Friday, February 24, 2023

The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s by William Rawlings.

The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s by William Rawlings. Macon (GA): Mercer University Press, 2016.

"Founded as a men's fraternal group in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1915, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan eventually became one of the largest social and political movements in American history, attracting perhaps as many as four million members during the 1920s. In this excellent book William Rawlings examines the complex factors that grave rise to this unusual organization, the key individuals who were responsible for both the Klan's rise and decline, and the place of the 1920s Klan in American history. In contract to other recent scholarship on the second Klan that largely consists of detailed studies of KKK activities at the local level, the author focuses on the important, and often, sordid, developments that took place in the group's national headquarters.

"Nearly a third of the book is dedicated to detailing the historical factors that made the second Klan possible. In a series of brief but informative chapters, the author looks at the social and cultural impact of Reconstruction, the activities of the first Klan, and the gradual development of a Lost Cause mythology that convinced many Americans to see the Confederacy and the original Klan in a favorable light. This shift in opinion was well demonstrated in 1915 by the incredible popularity of the famous silent film 'The Birth of a Nation,' which completed the process of romanticizing the Klan of Reconstruction. Recognizing that the time was auspicious, William J. Simmons, an experienced recruiter for men's organizations, formed the new Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Atlanta shortly before the local premiere of 'The Birth of a Nation,' going so far as to sue artwork from the movie's posters in Klan flyers and designing robes for the new group that were virtually the same as those used in the film.

"For the first few years of its existence, the new Klan limped along with only a couple thousand members. As Rawlings emphasizes, the sudden upturn in group's fortunes in 1920 should be credited to Edward Young Clarke, an Atlanta advertising executive who completely overhauled the KKK's recruiting procedures and financial practices. Under Clarke's guidance the Klan became a huge money-making machine, raking in tens of millions of dollars. While this fueled the group's rapid growth across the nation, it also led to vicious infighting among the Klan's leaders and set off a stream of lawsuits and counter-lawsuits that discredited the secret order at the very moment that its size and influence were peaking. Although the KKK's new leader, Hiram W. Evans, attempted to reform the Klan and make it a more stable and mainstream organization, continuing disillusionment and scandals resulted in a rapidly dwindling membership. By the early 1930s, the second Klan had become largely insignificant in American life.

"This is a well-researched and splendidly written book. It should greatly interest both general and academic readers who want to know more about the dark tradition of organized intolerance in American history."

Book Review by Shawn Lay, Coker College in The North Carolina Historical Review, Vol. XCV, No. 1 (January 2018.


"Fifty years after the end of the Civil War, William Joseph Simmons, a failed Methodist minister, formed a fraternal order that he called The Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Organized primarily as a money-making scheme, it shared little but its name with the Ku Klux Klan of the Reconstruction Era. With its avowed creed of One Hundred Percent Americanism, support of Protestant Christian values, white supremacy, and the rejection of all things foreign, this new Klan became, for a brief period of time in the mid-1920s, one of Americas most powerful social and political organizations. This original and meticulously researched history of Americas second Ku Klux Klan presents many new and fascinating insights into this unique and important episode in American History."

Source: Publisher 

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Richmond-Miles Museum Building in Yanceyville

 Richmond-Miles Museum Building in Yanceyville, North Carolina

An article in The Caswell Messenger newspaper (Yanceyville, North Carolina) referred to the building that currently houses the Richmond-Miles Museum as the:

Graves-Poteat-Florance-Gatewood House

The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, NC), 25 January 2023.


Graves House

The house was built around 1820 by William Graves (1780-1845). It may have served as his Yanceyville home, being eventually converted into a hotel (the Village Hotel). The business was continued after his death by his second wife, Ann Lea Graves Graves (1794-1857).

We know the Village Hotel was in operation as early as 1838:

(From the Milton Spectator (Milton, NC), 9 October 1838)

Democratic Dinner,

Complimentary to the Senators and Republican Members of Congress from N. Carolina,

Agreeably to arrangements previously made, a sumptuous dinner was furnished by Capt. Wm. Graves, proprietor of the Village Hotel at Yanceyville, on Friday, the 28th ult.; a day which will long be remembered by the citizens of Caswell.

