Earlier I blogged about how the Baraga State Park is getting $1.2M in renovations, and at the bottom of the blog I included a couple of images that I found from years ago from the Baraga State Park. This is one of the creepy picture. It is from 1923 of the KKK at the oldest State Park in Michigan. But that’s not it.
After I posted this blog the daughter of the owner of The Sidetrack Bar, Star Edwards shared an image with me that they found in the building once they purchased the business. The image seems to shows members of the KKK walking downtown Baraga.
I tried looking up History on the photo and couldn’t find much. But my research couldn’t stop there, I started looking up all the History I could find regarding the KKK. And this is what I found for those wondering about the KKK in the U.P.
Dr. Russ Magnaghi, Northern Michigan University professor and historian, who has given three major talks on the U.P. Klan, reported the first Upper Peninsula chapter was in Manistique in 1921 with 100 members. In the 1924 gubernatorial primary, Klan candidate James A. Hamilton drew 972 votes in Marquette County, far behind incumbent Governor Alexander Grosbeck, who drew six times as many. Jump to 1925, and the Klan was all over the place. In May, an ad in the Iron River Reporter announced a celebration at Chicagoan Lake Resort. This county of 21,000 people had 2,500 at the Klanbake, 250 of whom were new members. Iron County reportedly had the most Klan members of any U.P. county.
Later that year, the Epworth League (a young adult religious group) hosted a Klan rally on the north shore of Lake Michigamme, with nearly a thousand people on hand to hear a Pennsylvania clergyman preach. The combined attendance in Iron River and Michigamme was a stunning 3,500. But there was more to come.
The Negaunee Iron Herald advertised “public meetings in the big tent” in eastern Negaunee for Labor Day weekend in 1926. “Able speakers will discuss topics of vital importance,” read the ad. Although 6,000 were expected, only 1,500 showed up in poor weather. A most startling part of the show was that “choirs from some [area] churches … have taken turns providing music for the meetings.”
Negaunee hosted another tent meeting later that year; when the tent was delayed the rally moved to the Negaunee High School auditorium. A Klan quartet from Wayne County provided the entertainment, accompanied by a twenty-five-piece U.P. Klan band. When the tent finally arrived, nightly meetings drew big crowds. That same year, 1926, Marquette’s Washington Street was the scene of a Klan parade of 125 members dressed in hoods and capes. There also was activity in southern Ontonagon County. In the Soo, the Klan had its own newspaper. Most cross burnings in the area took place in the 1924-1926 period. In 1924, one burned on Millie Hill in Iron Mountain as 150 new members were enrolled. That cross was a stripped-down spruce tree with a cross arm, all soaked in oil. A local businessman and Ford Motor employee were identified as event organizers.
In Marquette, burning crosses were spotted on top of the Harvey cross-cut and on the east side of town, with hate letters cut into the grass (local police said the latter was not a KKK act). Other crosses burned at Chicagoan Lake in 1924, a thirty-six-footer there the following year, and one near Gaastra a week later.
Several were torched in Negaunee, and others on a hill east of Trout Creek and in the Dynamite Hill section of L’Anse. Burning these religious symbols has long been associated with the Klan, but the practice started earlier in Europe.
I haven’t been able to find any information on why Dynamite Hill is the name for the section in L’Anse. But there was a section in Birmingham, Alabama with the name Dynamite Hill which got it’s nicknamed because KKK members regularly bombed its streets during the Civil Rights era. I wonder if that’s the reason for the name in L’Anse.
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