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As a graduate student of history at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, LaDonna Gunn, wrote this essay about the Klan in Caņon City. By using newspapers, photographs, oral histories, and other materials from the Local History Center's collections, Ms. Gunn focused on the underlying religious aspects of Klan ideology. Because of web site formatting, the footnotes from the original scholarly essay do not appear on this page. If you are interested in a particular citation, please contact the Local History Center. We also direct your attention to the Works Cited at the end of this web page. Furthermore, as a part of our ongoing effort to make our collections available to the public, we have digitized the two oral histories cited in this essay. If you have Media Player, you may listen to the two short audio clips of William Adamic and May Wilson talking about the Klan.

During the 1920s, Colorado had the largest and most influential Knights of the Ku Klux Klan following of any other state west of the Mississippi River. In the 1924 elections, the Klan gained control not only of state government with the election of Governor Morley, but also of many local governments. Fremont County was one of those local governments with a dominating Klan presence, having a particularly large following of Klansmen and Klanswomen in Caņon City and Florence. These two local Klaverns claimed that they organized to improve the schools, end the liquor problem, stop crime, and promote the state and national Klan agenda. (1) The Rocky Mountain Klansman, January 30, 1924 In a small rural community like Caņon City, the Klan was atypical in view of its leader, who was a charismatic First Baptist minister and who had the state and national political power within the Klan to later inherit the Grand Dragon's position after John Galen Locke. Yet, at the same time, the Caņon City Klan was typical of the national and other state Klans because it employed those aspects of the national Klan agenda that were applicable to the concerns of local Protestants. This agenda advertised a pro-Protestant, native-born American, white-supremacist philosophy. Because the Klan leaders wholeheartedly embraced the agenda touting political and social reasons for organizing, the underlying ethos motivating their movement in Caņon City was the preservation of their Protestant beliefs and way of life.

When the Roman Catholic Church announced its intent to build the Holy Cross Abbey in Caņon City in 1923, the Klan leaders recognized the event as a direct threat on Protestant superiority and "100% American" ideology. On May 10, 1923, Father Cyprian Bradley, Prior of the Benedictine Society of Colorado, announced that the order had just purchased 90 acres of orchard land east of Caņon City from Captain B. F. Rockafellow. (2) Holy Cross Abbey, about 1926 Father Cyprian indicated that the order wanted "to make Caņon City the center of the activities of the Benedictines in the West." The Mount Saint Scholastica Academy for girls founded by the Benedictine Sisters, Father Cyprian explained, had been blessing the community since 1890, enrolling in 1923 "over 100 girls and . . . growing rapidly." Since the purchase of the Rockafellow orchard represented "the consummation of [the order's] ambitions," the local residents were now aware of the Catholic Church's future plan for Caņon City and Fremont County. The forthcoming Abbey and boys' school proved to the community that Caņon City was going to become the "center of educational activities" for the Roman Catholic Church. With the announcement of the Benedictines' intentions on page one of the local newspaper, an editorial in the same issue praised the order for its decision "to make Canon City their headquarters." "They [would] stand for the highest moral and educational ideals," the editorial stated, "and their coming [would] add prestige to the community in many ways."

The Klan, however, advocated a manifesto in direct opposition to the Roman Catholic Church and declared any group that opposed "Protestant Christian organizations" as enemies of the Klan. (3) First Baptist Church, 7th and Macon, about 1922 Established as a "provisional organization" in 1923 by Reverend Fredrick G. Arnold, minister of the First Baptist Church in Caņon City, with the help of a few other influential converts, the Caņon City Klan clearly and decisively opposed anyone holding allegiance to the "pope, or any foreign, political or religious power." In the "Klan Kolumn" of the Fremont County Daily News, the new local Klan newspaper, the unidentified author explained that the Klan was the epitome of religious tolerance because Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists refused "to interfere with each other's religious convictions." But, religious intolerance was the standard of behavior for Klansmen toward Catholics. The Klan "fear[ed]" Catholics because the "infallibility of the Catholic church cause[d] Protestants to dread its power." Since the Catholic Church was intolerant and had "murdered" thousands of Protestants, then the Protestant Klansmen were justifiably intolerant of Catholics. Furthermore, since Protestants were responsible for the "establishment of the American commonwealth," then Catholics were un-American by holding allegiance to a foreign ruler. Consequently, in Caņon City as across the nation, Klansmen believed that Protestantism was the only true religion and that "100 per cent American men" were the supreme children of God. (4) Miners in the Chandler coal mine