At 20 minutes past 12 o'clock, General Barzillai Graves, the President, took his seat at the centre wing of the immensely long table, which was richly and bountifully supplied with every good thing the market affords. Majors Wm. A. Lea and James Kerr assisted as Vice Presidents, and being seated at the right and left ends of the main table, at the centre of which and fronting the President, were placed the invited guests.

Richmond Enquirer (Richmond, Virginia), 16 October 1838.


Corbett & Richmond Owners

However, in 1851 the Village Hotel was purchased by Corbett & Richmond:

Village Hotel, Yanceyville, N.C.

"Corbett & Richmond, would respectfully inform the public that they have recently taken charge of this spacious Hotel, formerly kept by Mrs. Graves, which has lately been repaired and is now in complete order for the accommodation of Travelers and Boarders. The rooms are comfortably and neatly furnished; the Table shall always be provided with the best that the market affords; the Servants will be found polite and attentive, and their Stables will be constantly supplied with an abundance and variety of provender and unsurpassed Hostlers.

"This magnificent establishment is pleasantly located convenient to the Court House, and persons attending Court at Yanceyville and stopping at the Village Hotel, may rest assured that the Proprietors will spare no pains to please them. Their prices will be found moderate and precisely the same charged by the other Hotel in the Village.

"Drovers will find every accommodation that large and roomy Stables and  as spacious Lots can afford."

The Milton Chronicle (Milton, NC), 17 April 1851.


Poteat House

Based upon the recent item in The Caswell Messenger, referenced above, the next owner apparently was a Poteat. We know that James Poteat (1807-1889) moved his family to Yanceyville after the Civil War (moving from "Forest Home" on the Yanceyville-Milton Road). We also know that a Poteat Hotel eventually was constructed on the lot immediately east of the Village Hotel property. Was James Poteat an owner of the building that now houses the Richmond-Miles Museum?

The photograph shows the Poteat Hotel to the left of the Graves-Poteat-Florance-Gatewood House.


Florance House

The next owner was Thomas Jefferson Florance (1858-1926). He purchased the property in the 1880s and made his home there. For some thirty years Florance was a merchant on the Square in Yanceyville, eventually constructing what eventually came to be known as the "Dime Store." His wife, Nancy Kerr Lea (1869-1939) apparently remained in the house.


Gatewood House

At some point the property came into the possession of a daughter of Thomas Jefferson Florance and Nancy Kerr Lea Florance: Mary Lea Florance (1903-1995) and her husband John Yancey Gatewood (1893-1954). They are the parents of artist Maud Florance Gatewood (1934-2004), who was born in the house.

Maud Florance Gatewood inherited the property from her mother and in 1999 sold it to the Caswell County Historical Association. Funds for the purchase were provided by Thomas Richmond McPherson, Jr., and wife Kathy Sue Simmons. At the time, the mother of Thomas Richmond McPherson, Jr., Elizabeth Pierce Parker McPherson (1929-2019), was President of the Caswell County Historical Association.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

Senator John Walter (Chicken) Stephens 1870 Death Location

 Where NC Senator John Walter (Chicken) Stephens Was Killed in 1870

Below is a floorplan of the first (ground) floor of the Caswell County Courthouse in Yanceyville, NC. South is at the top. The office shown as "County Agent" is the room in which NC Senator John Walter (Chicken) Stephens was killed in 1870.

The room once was the office of the Master in Equity, but at the time of the Stephens killing was used to store firewood (and possibly coal). In 1877, it was the office of lawyer (and Ku Klux Klan leader) Jacob Alson Long (1846-1923).

