The Klan and Nathan Bedford Forrest

Georgia Coast

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OK, the thread title was bait-and-switch. I'm actually interested in Nathan Bedford Forrest II, That Guy's grandson, and his involvement in the "new Klan" of 1915. I recently came across some historical material that indicates that while the original Nate officially disbanded the first Klan, one or more of his descendants had a continuing loyalty. According to what I've read, his grandson was present at the birth of the new Klan on Stone Mountain -- in fact, administered the oath of fealty -- and went on to be Georgia's Grand Dragon in the 1920s and eventually filled the role of the organization's national secretary.

Because of the tremendous respect I bear for Nateb1, I believe it's possible That Guy had a genuine spiritual change of heart on some major issues -- she knows his history a thousand times better than I do and has weighed the evidence, so I am willing to accept the possibility that Forrest did not maintain his pre-war and early post-war attitudes to the very end of his life. But my post is NOT asking whether or not Forrest's break with the original Klan was sincere or whether he did or did not change his viewpoint about African-Americans -- we've pretty much beaten that horse to shoe leather. What I want to know is, are the sources of this information about his grandson credible in the opinion of forum members? Is his involvement accepted by most historians? Was the WWII war hero and GREAT-grandson also involved with the Klan or have careless sources confused the two men at times? Many of the sources I see are from less-than-reputable Klan histories, but others look more legit, and there appears to be a short piece in a 1931 volume of Time that I can't fully access. Do any of you have Genealogy Bank or Newspaper Archive subscriptions and can find historical news accounts?
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
I'd not heard that about Forrest's descendants being actively involved with the "new" Klan of the 1910s and 20s. That's interesting, if true. I did come across a Denver Post article from the August 15, 1912 (p. 2) that identifies N. B. Forrest, Jr., as the long-time Adjutant General of the SCV, so there may be some crossed wires in the telling there. The Confederate Veteran magazine was running all sorts of features and promotions for books about the Reconstruction-era Klan during roughly that same period (especially after Birth of a Nation came out), so there's some potential for confusion and mis-attribution there.

As I say, interesting if true, but with Forrest and the Klan being such a hot-button topic (here and elsewhere), I'd expect another familial link to be better known.
 
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Nathanb1

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Someone mentioned this not long ago on some thread or other, but didn't provide any real documentation. That being said, it was certainly being marketed well, and wouldn't surprise me in that time and place. As Andy said, I'd think it would be pretty well known (secret organization though the pointy-headed ones supposedly are!)
 

Barrycdog

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Jan 6, 2013
Location
Buford, Georgia
OK, the thread title was bait-and-switch. I'm actually interested in Nathan Bedford Forrest II, That Guy's grandson, and his involvement in the "new Klan" of 1915. I recently came across some historical material that indicates that while the original Nate officially disbanded the first Klan, one or more of his descendants had a continuing loyalty. According to what I've read, his grandson was present at the birth of the new Klan on Stone Mountain -- in fact, administered the oath of fealty -- and went on to be Georgia's Grand Dragon in the 1920s and eventually filled the role of the organization's national secretary.

Because of the tremendous respect I bear for Nateb1, I believe it's possible That Guy had a genuine spiritual change of heart on some major issues -- she knows his history a thousand times better than I do and has weighed the evidence, so I am willing to accept the possibility that Forrest did not maintain his pre-war and early post-war attitudes to the very end of his life. But my post is NOT asking whether or not Forrest's break with the original Klan was sincere or whether he did or did not change his viewpoint about African-Americans -- we've pretty much beaten that horse to shoe leather. What I want to know is, are the sources of this information about his grandson credible in the opinion of forum members? Is his involvement accepted by most historians? Was the WWII war hero and GREAT-grandson also involved with the Klan or have careless sources confused the two men at times? Many of the sources I see are from less-than-reputable Klan histories, but others look more legit, and there appears to be a short piece in a 1931 volume of Time that I can't fully access. Do any of you have Genealogy Bank or Newspaper Archive subscriptions and can find historical news accounts?