With the Benedictines increasing their visible presence in 1923, the continual influx of southern European Catholic immigrants into the coal mining camps of Fremont County further confirmed that the ethno-religious landscape was changing. According to the U.S. Census records from 1900 to 1930, Italian immigration, and to a lesser degree Slovenian immigration, in Fremont County rose steadily over this 30-year period, making up about 11 percent of the county's total population between the two ethnicities. Italians, claiming "over a third" of the immigrant population, as well as the majority of other foreigners in Fremont County, worked in the 43 coal mines in operation during the 1920s. These immigrants were Catholics, resulting in the number of Catholics in Fremont County "tripl[ing] between 1916 and 1926." In contrast, in the 1920 U.S. Census, there were only 254 "Negroes" in the county and many were members of the Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Caņon City, to whom the Klan gave $25 in 1925. Furthermore, there was only one "Jewish family" living in Caņon City in the 1920s. (5) Mt Olive Baptist Church, 5th and Water, about 1925 Obviously, the "colored" Baptists and the Jews were not a threat to local Protestants. But, with foreign Catholic immigrants contributing to the county's population increase, the religious and social demographic changes occurring within the county did represent a threat to the Protestant majority.

With a national level of pro-Protestant, anti-immigration sentiment against southern European Catholics, the Caņon City Klan leaders capitalized on a familiar message to recruit prospective Protestant members who felt threatened by Catholics and Catholic foreigners. In the Canon City Daily Record, numerous editorials not only revealed the national attitude toward southern European Catholics but also represented local thoughts toward these new immigrants. Week after week in 1923 and 1924, stories about immigrant quotas appeared in the newspaper, exhibiting the importance of the national issue at the local level. The debate centered on southern European countries, like "Italy and the Slavic states," constantly exceeding their quotas while northern European countries, like "Germany, Denmark, Sweden, [and] Norway," were frequently falling below their allowed quotas. The "real Americans" wanted immigration restrictions extended beyond Russia to include southern Europe. By restricting immigrants from specified countries, the United States would "attract desirable citizens" rather than "throw[ing] open its doors to the least desirable class of men from the Balkans and southeastern Europe." How else would the "land and government our fathers won for us . . . be preserved?" an editorial asked. What "this country and especially Colorado need[ed]" were northern European immigrants, preferably young people since they "ma[d]e far better citizens" than older immigrants who "never wholly adapt[ed] . . . to a new country and new ideals." (6) KKK at Swimming Pool, January 26, 1924 If the government did not control immigration, then "America's future [would be] imperiled by letting in mental and physical inferiors" from southern European states. By the time the Klan leaders were recruiting members in Caņon City in 1923, their message spoke directly to Protestant fears that the United States, including their own community in Fremont County, was being invaded by inferior, southern European immigrants, pledging allegiance to the Roman Catholic Church. A message that opposed foreign immigration, opposed allegiance to any governing authority other than the United States, opposed the "Romanized Press," acknowledged Protestantism as the "true Christianity," and assured that only the "best men in the community . . . who believe[d] in God [and] in our native land" served to alleviate fears and motivated local Protestant men and women to join the "Invisible Empire." Consequently, when the Caņon City Klan, claiming well over 500 members, debuted on Saturday night, January 26, 1924, at the swimming pool owned by Dr. E. R. Fulkerson, a Methodist minister and missionary, the urgency to preserve their Protestant beliefs and way of life was clearly unmistakable.