Saturday, February 18, 2023

Bartlett Yancey High School (Yanceyville, NC) Homecoming, October 16, 1959

Bartlett Yancey High School Homecoming
October 16, 1959
8:00 P.M.
Bartlett Yancey vs Cobb Memorial

BYHS Fullback Tommy Whitley #25


Tommy Whitley
Bill Niven
Judy Rice
Wayne (Bo) Brandon

BYHS Football Team

Academic Year 1959-1960

Bright Leaf Tobacco Discovery Controversy: Caswell County, NC

 Bright Leaf Tobacco Discovery Controversy

That bright leaf tobacco was discovered in 1839 by enslaved person Steven on the Blanch farm of Abisha Slade generally has been accepted as "history." See the North Carolina historical marker on the subject.

However, in 1876 Caswell County's William Long (1901-1876) took exception to this in his letter to the editor of "The Torchlight" newspaper (Oxford, NC):


Caswell Co., N.C., April 7, 1876

Dear Sir -- I delayed answering your inquiry as to who was the first man that cured yellow tobacco in Caswell, and I see you have learned that Mr. Abishai [sic] Slade was considered to be that man and more that it occurred in the year 1756. This is a great mistake.

I cured yellow tobacco myself as early as 1826, and I do not by any means claim to be the first man. Who the first man was I really do not know; but of this I am not mistaken as to the time. I married in 1828, and before I married (as above stated, in 1826), I cured yellow tobacco. The third curing I made after I was settled, namely, in 1831. I met W. N. Thomas of Pittsylvania County, Va., in the streets of Milton, and we both fell to bragging about our yellow. He went home with me, and as I had to cure my leaf that night, he went with me, and we cured it as handsomely as any I have ever seen.

The effort to produce this sort of tobacco was general among our planters at that time. The Slade family were the most prominent; they had very fine land, and their names were at the head of the list. I do not pretend for a moment to take away from those enterprising men the credit that is so justly their due, but write merely to set you right in the way of dates. If you could have recourse to the old warehouse books you would find that between 1830 and 1820 this fine yellow tobacco sold at figures as high as from $70 to $200 per hundred pounds.

William Long

Source: The Torchlight (Oxford, NC), 30 May 1876.


On October 21, 1828, William Long (1801-1876) married Sarah Donoho Johnston (1806-1851). 

Thursday, February 16, 2023

An 1875 Trip Through Caswell County by an International Organisation of Good Templars Lecturer

For the Spirit of the Age.
A Trip Through Caswell County,
Leasburg, Caswell Co.,
November 6th, 1875

Editor of the Age:

After leaving Wilson Saturday night last, I remained over in Goldsboro the Sabbath, heard a fine sermon by Rev. J. R. Brooks, dined with him and in the evening took the cars for Greensboro -- travelled with Rev. Mr. Willis as my companion from Raleigh to Hillsboro -- reached Greensboro at 2 o'clock -- took the Danville cars for Barksley Station -- reached this station at 7 o'clock, a.m., -- hired a horse and reached


at 11 o'clock safe. Immediately upon my arrival, I was taken in charge by Bros. Holder and Hines.

At night, I lectured to a fine audience in the Presbyterian church. At the close of the lecture several names were obtained for membership in Dawn of Hope Lodge. the Lodge met at their usual place of meeting and the candidates were initiated. This Lodge is in a fine healthy condition, with good, substantial officers.

After leaving Milton on Monday I visited


lectured at night in the Methodist church to a good audience -- and afterwards initiated two new members in the Lodge. Pelham Lodge is in good hands."

Wednesday morning I rode Bro. Pierce's horse [from Pelham], with a little boy behind me with my valase [sic], a distance of ten miles, until I reached the residence of Samuel Harrison, Esq., formerly representative in the State Legislature from Caswell county -- dined with him -- and after dinner he kindly took me to


At night, I lectured to the citizens of Yanceyville, in the new Court House. Several were initiated into this Lodge at the close of the public meeting. Yanceyville Lodge continues to flourish. It is in the hands of such men as Capt. Jordan, J. A. Long, Esq., Dr. Allen Gunn, Col. Pinnix, and a host of other good men.

