"Dark Beverage of Hell"
The Transformation of Hamilton County's Dry Crusade, 1876-1936
Jason S. Lantzer
Chapter 3: From the Cross of Christ to the Fiery Cross
The celebrating over the arrival of Prohibition would not last long though. Once again the drys of Hamilton County were forced to recognize that despite legislative victory, their fight was far from over. New allies would be recruited-- with disastrous results.
Noblesville was not the only place to rejoice in January. Prohibition "parties" were held across the state and nation by the drys who had worked so long on the local, state, and national levels to see their dream become a reality. The editorial page of the Evansville Journal News proclaimed that after being "on the defensive" for fifty years, "John Barleycorn" was finally dead. The South Bend Tribune was overjoyed that "Prohibition [is] here at last." The Anderson Daily Bulletin ran as its headline, "King Alcohol is Dead." Famed evangelist Billy Sunday reportedly told a crowd that Prohibition meant fewer people in Hell. The lid was now on. 1 The Indianapolis News said:
Federal Prohibition means that the nation is going to be sober if the men in charge of the law's provisions enforce it. Resistance to the new order is resistance to the government itself. 2
Of course, not everyone shared these sentiments. Brewers were stunned, and saloonkeepers who had held out to the last found themselves the owners of implements that no wished to buy. Many were unsure what Prohibition would actually mean. In Evansville, speculation was that the cost of liquor would jump to $100 a quart. 3 The Terre Haute Tribune was ready with a word of caution:
Indiana welcomes the rest of the country to "the experiment." The Tribune believes in time that there will be a tolerance of products of the vine and the grain in beverage form, with the elements of abuse eradicated. Public sentiment in time will decide this matter. 4
Furthermore, Prohibition was born into a changing and chaotic world. After a struggle, which had its roots in the anti-slavery movement, women had at long last gained the right to vote. Indiana became the twenty-sixth state to endorse the Nineteenth Amendment, just as Prohibition went into effect. 5 Perhaps even more altering to the lives of Americans, at least in the short term, was the Red Scare. Convinced of a communist plot, the Federal government launched a series of police raids across the country. The raids did not differentiate between communists and socialists. The Anderson Daily Bulletin talked of the government raiding thirty-three U.S. cities in search of communist "radicals," arresting 4,000, including one man in that city for disloyalty to the government. The Lebanon Daily Reporter believed these arrests broke the "backbone" of a planned communist revolt in the country, and said those arrested should be deported right along side "old redeye," alcohol. 6
The Noblesville Daily Ledger covered the growing fear of the reds. The paper reported in late 1919 of efforts to rid Washington State of communists. But the 1920 "red scare" was hardly anything new. As early as 1908, the Hamilton County Ledger was reporting that the government was worried about "red" anarchy. Furthermore, anyone reading the paper during and after the First World War may have sensed a great deal of fear as the communists took over Russia and threatened to take over Germany as well. Bolsheviks were seen as a real threat. 7
But for the most part, it was the new war on liquor that captured the attention and lives of the people of Hamilton County. Noblesville kicked off national Prohibition by dumping 200 quarts of whisky into the city sewer. 8 For those having to get out of brewing, or hoping that some sort of middle ground could be reached, the courts offered no room to maneuver. In March 1920, home brewing was made illegal along with every other non-medicinal or non-industrial alcohol. 9
From the start it became obvious that Prohibition was the major issue for both law enforcement and politicians. At the end of March 1920, the first liquor still ever found in Hamilton County was discovered. It would not be the last, however. Prohibition also became wrapped up in primary politics, which spilled over into the presidential campaign of that year. 10
The churches, however, were seemingly distracted by the sheer magnitude of their victory. They began to focus on other issues. The Noblesville Ministerial Association became involved in pushing for higher teacher pay and in debates over the Interchurch World Movement; a Rockefeller supported idea to promote Christian unity. The various congregations were also preoccupied with getting out of debt and in growing their membership base. There were also new victories to be won in the effort to "uplift society," such as banning Sunday movies and tobacco. 11
But the churches were soon forced to revisit Prohibition because of the enormity of the law enforcement problem. It was one thing to see people arrested for intoxication; it was another to have large-scale raids performed to eradicate the source of those intoxicants. In August the Perkins Farm was raided, a woman arrested, and part of a still confiscated. In November, two stills, forty gallons of "white mule," and two men were arrested. In December, two "foreigners" were arrested in Fall Creek Township for possession of alcohol, and when their home was searched, police found evidence of a still. Bootlegging became something many people were involved in. Wayne Musselman recalls hearing stories of people painting their milk bottles white and then having beer put in them by people working at the dairy. 12
The answer to the continuing problem of alcohol for the churches seemed to be another round of revivals. The Christian and Friends congregations launched efforts in November 1920, with First Methodist and Cavalry Baptist joining in January of 1921. Ninth Street Methodist started their own revival in February. But the meetings often seemed to cloud the problem at hand because there were so many possible answers to the social questions raised. Cicero hosted a speaker on the Sunday closing issue, who told those assembled that churches should not have to rely on the government in order to fill the pews on Sunday mornings. Yet, the WCTU announced that it was launching a campaign against golf, automobiles, baseball, theatres, and movies on the Sabbath, as well as against smoking. 13
Eventually, the drys started to take direct action again. They sought to halt prescription liquor, which was allowed under Prohibition, because it was too easily abused. They scored a victory when the Treasury Department announced that it would uphold the stiff beer regulations. These victories brought with them trips by the Flying Squadron and the IASL to Noblesville during the summer, with the support of First Methodist, Friends, Cavalry Baptist, and Christian churches. The IASL vowed to be around for as long as those seeking to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment were, while the Squadron thundered away during the course of their three-day visit on the need for law enforcement. Another series of revivals then began stretching from September through December, and involving the Christian, Friends, First Methodist, and United Brethren congregations. 14
Despite this reawakening, or perhaps because of it, law enforcement became the issue of the day. In May, police looked for a still on the Henry Cloe Farm. In August, a twenty-gallon still was discovered on the Lawrence Lovett Farm. In December, police found five gallons of white mule and arrested two people. 15
All was not well with the cause, however. As early as 1921, Prohibition was viewed by some as a joke. The Sheridan News ran an editorial cartoon entitled "The Weed We Used to Frown At." In the cartoon, a man was seen seeding dandelions in his yard, while thinking of a cup of wine in his mind. 16
It was into this milieu that the Ku Klux Klan arrived in Hamilton County. What caused the rebirth and the popularity of the Klan during the early 1920s has been cause of much argument and debate by historians ever since. For commentators such as John Moffatt Mecklin and Richard Hofstadter, the Klan was a manifestation of rural fundamentalist Protestantism that had long attacked "the other" in American life. 17
More recently, historians have come to recognize that this early interpretation of the Klan does not fit very well with the facts. It does not explain the popularity of the hooded order, nor who actually joined the Klan. The revisionists offer an argument that says the Klan was popular because it tapped into popular sentiments of religion and patriotism, and fit its message to the individual community it was trying to enter. It did this by using the churches and the political parties, and was as prominent, if not more so, in urban areas, as it was in rural ones. 18
But why would churches get involved with the Klan? There are any number of explanations. Protestants who had worked so long to make Prohibition a reality may have become convinced that its preservation in the face of opposition meant an alliance with any group that claimed to support the cause was justified. Or, as Nancy MacLean put it, "the pious end fully justified the illegal means." Furthermore, the linking of vices had culminated in many Protestant minds into something called the Continental Sabbath, which included alcohol and immigrants, was bent on destroying American Protestantism and replacing it with European Catholic culture. 19
Indiana is a good case in point. Its population homogeneity made it a good candidate for Klan infiltration. In 1920, the state's population was 97% white, 95% native born, and 75% of its church going citizens were Protestant. The Klan built itself by copying the tactics and message of the IASL. The Klan's infiltration of a community, at nearly all levels, such as the case of nearby Tipton, Indiana seems to lend credence to the revisionist accounts of how it operated. 20
The first report of the hooded order actually in the county came in July 1921, when a speaker in Sheridan announced that the Northern Klan's message was to spread 100% Americanism. In September, the Noblesville Daily Ledger reported the first appearance of the Horse Thief Detective Association (HTDA) in northern Hamilton County. In the next few years, the HTDA became the means by which the Klan took part in enforcing the law. Three carloads of this "law enforcement" group "arrested" a man in Atlanta and took him to Tipton. They only told authorities that the "community must be cleansed." 21
Here was a mysterious group that took action, couching itself in patriotic terms and differentiating itself from the past. The Klan had been reborn as "a patriotic, secret, social, benevolent order" in 1916. It said it was the great protector of Protestant values in America. In a sense, they became one-stop shopping for those who wanted to be a part of all of the above. 22