Once the Klan was a force, its political and social programs in Fremont County visibly represented a Protestant ideology of religious and moral superiority. After making its public appearance in January 1924, the Klan began working the political system to make its local agenda known, taking control of the county Republican party on July 30 and then the Democratic party on August 1. "As an organization . . . born of God," the Klan's political ideology was to protect the "interest of Christian Americanism" so that it could "save America." The Fremont County platform identified up to 20 issues, ranging from civic to social-improve schools, housing, parks, streets, and sanitation; attract new industry; restrict immigration; prevent crime, including enforcing prohibition; support the Y.M.C.A., fraternal organizations, and local military units; teach patriotism; respect the sanctity of the home; and "handle" the African American community. (7) KKK riding Ferris wheel at 8th and Greenwood, April 26, 1926 When the November elections drew near and an Independent party formed in opposition, the Klan touted its successes during its short public life. First, in March 1924 a school bond issue passed in Caņon City for a new high school and a new elementary school. Since the bond issue had failed twice before, the Klan took credit for the win, marching in public for the first time from downtown out to the new high school site. Second, the Klan claimed responsibility for passing water bond issues to extend the water mains to East Caņon. Third, the Klan exhibited its high moral and superior Christian qualities in providing "moral and financial support" to the Fremont County Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., and the four-week evangelical revival held in September. Finally, in supporting a second term for Sheriff Clifford R. Glasson, who was one of the organization's prominent leaders, the Klan was promoting its influence on stopping the crime and bootlegging problem in the county. By supporting Glasson, who had made a "number of arrests and convictions for violation of the intoxicating liquor laws," the Klan could claim that its influential "power" helped create a "city of tranquility and peace." But, for the Catholic Slovenian families living in Prospect Heights just south of Caņon City, the moral and superior Protestant belief held by the Klan and represented in its political platform that supported prohibition flew in the face of an ethno-religious culture where wine was accepted and used in religious ceremonies. As a child, William Adamic remembered that his mother "bootlegged [and] sold [wine] to help raise her [children]." He further recalled that Sheriff Glasson "knocked their barrels out of the god-damn basement, break[ing] them with an axe [and leaving] . . . wine all over [the] yard." When the Klan, who did not "care too much for Catholics," came up the road near Adamic's home to burn crosses on the "First Street hill," his mother "took the kerosene lamp and took us down in the cellar [because] she [was] so afraid of them. . . . Everybody was afraid." Obviously, the Slovenian immigrants in Fremont County did not hold the Klan's political and social agenda in high esteem nor view its members as morally superior Christians. Notwithstanding what the Catholic "bootleg gang" thought of the Invisible Empire, the Klan was still advocating that "Christianity [was] for . . . the welfare of all people" and that it was doing the "will of God."

As a decisive gesture of its Protestant power, the Klan publicized its "moral and financial support" of the evangelical revival that began two days before primary elections on Sunday, September 7, 1924, and lasted for four weeks. (8) KKK Membership Badge Reverend John S. Hamilton from Winona Lake, Indiana, and president of the Interdenominational Association of Evangelists, "[took] the town by storm," proclaiming that "there was never a time in the history of America when the cry of God for helpers was so urgent and so powerful." With Exalted Cyclops and First Baptist minister Reverend Arnold seated on the stage with other ministers and church leaders from the Methodist Episcopal, the Presbyterian, the United Presbyterian, the First Christian, and the Y.M.C.A at the opening ceremonies of the revival, the 1400 or so Protestants attending knew the tenor of support for the revival. The visibility of Arnold at the revival and the Klan's acknowledgement of support two days before the primary elections and two months before the general elections revealed that the Klan's source of political and social authority, power, and approval came from Protestantism, its superior belief system and way of life.