Before leaving Yanceyville I visited in the Court House in which Mr. Stevens [John Walter Stephens] was found murdered in 1870. I found the following lines written with a pencil, by Hon. Josiah Turner, while confined in the same room as a prisoner during the kuklux days:

"The love of liberty with life is given,
And life itself, -- the inferior gift of heaven."
August 13, '70
"Established violence and lawless might
Avowed and hallow'd by the name of right."
Aug. 10, '70.
Josiah Turner, Jr., Prisoner

During my stay in Yanceyville, I was the guest of Dr. Allen Gunn.

On Friday the rain prevented my trip to


but Saturday morning was clear and beautiful, and through the kindness of Bro. Jordan I reached this place in time for dinner.

Notice was given through the town that I would lecture at the Methodist church at night. Accordingly the meeting was held, and after the lecture the Lodge was called to order when the unwritten work of the order was exemplified. Leasburg Lodge is working finely. Bro. Paylor, the Worthy Chief Templar, is regularly at his post.

This closes my trip through Caswell. There are four Lodges of Good Templars in Caswell County, and all are doing well. I have just heard that Bro. Henry T. Jordan has made an appointment for me to lecture at Mt. Pisgae, in Person County, on Monday. Tomorrow I go to Roxboro.

. . . .

I am filling all my appointments. Crowds turn out to hear the temperance question discussed. Men of prominence in all parts of the State are being enlisted under our banner, and in a little while victory will perch on its beautiful folds,

Yours fraternally,

Theo. N. Ramsay,

State Lecturer

Spirit of the Age (Raleigh, NC), 13 November 1875.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Confederate States Ceded States' Rights to Confederate Government: Ironic or Predictable?

 Ironic or Predictable?

Is it ironic (or predictable) that the southern states who seceded from the Union claiming "states' rights" as the rationale, immediately conceded those rights to a centralized Confederate government?

See: This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy by Matthew Karp. Cambridge (MA): Harvard University Press (2016).

North Carolina Civil War Refugees

 North Carolina Civil War Refugees

It appears both Union and Confederate governments failed to anticipate the North Carolina refugee problems caused by the Civil War (estimated 250,000 to 1 million displaced people). Categories of refugees include:

1. Enslaved African Americans who fled to liberty within Union lines.

2. White Unionists who escaped to Union lines from eastern North Carolina (including the Piedmont).

3. Pro-Confederate whites who fled from the Union army into the Confederate interior.

4. Enslaved African Americans whose "owners" forcibly moved them away from Union lines and into the Confederate interior.

5. Female boarding schools where many pro-Confederate southerners sent their daughters during the Civil War.

Interesting reading: Driven from Home: North Carolina's Civil War Refugee Crisis, by David Silkenat. Athens: University of Georgia Press (2016).

Testimony of Dr. Nathaniel Moore Roan, M.D.: Death of John Walter Stephens in 1870

 Testimony of Dr. Nathaniel Moore Roan, M.D.

James Thomas Mitchell, Felix Roan, and Franklin A. Wiley were arrested in connection with the 1870 killing of NC Senator John Walter (Chicken) Stephens. At the probable cause hearing before a panel of justices of the NC Supreme Court Felix Roan's father, Dr. Nathaniel Moore Roan, M.D. (1803-1879) (see photograph) was called by the prosecution as a witness. His testimony provides the most detailed description of the scene of the killing. Dr. Roan described himself as a County Commissioner. However, he also may have been part of the coroner's jury.


Bench Warrant Cases Before Judge Pearson

Fourth Day, August 20, 1870

State vs. F. A. Wiley et al, charged with the murder of John W. Stephens

In Response to Questions by Prosecutor

Dr. Roan was sworn and testified; gave a description of the Court House building of Caswell, position of the various rooms and surroundings. Resides in Yanceyville, is one of the County Commissioners, was in Yanceyville on the day Stephens was said to have been murdered; went into the room with the jury of inquest on Sunday morning; saw the body; there was a small grass rope, nine feet long, doubled, drawn tightly round the neck with a noose; there were three stabs, one on each side of the windpipe and one in the breast. Saw the knife said to have been found near the body, it was nearly new, double-bladed, the largest blade about three inches long.