The Klan was not new to the people of Hamilton County or of Indiana. Hoosiers knew of the Reconstruction Era Klan. 23 But the Klan of the 1920s was different. It vowed in its published creed that all Klansmen believed in God, Christianity, and the separation of church and state. Furthermore, members of the Klan promised that they owed allegiance to no foreign power, sought a limit on foreign immigration, and supported "free public schools," the Constitution of the United States, "the protection of our pure womanhood," law and order, Prohibition, preventing strikes, and an end to mob violence. And in addition, part of the Klan's attractiveness was that it was a secret order. 24
Of course, not everyone was ready to accept this message. One of the revivalists who came to Noblesville in the fall of 1921 warned his audience that secret orders and lodges lacked salvation power. As such, men who became involved with them risked having their attention turned away from the work of the Church. 25
Knowing that they faced potential opposition because of their status as a lodge and their name association, the Klan was forced to find other ways to get its message out. In the years following the First World War, the best avenues open to them were patriotism and Prohibition. The Klan's patriotic proclamations found a receptive audience in Hamilton County, whose citizens were proud of their war effort in every conflict they had mobilized for. 26
Patriotic observances were common in Noblesville. In 1914 both the Christian and First Methodist held Flag Day celebrations. The newspapers were filled with what seemed to be daily accounts of Civil War veterans, both the Grand Army of the Republic and the Women's Relief Corp meeting or members dying. This is a county where it was common to believe that Abraham Lincoln was a martyr, and where the Lincoln and Washington's birthdays were celebrated in print and in the closing of businesses. 27
The First World War was still very fresh in everyone's minds as well. As they had in the Civil War, both white and black residents of Hamilton County had flocked to the recruitment centers that were established to process troops. Victory gardens were planted and Liberty bonds purchased by both individuals and congregations. The pulpits of Noblesville rang forth with patriotic calls of support and denunciations of Germany, the Rev. L.C. Howe of the Christian Church went so far as to say that the Kaiser was in league with the Devil. During the 1918 revival at First Methodist Church, the revivalist said that there had to be a hell, as God would never allow the Kaiser to enter heaven. Other sermons on war-related topics depicted America as the fighter for civilization, and of the "horrors of the battlefield." Patriotic demonstrations, whether they were held in churches or on the public square, were well attended throughout the duration of America's involvement in the conflict. 28
Patriotic fever was such that it even caused ministerial turnover. B.A. Thomas, the revivalist at First Methodist in 1918, enlisted in the Army. Rev. Kirk of Ninth Street Methodist resigned his pulpit as well, in order to enlist in the YMCA Army work program. The former pastor of Lapel Methodist Church had done the same thing, and came to speak to First Methodist in Noblesville about it. Rev. Odell of Second Presbyterian in Indianapolis also did work in France, and came to speak at First Presbyterian in Noblesville about his experiences. These types of speeches, along with the war sermons, led to what one historian has labeled as a "confusion" of patriotism and religion in Indiana's churches. 29
But it was a sentiment that ran deep. In a history of the war, published with the support of the Ledger staff, one finds some astonishing facts concerning Hamilton County's involvement in the Great War. The United States sent over 3.4 million men into the armed forces as part of the war effort. Of that number, 1.9 million, or roughly 56%, came from a quarter of the states. Within that elite number, Indiana came in at number eleven, having sent into the service 93,000 of its sons (out of 1920 population of 2.9 million). Hamilton County's contribution towards that total had been 1,360 individuals, who had some connection to the area, of whom thirty-one were killed while on duty. 30
The First World War had also brought about a large-scale organization for the first time. A war council was established in each township in Indiana. When Hamilton County held a conference, they heard of German "atrocities" on the battlefront which were "not exaggerated" according to the Noblesville Daily Ledger. Furthermore, Gov. James P. Goodrich ordered the state militia's ranks to be filled, as well as forming the "Liberty Guards," a sort of auxiliary to the state militia whose purpose was to "stamp out treason, discover disloyalty, and [to be on call] in time of common disaster." 31
As with the "copperheads" of Indiana during the Civil War, so to did the First World War provide Hoosiers with an enemy within to confront. Germans were held as a suspect group, who were not "100% American." There was little room for doubt in the minds of most Hoosiers that Germany was to blame for the war. The Hamilton County Bar Association and the Hamilton County schools checked on the loyalty of their members and teachers. Local police were on the lookout for "suspicious characters", and a possible German spy was even arrested in Sheridan. This was part of a nationwide trend, which the Noblesville Daily Ledger reported on. There were fears of draft riots because of Germans, and local school children were even excused from having to learn a poem about the Kaiser. 32
The Noblesville Ministerial Association ran a group of ads at the end of 1919 that continued the patriotic fever of the war years. In an ad entitled "Americanization," the Association said "Democracy Without Theocracy Won't Do." It said that all of the immigrants and first generation children born to immigrants must be made into "model Americans." The best way for "Noblesville to keep from social and industrial unrest, to keep and pass on her American spirit, [the city] must have a citizenship of Christians." In another ad, the Association quoted some "Russian Red Literature" saying that communists "are Atheists." Such a pronouncement, according to the Association, was "anti-social, anti-American, and anti-Christian!" 33
The idea that you could not trust everyone, that patriotic loyalty had to be proved, was to play an important part in the popularity and success of the Klan. The hooded order was able to tap into the patriotic sentiment that came out of the churches because of the war and because they were also able to help churches link patriotism to Prohibition in a concrete way. While churches had long believed that their moral reforms were in the best interest of the nation, it was the Klan who was able to put a face on the enemy of the reforms in a coherent way. The Klan labeled those who stood against Prohibition as un-American, and who was more un-American than immigrants from Europe who did not share the same Protestant values as the reformers?
Prohibition remained the lead story in 1922. Noblesville courts tried several people for possession of alcohol, confiscated stills (including a fifty gallon one), seized gallons of white mule, and attempted to keep the lid on as best it could. The general theme that emerged, from the city council, the churches, and from the IASL was the need for better law enforcement. 34
So, seizing upon the opportunity, Prohibition became one of the Klan's leading issues. In March of 1923, the Klan's newspaper, the Fiery Cross, was proud to print that the order had brought before the Hamilton County courts "thirteen men said to have been violating the prohibition and other laws." The Klan argued that it was doing its part to uphold law and order, all they asked in return was speedy justice. If a man is innocent, he should be turned loose. If he is guilty, punishment should follow soon after the verdict. 35 Police were busy arresting people on their own as well, confiscating stills, and seizing illegal alcohol. Mayor Horace G. Brown was even reportedly threatened by bootleggers because of his work at keeping the lid on in Noblesville. The graduating class of Sheridan High School was told that Prohibition was a necessity in the age of the automobile, because of the risks involved in driving while drunk. New liquor laws, which did not allow for suspended sentences also came into force, as did the Federal Government's attempt to keep alcohol from being brought into the country. 36
Both old and new allies to the cause joined the call for law enforcement. As it had in the past, the Noblesville Daily Ledger ran a series of editorial cartoons that discussed the problem. Among them was "Bottle Flies," where the Prohibition Bureau was depicted as flypaper catching illegal alcohol, and "The Genie," in which a moonshine bottle releases the genie of death upon a drinker. 37 One new ally was the HTDA. The vigilante, quasi-law enforcement group had formed a sixty-eight member strong branch in Cicero by January 1922, and eventually could boast of nine companies in Hamilton County, comprised of over 600 men. In July 1923, the state attorney general announced that the HTDA had the same jurisdiction as regular law enforcement, being able to investigate potential criminals and to make arrests in the absence of the police. 38
The "new Klan" that was taking such an active part in the policing of Hamilton County, is often defined in terms of what it stood against. In particular, it singled out Catholics and African-Americans as both falling into the "un-American" category. These distinctions between who could or could not be a "real" American were very important in Hamilton County for historic reasons.
It was not as though Noblesville was rabidly anti-Catholic. The city's newspapers provided regular features on the various popes that spanned the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The coverage was not of the expose` variety, but rather usually concerned itself with the life and deaths of the popes. In 1878, for example, the Noblesville Independent carried an article on "The Youth of Pius IX." In 1903, the Hamilton County Ledger covered the illness and death of Pope Leo XIII and the election of Pope Pius X as newsworthy items for its readers. When Cardinal James Gibbons, the Archbishop of Baltimore, died in 1921, the Noblesville Daily Ledger lauded him as "one of the most noted churchmen of the world." The paper also provided coverage when Pope Benedict XV died and Pope Pius XI was elected to replace him. 39
One might expect to see such stories in places with a high concentration of Catholics, but there were very few Catholics in Hamilton County. A small German church, Sacred Heart, was the center for Catholics in the Cicero area. Though it had its roots in the 1830s, the congregation did not begin to grow until the discovery of natural gas in the area, and the resulting immigration in the late 1890s. This influx of people even caused the formation of a Catholic congregation in Noblesville, but the mission closed its doors in 1904 after the gas boom dissipated. 40 By any standard, Catholic numbers were small and their influence in the county almost non-existent.
