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 email@example.com.