cross incident or church bombing or a lynching in Indiana."

In his mailing of 01/30/2001, in response to a query of Jackie Penrod Thomas regarding Daisy Douglas Barr, Thomas Hamm has written: "And as others have pointed out, the Indiana Clan, while it was intimidating, did not engage in illegal violence like lynching."

While the Ku Klux Clan might not have been directly involved, and while Quakers may have had no part in it, I fear that there was a double lynching in Marion, Indiana on August 7, 1930. The African-American victims appear to have been Thomas Shipp and Abraham Smith. This information is included on a web site: "A Partial List of African Americans Lynched in the United States since 1859"


It has been some years since I heard or read of this incident, and I can find no other confirmation of it on the Internet, but it seems that Quaker historians and those concerned with African American history should, in the interest of Truth, come to an understanding of what happened.

Herbert Standing

Wed 2/7/2001 6:42 PM
[email protected]

This is a well-known and well-documented incident in Indiana, though not one most of us are proud of. This happened not long before I was born. My parents later pointed out to me the tree on the courthouse lawn where this occurred, as Marion was on our route from where I grew up to where my parents came from. There is nothing I ever heard though that indicated direct involvement of the Klan--and definitely nothing to indicate involvement of Quakers. There is documentation that there were people in that area that belonged to the KKK, & some likely were part of the lynch mob--but the Klan did not claim any responsibility, nor was it attributed to them directly. There has been some recent (within the last 5 years) stories, TV programs, etc. about this as an "anniversary" year came and went. I have seen the 3rd young man, who was with the other 2, but was saved from being lynched, interviewed. He is still living and operates a Civil Rights Museum--in Detroit, I think it is.

Joyce Overman Bowman

[email protected]
Wed 2/7/2001 6:32 PM

Yes, there have been and are African-American Quakers, though not in large numbers, and they are more likely to be in the urban areas than in the rural areas, where they are less likely to be living. If you check the statistics, there are actually more Black Quakers in the world today than white ones. The largest & fastest growing group of Quakers in the world is in Kenya. Mission work there was started by (or before) 1900 by American Friends. They now have an ever increasing number of Yearly Meetings which are part of Friends United Meeting, which is over-seeing body for one of the major groups of Friends in the world at the present time.

Joyce Overman Bowman

Wed 2/7/2001 6:29 PM
[email protected]

In Philadelphia, there are a few black (African-American) Quakers, but only a few. In general, I think it is accurate to say that, while the Religious Society of Friends welcomes minorities (blacks, gays, Hispanics, whatever), it just doesn't ATTRACT many of them.

This doesn't mean the atmosphere is necessarily racist. Culturally, though, it tends to feel very Episcopalian -- i.e., WASPy and "English." My meeting serves tea -- not coffee -- at monthly meeting.

Mark E. Dixon, Wayne, PA

Jerry Richmond [[email protected]]
Wed 2/7/2001 5:11 PM

<< Herbert quoted my statement from awhile back: In his mailing of 01/29/2001, Jerry Richmond has written: " I do not recall ever hearing of a racially motivated burning cross incident or church bombing or a lynching in Indiana." >>

Someone else privately wrote to me as well and described the website and the incident to which Herbert has alluded as something that occurred in Marion, IN in 1930. Prior to that note, I was unaware of the lynching (if true) in Marion; that is not a part of Indiana that I am familiar with.

Although I live in Illinois, I grew up in Southern Indiana and had some familiarity with the topic in the following regard: My great-grandfather's eldest brother died in Savannah,GA in the Union cause in 1864 and has always been regarded as a hero in that branch of our family. In 1867 his widow married Stephen Horsey. Although there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that Stephen Horsey was ever a practicing Quaker, I believe it likely that he was descended from Quakers and perhaps the namesake of the Stephen Horsey mentioned here recently as one of the Quaker leaders who tangled with the infamous Col. Scarborough in MD.

Now this Stephen Horsey in Southern Indiana was one of the reputed leaders of the Knights of the Golden Circle and was one of the 4 men put on trial in Indianapolis for treason in 1864 and subsequently acquitted. As I mentioned in my post on this topic a week ago, these "copperhead" political organizations in Indiana were reputed to have been the forerunners of the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana.

Because of the relationship of this individual to our family and in particular to the widow of a man esteemed as a war hero, over the years my sister & I have had occasion to root around into the substance of some of the various allegations that have floated around in Southern Indiana. Because my sister is an antique dealer there, she has occasion to travel around more than normal and talk to lots of people. These conversations in many cases involve local history and folklore, from a grass-roots, estate sale perspective <G>.

What we were and had been able to uncover were some reports of scattered incidents of mob violence. These incidents were attributed to the KGC or the KKK or were thought to have been so attributed; however neither the KGC nor the KKK ever elected to take credit for these incidents.

The incidents that I became aware of were all vigilante type actions and were as follows:

[1] The murder of a white Union soldier near Paoli in 1864 who had been assigned the duty of apprehending Union Army deserters and returning them to garrison.

[2] The lynching of a white man & his two sons at West Shoals in Martin County in 1886. These men had looted and terrorized the populace for a long time and were recognized as hardened criminals that had managed to escape justice for over 20 years.

[3] The lynching of a white German national in Knox County for displaying the German Imperial flag while we were at war with Germany.

These were the only instances of mob violence that I had ever become aware of. In no cases were practicing Quakers ever alleged to be involved in these incidents. The victims of all of these incidents were white men so there is no reason to suppose that racial motivation was ever involved at all.

Regards, Jerry Richmond

Thomas Hamm [[email protected]]

There was at least one incident of violence directed at Indiana Quakers during the Civil War. In 1864, a group of Knights of the Golden Circle, Confederate sympathizers, burned the Walnut Ridge Friends Meetinghouse in Rush County.

Herbert is correct to point out the 1930 lynching in Marion, Indiana, the last in the north. It took place in Grant County, a place with a large Quaker population. Prof. James H. Madison of Indiana University is writing a book on this. He says that by 1930, the Ku Klux Klan had collapsed in Marion. Doubtless a lot of former Klan members were in the mob, but the Klan weren’t the motivating force. Perhaps the saddest aspect is how Indiana Quakers, as far as I can tell, ignored the lynching entirely.

T. Hamm

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