With all these questions in mind
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest_II
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest_III

There is a lot of details in Proquest Historic Atlanta Constitution papers. I had a free subscription while I was at Gainesville State College but no access now possibly through the library you can get it through Galileo. The Digital library of Georgia has some details too.

What I want to know is, are the sources of this information about his grandson credible in the opinion of forum members?
Some things were quoted by N B Forrest II

Was the WWII war hero and GREAT-grandson also involved with the Klan or have careless sources confused the two men at times?
I believe the N. B. F. III was a sterling character. He attended West Point.

Which leads me to ask a question. Irregardless of whether the three were in the KKK, where does your reasoning lead? The Klan had many thousands of members across the United States and some of its largest memberships in Northern states. Naturally if NBF was one of the most popular members and an organization would seek out someone with Nathan's stature so they would approach his descendants. In that hay day time, the opportunity to be recognized would not be spurned.

Lets take another example. Albert Pike, He supported freemasonry and it is also said he was influential in the Klan. Does freemasonry then suffer guilt by association? Is racism or Klan involvement hereditary? Or is it part of the human condition? A condition that can only be changed as you said through spiritual reformation.
 

AndyHall

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Joined
Dec 13, 2011
Barry, @Georgia Coast doesn't strike me as the hair-on-fire sort who's trying to make broad inference. I think she's simply looking for corroboration of what she's found.
 

Barrycdog

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Location
Buford, Georgia
Barry, @Georgia Coast doesn't strike me as the hair-on-fire sort who's trying to make broad inference. I think she's simply looking for corroboration of what she's found.

That's fine, but I know I saw the article in regard to Nathan Bedford Forrest III in the Proquest Historic Atlanta Constitution papers through GALILEO but like Fold3 I cant afford to access.

upload_2013-9-1_18-42-14.png


Atlanta Georgian and News, Mar. 4, 1911 -- page 9
 

jgoodguy

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As moderator:

Post Civil War History, The Reconstruction Period is a better forum for this.
 
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Elliott Bay
The Confederate Resistance of Reconstruction was a different animal than the Klan of the 1910s. Other than the propaganda of The Klansman and Birth of a Nation the second Klan had little connection with the Civil War was more a multi-level marketing scheme. As pointed out, tens of thousands of Americans joined up, often as they exited movie theaters having seen Birth. There were road shows all over the country with rallies attracting many who were also solicited for membership. The second Klan fed off existing racism and anti-semitism.
 

AndyHall

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Dec 13, 2011
The Confederate Resistance of Reconstruction was a different animal than the Klan of the 1910s.

That's why it would be interesting if one of Forrest's descendants was involved in the latter group in some meaningful way. That remains to be seen, though.
 

Georgia Coast

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Florida
OK, searching further with Mac software, I did a little better. Not all of these sources are equally credible, but this link to the announcement of his attaining the office of Grand Dragon seems conclusive:

http://news.google.com/newspapers?n...Q4nAAAAIBAJ&sjid=RwMGAAAAIBAJ&pg=7182,6238795

I don't see anything at all linking Nathan Bedford Forrest III (his great-grandson, killed in
WWII) with the Klan, so I think that's a case of confusion between the two men.

I also found this info on a genealogy website (roots web/ancestry), but don't have the ability to provide direct links to the Georgia papers she references, but perhaps someone else with better access can verify the accuracy of her transcriptions:

Per Marie Palmer: Drowned in Savannah.

1/8/2001: From Chriss Perkins:

From the records of Eloise Davis Perkins:
------------------------------------------------------
Ida Elizabeth Thames drowned in the Savannah River as the result of a boating accident.