The body was drawn up, the knees toward the breast, placed in a gap in a pile of wood at the end of the room, as if it had been pushed down there, head resting back on the wood, the side toward the wall.

Has no doubt the murder was committed in the room; saw blood on the wood and on the wall as if it spirted on them. Saw blood on the window sill and a box under the window, and one drop which appeared brighter than the rest on the granite foundation. There was no blood on the floor except near where the body was found.

In Response to Cross Examination Questions by Defense

Am a County Commissioner, was applied to about 9 or 10 o'clock on Saturday night by Thomas Stephens and a colored man named Cook for permission to search the Court House for Stephens, gave the permission and went with them; there were a large number of persons about the Court House, especially near the room in which the body was afterwards found, mostly inside the iron fence, but some were outside.

In searching, thinks they went first to the Court room, not certain as to that; also looked through the rooms below, except the rooms of the Clark and Master [in Equity], and two others occupied as law offices.

Tom and Henry Stephens and Mr. Groom were in the company. When they came to the [room of the Clerk and Master in Equity] the Stephenses looked in at the windows by standing on a box which he had brought and placed for the purpose -- looking in at both windows by aid of candles. Saw no blood that night on the window; the box was brought some 30 or 40 feet; heard no one speak of seeing any blood; left the box under one of the windows.

Went back about 8 o'clock next morning, then saw blood on window sill and on the box, and the drop on the granite foundation; this was at the north window where the box had been left. The windows were down the night before, don't know whether they were fast, they are usually fastened by a stick over them. --- Was not present when the room was first entered on Sunday morning, went in with the jury soon after; saw no key.

Question by Defense: Have you been arrested about this affair? Objected to [and apparently not answered].

In Response to Questions by Chief Justice Pearson

The blood on the window sill seemed to have been left by the pressure of some bloody object, as a hand or foot, and the same of that on the box. Don't think the body could have been seen from the window.

In Response to Direct Examination by Prosecutor Resumed

We made no examination at the South window because of its height, some 7 or 8 feet from the ground -- it was Thomas Stephens and the negro Cook who asked permission to search the Court House, and I went with them.

In Response to Question by Justice Dick

The granite would not absorb the blood as readily as the wood, which may account for the fresh appearance of the drop of blood on the stone, but feels certain that the blood fell there in an uncongealed state; it struck the edge of the stone and divided, a part trickling down the face of the stone; thinks the action of the atmosphere would change the color of the blood more than anything else.

Source: Raleigh Sentinel (Raleigh, NC).

Saturday, February 11, 2023

Bank of Yanceyville Civil War Note

Bank of Yanceyville Civil War Note

For much of its history, the Bank of Yanceyville had its distinctive banknotes printed by northern companies, including in New York and Philadelphia. When the bank depleted its stock of more elaborate notes is not known. However, below is an example of what has been described as an "emergency Civil War note." It is dated May 1, 186_.

This note is rare (and expensive).

Friday, February 10, 2023

NC State Senator John Walter Stephens: Men Participating in Killing

Based upon the confessions of Felix Roan in 1891 and John Green Lea in 1919, the following men participated in the 1870 killing of NC State Senator John Walter Stephens:

Denny, James G. (Jim) (born c.1847)

Fowler, Joseph Robert (Joe) (born c. 1844)

Lea, John Green (1843-1935)

Mitchell, James Thomas (1828-1898)

Morgan, Pinkney Kerr (Pink) (c.1849-1930)

Oliver, James Thomas (Tom) (c.1843-1883)

Richmond, Dr. Stephen Tribue (1824-1878)

Roan, Felix (1837-1891)

Wiley, Franklin A. (1825-1888)

All purportedly were members of the Caswell County Ku Klux Klan, which had "tried" Stephens in absentia, found him guilty, and sentenced him to death.