This is not to say that Catholics were welcomed with open arms. In the spring of 1914, the Presbyterian Church heard a series of sermons by Rev. Frank P. Miller on Catholicism and Protestantism. Rev. Miller discussed the situation in Ulster, the difference between a "priest," who was a member of an ecclesiastical hierarchy bent on its own preservation, and a "preacher," whose first commitment was to spreading the Gospel of Christ and caring for the members of his congregation, and on the links between Christianity and national destiny. During 1923 First Methodist hosted a speaker who discussed Catholicism. Harry Bernaby was an Italian who had once trained for the priesthood, but while serving in the U.S. army during the "world war" was converted to Methodism, discussed what he knew about Rome and its ways. The sanctuary was full with members of First Methodist, Presbyterian, United Brethren, and Ninth Street Methodist churches. 41
Many saw the Vatican as a threat. Catholicism was a different brand of Christianity that most people in Hamilton County understood only as being against their Protestantism. And, while Indiana was not being overrun with immigrants, the immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe was well known within the state. While there may not have been many Catholics around, Catholicism was a known commodity, and it was the fear of what Catholics might be that the Klan eventually tapped into. 42
The rise of the Klan in Hamilton County and its relationship to the African American community in the county is a bit more problematic. While many whites in the area shared the basic assumption that blacks were "less equal" in intelligence and ability, it was hardly the case that whites were rabidly anti-black in Hamilton County either. Indiana prided itself as being a place where the "color line" was vanishing. 43 In places like Hamilton County, any such assertion of this type could only be made because of religion and a patriotic past that helped keep blatantly racist impulses in check.
Like so many other things in the county, peoples' views on race matters in Hamilton County were shaped by the strong Quaker influence. Members of the Society of Friends had brought the first blacks to the county in the 1830s, and had made it a refuge from slavery. The Friends had stood against the adoption of Article XIII to the state Constitution of 1851, which barred further black migration into Indiana. They had also been instrumental in forming the Underground Railroad to help slaves escape north in the years before the Civil War. Just as the county reveled in its participation during the Civil War, many citizens also took pride in its efforts to free and educate African-Americans both before and after the war. 44
The Republican Ledger offers several examples of this sentiment. In 1882, the paper was in the midst of an election year battle with its rival, the Noblesville Independent. When someone from the Independent claimed that the Republican Party had had no part in the ending of slavery and the freeing of African-Americans, the Ledger fired back with a sharp editorial. In the article, the Ledger argued that slavery was a Democratic system, perpetuated on the country by Democrats. It was "Republicans and Christians [that] taught that the gospel recognized neither bond nor free, but only man," and that the alliance between politics and religion had "doomed" slavery. The Ledger of 1882 was full of articles that blasted Southern Democrats for reviving "the color line" in order to win elections. 45 And by the election of 1884, the paper was ready to go a step further:
Would any white man feel at ease if placed in the same situation [living in the South] those colored men and their families are? Would he not turn a longing eye toward the land of freedom where he would be in fact as well as by the ‘constitution' a free man protected in all his rights? The same old rebel spirit prevails in the South that brought on the war of the rebellion. They hated the Negro then and they hate him now. 46
The South was a place for scorn as far as the Republican Ledger was concerned. In 1887, it ran an expose, picked up from the Indianapolis Journal, about conditions in a Southern prison. The abuses and corruption found behind prison gates were synonymous with the entire region. As late as 1908, the WRC was hosting "Appomattox Day" celebrations. A 1914 editorial in the Noblesville Daily Ledger blasted Southerners as being neither right nor consistent when it came to racial matters. According to the paper, how could white Southerners expect to be served by African-Americans and not mingle with them? 47
The paper had other good things to say about African-Americans closer to home as well. Some of them were held up as examples for people in the rest of the county to emulate. Dan Robbins, a former slave who lived in Adams Township, was depicted by the paper as an example of what hard work could do. In the nearly fifty years since emancipation, he had been able to become owner of eighty acres and a car. 48
Just as the area's African-Americans were considered a part of the community, so to were black churches recognized as part of Hamilton County's religious landscape. When the black Baptist congregation in Noblesville needed money to build a church in 1907, the Hamilton County Ledger called on its readers to help in "Christian duty." In 1920, the American Legion took part in Memorial Day services at Bethel AME. That year also saw a widely attended Emancipation Day celebration in Noblesville as well as the Rev. Charles A. Tindley, "America's greatest Negro preacher" come to the city's Chautauqua. 49 In addition, African-Americans in Hamilton County had been around too long to simply to be ignored and were to much a part of the fabric of the community, however small, to be forgotten. The Republican Ledger, for example, had an "Our Colored People" column in the paper, and reported the happenings of the AME church in Noblesville frequently. 50
But not everyone was a member of the Society of Friends or liked to remember the glorious cause of emancipation. During the late 1870s, for example, one Noblesville Independent issue carried articles describing Africa as being full of "witchcraft, cannibalism, and superstition," and African-Americans as having "a savage element" in their nature, having "slight regard" for their "oath," and being incapable of long term strategy. Other articles from the paper argued that even African-Americans were inclined to believe in superstitious ghost stories, or believe themselves possessed by the Devil in order to justify criminal acts. 51
To say the very least, Hamilton County was a bit dysfunctional in how it understood race relations. In the 24 May 1879 edition of the Noblesville Independent, for example, one article mentioned that a "colored" man had recently been fined $1,000 for marrying a white woman, while the very next article called the dying William Lloyd Garrison a "hero of the anti-slavery movement." 52
Complicating racial matters even more was the fact that in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, race was also a political issue. Democrats routinely accused Republicans of "importing" blacks into the state to secure electoral victories. This charge became more and more forceful as the Democracy started to recover from the Civil War. When Indiana voted Republican in 1880, Democrats charged it was because "money [was] flowing like water and Negroes [were] imported by the hundred." 53
Additionally, African-Americans were staunchly Republican and organized. During the 1880s, it was not uncommon for black Republicans to hold rallies to commemorate emancipation, to celebrate the ending of slavery in some foreign land, or to push for the given GOP candidate. And these rallies were aided and endorsed by the white Republican establishment. 54
African-Americans were also a part of the temperance/prohibition movement as well. In December of 1907, the Hamilton County Ledger reported an incident in Indianapolis involving Albert Carter, "a colored farmer living near Westfield," which brought together the issues of racism and moral reform. Carter, a former slave who escaped to Indiana via the Underground Railroad and then served in the Union Army, was in Indianapolis to speak at a Prohibition meeting. The Claypool Hotel, site of the meeting, denied him access to its elevators, so his Prohibition friends had to sneak him into another. The Prohibitionists, the paper was happy to point out, had then drafted a resolution condemning the hotel for its policies. 55
The Hamilton County Ledger, in 1902, endorsed Booker T. Washington's remarks when he spoke in Indianapolis on the need for northern African-Americans to uplift themselves in order to help those of their race still in the South. The paper also condemned the South for not enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment, saying the region should be forced to do so in an editorial. In 1914, the Noblesville Daily Ledger said that the South was still against African-Americans. 56 But not everyone saw it this way. A local man wrote to the paper after a trip to the South and said things were not as bad as the paper made them out to be. Sharecropping was all that African-Americans could expect. And lynchings, while they did happen, also happened in Indiana. Rev. John Henry of the Presbyterian Church said in his 1922 Memorial Day address that it was time to stop treating the South with "radical" doctrine because the nation was united again. 57
The new Klan, however, did not need to concern itself with lynching. The order was so accepted in so much of the nation that their "justice" did not need to be committed behind the mantle of mob anonymity. As one observer stated, lynchers did not need a mask to do their work. In fact, the Klan took credit for preventing a lynching of an African-American in Culver, Indiana in 1923. 58 But this did not mean that the Klan's endorsement of vigilante justice, and its use to intimidate "outsiders," did not have some precedent within the local community. In 1909, for example, "white caps" had used gunfire to force a Fall Creek Township farmer named Lytton (who was a Mexican), to flee from his home. As the Hamilton County Times reported, "the people of Fall Creek Township are law abiding citizens and it is supposed that the Mexican has done something to incur their disfavor else they would not molest him in his farming." Nightriders appeared again in 1924, when a Chinese laundryman named "Smiley Sue" was "visited" in Sheridan. 59
The Klan's genius in dealing with these two topics was talking in broad terms and in generalities. African-Americans of the Roberts Settlement were not the problem, but Southern blacks coming North were. The Catholics in Cicero were nice people to have as neighbors, but the Vatican was out to destroy America. It was these anonymous members of the two suspect groups that had to be dealt with.
This spin allowed the Klan to drive large wedges in the community spirit of Hamilton County, where seemingly only tiny fractures had been before. Denzel Hufford recalled that before a Catholic classmate of her sister's was only allowed to come to a slumber party after her father checked if they were reliable or not. 60 Fannie Glover remembers increased tensions between whites and African-Americans because of the Klan in Hamilton County.
It was hard not knowing who might tell you, you don't belong here, or you can't work here, or we don't serve colored people, colored people should stay in their place. I can't say you were ever prepared for things like that. . . . It had to be an emergency to take a colored person to the hospital. 61
But what attracted people to the Klan, if its message, however skewered, was at least somewhat familiar? One cannot but consider the pure spectacle of the Klan attempting to understand the organization. Parades, movies, and having its own newspaper helped the Klan become a force to be reckoned with in Indiana.
