Ku Klux Klan in Smith’s Falls

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Racism and bigotry is not unknown in Canada, although we often like to think that we’re in a better place in that regard. Sometimes it is best to let history speak for itself. The following are excerpts from the local newspapers for September 1927 and 1928. They record the annual gathering of the Ku Klux Klan at Smith’s Falls, when Klan members from all over the district gathered to intimidate and impress. It is hard to believe that this happened in this area so recently, or at all. However, the Klan had a significant increase in support in Ontario in the 1920’s, and tapped into a relatively widespread fear among the rural parts of the Province following the end of the First World War that Canada was losing its Protestant British identity. The popularity of Klan meetings faded by the end of the decade, although it remained popular in Western Canada until recently, but it is a chilling reminder of what has happened, and what can happen, when bigotry and prejudice are given freedom.

KKK meeting in London, Ontario, 1925

KLANSMEN HOLD CONCLAVE NEAR SMITH’S FALLS

The fiery cross of the Ku Klux Klan blazed forth in Smith’s Falls last night when the K.K.K. held their annual gathering in a field on the outskirts of the town. A huge throng turned out to attend the meeting and hundreds of motor cars entered the field.

White robed members of the Klan rode through the crowds keeping order and now and then shouting commands in gruff disguised voices but others, whether intentionally or in forgetfulness, raised their masks and rode around with their faces in full view. The Klansmen wore the usual peaked hood and white robes and the robes were decorated with the Klan insignia on one side and a green maple leaf in a red circle on the other. The horses wore white covers and hoods with the letters K.K.K. painted upon them in bright red. [August 20, 1927]

Escorted Off Field

Only Protestants were allowed into the grounds and those entering had to pass sentries. Four Klansmen guarded the gate, and once inside a visitor met a white figure carrying an old-fashioned sword. Inside the grounds more mounted members of the Klan trotted here and there keeping an eye open and more than one who had got safely by the main guards was escorted off the field.

A steady stream of motor cars continued through the grounds all day and many American and Quebec licenses were noted. The field was decorated with hundreds of Union Jacks. Many children were noticed among the crowd and some were tiny tots who were hardly able to toddle along, and had to be assisted by bigger brothers and sisters. Hundreds of women also attended the meeting.

After darkness had fallen the crosses were ignited and the blazing symbols could be seen even from the centre of the town. The crosses were five in number and ranged from 30 to 70 feet in height. The largest cross presented an impressing scene as it burst into flames and illuminated the field, showing the white-robed figures.
[Sep. 1, 1927]

LARGE RALLY HELD BY KU KLUX KLAN AT SMITH’S FALLS

Ku Klux Klansmen from every part of the district gathered in Smiths Falls for their annual demonstration and this year the event was witnessed by one of the largest crowds that ever thronged the field on the outskirts of the town. Several hundred motor cars drove to the field and many new members were initiated. The Klan demonstration had been expected for several days and Smiths Falls citizens awoke on Saturday morning to find that members of the invisible empire had been busy during the night at several of the most important street corners the symbolic letters KIGY were painted upon the streets, and a huge arrow directed the curious to the large field where the demonstration was being held. The letters, KIGY mean Klan is Gathering Yonder.

Klansmen in full regalia patrolled the grounds this afternoon and evening and the rule of admitting only white gentile, protestants was once again very strictly observed.

Picturesque scenes were witnessed as the whiterobed Klansmen rode here and there directing traffic and keeping a watchful eye on everything. Five crosses were set ablaze this evening to wind up the ceremonies. Four of the crosses were some 40 feet in height while the fifth towered about sixty feet above the grounds. It is estimated that three or four thousand people visited the grounds during the day. Speakers harangued the crowd from platforms and soap boxes scattered here and there, and there was much to impress and entertain the curious.
[September 13, 1928]

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