Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

The Klansman

Posted in African Americans, Memory by Andy Hall on July 14, 2013

DaffanLawrence Aylett Daffan (right, 1845-1907) is a collateral Confederate ancestor of mine, one of a few who left behind any detailed account of his wartime service. He led a remarkable life. His family moved to Texas from Conecuh County, Alabama in 1849. After his father died in July 1859, fourteen-year-old Lawrence went to work to help support his widowed mother, carrying the mails between Montgomery and Washington Counties, Texas, in 1859. Later, at the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, Lawrence was working as a wagoner. In the spring of 1862, shortly after his 17th birthday, he enlisted at Anderson, Texas in Company G of the Fourth Texas Infantry. He fought in the major engagements of his regiment, part of the famous Texas Brigade, including Second Manassas, Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. It was in this last action that he received what he jokingly described as his only wartime injury, a very slight one, when a Minié ball struck his rifle and knocked him down. It was at Chickamauga, too that he witnessed the incident where John Bell Hood was wounded, that Daffan believed to be a case of friendly fire. Private Daffan was captured at Lenore Station in November 1863, during the Chattanooga Campaign, and spent the remainder of the war as a prisoner at Rock Island, Illinois.

Returning to Texas in July 1865, Daffan soon found a job as a brakeman on the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. The postwar decades were boom times for the railroads in Texas, which expanded rapidly. Daffan moved his way up steadily through the company, successively serving as conductor, train master, station agent, and, from 1889, superintendent of the railroad’s Second Division.

In 1872, he married a local girl from Brenham, Mollie Day, and together they had six  children, four sons and two daughters. All of their children survived to adulthood, all of them had good educations, and the eldest, Katie, became a noted author in her own right. Although he had little formal schooling himself, Lawrence Daffan valued education highly, and reportedly was an avid reader, though mostly of conventional tastes — Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, and, of course, the Bible. He was active in a wide range of fraternal organizations, and especially dedicated to Confederate veterans’ activities, including the Hood’s Texas Brigade Association, an effort which earned him the honorific title of “Colonel,” which he carried proudly until his death.

Lawrence Daffan was seriously injured in a train derailment near Corsicana in September 1898, losing two fingers and being severely banged up. Though he recovered, his health was much more precarious after that. He stepped down as superintendent of the H&TC’s Second Division in 1904, to become General Agent for Transportation for the entire railroad, a position he held until his death. In January 1907, at the age of sixty-one, Daffan was suddenly taken ill at his office in Ennis. Carried to his home a few blocks away, he died there that evening. Obituaries were printed in newspapers across the state, and tributes, floral arrangements and formal resolutions from groups he belonged to were published in the paper. His funeral was one of the biggest events Ennis had seen. The H&TC ran special, free trains from Denison at the northern end of the line, and Houston at the southern, to Ennis to accommodate hundreds of mourners who came to town just to pay their last respects at the funeral.

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Lawrence Daffan as Superintendent of the Second division of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, Ennis, Texas. c. 1900. This photo, and the one at top, are from Katie Daffan’s My Father as I Remember Him.

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Daffan was, by all accounts, a respected and admired member of his community — multiple communities, in fact: civic, professional and veteran. He was a self-made man in the best, 19th-century sense of the term, starting out after the Civil War as a twenty-year-old veteran with little education and few prospects, worked his way up to the top levels of his profession. He provided for his widowed mother, his siblings and his own family, saw to his children’s education, and worked for the growth and betterment of his community. He was, in almost every respect, an exemplar of 19th century success through hard work and dedication to traditional values of home, family and church.