The Klan parades are the one thing that Noblesville residents, who were alive at the time, seem to remember most about the hooded order. When the Klan marched, children would try and figure out who was under the robes by looking at the shoes. 62
The Klan parade of July 1923 in Noblesville is especially noteworthy. It was part of a spectacle that brought over 200 new members into the hooded order. It included over 2,000 cars in Noblesville and had a crowd of around 12,000 people from all over central Indiana. There were large American flags, with Klansmen acting as special police. Marchers went down the streets with placards that read "100 per cent American," "Join a Church," "Jesus is our leader," "We are Pure Americans," "There will be no illiteracy in this Country in 1930," "We Favor a Limitation on Immigration," "White Supremacy," "We are a charitable organization," and "We Stand for a Christian Religion." 63
People wanted to be entertained, and they found enjoyment in being part of groups that held parades, provided a fun time (the Sheridan klavern boasted its own band), and could otherwise entertain them. 64 In the 1920s, this was increasingly done by motion pictures. As one historian noted, movies were powerful forces for shaping opinion, for good or evil. Much has been written about how D.W. Griffith's "Birth of a Nation," helped change public memory of Reconstruction and opinion about the first Klan. Little, however, has been discussed in regards to the Klan movies that were released in order to help tell the hooded order's story and facilitate recruitment. Though "Birth of a Nation" did play in Noblesville in 1917, it may not have been as important as this series of later Klan films in drumming up enlistment. 65
Motion pictures had played a very important role in helping to inform and direct public opinion during the First World War. In April of 1916 the Opera House showed "On the Firing Line with the Germans," which showed actual footage of combat that had occurred in Poland. By 1918 though, the tenor of the films had changed. The U.S. Theatre showed "The German Curse in Russia," while the Opera House showed "The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin." 66
So once again, the Klan had a war-related tradition to tap into. In July 1922, A.M. Jones sold the Wild Opera and Olympic Theatres to Frank Rembusch. 67 Within a few months, the first Klan movie was shown on Noblesville's screens.
In November 1922, the Opera House showed "The Mysterious Eyes of the Ku Klux Klan." The film promised its viewers to show "the inner workings of the Klan, the genuine initiation ceremonies, the true belief of the Klan, [and] the uprising of the Klansman in Oklahoma when they marched through the streets of Tulsa and Oklahoma City." 68 In February 1923, the Opera House showed John M. Stahl's "One Clear Call," a movie whose action centered on the "night riders [of the] Knights of the Ku Klux Klan." According to the ad, audiences would enjoy "a thrill when they [night riders] come roaring down for justice." 69 In January 1924, the American Theatre showed "The Traitor Within," which was described as " a modern drama depicting actions of the Ku Klux Klan." The production company, Cavalier Motion Pictures, was "owned and controlled by Protestants." Proceeds went to the Hamilton County Klan charity fund. 70 The American Theatre was also home to Miafa Pictures Company's "The Toll of Justice" in April 1924. This "great sensational Ku Klux Klan Picture" boasted "mystery, action, thrills, and an all star cast." But more importantly:
The one picture every red blooded American should see. 20,000 robed Klansmen in action. Airplane battle in mid air. Dash to death in an automobile. Do away with the underworld. Protect clean womanhood. Note: This is a real picture. Not a mediocre cast and settings, but is next to "The Birth of a Nation" for cast, story, settings, and direction. 71
The link between the Klan and theatres is an interesting one. The American Theatre claimed to be "unquestionably 100 per cent" American. It said in its advertisements that it was "cool, cozy, and clean." 72 In another ad, discussion of America caused the theatre to wax eloquent:
How strong is America? Never in world's history, on foreign lands or seas, was Uncle Sam's glory, thrust down by any creed, Although the tide may ripple, ships may drift astray, we'll carry her to the highest peak, and place her there to stay. 73
Additionally, the Klan in Indiana had its own newspaper, the Fiery Cross. Not only was the sophisticated use of print media impressive, as it allowed another outlet for news, but it also showed the power of the Indiana Klan. The message was put together in a very slick fashion. While the articles are often vague, the tone of "us vs. them" comes through clearly. In one of the first issues, readers of the Fiery Cross were greeted by the pronouncement that Indiana had taken the first national Klan convention "by storm." 74 Here then was a movement that was state of the art in so many ways, in addition to being powerful.
Local businesses took note. The Fiery Cross of 6 July 1923 ran ads from ten Noblesville businesses: Durant and Star Cars, Weldy's Drug Store, Oursler's Big 4 Shoe Store, Finest Little Candy Kitchen, Harry Plackas, Forsythe Garage, Meara Brothers Garage, J. H. Fritzler and Son Tinners, Crull and Farmers Garage, and Ackles and Camp candy store. 75
Thus, it did not take Hamilton County very long to recognize the arrival of the Klan. Howard Meadow of Noblesville wrote a letter that was published in the Fiery Cross asking for a definition of "100 per cent Americans" and if Roman Catholics fit the definition or not. The paper responded that Catholics could not be 100 per cent American because they held temporal and religious allegiance to the pope. A 100 per cent American could have no earthly authority except that of the Constitution of the United States, and spiritual allegiance belonged to the God of the Bible alone. 76
And so it was that the Klan came to be part of Hamilton County's scene. During 1922, the Klan began to receive more and more attention in the pages of the Noblesville Daily Ledger. It was as if the Klan was slowly but surely encircling Hamilton County. In September, a pastor in Muncie who was formerly of Noblesville, reported that he was visited by the Klan and given money. 77 In October, J.Q. Nolan of Atlanta, Georgia spoke to a large crowd on the Noblesville courthouse lawn about the Klan. The paper reported that whether you were for or against the hooded order, Nolan delivered a good speech about it. Nolan told those gathered that while the Klan was made up for and designed to protect, white Protestants, the organization was not anti-African American, anti-Jew, or anti-Catholic, though he did say that he was worried by the threat posed by foreign immigration and believed most African Americans were uneducated. 78
After the Nolan speech, Mayor Brown said he had been notified by a source in Muncie that the Klan might march in Noblesville on Halloween. He said this was the same source that told him Nolan was coming to speak in town. The Noblesville Daily Ledger reported that about 100 men joined the Klan after Nolan spoke, but was still unable to confirm if the organization was in fact functioning in Hamilton County or not. The paper did report rumors that there were already several hundred men in the ranks of the hooded order. By December there was no room for doubt, as the Klan took part in two funerals, on in Noblesville, for Dr. Joseph Klotz, alongside the Masons and the pastor of First Methodist, and one for Dr. Ralph Phillips in Sheridan. 79
The Noblesville Daily Ledger provided fairly balanced coverage of the Klan at this early date. It ran letters from Klansmen in Noblesville who sent the paper clippings from around the country of their fellows doing good deeds. But it also ran a story from Louisiana, where the governor condemned the Klan for creating a "reign of terror." 80
1923 was the breakout year for the Klan in Hamilton County. It held parades and meetings in Arcadia, Fishers, Carmel, Cicero, Clarksville, Westfield, and Noblesville. Its women's organization, the Queens of the Golden Mask, held a meeting at the County Horse Grounds. It gave money to ministers in Arcadia, Carmel, and Noblesville. It burned crosses in Sheridan, Fishers, and Noblesville. It presided over funerals, branched out into neighboring communities, and sent representatives to a Klan parade in Georgia. The Indiana Klan even considered holding its state meeting in Noblesville. 81
One possible explanation for the Klan's grand 1923 was because of their link to the revivals that took place in Noblesville's churches that year. When a religious census revealed that 2,000 people in the city did not have a church home, First Methodist and First Christian immediately made plans for revivals. The Christian revival was launched in January. Rev. A.H. Moore gave "splendid sermons" dealing with issues such as Church history, baptism, "lost opportunities," the need for people to be more involved, atonement, and the strength of Jesus' story. First Methodist's revival followed close on the heels of the Christian revival. 82
Rev. Moore was to prove critical to the success of the Klan in Hamilton County. He was called to the Christian Church in April 1921, and gained a reputation as a revivalist. In his 1922 effort at the Christian Church, which according to the Noblesville Daily Ledger was the largest in the city's history drawing delegations from Cicero and Tipton, he was able to convert 168 people, prepare the way for a massive building campaign, offer a defense of Christianity in the world, and lay the ground work for a summer union revival with the Presbyterian, United Brethren, and Friends congregations. 83
