How Many Members Have Ancestors Who Were Klansmen, Know Nothings, or Draft Rioters?

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Pat Young

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On the few occasions when I have had the opportunity to speak about immigrants in the Civil War at least a few folks come up to me to tell me that someone in their family fought in the war. I observed a few years ago after one presentation that no one ever came up to tell me that an ancestors was a Klansman, a Know Nothing, or had participated in the 1863 Draft Riot.

Anyone here have someone who fits that bill in their family history? If so how does your family process that fact and make sense of it?
 
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major bill

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Pretty much my entire family are Catholics, even those who came over early from Germany. The rest are Scotch/Irish and Irish.
Well because Klansmen throughout there history , and the Know Nothings while they existed were very much anti-Catholic and anti-immigrants, you sadly might be left with a few joining in anti-draft riots.
 

major bill

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To the best of my knowledge no members of my family were in the Know Nothings or the Klan. My dad and mother still lived in a rural area until adults and as far as I know there was little Klan activities in that rural area.
 

John Hartwell

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My ex-wife's family were Swedish immigrants of 1890-1910 period. Several of them were active in the KKK during the teens and early '20s (one of her cousins still has her grandfather's Klan robe). Surprisingly, perhaps, they were quite readily accepted by this later manifestation of the Klan.

The local black population was very small, hugely outnumbered by predominantly Irish and French-Canadian immigrants (with substantial numbers of Italians and Poles as well) all Catholics. They were the principal focus of the Klan's hostility. In fact, to the WASP Yankees, themselves dwindling in numbers, the incoming Swedish Protestants seemed "almost like us" ... not only less threatening but actually a "reinforcement."

For the Swedes, the KKK served pretty much as a white Protestant social club, as it did for many of the Yankee members. By and large the local Klan members found it hard to work up and maintain the kind of aggressive fervor that was expected of them. Membership was shrinking well before the national organization fell apart in the late '20s.

Of my own family, I really do not know. Possibly some Know Nothing association back in the 1850s, wouldn't be surprised. My own father, born in 1895, I know held the Klan in great contempt ... though some relatives never forgave him for marrying an Irish Catholic.
 
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mofederal

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My family were from Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. The Scotch/Irish settled in Northern Ky (1700's and 1800's) then Illinois. The ones in MD moved to Ohio. They were Union Army soldiers, and GAR members and they hated the Klan. The Missourians moved back to Ky after the war, at least those still alive. They were pretty much anti-Klan and they were trying to keep a really low profile due to some legal problems (robbery) in Missouri and Ky..
 

matthew mckeon

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Sadly, my family lacked the um...prerequisites for fine organizations like the Klan and the Know Nothings. Draft dodging as opposed to draft rioting is more likely, but I have no certain knowledge.

The Klan was quite active in Maine went my grandparents were living there, but KKK weren't likely to recruit in the old folks neighborhood.
 
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Pat Young

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My ex-wife's family were Swedish immigrants of 1890-1910 period. Several of them were active in the KKK during the teens and early '20s (one of her cousins still has her grandfather's Klan robe). Surprisingly, perhaps, they were quite readily accepted by this later manifestation of the Klan.

The local black population was very small, hugely outnumbered by predominantly Irish and French-Canadian immigrants (with substantial numbers of Italians and Poles as well) all Catholics. They were the principal focus of the Klan's hostility. In fact, to the WASP Yankees, themselves dwindling in numbers, the incoming Swedish Protestants seemed "almost like us" ... not only less threatening but actually a "reinforcement."

For the Swedes, the KKK served pretty much as a white Protestant social club, as it did for many of the Yankee members. By and large the local Klan members found it hard to work up and maintain the kind of aggressive fervor that was expected of them. Membership was shrinking well before the national organization fell apart in the late '20s.

Of my own family, I really do not know. Possibly some Know Nothing association back in the 1850s, wouldn't be surprised. My own father, born in 1895, I know held the Klan in great contempt ... though some relatives never forgave him for marrying an Irish Catholic.
Thanks John.
 

Pat Young

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My ex-wife's family were Swedish immigrants of 1890-1910 period. Several of them were active in the KKK during the teens and early '20s (one of her cousins still has her grandfather's Klan robe). Surprisingly, perhaps, they were quite readily accepted by this later manifestation of the Klan.

The local black population was very small, hugely outnumbered by predominantly Irish and French-Canadian immigrants (with substantial numbers of Italians and Poles as well) all Catholics. They were the principal focus of the Klan's hostility. In fact, to the WASP Yankees, themselves dwindling in numbers, the incoming Swedish Protestants seemed "almost like us" ... not only less threatening but actually a "reinforcement."