He was also a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

KlansmenDaffan’s membership in the Klan has been public knowledge for almost 20 years now, having been published with his profile in 1996 in the New Handbook of Texas, a standard reference work on Texas history. It was subsequently included in the online version of that publication. But it’s a serious allegation nonetheless, and it took me a long time to track down a copy of the original source. The source is, in fact, the privately-published memorial book prepared after Lawrence Daffan’s death by his eldest daughter, Katie.[1]

Apart from the bare fact of his membership in the Klan, beginning in 1868, there’s nothing else specific included in the volume. In what ways he was involved, what activities he took part in, or for how long, all remains unknown to me. Daffan himself, in an autobiographical essay dictated to his daughter, makes only a brief reference to it, without mentioning the group by name:

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When I arrived home, of course we had no money, nothing.
 
Courts were all disorganized, and there was no law. I found out then that we need law to protect property. We do not need it to protect life; that is, among the American people. It does not take them long to organize and deal out common justice to all evil doers, as any authorized court or organized law. [2]

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This brief passage might not mean much to modern ears, but no Southerner a century ago could mistake that Daffan was speaking of the Klan during Reconstruction, or that he was making a general endorsement of its activities during that period. He equated the activities of the Reconstruction-era Klan with the will of the “American people,” and as an instrument of “common justice.”

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Lawrence Daffan joined the Klan sometime in 1868, during the run-up to presidential election of that year, when membership in the group appears to have exploded across the South. Texas, Mississippi and Virginia were still under martial law and did not participate in the presidential vote, but Klan activities surged nonetheless. While the Klan lingered for years in other former Confederate states, in Texas it appears to have rapidly surged, peaked and receded during that year.

In 1868, Daffan was living with his widowed mother and younger siblings in Hempstead, a market town northwest of Houston. The year before, the Houston & Texas Central had bought another, smaller railroad running between Hempstead and Brenham, about 25 miles away. Daffan was assigned as train conductor on this route, running four trains a day, both passengers and freight, between the two towns. Daffan remained on this route for three years, until the H&TC began extending the route further west, ultimately to Austin. The old H&TC line between Hempstead and Brenham was torn up long ago, but it very roughly paralleled the route of Texas Highway 290 today.

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Remains of the bridge of the Houston & Texas Central crossing the Brazos River, by Patrick Feller. In 1868 Lawrence Daffan served as conductor on combined freight and passengers trains running between Hempstead and Brenham over this route, crossing this bridge four times daily. Used under Creative Commons license.

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While Daffan’s involvement with the Klan in 1868 (and possibly later) is unknown, his job with the railroad would have made him a familiar face along the route. He must have known a great many people in both Austin and Washington Counties, connections that likely both drew him into the Klan. Given his role as a conductor, going back and forth between Brenham and Hempstead every day, it’s even possible he carried messages back and forth between cells of night riders in the two counties.

Texas newspapers that spring were filled with stories about the mysterious “Ku Kluxes,” — what their purpose was, whether they were active in the local area, and whether they actually existed at all. Newspapers published cryptic, ominous-sounding notices signed by “the Great Grand Cyclops,” warning that “the hour to act has come. The knife and pistol to us are given, the foreman’s chains must now be riven.” In San Antonio it was reported that the Klan had announced their presence with a late-night procession of a dozen closed carriages, their curtains drawn and their lamps extinguished, “all as still as death, save the leading one, in which was a musical instrument, playing mournful tunes.” At least one newspaper, the Galveston Republican, took the opportunity to engage in a little bit of dismissive snark. When anonymous and threatening Klan flyers appeared mysteriously at the Galveston Republican’s office, the editor declined to print them, saying that “these missives for the future must be accompanied by cash. We refer the Grand Cyclops to our advertising rates.”[3]

Individual newspapers, which were often closely aligned with political parties and candidates, sometimes editorialized in support or opposition to the Klan. By the summer of 1868, a daily Klan newspaper, the Ku Klux Vedette, was being printed in Houston. The Dallas Weekly Herald described the Vedette as “a real live, spicy and ably edited little daily. . . . We wish it abundant success.”[4] The Brenham Banner newspaper finally broke up in 1869 when its editors, D. L. McGary, a Klan supporter, and George W. Reynolds, a supporter of the Union League, dissolved their partnership.[5]

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An 1867 Harpers Weekly cartoon by Thomas Nast, ridiculing both freedmen voting for the first time, and resentful, disenfranchised former Confederates.