No one was sure about what to make of the Klan exactly in 1923. Rumors ran rampant in January of that year that the hooded order was growing in the county. But when a march took place in Sheridan and a cross was burned, the Noblesville Daily Ledger expressed doubts as if the Klansmen were "locals" or not. 84
Enter Rev. Moore. In early January 1923, just prior to the launching of the Christian Church's revival, Moore became the first minister in Hamilton County, according to the Noblesville Daily Ledger, to preach on the subject of the Klan. With no indication of if he would approve of or attack the hooded order, Moore calmly announced to Noblesville that he would offer a sermon entitled, "Is the Ku Klux Klan a Menace to America?". Close to 1,000 people came to hear the sermon. 85
Moore told the crowd that there were many organizations outside of the Church that channeled their efforts through the Church. The Klan, according to the Christian minister, was just such an organization. According to Moore, the Klan was simply a Protestant order, much like the Catholic Church's Knights of Columbus. He believed that it might be the means by which the country was to be shaken from its indifference towards issues such as immigration, and the refusal of both native and foreign-born Americans to accept the reality of the Eighteenth Amendment. He was not worried about individual Catholics, so much as the designs of the Vatican itself. Jews were a worry because of their connection to international finance. While distancing the modern Klan from its Reconstruction and Southern counterpart, Moore did say that Klansmen should be good citizens, and law abiding as they strove to protect and advance the Protestant faith. 86
The Christian minister followed this address up with a speech at the WCTU Prohibition Day service, which was held at the Christian Church. In doing so, he helped to cement the Protestant Prohibition crusade with the Klan. Moore stressed the need to educate the nation on the merits of Prohibition, so as not to lose it. He called it "a social blessing" and "due expression of the social gospel." He also talked of the need for law enforcement. 87
More was to come. The Christian Church's revival of 1923 provided the main spectacle for the union of Klan and Christianity, in the person of Rev. Moore, in Hamilton County. On the one hand, there was nothing different with this revival. Moore was a specialist at the form, having brought in 327 new members to the congregation in large part because of his use of revivals. There even arose a group known as the "ancient and honorable order of every nighters," who vowed to not miss a service. The church was using the revival to not only win souls but also as a jumping off point for a much needed building fund. During the revival, Moore made calls for "law enforcement," the need to accept Christ as savior, the history of the Church, Christianity in America, and the dangers posed by Roman Catholicism to democracy. 88
The musical evangelist family, Will and Clare Harding, helped to further set the tone. Announcing that they had been all over the country hoping to see the Klan give money to a preacher, the Hardings prepared the congregation for what was about to happen. On 4 February, the Klan came into the midst of the revival, just as the congregation was singing "America the Beautiful." The Noblesville Daily Ledger said, "It was an impressively religious sight to see the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan kneeling in prayer before the pulpit." In a seemingly well-orchestrated move, the Klan came and gave Moore $40. Within days of the transaction, the Hardings were helping to put together a service that in the words of the Noblesville Daily Ledger would "appeal to all Klansmen and every true American citizen." 89
This mixture of ritual, ceremony, and humor (Moore claimed he was going to use the money to buy new pants) won over many in the audience at the Christian Church, in the county, and in Indiana. Such events were in all likelihood heavily scripted. The Klan made every effort to engrain themselves with the Protestant clergy. According to the Pennsylvania Klan, the order needed "to keep in touch with Protestant ministers . . . and be ready to announce in the Klan any special service, revival meeting, or other extraordinary program to be rendered in any of the local Protestant churches." 90
Moore illustrated one of the Klan's favorite recruitment tactics for clergy and laity in churches: giving money to ministers with whom they agreed. It can be argued that the Klan did not give money to those it did not have support from already, and even that the money might be construed as a bribe. Moore was not the only one who received a cash donation. At the close of First Methodist's revival in 1923, Rev. Nickerson received a letter with $40 inside. The money was accepted "in [the] spirit it was given" but no Klan demonstration occurred at the church. Rev. K.R. Thompson of Carmel Methodist, received money that year as well, to the applause of his congregation. 91
But why join forces with the Klan? There was recognition, the possibility of bringing in more members, and, at least on the surface, a shared set of common values between the Church and the Klan. The Fiery Cross trumpeted that over 70,000 Protestant ministers were members of the hooded order by 1924. 92
The Klan was active during the revival beyond giving Moore money by operating around the periphery. They notified Mayor Horace Brown that they were going to march in Noblesville, and despite bad weather, a large crowd gathered to see the parade as well as to hear Rev. Moore talk about patriotism and separation of Church and State. The Klan even burned a cross on the courthouse square. About 100 Klansmen marched in Arcadia, fifteen to twenty in Cicero, and the order burned a cross in Sheridan. Meeting as the HTDA, over thirty-four members gathered at Walnut Grove. The Noblesville Daily Ledger thought nothing of printing their names. 93
The hooded order used these events as part of recruitment efforts. A look at the Klan list of Hamilton County shows that many members joined as a result of the work done by Moore and the Klan in 1923 and 1924. Additionally, one is struck by the family ties that brought members in: Fathers, sons, and brothers seemed to enlist together. The Klan list also shows that the membership was made up of both rural and urban residents of the county, and that in terms of occupation, farmers, professionals, and working class men all joined. In Hamilton County, the hooded order was divided into four smaller administrative units, though there were only two official klaverns. Noblesville, Cicero, Arcadia, and Carmel all had active units. Members joined those centers from Deming, Atlanta, Fishers, and Westfield. The Arcadia chapter met on the Shaeffer farm, just west of town. 94
Rev. Moore became a Klan speaker. In many ways, this was not surprising. Moore was a very popular speaker, having added many new members to the Christian congregation in just two years. In fact, the membership of the Christian Church was enthusiastic with their minister. He spoke at Klan meetings in Clarksville, Westfield, Fishers and Carmel. His speeches almost always had something to do with Americanism. In 1924, he spoke to the Lapel Parent Teacher Association (PTA) on "community co-operation" and the need for a bigger high school. At the end of the meeting, 130 Klansmen presented the PTA with Bibles for the school system in what the Noblesville Daily Ledger called "an impressive service." 95
A large gathering at the Olympic Theatre in the spring of 1923 followed up Moore's endorsement of the Klan. Over 1,500 people came to here Rev. Williams, a Baptist minister from Hamilton County, speak on 100% Americanism and the need for the separation of church and state. The Noblesville Daily Ledger noted that the audience was comprised of both men and women, and of residents of both the city and the country. But this was not to be the biggest Klan event of the year by far. In July, the "largest crowd" in Noblesville's history, estimated at 12,000, was part of a Klan parade. Mayor Brown was happy that there were no problems. 96
The Klan was also of interest to women. The Klan women of Sheridan gave testaments to every child in the township schools that met the WCTU's challenge of memorizing the Ten Commandments. According to the Fiery Cross of 25 January 1924, at the time of writing, they had given away over one hundred testaments. 97
And yet there were signs that not everyone was comfortable with the Klan. Some organization, possibly the Noblesville Ministerial Association, ran ads in the Noblesville Daily Ledger that discussed Christianity in non-Klan terms. In February, there appeared an ad that talked about the three branches within the Christian tradition: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. In March, the paper carried an ad that described the "Christian spirit" as one in which sacrifice and love ruled. An anti-Klan Unity League was even formed. The Klan did not get to officially take part in the Noblesville centennial parade or pageant in 1923. And nationally, they were the cause of nasty battle at the American Legion's annual convention. 98
The mid-1920s were a time of turmoil as much as they were of "normalcy." The governor and state legislature of Oklahoma got into such a struggle over putting down race riots and the strength of the Klan that martial law had to be declared. 99 Things were not much better in Indiana, where Gov. McCray was charged with using the mails to defraud. Since the legislature was not in session he could not be impeached. The jury only had to deliberate thirteen minutes before finding him guilty. He was sentenced to ten years and ordered to pay $10,000 fine. 100 In such a time, people sought security in institutions and groups that promised to provide order. The Church and the Klan both did this for the people of Indiana.