For the Swedes, the KKK served pretty much as a white Protestant social club, as it did for many of the Yankee members. By and large the local Klan members found it hard to work up and maintain the kind of aggressive fervor that was expected of them. Membership was shrinking well before the national organization fell apart in the late '20s.

Of my own family, I really do not know. Possibly some Know Nothing association back in the 1850s, wouldn't be surprised. My own father, born in 1895, I know held the Klan in great contempt ... though some relatives never forgave him for marrying an Irish Catholic.
I recall reading that in Milwaukee, members of the Socialist Party formed an alliance with the KKK to keep the Catholics down.
 

colt45texan

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I suspect a few were involved after the war but have no proof.

My g grandfather Jon Watson Scoggin had to leave Catoosa, Ga. because he killed or nearly killed someone there. He feared the yankee authorities were looking for him. Two brothers left with him. One was accidently killed when his gun went off when crossing a river. They landed in NE Arkansas for a short time. John got married and moved on to Texas. His brother stayed in Arkansas a couple of year, married, and then moved back to Ga.

Back in Texas, the yankee authorities were confiscating food to give to the Freedmans Bureau, They came to my gg grandfather's place, Selen Stout, but my gg grandmother sat in a chair and her hoop skirt cover the hatch door that led down into the root cellar. They were also hunting her sons who hid out when they saw them coming. At this time things
had gotten so bad in Hopkins Co. that the occupying yankees had to build a stockade around their HQ. They ruled the days but stayed locked up at night. The "klan" in Texas back then was called "the Knights of the Rising Sun' and were led by Col. Crump.
 
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archieclement

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None that I know of, most of family indeed did serve, First in MSG then CSA, with one who went to Quincy to join the 21st Il, and least one who stayed home and eventually served in MSM so no draft dodgers. The Klan wasn't active in this area, hear very little of them and nothing in connection to the family, never heard anything about any being know nothings, I assume they were democrat, but in many of the cases haven't ever heard any detailed particular party affiliations for them.
Would assume 1st and 2nd generation would have assumed themselves as southern as from there or raised by parents from there. I know the last three, me, parents and grandparents consider themselves mid western
 
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tony_gunter

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The man I knew as my grandfather (actually, step-grandfather) was a Klansman during my childhood. It was interesting to be watching T.V. with him around M.L.K. day when the station would run an in memoriam commercial for Dr. King ... guy would get spitting mad and fling things at the television.

My GGG Grandfather was George Washington Gunter, a member of the 5th Mississippi Cavalry, one of the first units over the wall at Fort Pillow. The 5th Mississippi Cavalry was a collection of state units (slave patrol / militia) consolidated into Confederate cavalry after 1863. I have no record of him being in the Klan, but I wouldn't be surprised since the Klan was basically just these local units wearing hoods and operating in secret.
 
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Pat Young

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Lawrence Daffan, about whom I’ve written on several occasions, joined the Klan in 1868 in Texas. (There was surge in Klan activity here in the run-up to the election that fall.) I don’t know how long he was a member, or what his specific involvement was.
I am just now reading about the Klan in Texas in 1868. Thanks for responding Andy.
 

Joshism

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I observed a few years ago after one presentation that no one ever came up to tell me that an ancestors was a Klansman, a Know Nothing, or had participated in the 1863 Draft Riot.
It's easy to prove Civil War service because there are official records.

It's not unusual to find someone's political persuasions from who they named their kids after. Besides the ever popular Robert Lee (second in popularity only to George Washington it seems), I've come across quite a few people in the late 1860s named after Ulysses Grant. I've also seen Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Jefferson Davis, and even one James Buchanan (talk about a diehard Democrat!). I guess someone born in 1856 named after Millard Fillmore might be a Know Nothing, but that's about it. (Lincoln, in my experience, is not a popular namesake.)

Unless oral history came down there is almost no chance of knowing if your ancestor was a draft rioter.

Absense of Civil War service might say something about views on the war, or might not. My direct ancestor was old enough to fight in the war, unmarried, lived in southern Kentucky, and named his son after Robert E. Lee. But there's no record of him serving. Did he want to, but stayed home to help his widowed mother and the family farm?

A large branch of my family tree sat out the war because they were Brethern, a German pacifist denomination. But they lived in eastern WV, a very divided area. Unless they named a son for Grant or Lee it's hard to tell which side they supported.

The Klan at least left behind membership cards, robes, and other evidence. Yet unlike grandpa's musket these are things an embarrassed descendant would probably hastily destroyed. Given nearly all branches of my ancestors were all white protestants with ancestry dating back pre-Revoluntion and most lived in KY, VA, or WV I would be shocked if none of them had Klan memberships, especially in the 1920s. But I also have no proof either.

There's also of course the general issue of pride. Military service is widely considered something to be proud of wheras draft riots and the Klan usually aren't (and the vast majority of people don't know the Know Nothings ever existed).
 
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