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No paper in the state was diligent in speaking out against the Klan than the Austin Republican, speaking out against both reports of its rise in other states and in Texas. In May 1868, it lamented Democratic-leaning newspapers, like the Nashville Union and Dispatch, that had rationalized the Klan as being a natural outcome of the “need” for such vigilantism:

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It is lamentable that the morals of any portion of the people of this country have become so debauched, that the most infamous plots and the most horrible crimes can be conceived and perpetrated, in shameless and open defiance of the laws of God and man, and of every principle which should govern civilized society, and be upheld and approved by paritizan newspapers and public leaders.
 
The Democratic party of to-day is the shameless apologist of every species of outrage and crime, now I being perpetrated in the Southern, :States by ex-confederate soldiers and brigands, as it was during the war ‘of treason and rebellion. The hope of the country, and the security of life and property, depend now, as they did during the war, upon the triumph of the great party which crushed the armed hosts of the rebellion. The perfidy of a recreant President has rekindled the watch fires of treason, and unless the diabolism of these infuriated wretches be soon checked, it will culminate in another civil war.[6]

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The Republican was more direct, two days later: “The Ku Klux Klan is an order of banded assassins sworn to assassinate men for political opinions.” [7]

But whatever doubts some newspaper editors had, or claimed to have, the Klan was real. John Allan Wyeth, a former Confederate soldier and klansman, detailed some of the tactics of violence and intimidation used by the night riders during this period. Although he was describing his own experience in Alabama, the same methods were used across the South during Reconstruction:

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The history of my own county will suffice to illustrate the method of the Klan. The negroes were meeting at night in the suburbs of Guntersville, where they were harangued and drilled by a carpet-bagger who had had himself elected to some profitable office. Within a fortnight an ex-lieutenant of my company and an ex-captain of the Army of Northern Virginia, without reproach both as soldiers and citizens, disguised with masks and gowns, late at night, at the muzzle of a pistol arrested this man, conducted him into the woods a mile from the village, stripped him to the waist, and thrashed him with hickory switches until he begged for mercy. They then told him that if he was in the county at sunset of the next day he would never get beyond its limits alive. They didn’t have to kill him, but they would have done it had he not left, never to be heard of again. The leading negroes were called to the doors of their cabins at dead of night by mounted and masked men who in sepulchral tones told them that the ghosts of the dead from the battle-fields were wandering back to warn them to beware of strangers and stay at home on election days. In extreme cases, in which danger of recognition involved arrest and punishment (for Congress was quick to enact rigid laws against the Klan), notice was sent to the Klan of an adjoining county, and these rode over at night to carry out the wishes of their brothers, who could establish thus readily the essential alibi. Terrifying the negro until he withdrew from politics was not the work of a month or of a year, but it went on with grim determination and ultimate success. With the progress of the movement the white interlopers read the writing on the wall, fled the country, and the native whites of the South came again into their own.[8]

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The intimidation described by Wyeth was often effective. It flared early and violently in northeast Texas, where one delegate to the state’s constitutional convention from Hunt County received a letter in June 1868 from his wife that she had fled with their family and “many others” to a refugee camp across the state line in Arkansas, where twenty-one tents were already set up.[9]

Late in the year, the Federal military commander of Texas, Major General J. J. Reynolds, was blunt in his annual report, reprinted in the Austin Republican of December 19, 1868:

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Armed organizations, generally known as “Ku Klux Klan,” exist, independently or in concert with other armed· bands, in many parts of Texas, but are most numerous, bold, and aggressive east of the Trinity river.
 
The precise object of these organizations cannot be readily explained, but seems in this State to be to disarm, rob, and in many cases murder Union men and negroes, [sic.] and, as occasion may offer, murder United States officers and soldiers; also to intimidate everyone who knows anything of the organization but will not join them.
 