Even though the Klan's political opponents were also Protestants, the Klan leaders had to justify their position and condemn their opponents as corrupt and unworthy of the Protestant affiliation. When the Klan took control of both political parties during the summer of 1924, they did so by ousting Protestant men who were anti-Klan and who had been political leaders within their parties. The disenfranchised men formed the Independent party to fight the Klan's agenda. (9) U.S. Representative Guy U. Hardy One of the more notable anti-Klan political leaders was Congressman Guy U. Hardy, publisher and owner of the Canon City Daily Record. (As the incumbent of the 3rd Congressional District in Colorado, Hardy had to remain on the Republican ticket to ensure re-election in the other 18 counties within his district. So, even though Hardy was not formally an Independent, the Klan politically positioned him in alliance with the Independent party. Hardy lost the primary in Fremont and Pueblo counties but won all of the other counties. He then went on to win the general election in November.) Hardy grew up in Illinois and graduated from a Christian university in Kentucky. He moved to Caņon City in 1893 and accepted a job at The Record, which was one of three local newspapers. Two years later he bought the newspaper and became its publisher until his death in 1947, serving as president of the National Editorial Association from 1918 to 1919. Hardy was a member of the First Christian Church, and in the 1920s, he was a director of the Y.M.C.A., an Elks, a member of the Chamber of Commerce, and founder and president of the Fremont Building and Loan Association. Elected to congress in 1918 on the Republican ticket, Hardy was proud of his political record, voting for "prohibition, law enforcement, restriction of immigration, child labor amendments, educational measures, President Coolidge's economy program and lower federal taxes," and serving on the appropriations committee. In short, Hardy was a prominent man in the county, the state, and the nation. Besides the anti-Catholic, anti-immigration rhetoric Arnold and the Klan leaders used to acquire members and once there was a substantial Protestant anti-Klan following, the Klan had to publicly respond. By attacking the moral integrity of many of the former political leaders, especially Hardy, the Klan could brand them as "Wobbling Protestants" who fell to the "misrepresentations" of the "press strongly under the influence of the Roman Catholic hiearchy [sic]." Calling these evil men the "Court House Gang" and accusing them of being morally corrupt and politically ineffective, the Klan easily compared them to "old Chicago's State street or Tammany." Unable to trust the "men that we [had] sent to Washington City to represent us," Col. McKeever announced at a rally on October 23, 1924, the Klan had to come "with its high ideals, drifting away from old party lines, reaching up towards God for guidance to find men white, with honest hearts, clean brains and that could not be bought." Col. McKeever continued,

It is a fight for a clean, pure American ballot box against the plunderers of our national and state and town treasuries, and we win! It is a cry of a new John the Baptist in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way for the new citizenship Messiah!" over against the organized enemies, and we win! It is a leap in the early morning of our nation's life of the best manhood and womanhood the world has ever seen into a movement to protect our homes, our schools, our protestantism and our sacred institutions against the low-down, skinny, batwing of the old world, and we win!

In addition to using organized Klan meetings to broadcast the message, Exalted Cyclops Arnold also used the pulpit of the First Baptist Church. (10) Reverend Fredrick G. Arnold, 1922 As the charismatic leader of the Caņon City Klan, Reverend Fredrick G. Arnold was a relative newcomer to Caņon City, having moved to the community in 1920 to accept the pastorate at the First Baptist Church. Arnold grew up in Nebraska and graduated from the Rochester Theological Seminary in 1912. Prior to his death in 1928, Arnold had been the president of the Colorado Baptist Ministerial Association, vice-moderator of the Colorado Baptist Association, chaplain of the state penitentiary, a member of the Masons and the Odd Fellows, a teacher of Bible at the Caņon City High School, the first Exalted Cyclops of the Caņon City Klavern, and the Grand Dragon of the Colorado Realm in 1925. In short, Arnold became a prominent man in the county and the state in a brief period of time. Asserting his position, authority, power, and influence on Sunday morning, November 2, 1924, Arnold preached to a church "filled to capacity" on "Why the Ku Klux Klan Kame to America and Fremont County" and that evening on "The Ku Klux Klan, Its Principals [sic], Practices and Programs." With a captive audience, Arnold surely reiterated the already familiar message to reassure his Protestant congregants that the Klan was the savior of America and Protestantism was its true religion. Many in the congregation had become his foot soldiers, marching in public on numerous occasions even to the point of carrying "small handgun[s]," as John Moletti remembered his father doing. Consequently, on November 4, 1924, at the election polls, the Klan ticket swept almost every office in the county, endorsing the Klan's political and social platform and justifying the moral superiority of Protestantism.

