A quiet Wednesday evening in Jamestown back in September 1925 was interrupted by a series of loud booms from the south edge of the community.
Curious Jamestown residents, and I’m sure most were, saw a large burning cross at the top of Mill Hill.
The Jamestown Sun ran a brief story on page 2 under the headline “Ku Klux Klan Demonstrate.”
“A huge cross was illuminated on the crest of the hill,” the story said, “with two robed sentinels on either side of the cross and the American flag stationed in the foreground.”
The article went on to say that about 50 local “klansmen and klanswomen were dressed in white robes and acted as guards, forming a semi-circle about the crest of the hill.”
The Sun article reported most of Jamestown saw the spectacle.
“Loud sounding but harmless Mexican bombs served to attract attention in the section of the fiery cross,” the article said. “…(a) considerable portion of the people throughout the city observed.”
The reporter of The Jamestown Sun gave few details of the event. The reporter either didn’t know the identity of the speaker or chose not to identify him. It also did not provide any information about the topic although residents near Mill Hill heard “… the words of the speaker through the open doors of their homes.”
The KKK seemed to reach its peak in the state of North Dakota in the early 1920s although even then it was not considered proper or mainstream.
During the 1924 election for North Dakota governor, Republican candidate A.G. Sorlie took the time to have a Grand Forks minister send a letter certifying Sorlie was not a member of the KKK. The letter is still in the possession of the North Dakota State Historical Society.
Sorlie served as governor of North Dakota from 1925 to 1928.
And the fact The Jamestown Sun didn’t include much detail or run the article about the KKK on the front page might indicate it wasn’t something that held a wide public interest.
Instead, the front page included a local story on what might have been the first fatal drunk driving accident in Jamestown.
A father and son from Oklahoma were in the area working on threshing crews when they spent an evening at a couple of blind pigs (illegal saloons) in Jamestown. At the end of the evening, the son drove his car into a telephone pole just outside Jamestown. His father was pronounced dead at the scene.
The testimony of the son at a corner’s inquest resulted in at least two local men facing bootlegging charges.
All in all, that was a lot of action for Jamestown in 1925.
Author Keith Norman can be reached at www.KeithNormanBooks.com