The Friends Church held a revival in January 1924, which continued the tradition of bringing to the forefront societal evils that needed to be dealt with when Rev. Nixon condemned tobacco in one service. The Ninth Street Methodist and Cavalry Baptist also hosted revivals early that year. As part of their series, Cavalry Baptist invited the Flying Squadron to come and speak. The Christian Church and First Methodist had revivals towards the end of the year. Rev. Moore focused on such themes as "does it pay to be a Christian," "Jesus our refuge," and the danger of "lethargy" setting into a congregation. 101
1924 was an election year, and that should have meant Prohibition would be a major issue. And even though some of the best home brew found to date was confiscated in Hamilton County and police enjoyed wide powers of search and seizure, Prohibition was not the major issue. In 1924 the issue was the Klan. An organization as large as the Klan could not help but become involved in politics. While the IASL could exert more control within the legislature, the Klan could bring people to the polls. Though officially nonpartisan, the Klan came to be increasingly associated with Indiana's Republican Party. Indianapolis Mayor Lew Shank came to Noblesville and spoke out against corrupt politicians associated with McCray and increasingly the Klan. The state Klan kept a careful eye on politicians seeking office in Indiana during 1924. They especially kept a close eye on anti-Klan politicians. They were more than willing to attack Shank, as well as Lafayette Mayor George Durgan, who sought the Democratic nomination on an anti-Klan platform. 102
Despite Shank's efforts, Ed Jackson got the Republican nomination for governor. The Noblesville Daily Ledger suspected that many Democrats crossed party lines to insure Jackson's victory because of the Klan issue. For the Democratic Party in Indiana, and eventually the country as a whole, was ripped wide open over the Klan. The Democrats blamed the Republicans for bringing the Klan into politics. But such bickering did not help the Democrats. Samuel Ralston was considered as a dark horse, but Klan connections in Indiana stopped him from even entering the race. 103
The political infighting was fierce. On the one hand, the Republican Party was split over the issue of its association with the Klan. Old Guard Republicans, of whom Shank was the representative in the primary, balked at the idea, while men who supported Jackson believed that groups that delivered votes the way the Klan did deserved respect. To add to this internal Republican fighting was the division within the Indiana Klan. Klan leader D.C. Stephenson supported the Old Guards despite his support of Jackson because the National Klan supported many of the "Klan Republicans" who were being considered for leadership within the party. Stephenson, in an attempt to consolidate his own power base, had the Indiana Klan vote to succeed from the National and make him their leader. 104
The internal Klan fighting was a long time in coming. Stephenson had started to clash with H.W. Evans, the leader of the national Klan. It had been with the help of Stephenson that Evans had been able to take control of the Klan from Simmons. Evans shifted the Klan's focus from religion to politics. While Stephenson had no problem with this new plan per se, it did pose something of an overall danger to both his own power in Indiana, as well as to the way the Klan had been sold to many Hoosiers and other Northerners. 105
In a Muncie address in 1924, representatives of the "official" Indiana Klan charged that the Klan leadership, including D.C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, and Rev. Daisy Douglas Barr, a Quaker pastor and outspoken supporter of the hooded order, had amassed a fortune off of the dues of Klansmen. 106 This national group kicked Stephenson out of the Klan and branded him "Rome's mouthpiece." 107 Stephenson reorganized the Klan in Indiana and filed suit to break its ties with Atlanta, though it was dismissed in October. 108 Stephenson remained in contact with officials such as Senator James Watson after the break, and so retained his position within the state. 109
The charges and the break had to do with two things. One was the money to be made as a Klan organizer. When Stephenson was made King Kleagle of most of the Northern Klan chapters in 1923, he got $2.00 for each member that was enrolled, while Atlanta got $3.00. The other factor had to do with tensions between the Northern membership and the Southern leadership in which Stephenson found himself caught in the middle. In a six-month period in 1923, Stephenson sent over $641,000 to Atlanta. 110
Such figures surely played on Stephenson's mind. He must have thought of what he could do with having more money and more control over the organization. Though he pledged his loyalty to Evans in October 1923, he did tell the Klan leader that "other honorable men in the Northern states" did not agree with everyone in the Southern dominated Kloncilium. Despite his promises to Evans, Stephenson did take steps to insure that he had total control of both the Fiery Cross and of the Indiana Klan, by getting members to vote their support of him. By doing so, he hoped to insure the survival of his Hoosier political machine should something happen between himself and Evans. 111
And then, Stephenson bolted. He had already started to couch his own language in terms of North and South, when reports reached him of some Klan activities in Muncie. Stephenson responded that those responsible were not real Klansman and blamed media hype. He said "honorable men of the North" had to overcome the "stigma" caused by "members elsewhere who are said to have engaged in violence, murder, and other crimes." He even wrote to Roy V. West of the Republican National Committee to say that the Northern Klan was staunchly pro-Republican and that there were tensions between the Northern and Southern branches. In further correspondence with West, Stephenson detailed his own break with the Southern leadership. He told West that he sent investigators South to confirm Northern suspicions that the leadership in Atlanta was violent, advocated mob tactics, oppress African-Americans, and degrade whites who were not like them (Jews and Catholics). Stephenson said this caused him to leave the Klan, and to take many in Indiana with him. 112
The break did not do much to change the tenor of the campaign, however. The Klan made Catholicism a key issue in the 1924 campaign. The Fiery Cross ran a headline right before the election that said "Rome Demands Delivery of Vote." 113 But Hamilton County was not as full of anti-immigrant feelings a decade before. In 1914 Rev. F. N. Wright spoke at First Methodist on his work with Italian immigrants in New York City. He reminded his audience that none of them could claim an ancestry that was purely American, they or their ancestors had all come from across the oceans to settle and prosper in Noblesville. He asked them to give Italians the same chance, and to work against the forces of bigotry that would deny them the American dream. 114
Race also played a key role in the 1924 election, though it was the Democrats not the Klan that made it an issue. Many within the Democratic Party hoped that the specter of a Klan dominated Republican Party would drive African-Americans into the Democratic fold. Of course, this belied the fact that many Democrats were Klansmen as well, but this was not the main problem with hoping to use the Klan as a wedge issue. The Democrats had a problem in their presentation of the issue. When local Democrats brought an African-American speaker to Noblesville, few in the audience at the Olympic Theatre were African-American, and the speaker was foreign born, a Catholic, a former socialist, and on the payroll of Tammany Hall, who attacked the memory of Abraham Lincoln in his speech. As the Noblesville Daily Ledger noted, "it is doubtful if the appeal to Negroes in this county, where there were so many stations of the Underground Railroad, had much effect toward causing Negroes to vote the Democratic ticket." 115 African-Americans' votes, not surprisingly, were found to have major political potential in 1924. If Democrats could break them away from the Republican fold over the Klan issue, there was a possibility for Democratic victory. The Noblesville Daily Ledger would have none of that though. The paper reminded its African-American readers that the Republican Party was the party of Lincoln. 116
Prohibition was also an important issue. In January 1924, Elmer Bishop was given 100 days and a fine for operating a still. The Fiery Cross called on Protestants to make world wide Prohibition a reality in 1924. The Klan even talked of launching massive raids in order to clean up Chicago. Furthermore, in September, a whisky war, which started as a gun battle in Indianapolis, ended up in Sheridan. 117
The months leading up to the general election were filled with rallies and marches to show the Klan's strength. In June, between 600 and 700 Klansmen from Hamilton, Tipton, and Madison counties met in Lapel for a rally. In August, the Fiery Cross announced plans for two Hamilton County rallies of the Klan. The first, to be held in Arcadia would bring Klansmen from Tipton, Lebanon, Fortville, Muncie, Elwood, Alexandria, and Logansport. The second gathering, which would be held in September, was expected to have over 10,000 Klansman in attendance. 118
In many ways, 1924 was the high water mark of the Klan. The organization supported Ed Jackson became governor. Despite his affiliation with the Klan, the Indianapolis Times promised not to prejudge Jackson as governor, though it was happy to see him finish 100,000 votes behind Coolidge. In part because of this, the Klan charged the paper with being a Catholic organ. The Times responded by saying that it was just against a "secret order" trying to run the state. Still, there was much to be happy about. Noblesville's men and women Klan organizations held a joint meeting in December 1924, which was called an "enthusiastic" by the Fiery Cross. Stephenson wrote Jackson a letter detailing their shared Christian values in January 1925. 119
Madison County, located next to Hamilton County and home to the city of Anderson, is a good example of what happened in November. After running Republican ads threatening "chaos" if the Democrats were elected, Madison County voters gave Republican candidates an average plurality of 4,500 votes. Only three precincts in the entire county voted Democratic. The Anderson Daily Bulletin attributed Republican success to the "8,000" Klan members in the county, who helped insure an 87% voter turnout. 120
In Frankfort, there was more anti-Klan sentiment. Though the Republican, Democrats, and Progressives all ran ads in the Frankfort Evening News, the paper endorsed any candidate that was not a member of the Klan. "With the hooded figure of the Ku Klux Klan standing silently in the background the doubtful state of Indiana is a greater enigma than ever," the paper said. It worried about if the Klan would continue to be "non-partisan" or if it would attempt to take over the Republican Party. It was happy that Coolidge took the county by over 1,400 votes, while Jackson won by less than 300. 121
