My great grandmother Margaret (Olmsted) Ogden was an inveterate scrap-booker. She clipped and pasted newspaper articles, playbills, poems and prose that caught her fancy for more than 60 years, and these books are a rich but fragile trove of family history. The yellow paper and newsprint often crumble at the touch and I treat these (often unattributed) primary sources with the greatest of care. This means that I have not read them all cover to cover, and once in a great while I don the white gloves and gently turn the precious pages to see what they contain.
Some of the scraps she saved pertain to the events of the day - she did half a book on the death of President McKinley - and others to friends and acquaintances. I do not know what, if any connection the family had to one Monroe Anderson of Point Pleasant, New Jersey where the family had a vacation residence, but his obituary of December 24, 1926 is dutifully glued alongside another for Civil War General J.R. Brooke who married a cousin from New Hampshire. The Monroe obituary is striking not only for the gruesome details it provides of the accident that lead to his demise but also for the details of the funeral and a particularly notorious "benevolent" organization's evidently respectable association with it. See what you make of this:
MONROE ANDERSON DIES FROM INJURIES
Succumbs Two Days After Accident at Stillwell's Mill In Which He Lost Legs
"Monroe Anderson of Point Pleasant Borough died late last Friday afternoon at the Point Pleasant Hospital from injuries sustained in an accident while at work in Joseph Stillwell's mill at Bay Head two days before. His clothing caught onto a steel shafting and he was whirled around in midair, mashing both of his legs so badly that it was necessary to amputate them below the knees that day. He also sustained severe internal injuries
The funeral, held from his late home on Arnold avenue Tuesday afternoon, was largely attended. He was a member of the Junior O.U.A.M. Metedeconk Tribe of Improved order of Red Men and of the First M.E. Church, where for several years he sang in the choir. Interment was at White Lawn Cemetery, where about one hundred members of the men's, women's and children's branches of the Ku Klux Klan assembled at the grave and conducted ceremonies from their rituals. Reverend Earl Hann, pastor of the First M.E. Church, officiated at the services in the home.
The funeral procession to the cemetery was led by the band of the Ku Klux Klan. Services there were in charge of Dr. W.H. Morgan, Grand Titan of the order in New Jersey.
Mr. Anderson was 45 years of age..."
One often forgets that the Klan had a huge following in the north during the early 20th century. It is estimated that in the 1920s, just a decade after its second incarnation as a national membership organization, 15% of the eligible population of the entire country (2,000,000 people) was a member of the Klan, more than 60,000 in New Jersey. John Blackwell of The Trentonian reports:
"'It was a reaction against modernism in all its forms in the 1920s,' said Bernard Bush, an East Windsor historian who is researching the sordid story of the Jersey Klan.
"If you were a white Protestant in New Jersey at that time, you might feel disoriented and want to join an organization like the Klan,' Bush continued. 'There's a tremendous influx of Catholic and Jewish immigrants. Blacks are moving north and starting to gain a measure of civil rights. There's the influence of movies, modern standards of morality. There are flappers and a lot of drinking.'
'The Klan was really a movement to just tell the 20th century: stop.'"
So I have to ask myself, as perhaps you have already done; "Why did my great grandmother include this article in her scrapbook?" Was it more than merely the sort of sensational story that clearly appealed to her? Was there, in fact, a closer connection? My great grandparents were neither of Monroe's social set (they were old money blue bloods descended from one of New Jersey's First Families) nor his church (they were Episcopalians). My great grandfather was in the Society of the Cincinnati and the Elizabeth Country Club, not the Metedeconk Tribe of Improved order of Red Men. Nonetheless they were products of their era, and their attitudes about class (patrician) and race (no mixing) were quite discernible in my grandmother's generation. My great grandmother clearly delighted in stories with a whiff of scandal - there is an article in one of her scrapbooks about a shootout on Elizabeth New Jersey's Broad Street - and it could well be that this is nothing more than that, a lurid incident in the town where the family spent its summers. But I do not know for sure that that is all there is to this story.