Savannah Morning News, Monday, 05 Sep 1927 [Labor Day]
----------------------------------------------------------
(Beginning of column one, page 14)

TWO PERISH IN SWIMMING
---------
Mrs. Kyle Ramsey ad K. A. Watson Drown in Inlet
---------
OFF ST. CATHERINE'S
--------
Caught in a Strong Ebb Tide Sunday Afternoon
--------
BODIES WASHED ASHORE
--------
Valiant Efforts at Resuce Prove Unavailing
--------

Caught in the relentless ebb-tide undertow at the northeast point of St. Catherines Island yesterday afternoon at about 3 o'clock, K. E. Watson of Register and Mrs. Ida Thames Ramsey, wife of Kyle Ramsey of Atlanta, were swept under the surface and drowned.

All attempts to resuscitate them failed. The two were members of a party which had just started a week-end cruise. The others in the group were Gen. Nathan B. Forrest of Atlanta, grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan; Mrs. Forrest and their two little girls; T. J. McKinnon, Atlanta, supervisor of industrial plants of the Ku Klux Klan; Chief of Staff Watson to the grand dragon; Kyle Ramsey, husband of the drowned woman, imperial klaliff of the fraternal organization of the Ku Klux Klan. Several of them were in danger of being drowned by the surging current but managed to reach shore safely.

At the end of St. Catherines Island, where the drowning occurred, the water rushed out to sea upon the ebbing tide with a pace that cannot be resisted even by the strongest of swimmers. The week-end party, using the "Seagull," the launch of Chief John H. Monroe of the Savannah fire department, had anchored about a mile off shore and had gotten into a rowboat and landed on the beach. While they were making a landing another launch, containing Charles Francis Coe of New York, Nelson T. Stephens of the Board of Trade, Andrew Aprea and H. Wallace Sipple, was about five miles out to sea. They saw the other boat and headed toward the land, thinking that Chief Monroe was in the group. However, upon hailing the colored tender of the "Seagull," they learned that a group of Chief Monroe's friends were using the boat.

The other launch then headed out to sea again. As the boat passed through the high rolling waves, the people bathing could be seen plainly. They were about half a mile from the dangerous point at the time and apparently all were having an enjoyable time. In the meantime, the boat containing Mr. Sipple and his friends, Mr. Coe, Mr. Stephens and Mr. Aprea, had been out about nine or ten miles in the ocean and was returning, when the colored man aboard Chief Monroe's boat could be seen standing on the vessel, wildly waving a white object, giving a distress signal. The course of the other boat was immediately changed and when in hailing distance, the colored man shouted to the crew of the moving launch that all of the party was drowned. Scanning the beach, none of the people on the beach could be seen.

While the other men on the boat prepared to launch the row-boat to come to the beach, Mr. Sipple dove into the sea and swam to the beach, a distance of approximately a mile. Mr. Sipple was afraid that the little bateau could not weather the high waves so took the quickest means of reaching the people in distress. Around the point he found the two drowned people, their bodies having been washed ashore by the waves. Mr. Watson made a valiant but ineffective effort to save Mrs. Ramsey before he met death himself. Using Mr. Sipple's arched-body as a support, as much water as possible was removed from the two bodies and artificial respiration was then begun, with everyone on the party that was able to take part, giving assistance.

After an extended period of time, life was pronounced extinct and the saddened people began the homeward trip. The bodies of Mrs. Ramsey and Mr. Watson were taken in the launch with the relief group and brought to Savannah.

The story of the tragedy as told by M. O. Dunning, port collector, revealed that it was only by a stroke of fortune that the entire party was not drowned in the undertow that swept Mrs. Ramsey and Mr. Watson to their death.

Shortly after 3 o'clock the yacht anchored off St. Catherine's inlet, and the party rowed to shore in a skiff to go in swimming, Mr. Dunning said. After they had been bathing a few minutes a strong undertow engulfed the swimmers, and while successful efforts were being made to save the two little children of General and Mrs. Forrest, Mrs. Ramsey and Mr. Watson were carried out to sea.