The civil law east of the Trinity River is almost a dead letter. In some counties the civil officers are all, or a portion of them, members of the Klan. In other counties, where the civil officers will not join the Klan, or some other armed band, they have been compelled to leave their counties. Examples are, Van Zandt, Smith. and :Marion counties The county seat of the: latter is Jefferson.
 
In. many counties, where the county officers have not been driven off, their influence is scarcely felt. What political ends, if any, is aimed at by these bands, l cannot positively say; but they attend, in large bodies, the political meetings (barbecues) which have been and are being held in various parts of the State, under the auspices of the Democratic clubs of the different counties.
 
The speakers encourage those in attendance, and in several counties men have been indicated by name, from the speaker’s stand, as those elected for murder. The men thus pointed out have no course left them but to leave their homes, or be murdered on the first convenient opportunity.
 
The·murder of negroes is so common as to render it impossible to keep an accurate account of them.
 
Many of the members of these bands of outlaws are transient persons in the State. The absence of railroads and telegraphs, and the great length of time required to communicate between remote points, [is] facilitating their devilish purposes. These organizations are evidently countenanced, or, at least, not discouraged, by a majority of white people in the counties where the bands are most numerous. They could not otherwise exist.[10]

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Reyonlds goes on to cite, as one particularly clear example, the murder at Jefferson of George W. Smith, a Radical Republican delegate to the state’s constitutional convention.[11] Smith, a former Union army officer, had taken refuge at the local military post after violence broke out at a political rally; over Smith’s protestations that his life would be in danger if he were turned over to local authorities, the post commander had Smith and four African American supporters of his placed in the city jail. The next evening, October 4, 1868, about 70 white men claiming to be members of the Knights of the Rising Sun, a Klan-like group, overpowered the guards. They shot Smith to death, and lynched at least two of the black men found in the jail with him. Smith was subsequently viewed by the Radical Republicans as a martyr, while Democratic papers “was vilified by the local Democratic papers as an incendiary radical who mixed with blacks on terms of equality.”[12]

Intimidation and violence were not confined to East Texas, though. Luke Gentry, a freedman living in Washington County, reportedly received the following threat in response to his suspected connections to the Loyal League:

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Post Oak Runners
August 18, 1868
 
LUKE GENTRY. F. M.C. [Free Man of Color?]:
 
You were once known as a good slave who would do right, but you have become notorious — a regular he-devil, doing all you can against white men and yourself in connection with the black hearted devilish loyal league.
 
You may not be aware of what amount of damage you’re doing, but it is known by men who are watching you, and one of that number is ordered to inform you that you must quit the loyal league, and let it be known to Col. Dawson, or any good citizen in your neighborhood, or you must quit the country, I and it must be done soon – by the middle of September — or then you had better look out for hard times.
 
We have nothing against you, but we will not allow you to be connected with the devilish loyal league, and injuring both black and white. We will not stand it long, we tell you plainly; nor do we wish you to be a democrat, but you must quit the league or quit the country. We are in earnest, and tell you to go to some of your friends for advice.
 
Look sharp and act, or you will suffer.
 
Very respectfully,
 
C. M. D. C.
Official: K. K. K.[13]

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An officer of the Freedmen’s Bureau (right) tries to mediate a dispute between planters (seated) and freedmen, Memphis, c. 1868.

