Traverse City Record-Eagle

Record-Eagle 150th Anniversary

January 31, 2009

KKK was active in early '20s

The 1924 bombings and cross burnings in downtown Traverse City were not the first Klan activity in northern Michigan.

The Record-Eagle reported flaming crosses in the Mancelona area on Aug. 1, 1923, a full year before. Six weeks later, Traverse City commissioners refused the Klan permission to hold a Sept. 17 open-air meeting at the corner of Front and Cass.

About 300 people showed up anyway and marched to a vacant lot west of Front and Union after the unidentified property owner gave permission, carefully noting that it "did not commit him to any relationship with the organization," the newspaper said.

The Record-Eagle also passed on information from an identified Klan source in its Sept. 17 report:

Two, maybe three organizers had worked for weeks in Traverse City. About 150 Traverse City men from "among the leading citizens" had joined. An open-air ritual with the traditional fiery cross burning on a hillside would be held "sometime but not yet" in or near Traverse City, and it would be "merely a part of the Klan ceremonies and have no special significance."

People who expected to see hooded men in white robes performing rites at the Sept. 17 rally were bound to be disappointed, the paper said. A new state law banned wearing masks in public. It also would be difficult to tell how many in the audience were KKK members because "every person who has signed the Ku Klux card has pledged to keep his membership an absolute secret."

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