Aid was rushed to them as soon as possible, but it was found to be too late. They had collapsed before they could be rescued, and when brought to shore life was extinct. Several hours of artificial respiration failed to restore the vital spark.

During the few minutes that the undertow was sweeping over the party it seemed as though they would all suffer a death by drowning, Mr. Dunning said. Only a fierce battle against the sea and by giving each other aid were any able to be saved, it was said.

***

Savannah Morning News, Tuesday, 06 Sep 1927
----------------------------------------------------------
(Lower section of column two, page 5)

TO BURY VICTIMS AT THEIR HOMES
---------------
Mrs. Ida Ramsey and K. E. Watson Were Drowned

Sent to their respective homes for funeral and interment, the body of Mrs. Ida Thomas [sic] Ramsey of Atlanta, and that f Karl E. Watson, of Register, left Savannah yesterday. The two were drowned off St. Catherine's Isalnd on Sunday afternoon, following a swimming party, which came to an end when the dangerous undercurrents swept Mrs. Ramsey and Mr. Watson to their deaths.

The body of Mrs. Ramsey left Savannah last night at 9 o'clock over the Central of Georgia Railway, going to Atlanta, while the body of Mr. Watson was sent by Sipple Brothers hearse to his home. Mrs. Ramsey was the wife of Kyle Ramsey, imperial klaliff of the national organization of Ku Klux Klan. Besides her husband she is survived by her father, William Thames, Nicholson, Miss.; two sisters, Mrs. Herman Perkins, Holapaw, Fla., and Miss Lillie Thomas [sic] of Taylortown, Miss.; and one brother, William E. Thames, of Picayune, Miss. Funeral services are to be conducted in Atlanta by Rev. Brewer, with interment at the Beechhead Cemetery.

-----------------

Shock to His Friends

Statesboro, Ga., Sept. 5. - The sad and untimely death of Karl E. Watson who drowned yesterday afternoon at St. Catherine's Island near Savannah in his attempt to save the life of a woman from Atlanta, who was a member of the week-end cruise of a party of friends, an account of which reached this city at daylight this morning through the Morning News, was a shock to this community.

Mr. Watson was a resident of Register, Bulloch county, but for many years resided in this city and numbered his friends by his acquaintances here. At one time he was the proprietor of a drug store in this city, and married Miss Frankie Register, daughter of the late F. P. Register, and the family later moved to the Bulloch county town of that name. For a number of years Mr. Watson was a progressive merchant of Register, eventually selling out and entering into other vocations. He is survived by his widow and ten children.

Mr. Watson was prominent in many respects. He was one of the prime movers in the installation of pure swine in Bulloch county and has always taken a leading part in the Bulloch county fair, being one of its officers and largest exhibtors.

The funeral arrangements have not been perfected, but according to the Olliff Funeral Home, who went to Savannah to bring the body back to his home, the interment will be in Lott's Creek cemetery in the family burying ground.

[additional info on this site, not verified]

Nathan Bedford Forrest II: Born 1872 in Oxford, Miss. Married Mattie Patton of Memphis, Tenn.

He lived for many years in Memphis, Tenn. where he was connected with the Equitable Life Insurance
Co. He had also been in business with his father as a railroad and levee contractor. He left Memphis about 1919 and made his home in Atlanta. He also spent 5 years in Alaska as a miner and prospector.

For a number of years he had taken an active interest in the Ku Klux Klan, which had it's headquarters in Atlanta. At the time of his death he held the Honorary position of Imperial Klokann, an office in the national organization. He also held the position as Grand Dragon of Georgia.

He died March 13, 1931 in White Springs, Florida of a paralytic stroke.

He had one son Nathan Bedford Forrest III [05 Apr 1905 - 13 Jun 1942, WWII], and three daughters, Nary Helen, (sic) Nandy and Martha.