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A three-volume ledger kept by the Freedmen’s Bureau, “Criminal Offenses Committed in the State of Texas, 1865-68,” recorded some 2,000 separate incidents of white-on-black violence between September 1865 and December 1868, ranging in scope from simple assault to torture to murder. Many are clearly linked to the economic and social turbulence of Reconstruction — several incidents on this page are noted as being brought about by a dispute over wages, for example, while other cases are less clear — but there is no avoiding the conclusion that African Americans were common targets of violence during the period.[14] Some acts, as well, were committed by the Klan or similar groups, with a clear intent obstruct and intimidate the new-found political strength of freedmen. In June 1868, in Burleson County, the local voter registrar, a black man named A. R. Wilson, was taken from his home in the middle of the night. His corpse was later found dumped in the Brazos River – mutilated, stabbed multiple times, and possibly scalped.[15] The Houston Telegraph, a firm Democrat paper and one that could be counted on to dismiss the existence of the Klan, suggested (as was often done in similar cases across the South) that Wilson had met his violent end at the hands of the Loyal League, “as Wilson had made himself very obnoxious to that delectable organization, by his bold and open avowal of conservative principles.” It was a transparent lie, the Austin Republican countered, given that Wilson had himself been an active member of the Loyal League, and had voted for the Radical Republican ticket in the last election. The Republican went on to quote a letter from a “most intelligent and respectable citizen” of Burleson County, who wrote that “I have never been uneasy before, but. . . when I go to bed at night I do so feeling that very probably my own house will afford me no security from ruthless assassins. We know not who our enemies are.”[16]

While we know almost nothing about Lawrence Daffan’s involvement with the Ku Klux Klan, it’s virtually certain that he had knowledge of Wilson’s kidnapping and murder, after the fact if not before. It occurred in the next county over, and received wide attention in the press at the time. Although no one was ever prosecuted for Wilson’s murder, Daffan almost surely had (at a minimum) a good idea who the perpetrators were.

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A Texas county map from the 1870s showing location mentioned in this post, including Caldwell and Burleson County (top), Hempstead and Austin County (lower right), Brenham and Washington County (center), and Millican and Brazos County (upper right). Via David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.

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In truth, that part of the Brazos River Valley was a tinderbox of racial violence in that summer of 1868. Daffan certainly knew – perhaps was an active participant in – another series of events that happened very soon after Wilson’s murder. In Hempstead, Daffan’s home town, a Union League member named Clinton Fort was murdered. A white man was arrested but quickly released on bail, a situation that angered local freedmen. Tensions were high, and came to head when a deputy sheriff arrested two black men on the Rock Island plantation on an unrelated charge. Instead of taking his prisoners back to town, though, the deputy put the men in irons in the back of a wagon, and began driving them toward his own home. (He later claimed the jail in Hempstead wasn’t secure enough.) Other freedmen, believing that the prisoners were going to be “Ku Kluxed,” armed themselves and confronted the deputy. The deputy returned the men to the plantation where he’d arrested them.[17]

The confrontation with the armed freedmen convinced local officials that the black farm laborers were preparing for an attack on the town of Hempstead. An official from the Freedmen’s Bureau office in Brenham, T. P Wood, arrived on June 27, and sent couriers to the plantation to demand the two men be handed over to local authorities. One of the couriers spotted a group of armed black men who, as it proved, were on their way to a Union League meeting and, per their normal practice, were going to stash their weapons outside of town prior to attending the meeting. Wood addressed the meeting, and again  implored the group to turn over the two men. Whether the men were ever turned over is not clear, but Wood did manage to secure a temporary, uneasy truce.

But the tensions remained, and were getting worse. On July 4, in Brenham, two armed white men showed up at a gathering of freedmen and threatened to break up the meeting. When the white men fired their weapons, the black men gathered up their weapons and shot back. Again, Agent Wood was able to avert more violence by assuring the freedmen that they would have military protection, but he also warned his superiors that he feared “an outbreak between the races” was imminent.[18]

The tinder finally caught a spark at Millican, a settlement on the Houston & Texas Central’s main line, in mid-July. Through the previous month, there had been reports that an African American preacher, George Brooks, had been organizing a militia company for defense against threats from the Klan. The Freedman’s Bureau agent at Bryan, Captain Randlett, had tried to put a lid on things by ordering that no armed group of any sort was allowed to operate in Brazos County. But on July 15, word spread that a freedman had been killed, and one of George Brooks’ lieutenants organized a group of armed black men to seize the white man suspected of the crime. They surrounded the man’s house out in the country. In response, the mayor of Millican organized his own posse of armed white men, who went out and confronted Brooks’ men. Though it’s unclear who fired first, there was an exchange of gunfire in which between four and fifteen African Americans were killed, with no fatalities among the white men.