There was another battle to be waged after the election. The Noblesville Daily Ledger watched with interest as a struggle for control of the state house was waged by Klan backed Hoosier politicians and their opponents. Despite the drama, the supposed Klan dominated legislature was something of a farce, with Democrats bolting and little legislation actually getting passed in either chamber of the General Assembly. The Indiana Klan, though thoroughly entrenched within the Republican Party, pondered a mass move to take over the Democratic Party in Indiana or possibly forming their own third party. 122
Prohibition was still the issue of the day. In January 1925, the U.S. Congress allocated $11 million to wage war on bootleggers. Nationally, drys celebrated the anniversary of Prohibition's passing, while wets argued that the Eighteenth Amendment worked to undermine all laws. There seemed to be a real need for more enforcement at the local level. 1925 began with a rash of alcohol related incidents. White mule was responsible for a car accident near Sheridan. Noblesville was the site of several arrests for possession. Police seemed to be raiding at every opportunity. In one such raid, police confiscated 100 gallons of liquor on the Hamilton/Tipton County line. 123
Calls for Prohibition enforcement were the order of the day, from Washington, D.C. to the pulpits of Noblesville's churches. As Congress considered "greater" police powers to fight bootleggers with, First Methodist in Noblesville was the site of a law enforcement rally. The congregation was told that churches needed to become more involved in the struggle, and that one thing they could do was demand a Sabbath law to help fight movies and dance halls. The County WCTU supported these efforts. 124
In response, Indiana drafted the Wright Bone Dry Bill, which dramatically increased the penalties for those found with illegal alcohol. According to Justin Walsh, the new law "was possibly the most repressive bill ever introduced in the Indiana House of Representatives and certainly one of the most repressive to enter the statues." The bill's provisions included $1.000.00 fines, up to two years in prison and offered a "bounty" of $25.00 to prosecutors per conviction of any count. The Noblesville Daily Ledger watched the progress of the bill carefully, and supported its passage. The state attorney general called it "drastic." The general consensus was that the new law had teeth, and if enforced, would have a dramatic affect on illegal alcohol in Hamilton County and the state as well. Rep. Wright heavily consulted the IASL and Federal Prohibition agents as he crafted the legislation and guided it through the State legislature. The bill passed in the House by a vote of 89 to 1, while the Republicans did have a majority of 85 to 15, not even partisanship or Klan connections can account for the one sided nature of the vote. It passed the Senate as well, and became law. 125
The new law led to more arrests. Shortly after its passing, police raided the Blonford farm, arrested three people, and confiscated forty gallons of mash and thirteen gallons of liquor. More sweeps, in conjunction with Federal Prohibition agent Bert Morgan, were to follow in the weeks ahead. 126
The Klan in 1925 could boast of at least 165,746 members on the rolls, with ninety of Indiana's ninety-two counties reporting klaverns. Six counties had more than one active group, including Hamilton County. The others in this "prestigious" club were Elkhart, Miami, Madison, Fayette, Vigo, and Johnson. Sixty-four of Indiana's Klan counties had gone Republican in 1924, with only twenty-three reported as Democratic. Only Johnson County, of those with more than one klavern, fell in the latter camp. 127
The Klan was not silent during this time. It stressed in March of 1925 that it had a "positive program" for the state that was based on its non-partisan approach to politics. The women of the Klan had a meeting in Tipton, and 2,000 Klansmen from Boone and Hamilton counties received the Second Degree in a ceremony in Indianapolis. 128
The Klan was not without its critics. Ministers, judges, and politicians in Lebanon banded together during the elections of 1925 to fight the hooded order. In a rally leading up to the election, the Klan was denounced as a "menace" that was "absolutely and determinably bad, wrong, and iniquitous." The group "make it more difficult to enforce the law" as they "create an atmosphere of persecution." Those at the rally were told that it did not matter if Republicans or Democrats were elected, so long as Klansmen were not. 129
But if things were seemingly looking up for the cause of Prohibition, supported by Church and Klan alike, things were about to change dramatically. Noblesville was to become the scene of Indiana's trial of the century, which would raise questions about Prohibition's hooded champions and eventually bring the Klan in Indiana to its knees.
The Klan has long baffled historians. What accounts for it meteoric rise and fall in Indiana? For many, the trial of D.C. Stephenson, the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, seems to offer the best understanding of both. Discussion of the Stephenson's trial is a staple in literature dealing with the Klan, and increasingly, it is being linked to a broader discussion of corruption within the hooded order as well as just the demise of the Klan in Indiana. One of the best accounts, which opens the door for further interpretation is M. William Lutholtz's Grand Dragon: D.C. Stephenson and the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana. Building from some of Lutholtz's own discussion allows the culture surrounding Stephenson to be considered as much as the actual trial, when considering the final verdict on both him and the Klan. 130
The headline of the Indianapolis Star of 3 April 1925 summed up the beginning of the end for the Klan: "Stephenson Held on Accusation of Girl Near Death." The "ex-Grand Dragon" refused to make a formal statement, but said that "politics" was behind the charges. He also said that things like this have happened ever since he became a leader in the Klan. The paper noted that he was a good political leader and real people person. Though rumors were rampant of something going on involving Stephenson, no one talked about the charges made against him until he was actually arrested. The Marion County Grand Jury found that Stephenson "unlawfully, feloniously, and with premeditated malice killed and murdered Madge Oberholtzer." 131
The Noblesville Daily Ledger's front page on 23 May 1925 was dominated by the announcement that the Stephenson case had been removed from Marion County and was being sent to Hamilton County. 132 This meant that the Noblesville courthouse would be ground zero of what was to become one of the most important murder trials ever to be held in the state, whose outcome would have long lasting ramifications for the county, state and even the nation.
The paper was consumed by coverage of the trial and the events that led up to it. This should not be surprising. Stephenson was one of the most powerful men in the state because of his ties to the Klan. The courtroom was packed with onlookers every time he appeared in the courthouse. When Stephenson and the other defendants in the trial arrived in Noblesville, the sheriff announced that they would be treated like any other prisoner. Such a promise, of course, was almost impossible to keep. Visitors to the jail, coming just to catch a glimpse of Stephenson, eventually caused a general lockdown of the facility. For a young Bob Gilkey, it was amazing to see a man, especially the Grand Dragon of the Indiana Klan, in handcuffs. Stephenson kept himself busy by writing (or at least leaking to the press that he was writing) a book about why he was in jail and a home economics article. 133
The trial would come at the worst possible time for Stephenson. That fall, Sen. Ralston would die. Ralston had defeated Albert Beveridge for the seat by 8,000 votes in 1922. The Tipton Daily Tribune believed that Jackson might appoint himself to the seat. Despite calls from many newspapers, including the Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis Times to appoint Beveridge to the position, Jackson chose Arthur Robinson, a staunch Prohibition supporter with friends in the Klan, instead. 134 Had he not been in jail, on trial for his life, it is very possible that Gov. Jackson may have named Stephenson to fill Ralston's term.
Among the first actions that got the attention of the people of Noblesville was the attempt to get bail granted. However, Stephenson had lost the support of the women of the state. Indiana's Club Women said that since the crime involved the violation of a woman, they could not endorse any motion to allow Stephenson bail. Additionally, Stephenson's ex-wife took this opportunity to sue for child support. When bail was denied, there was applause in the courtroom. The defense saw this as evidence of a plot and of a "whispering campaign" to destroy their case even before it was heard. 135
Once it was decided that the defendants would have to sit in jail and await trial, the next round of the legal battle had to do with evidence. Perhaps the most striking weapon the prosecution had in its arsenal was the deathbed statement of Madge Oberholzer. Deciding whether or not it would be admitted or if the defense got to see it consumed several days in the court. And when the defense finally did get to see it, so too did the paper. 136
The statement, given by Madge as she lay dying, told a horrific story. Having been brought to Stephenson's home, she claimed to have been forced to consume alcohol, and then to board a train. It was while on the train that she said Stephenson raped and brutally attacked her. Madge claimed to have been so distraught and so fearful about what he would do next that she bought poison and took it to make herself sick, with the thought that would force Stephenson to take her home. He did, but by the time she got medical treatment, it was too late. When conviction came, there would be no pardon from the governor, in large part because Madge died. 137
The injuries sustained by Madge, perhaps more than anything else other than her death, did Stephenson in. According to the autopsy report, Madge's chest had "four elliptical areas of brownish discoloration," which had "healed lacerations" that had formed a "whitish scar" at the center. There was also severe organ damage. 138 All of this would come out during the course of the trial.
Early on, Stephenson's lawyers decided that the only hope they had to win the case was to argue that Madge had committed suicide. 139 Though many saw it as desperate, it was also probably correct. The attack, while horrible, did not cause Madge's death, despite the testimony of prosecution witnesses. That deed was caused by the mercury she consumed. What the defense team had to overcome was why Madge took the poison to begin with.