The message that the Benedictines, Catholic immigrants, and unbelieving Protestants under Catholic influence was threatening the sacred American religious institution of Protestantism deeply affected and influenced the fundamental belief system and way of life for the majority of Caņon City's and Fremont County's Protestant population. (11) Newspaper Ad in the Fremont County Daily News, August 26, 1924 Protestant men formed influential Klaverns in Canon City and Florence in 1924. The women followed in January 1925 with a membership of over 400. John Molletti, the son of a French immigrant, was a member of the Junior Klan, marking his "bib overalls" with "KKK" and fighting with the Catholic children who had marked their "bib overalls" with "KC." Hundreds of Protestants-men, women, and children-joined the ranks of the Invisible Empire to preserve a belief system and way of life. Those that did not join, like May Wilson, thought the Klan was "a mess, . . . [breaking] up lots of homes, . . . friendships and the church." Whether real or fabricated, the pro-Klan Protestants firmly believed that the very essence of not only their existence but also the existence of America was being attacked. For them, the Klan provided a means to fight all that seemed evil in their world. Consequently, feeling a direct threat to their understanding of their place in a society that seemed to be morally deteriorating, the Protestants in Caņon City and Fremont County who embraced the Klan and its philosophy attempted to preserve a belief system and way of life that God had sanctioned.

Works Cited

Primary Sources:

Adamic, William C. Interview by Frank Adamic, 15 January 1985. Transcript. Fremont-Custer Historical Society Collection, Local History Center, Caņon City Public Library, Caņon City, CO.

Canon City Daily Record. 10 May 1923-1 June 1928; 27 January 1947.

Canon City High School Class of 1922, comps. Nonac. Canon City, Colo.: Rambler Print Shop, 1922.

Canon City Rocky Mountain Klansman. 30 January 1924.

Fremont County Daily News. 26 August-31 October 1924.

Hardy, Guy U. comp. Canon City City Directory. Canon City, Colo.: Canon City Daily Record, 1923.

________. Canon City City Directory. Canon City, Colo.: Canon City Daily Record, 1925.

Moletti, John to Mrs. Fisher, 14 July 1992. Typed Transcript by John Moletti. Moletti Collection, Local History Center, Caņon City Public Library, Caņon City, CO.

U.S. Census. 1900-1930. Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research. Electronic Edition. Study 00003: Historical Demographic, Economic, and Social Data: U.S. 1790-1970. Anne Arbor: ICPSR. http://fisher.lib.virginia.edu/census.

Wilson, May. Interview by Barbara Ahart, 13 February 1985. Transcript. Fremont-Custer Historical Society Collection, Local History Center, Canon City Public Library, Canon City, CO.

Secondary Sources:

Carroll, Christopher J. and Mark A. Bauer, comps. Historic Coal Mines of Colorado, Colorado Geological Survey Information Series 64. CD Database. Denver: Colorado Geological Survey, 2002.

Goldberg, Robert Alan. Hooded Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Colorado. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1981.

Scamehorn, Lee. High Altitude Energy: A History of Fossil Fuels in Colorado. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2002.

Photographs and Images

LHC = Local History Center, Caņon City Public Library

CM = Carol McNew Personal Collection

1 LHC: The Rocky Mountain Klansman, January 30, 1924

2 LHC: Holy Cross Abbey, about 1926

3 LHC: First Baptist Church, corner of 7th and Macon, about 1922

4 LHC: Miners at the Chandler mine south of Caņon City, date of photograph unknown, mine operated between 1890 and 1942

5 LHC: Mount Olive Baptist Church, 5th and Water, about 1925

6 LHC: Caņon City Klan at the swimming pool east of Caņon City owned by Dr. E. R. Fulkerson, January 26, 1924

7 LHC: Caņon City Klan members on Ferris wheel at W. H. Forsythe's merry-go-round site at 8th and Greenwood, April 26, 1926

8 CM: Klan membership badge.

9 LHC: Guy U. Hardy portrait, date unknown

10 LHC: Fred Arnold portrait, Nonac, Canon City High School Class of 1922

11 LHC: Fremont County Daily News, August 26, 1924

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