The whites returned to Millican, but the mayor and his deputy rode to the freedmens’ settlement to demand that Brooks order his men to lay down their weapons. Brooks refused, pointing out that it was his men, not the mayor’s, who had been killed. Brooks did agree to meet with local officials the next day, though, to discuss the situation further.

During the night of July 15-16, the Brazos County sheriff came down to Millican by train from Bryan with a posse of 150 men. With rumors now everywhere of an attack on Millican by Brooks’ militia, a cordon of sentries was set up around the town. On the morning of the 16th Captain Randlett, accompanied by local officials, returned to the freedmens’ settlement for the meeting with Brooks. The preacher was missing, and most of the other residents had gone, too. To the whites, this was taken as further confirmation that Brooks was planning to attack the town. More trains were now bringing in armed white civilians from neighboring communities, who began fanning out from Millican in groups to seize Brooks and disarm the freedmen. A contingent of U.S. troops arrived in Millican on the evening of the 16th and took up positions defending the town. It became clear later that the whites – some formally deputized, many not – took the opportunity to ride down and kill African Americans generally. While Captain Randlett was only able to confirm the deaths of five African Americans, the actual death toll was probably much higher, estimated by Republican newspapers at fifty or sixty, scattered across the countryside. Rev. Brooks’ corpse was found on July 18; he had been lynched. The wave of racial violence that had been building up for weeks had finally broken; as one historian put it, “the much-feared confrontation between the races had taken place, with whites protected by the United States Army and blacks massacred.”[19]

It’s impossible to say what role Lawrence Daffan might have played in any of these events, or whether his membership in the Klan pre- or post-dated them. What’s certain is that all of these events – the kidnapping and murder of Registrar Wilson in Burleson County, the incident with the plantation workers at Hempstead, the disturbance at the freedmen’s meeting on July 4 in Brenham, and the mass violence at Millican that began on July 15 – occurred in a very small geographic area, with most of the communities connected by the Houston & Texas Central Railroad. It was the H&TC, in particular, that allowed the incident at Millican to spread from a purely local event to a regional one, allowing both U.S. military reinforcements and white vigilantes to descend quickly on Millican, forces that (respectively) protected the white townspeople there and executed a wide-ranging hunt for African Americans across the surrounding countryside. While Daffan’s personal involvement in these activities in unknown, we certainly know the immediate, local context of the Klan and related groups in the Brazos Valley in the summer of 1868.

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SimkinsI’ve been critical in the past of lionizing old klansmen like William Stewart Simkins (right), who went on to a prominent career as a law professor at the University of Texas. I applauded when his name was removed from a dorm on the Austin campus. The application of Simkins’ name to the facility in 1954 had at least as much to do with the politics of that era, coming just weeks after the announcement of Brown v. Board of Education and at a time when the university was fighting hard to maintain its segregationist admission policies, as it did with Simkins’ contributions to the law school two generations before. The naming of Simkins Hall was very much a case of the UT Board of Regents of the 1950s saying “fnck-you” to those fighting for integration of public higher education in the South.

I’d like to think that Daffan’s involvement with the Klan was qualitatively different than that of Simkins, who was a statewide organizer for the group in Florida during Reconstruction, who boasted about assaulting a black elected official, and who spent the next sixty years publicly advocating for the Klan and using his position as a professor at a state university to do so. But without knowing more about Daffan’s own involvement, it’s hard to make the case that he was fundamentally different than Simkins. While Lawrence Daffan wasn’t the rancid old braggart that Simkins was, he admitted his membership in the Klan and, apparently, viewed his involvement with it as both a necessity and perhaps with some pride.