An early trial date was set, and the county's court docket cleared to accommodate the fast tracking of the case. This caused another round of legal wrangling, as motions were filed to separate the defendants and try them individually. Eventually it was decided that the three would be tried at the same time, but as individuals, with Stephenson's portion of the trial to be the first. A trial date was set for October and the court adjourned. 140
But Stephenson's attorneys did not. After holding a meeting to discuss it, the defense began to push for not only an earlier start date to the trial, but also a rehearing on the bail issue, as well as asking Judge Fred Hines to remove himself from the case. They were eventually able to get Judge William Sparks from Rushville to take over the case, although they were not able to get the trial date moved up or bail for Stephenson. 141
Jury selection became an arduous process. It took a considerable amount of time to gather the jury together. Men begged off because of illness, business commitments, and their own opinions about the case. In all, 400 men were called as potential jurors, but no women were asked to join them. The Tipton Daily Tribune cited two reasons for this. First, was the lack of "accommodations" in the jury room and second, was that "no women ever have been called on a jury venire in the county." The final jury was comprised of ten farmers, the manager of the Noblesville branch of Indiana Gas, and a truck driver. Their average age was 45 years old. 142
When the trial started, the courtroom was packed. The prosecution "scathingly denounced" Stephenson as a Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde, who had lured an innocent girl to her death. The prosecution put witness after witness on the stand, to talk about Madge, her trip with Stephenson, the wounds inflicted upon her, and the poison she took. The defense did little, other than claiming persecution whenever they could. When Madge's father was put on the stand, they asked for a new jury. When the prosecution rested, the defense waived an opening statement and asked the judge to dismiss the case. Finally, when they were forced to actually argue, the defense came together. Stephenson's team argued that the poison had killed Madge, that she and Stephenson were a couple, and that the deathbed statement was induced in part by the pain medication she was on. Stephenson did not take the stand. 143
Following the prosecution's rebuttal, it was time for closing arguments. The prosecution centered their pleas around the deathbed statement, while the defense did their best to belittle it. It was a dramatic oratorical struggle. The prosecution said that Stephenson believed himself above the law, and was a "destroyer of virtue and womanhood." Eph Inman and Floyd Christian, on the other hand, both talked about fending off "vultures" and the "blood cry of the mob" in Stephenson's defense. Inman held those assembled "spellbound," according to the Indianapolis Star, for four hours during his portion of the closing argument, asking over and over if suicide now equaled murder in Indiana. Again Stephenson had the opportunity to speak to the jury, and again he declined. When the lawyers were finished, Judge Sparks gave the jury forty-five minutes of instructions prior to sending them to the jury room to decide Stephenson's fate. The Anderson Daily Bulletin noted that this was the first time that Stephenson looked nervous during the entire trial. 144
Over 1,000 people packed into the courthouse to wait for the verdict, though the courtroom itself held only 200 people. Stephenson was sentenced on the first ballot to life. W.A. Johnson of Sheridan, a farmer, led the jury. The former Klan leader and political kingmaker said that the "scum and scurvy" people who had packed the courtroom day after day had unduly influenced the jury. Judge Sparks said he doubted it, and said that if Stephenson was in fact innocent, he believed the ex-Grand Dragon would be able to prove it given time. The case cost close to $3,000, of which $2,413.80 went to the jury. The case had been hard on the jury, but they had "integrity and decency that was stronger than the pressures of disapproval" put forward by the Klan. 145
There was very little mention during the course of the trial to Stephenson and the Klan, which was in part by design. The defense did not wish to raise it, nor did the prosecution. For its part, the Klan tried as best it could to separate itself from Stephenson. A large Fourth of July parade was held in Frankfort for example. Additionally, the Klan ran a "Klan Komment!" article in the Noblesville Daily Ledger throughout much of the proceedings. While seemingly intended to educate the public about what the Klan was and what it stood for, it had the unfortunate luck of often being placed beside articles about the Stephenson trial. While their intention may very well have been to show the contrast between the two, the articles probably also reinforced the linkage between Stephenson and the organization he had once headed. 146
Perhaps the largest thing the Klan did during Stephenson's trial was to help sponsor the Noblesville Chautauqua in August 1925. Not only did Mayor Brown promise to help the Klan in its efforts to supply security for the event, but also the high point of the Chautauqua was to be a speech by H.W. Evans, the Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Evans spoke on the subjects of Americanism, patriotism, and better schools. 147
It was this Chautauqua more than anything else that gave Stephenson the idea that he had been denied a fair trial, and that a lynch mob mentality had been whipped up against him. He would later contend that Evans had hired an assassin, and that this is why he had refused to talk during his trial. Stephenson said in 1931 that he had done good work for the Klan, but became convinced that Evans did not actually believe in the group's principles. 148
Looking at the Ledger's coverage of the trial though, it is hard to understand his reasoning. For one, he was hardly depicted as a monster. The paper ran, for example, a story of him giving two boys heading off to the state orphanage $5.00 when they were in the courtroom together. 149
Coverage in other papers varied. The Sheridan News devoted only five articles to the case, three of which had to do more with the jury than anything else. The Greenfield Republican also only had five articles on the trial. Likewise, the Lebanon Daily Reporter, the Tipton Daily Tribune, and the Greenfield Daily Reporter, though they had more coverage than the other two papers, did not devote daily space to the trial. Not surprisingly, the Indianapolis papers were second only to the Ledger in terms of their daily reporting, with the Anderson Daily Bulletin and the Frankfort Morning Times also having excellent coverage. 150
The conviction of Stephenson helped to spell the end of the Klan in Indiana. As Joann Randall recalled, "there were a lot of people in Noblesville who belonged to it [the Klan]. If you didn't belong to the Klan you didn't amount to much they thought. That was a status. After he [D.C. Stephenson] was convicted they didn't feel that way." In 1926, sixty-two from Noblesville alone went on the delinquent rolls. Others resigned out right. 151
Beyond that, however, there is also the Klan as an institution to consider. As has been mentioned above, Hamilton County was fiercely patriotic, and held its participation during the Civil War, its "colony" of African-Americans, and its general disdain for the Democratic Party in a place of honor. Furthermore, there were tensions within the Northern and Southern branches of the Klan, which Stephenson himself admitted too. The question now becomes did those tensions play a role in Stephenson's undoing, not in the form of a Southern conspiracy led by Evans, but rather by a Northern backlash against the Klan as personified by twelve men sitting in a jury room.
There had been a rapprochement between North and South following the end of Reconstruction, of which Hamilton County knew about and participated in. National figures, such as Rev. T. DeWitt Talmage, whose sermons were republished in Noblesville newspapers for years, called for it. And the assassinations of Presidents Garfield and McKinley also helped unify the nation. 152
Not all efforts in this vein were successful of course. In 1882, the Republican Ledger reported that the North and South branches of the Methodist church would not reunite because "the Northern branch has nearly all the wealth and the more prominent members object to having their money drained to the South." Likewise, the paper cared little for Democrats that objected to "waiving the bloody shirt" during election years, or who denied that slavery was ended by Republicans. They even went so far as to label Thomas Hendricks, former Indiana governor, and in 1884, Democratic Vice Presidential nominee, a "northern rebel sympathizer" who did not care about the conditions of African Americans in the South. As late as 1900, Hamilton County residents who visited family in South returned to report on the disenfranchisement of African-Americans an anti-democratic development. Likewise, there was some degree of dismay in 1901 when it was learned that a boycott was being organized in Kentucky as a threat to any theatre that dared to stage the Uncle Tom's Cabin play. 153
Nor should we quickly discount the past of the Klan. Hamilton County residents may very well have seen the 1920s organization as different than the Klan of Reconstruction, so linked to the South and the Democratic Party. But, with Klan infighting came renewed sectional tensions. As Bob Gilkey recalled, when the Klan leaders began "talking about killing the colored that wasn't his [Gilkey's brother] way of thinking and so he got out of it." 154
On top of this, if the prosecution was to be believed, Stephenson had violated a woman. Here was the man who was largely responsible for the growth and vitality of an organization committed to defending American womanhood, so attacking a woman that she chose to kill herself rather than face another assault.
Men had been killed for doing just this sort of thing. "Judge Lynch," had a long and colorful history in Indiana. Hamilton County residents living in the 1920s had grown up on a steady diet of lynch news, of both local and national in nature, they knew about mob justice, and they knew the lengths to which the state had gone to end the threats posed by both. In the early 1900s, Indiana had decided it did not want to be a scapegoat for Southerners interested in denying lynching as a problem. 155
What happened to Stephenson was a new sort of "lynching," one that Americans would come to recognize all to well in the later twentieth century, a legal one. 156 The jury was making a statement as loudly as if they had been a mob and had torn open the jail and hung Stephenson on the courthouse square. The trial was many things, but one of the things it is a "lynching" of a man whom the community believed had violated "first" principles that he had once seemed to personify. The prosecution used similar terminology in describing Stephenson's crime as what victims of Judge Lynch would have been accused of doing. The trial was a reaffirmation of Hoosier independence, and of Northern dominance in the country, which was being threatened by a Southern organization. 157
While the trial grabbed headlines, it was not the only thing going on. Prohibition did not come to an end just because Stephenson's career came crashing down around him. During the pre-trial phase of Stephenson's time in Noblesville, there were raids made in Fall Creek Township and on the Eller Farm that nabbed white mule. In the time leading up to the actual trial, a raid found a whisky still in an Eagletown school. During jury selection, a car was found with seventy-one gallons of alcohol in it. 158
Additionally, the churches were still very active. The Federal Council of Churches said that Prohibition had "justified itself." In September, the Noblesville Ministerial Association asked all lodges and schools to refrain from Wednesday night activities in order to allow for church services. 159 As for the Prohibition Party itself, it found that the first years after achieving its primary goal offered little in the way of electoral benefit. In 1920, it had received 195, 923 votes nationwide (13,462 from Indiana), but in 1924, both numbers plummeted to 56,289 and 4,416 respectively. 160
Worse things than the Stephenson trial were yet to happen to the Prohibition forces. The end of their dream was about to occur, leaving such discouragement and bitterness, that a veil of silence would fall over the entire era.