Shameful history – Clipping details 1926 cross burning in Wilton

The name "Ku Klux Klan" usually conjures up im­ages of white-sheeted ter­rorists in the South after the Civil War, and nothing to do with us here.

But there was an attempted cross burning in Wilton in 1926.

Awhile ago, a yellowed newspa­per clipping was found in an old book. As many such things do, it went to Dick Putnam, who passed it along to the Wilton Historical Society. The date was April 25, 1926, and the newspaper was the former Boston Post. The headline reads: "Wilton, N.H., Police Seize Klan Cross After Dynamite Blow­up."

The article says five young men were arrested and charged with setting off high explosives without authority in the village district and endangering woodlands with fire. "It is claimed they were stag­ing a Ku Klux Klan demonstra­tion."

According to the article, "A heavy explosion near a local cem­etery rattled glass in windows and caused many to believe a boiler at the Soohegan (sic) Mill had ex­ploded."

Townspeople found a cross at least 20 feet high had been erect­ed near a cemetery, covered with burlap and soaked in kerosene. Apparently, the cross was sup­posed to have been ignited by the explosion. Because Mount Cal­vary is a Catholic cemetery, and the Klan opposed Catholics, it is assumed the cross was placed there. The article doesn’t name the cemetery.

A picture with the article shows the cross, made of two rough poles, leaning against what appears to be Town Hall. With it are two men identified as Wilton Chief of Police W.E. Hickey and Hillsboro County Sheriff J.E. Hurley.

Five men had been observed in the area. Using information obtained by radio, Hickey and Hurley organized a posse and cap­tured the men, all in their 30s and residents of Milford and Canter­bury.

Klan has seen declines, resurgences

Apparently, they gave conflict­ing stories and were held over­night to appear before Judge Har­old Cheever the next morning.

The rest of the story isn’t known, but Klan literature was picked up by members of the posse. Accord­ing to various Internet sources, the Ku Klux Klan was organized in 1866 under the direction of former Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. Its ac­tivities were outlawed by Congress in 1871.

The Klan had a resur­gence after World War I, spurred in part by a fear of communism after the Russian Revolution in 1917.

This version of the Klan targeted Catholics, Jews and new immigrants. At the height of its popular­ity, it claimed about 4 mil­lion members nationwide with members in all of the states.

The movement died out with World War II. The Klan was resurrected again in the 1950s through the 1960s by those oppos­ing the civil rights move­ment.

With the current un­rest and spread of terror­ism, one is reminded of the old Klan. Will it rise again to oppose this new threat, or will there be something else?

But there will probably be no more cross burnings in this part of the state. We are a much more toler­ant group.

Keep up with the past with Another Perspec­tive. Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or jessies@tellink.net.