KatieSo who else in my family knew about Daffan’s involvement with the Klan? I don’t think my mother did, but it’s probable that her mother did. My grandmother, the daughter of Lawrence’s younger sister, was fifteen when her uncle died in 1907. She would have attended the funeral – they only lived forty miles away, in Mansfield — and seen some of the memorial proclamations, at least one of which specifically mentioned Daffan’s involvement. She also knew Lawrence’s daughter Katie (left, c. 1904), her first cousin, very well, and Katie wasn’t bashful about her father’s involvement in the Klan in the least. And there’s no question that my great grandmother, Lawrence’s sister, knew about it at first hand – she was about fourteen years old, living under the same roof with Lawrence, their widowed mother and siblings, during that horrific, violent summer of 1868.

This is all deeply troublesome, and I’m still thinking through it. It’s hard to reconcile Daffan’s honored reputation within the family and in his community — his grave carries the inscription “faithful to every trust” — with something as odious as the Ku Klux Klan.

But I suspect there are a great many Southerners, and descendants of Confederate veterans, in exactly the same spot. The Klan was founded by Confederate veterans and its activities were seen by many as an extension of the Confederate cause, seeking to perpetuate the prewar social and political order of absolute white supremacy. Several of the South’s more prominent officers — heralded as Confederate heroes to this day — were reputedly among the Invisible Empire’s leaders. Given the pervasiveness of the Klan and similar groups across the South during Reconstruction, and its widespread support among former soldiers, either actively as members or simply by looking the other way at its tactics of intimidation and violence, it seems likely that a great many of the old Confederates that modern Southerners honor today have a history similar to Daffan’s.

At least many hundreds, and probably several thousand, Confederate veterans took an active role in the violence, terror and intimidation caused by the Klan and its allies in the decade following the end of the Civil War. Many tens of thousands more, civilians and veterans alike, knew of the Klan, knew its local membership and its activities, and quietly supported them with their acquiescence, silence, and professions of ignorance. A hundred and forty-odd years later, the descendants of these white Southerners must now number in the millions, and most are probably unaware of their link to this horrific chapter in our nation’s past. In many cases, I imagine, those klansmen’s descendants don’t know it, because those men left no personal record of it; in other cases, I’m certain, those who crow loudly about their Confederate ancestors are, in fact, aware of it, but make a conscious decision to leave that stone unturned, at least publicly. I doubt many present-day members of Southern heritage groups will readily admit their honored forbears were also klansmen but, in truth, they probably wouldn’t know it if they were.

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[1] Katie Daffan, My Father as I Remember Him. Privately published, 1907. Houston Metropolitan Research Center, Houston Public Library, 55. Most specific details of Lawrence Daffan’s life are taken from this work.

[2] Daffan 43.

[3] Dallas Weekly Herald, April 11, 1868; Flake’s Bulletin, April 7, 1868; Galveston Republican, June 1, 1868, 4.

[4] Dallas Weekly Herald, August 8, 1868.

[5] Houston Union, June 4, 1869.

[6] Austin Republican, May 8, 1868, 4.

[7] Austin Republican, May 9, 1868, 2.

[8] John Allen Wyeth, With Sabre and Scalpel: The Autobiography of a Soldier and Surgeon (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1914), 322-23.

[9] Flake’s Bulletin, June 30, 1868, 5.

[10] Austin Republican, December 28, 1868, 3.

[11] Ibid., 3.

[12] Mark Odintz, “George Washington Smith,” New Handbook of Texas, Vol 5 (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996), 1098.

[13] Austin Republican, September 21, 1868.

[14] Jennifer N. Johnson, “Violence in Texas.” In National Archives, Discovering the Civil War (Washington: Foundation for the National Archives, 2010), 188-89.