Source: Genealogy Gateway: Forrest Family Page. Descendants of Lt. General Nathan Bedford Forrest
http://members.aol.com/harley1369/nbf.html

Other sources include:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Bedford_Forrest_II
http://books.google.com/books?

http://stonemountain.com/history

id=tY0p3gZhMTkC&pg=PA187&lpg=PA187&dq=nathan+forrest+grandson+grand+dragon&source=bl&ots=mYEVO-6SJz&sig=JsDNJWU-LTuivJa2SBnKDRca0ec&hl=en&sa=X&ei=ptEjUv3gK4aC9gTC9YCwCw&sqi=2&ved=0CF8Q6AEwCg#v=onepage&q=nathan%20forrest%20grandson%20grand%20dragon&f=false

http://books.google.com/books?id=DJ...=nathan forrest grandson grand dragon&f=false

Also, from CSAPartisan.com:

Nathan Bedford Forrest, II, the General's grandson, moved to Atlanta and became the assistant of William J. Simmons, leader of the neo-Klan that became very active in Georgia during the Klan's twentieth-century rebirth. He served as the grand dragon of the Georgia Klan and as the organization's national secretary for five years.

Nathan Bedford Forrest, III, an Army Air Corps Brigadier General, commanded twenty-six B-17 aircraft. In a 1943 bombing run over Kiel, Germany, his plane was shot down, and he became the first American general to die in combat in the European theatre in World War II. With three daughters, he became the final male Forrest in his great-grandfather's direct line.
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
@ Georgia Coast, now that I have a reference point specific to Forrest II and the Georgia division, yes, there are a slew of newspaper stories either mentioning his appointment or referring to him in that role in other contexts, such as this, from p. 8 of the July 9, 1922 Macon Telegraph:

Forrest Macon Telegraph 9 July 1922 p 8.jpg
 
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Georgia Coast

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Location
Florida
@ Georgia Coast, now that I have a reference point specific to Forrest II and the Georgia division, yes, there are a slew of newspaper stories either mentioning his appointment or referring to him in that role in other contexts.

Thanks for the help. Once I got onto the Mac and started searching with something other than Google, I started finding credible sources. The Klan itself wants to imply an involvement by NBF III, but I don't see anything that backs that up. (OTOH, the men involved in the debacle that led to his death seemed to not think highly of him, but for entirely other issues).
 

AndyHall

Colonel
Joined
Dec 13, 2011
The Klan leadership role is splattered all over his death notices in March 1931, too. I'd call it done. I wasn't aware of this angle at all.

Forrest Tampa Tribune 13 March 1931 p 2.png
 

David Polk

Cadet
Joined
Mar 28, 2017
OK, the thread title was bait-and-switch. I'm actually interested in Nathan Bedford Forrest II, That Guy's grandson, and his involvement in the "new Klan" of 1915. I recently came across some historical material that indicates that while the original Nate officially disbanded the first Klan, one or more of his descendants had a continuing loyalty. According to what I've read, his grandson was present at the birth of the new Klan on Stone Mountain -- in fact, administered the oath of fealty -- and went on to be Georgia's Grand Dragon in the 1920s and eventually filled the role of the organization's national secretary.

Because of the tremendous respect I bear for Nateb1, I believe it's possible That Guy had a genuine spiritual change of heart on some major issues -- she knows his history a thousand times better than I do and has weighed the evidence, so I am willing to accept the possibility that Forrest did not maintain his pre-war and early post-war attitudes to the very end of his life. But my post is NOT asking whether or not Forrest's break with the original Klan was sincere or whether he did or did not change his viewpoint about African-Americans -- we've pretty much beaten that horse to shoe leather. What I want to know is, are the sources of this information about his grandson credible in the opinion of forum members? Is his involvement accepted by most historians? Was the WWII war hero and GREAT-grandson also involved with the Klan or have careless sources confused the two men at times? Many of the sources I see are from less-than-reputable Klan histories, but others look more legit, and there appears to be a short piece in a 1931 volume of Time that I can't fully access. Do any of you have Genealogy Bank or Newspaper Archive subscriptions and can find historical news accounts?
 
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