Here is a portion of the 1819 John Green Lea confession [paragraph breaks added]:

"Stevens was tried by the Ku Klux Klan and sentenced to death. He had a fair trial before a jury of twelve men. At a democratic convention he approached ex-sheriff Wiley and tried to get him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff. Wiley said he would let him know that day. He [Wiley] came to me and informed me of that fact and suggested that he would fool him into that room in which he was killed. He did so and ten or twelve men went into the room and he was found dead next morning. A democratic convention was in session in the court room on the second floor of the courthouse in Yanceyville, to nominate county officers and members of the Legislature. Mr. Wiley, who was in the convention, brought Stevens down to a rear room on the ground floor, then used for the storage of wood for the courthouse.

"I had ordered all the Ku Klux Klan in the county to meet at Yanceyville that day, with their uniforms under their saddles, and they were present. Mr. Wiley came to me and suggested that it would be a better plan, as Stevens had approached him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff and he had told him that he would let him know that day, to fool him down stairs, and so just before the convention closed, Wiley beckoned to Stevens and carried him down stairs, and Captain Mitchell, James Denny and Joe Fowler went into the room and Wiley came out. Mitchell proceeded to disarm him (he had three pistols on his body). He soon came out and left Jim Denny with a pistol at his head and went to Wiley and told him that he couldn't kill him himself Wiley came to me and said, "You must do something; I am exposed unless you do." Immediately I rushed into the room with eight or ten men, found him sitting flat on the floor. He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood-pile, and he asked me not to let them kill him.

"Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. Stevens was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek."


While Felix Roan purportedly confessed to participating in the killing of John Walter Stephens and was arrested in connection with the event, he is not listed as a killer by John G. Lea.

Wednesday, February 08, 2023

George & W. E. Williamson, Guardians vs. L. Fels (1870)

State of North Carolina, Superior Court
Caswell County

George & W. E. Williamson, Guardians


L. Fels 

This 1870 lawsuit is interesting in several respects:

1. The defendant is former Yanceyville merchant and postmaster Lazarus Fels (1815-1894) of Fels Naptha Soap fame.

2. Fels no longer lived in North Carolina but apparently owned property there. He moved to Baltimore, Maryland, in 1866.

3. George Williamson and W. E. (most likely Weldon Edwards) Williamson were suing to collect $300 from Fels for slaves "hired" by Fels (and apparently owned by the Williamsons or the person the Williamsons represented).

4. The lawsuit was brought to enforce a contract with respect to people no longer enslaved. Would not such an action be against public policy under the 13th Amendment?

5. Was property owned by Lazarus Fels in North Carolina (most likely in Caswell County) seized and sold to pay the alleged $300 debt.

6. Why did Fels "hire" ("lease/rent") slaves from the Williamsons (or the person represented by them)? How many enslaved people were involved?

7. Note the debt apparently became due December 25, 1865. Why did it take over four years for the lawsuit to be brought? Presumably, the legal chaos immediately following the Civil War contributed to this delay.


The Greensboro Patriot (Greensboro, NC), 24 March 1870.

North Carolina Government in 1869

North Carolina Government in 1869

William W. Holden of Wake County was Governor. He was elected in 1868, with a four-year term running from January 1, 1869.

The General Assembly began its annual session in November each year and was composed of 50 Senators and 120 Representatives. These legislators were elected every two years on the first Thursday in August.

The Supreme Court included a Chief Justice and four Associate Justices, with two terms held each year in Raleigh: commencing the first Monday in January and the first Monday in June (and continuing as long as the public interest required).

R. M. Pearson (Yadkin County) [Chief Justice]
Edwin G. Reade (Person County)
Wm. B. Rodman (Beaufort County)
R. P. Dick (Guilford County)
Thomas Settle (Rockingham County)

The Superior Courts operated in twelve judicial districts, with one judge per district. Judges were elected by the voters of the district and served an eight-year term (annual salary $2,500). This court was required to hold two sessions annually. Caswell County was in the Seventh Judicial District (with the following counties: Alamance, Chatham, Guilford, Orange, Person, Randolph, and Rockingham). Court in Caswell County was held the fourth Monday after the first Monday in March and September.