[15] Carl H. Moneyhon, “The Democaratic Party, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Politics of Fear.” In Kenneth W. Howell, ed., Still the Arena of Civil War: Violence and Turmoil in Reconstruction Texas, 1865-1874 (Denton: University of North Texas, 2012), 254.

[16] Austin Republican, June 30, 1868, 2.

[17] Moneyhon, 256.

[18] Ibid., 257.

[19] Ibid. 258-59.

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GeneralStarsGray

7 Responses

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  1. Pat said, on July 14, 2013 at 4:12 pm

    I doubt many northerners realize they may have an ancestor who was a Klansman. Here on Long Island in NY an estimated 1 in 7 white Protestant men were in the Klan in the 1920s. I spoke to a class about history vs. ancestor worship. I told them that people come up all the time to tell me Civil War regiment their great grandpa was in, but nobody tells me that his brother lynched a black man during the Draft Riots.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 14, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      People — individuals and families — have selective memories.

  2. Foxessa said, on July 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

    I look forward to your comments as you unpick and think through this information concerning your family. They will doubtless be as interesting and informative as this essay.

    • Andy Hall said, on July 14, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Someone contacted me privately and asked about this post, why I chose to focus on this aspect of Daffan. This was my response, slightly edited:

      I’ve posted many times about Lawrence Daffan’s CW service. In fact, I’ve reprinted just about everything he recorded that’s come into my hands. So the Klan stuff is hardly a singular aspect of his life that I’ve discussed, to the exclusion of others.

      But I wanted to work through it in my own mind, as well. For me, part of that is actually writing about it. As I said when I started my blog, my ancestors’ lives give me an opportunity learn as much as I can about both their lives and the context of those lives. That’s important to me in this case, particularly, because it’s something about his life that was clearly forgotten (or “forgotten”) over succeeding generations that was left to be re-discovered.

      That geography, too, is a place I spent some years as kid. We lived just up the road from Millican, and I’ve driven through there hundreds of times. It was apparently a good bit bigger in the 1860s than it is now, but again that’s a personal connection, too.

      Lawrence Daffan was clearly not embarrassed to have been a klansman, nor was Katie, who made the decision to include that fact in the memorial book she had printed about her father. Had she not included that, we probably wouldn’t know at all. I’m sure they’d be unhappy with the specific detail about exactly what the Klan and similar groups were up to, riding around the Brazos Valley in the summer of ’68, but that’s part of the story.

      Cousin Katie was something of an historian herself, and she adopted as her personal motto a Bible verse, Revelation 1:11: “What thou seest, write in a book.” Seems like good advice, even if what thou seest is pretty ugly.

  3. Craig L said, on July 14, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I was born in Lawrence, Kansas, and moved to the Pacific Northwest when I was seven. Ten years later, after my junior year in high school, we moved to Houston so my dad could be a professor of clinical psychology. Four years later we moved back to the Pacific Northwest.

    We moved from Kansas to Seattle with two other families, both headed by clinical psychologists, one from Michigan and the other from Pennsylvania. The household goods for all three families were shipped by rail in one boxcar. My dad grew up in Wisconsin, though he attended junior high in Mississippi and a few years later, after graduating in 1945 from the maritime academy at Sheepshead Bay in New York, he shipped out of Mobile and New Orleans for several years to finance his college education in Illinois.

    The psychologist from Pennsylvania met his wife while in grad school at the University of Kansas. His wife had been the college roommate there of the daughter of that state’s governor. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know this couple and I tend to think of them as my godparents. The psychologist’s wife taught 3rd grade for many years. When her mother died I wrote a consolation poem for her, one that identified her mother with Lawrence, Kansas. That’s when I learned that my godmother was from Mississippi and that her father, who I’d never met, had been a Klansman. I understood then why her mother’s collection of campaign buttons had included a KKK pin.

  4. Keith Muchowski said, on July 23, 2013 at 9:47 pm

    Andy, this is one of the most amazing pieces of writing I have read. Thank you for writing it and sharing.

    //Keith


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