Donald Campbell to Pease, August 25, 1868

Page 1

The Ku Klux Klan was founded in in Pulaski, Tennessee in late 1865 and early 1866 by six young Confederate veterans. Its name was derived from the Greek word kuklos, meaning circle or band, with "klan" added for alliteration. The Klan's founders devised an elaborate set of secret rituals based on those of an antebellum college fraternity. As it spread through the South, the Klan quickly became associated with vigilantism, opposition to Republican rule, and white supremacy.

The Klan had no organization, but spread through word-of-mouth, often going by different names. By March 1868, Klan activity was noted in Texas, with groups going by names such as the the Knights of the Rising Sun and the Knights of the White Camellia. By May 1868, the first Klan murders of freedmen and Republicans were known to have taken place.

Northeast Texas was the center of Klan activity. This letter from Marion County chief justice Donald Campbell (later lieutenant governor) tells of Klan activity in Jefferson and threats against Lieutenant George W. Smith, the leader of the local Republicans. In October 1869 Smith and two freedmen would be murdered by a Klan mob. Military efforts to bring their killers to justice resulted in a notorious trial known as the Stockade Case, in which most of the defendants were acquitted.

Thanks to federal intervention and a growing revulsion among white Texans, the Klan died out in the late 1870s, only to see a strong revival in the 1920s.

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Campbell to Pease, page 1

Jefferson Tuesday Aug 25

Hon. E.M. Pease


My Dear Sir --

The excitiment was much higher

with us last night than it has ever been before. It came

very near resulting in a general riot and massacre.

The K.R.S. had a meeting about 5 o'clock in the town

Hall and invited Lieut Smith to be present. They had great

complaints to make in regard to the negroes being armed,

but not a word to say in regard to the outrages recurring

here every day and night by their war party. The negroes

feel that they have been outraged and that unless they protect

themselves they will be killed up by these outlaws.

Threats have been made that their Church is to be burnt or

torn down and they have simply armed themselves and when

night comes, they go to their Church and await any attack

that may be made upon it. They interfere with no one and

will interfere with no one, but have determined if their

Church is attacked, to die in defending it. Last night a party

of Ku Kluxes went out to attack them, but through the

efforts of Lieut Smith and several others, it was prevented.

During the night however, the wildest excitement prevailed

all over our city -- horsemen from the direction of the Church

were running at full speed. The Hall bell was run 5

or six times, horns were blown in different parts of

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Donald Campbell to Pease, August 25, 1868, Records of Elisha Marshall Pease, Texas Office of the Governor, Archives and Information Services Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

Page last modified: March 30, 2011