New York Herald; Date: 01-11-1870; Volume: XXXV; Issue: 11; Page: 5
This is one of the worst headlines you could have read in 1870. It's details explained quite horrifically, it was designed to provoke an emotional response. 33-year-old Martin VanBuren Blalock operated a grocery in Hillsborough. He was one of many brothers and sisters born to Hartwell G. and Patsy Herndon Blalock of Orange County. They lived on the "south side of the North Carolina railroad." Martin entered the Confederate Army as a corporal in the 6th regiment from Hillsborough. Before his discharge, he was bucked down to private and seldom received another mention.
Martin was found brutally murdered in his grocery in December 1869, a "ghastly and inhuman spectacle" claimed the article. There was a rope around his neck, which had been slashed and a pillowcase shoved in his mouth. It all appeared rather uncoordinated, perhaps multiple attempts to kill him... or added "evidence" to increase the "ghastliness" of the crime and confuse the identity of the actual murderer. Three black men were arrested. Assuredly, there was evidence, money from Blalock's business and two confessions of the three black men. The article read, "An inquest was held, before which a large number of witnesses were summoned, though unable to fasten guilt upon anybody suspicion fell at once upon a negro named Bob Gunn, and two others, called respectively Young and Lutterloh."
There were many similar incidents and all of the "legal" attributes remained uncertain, the actual provenance of the overwhelming evidence unknown because of the excitement of the community. The article continues, "Their guilt is now established, though arrested only on suspicion created by a strong chain of circumstances." Obviously, these men were tried and executed for the crime.
By chance, perhaps, though not likely, another article two months later tells of an ominous presence in Orange County and elsewhere, but centered upon Orange and Alamance Counties. A group of organized vigilantes that preyed on the "United States and the Negroes" and their allies. These vigilantes killed even men of distinction, prominent liberal politicians of the state. They were organized, intelligent, and composed of ex-Confederates. They were known as the "White Brotherhood" or "Ku Klux Klan."
Oft-used tactics of white supremacists since the Civil War tended to reduce the "traitorous Negro" population. These included framing blacks for crimes that they didn't commit and publicly hanging them. This may or not have happened with Martin Blalock, but his death late in 1869 coincides with the rise of the North Carolina KKK activity and the "open and shut" case against the three black men was probably too good to be true.
New York Herald; Date: 03-14-1870; Volume: XXXV; Issue: 73; Page: 10
Please note the opposition to the "United States government" or "anti-government" part of the article, a common conservative talking point today, just as it was yesterday... with these southern conservatives.
They were organized by one ex-Confederate, wounded in the face and who could speak but little and could not exercise his former career at the bar. His latter days as the Secretary of State for North Carolina were effected from a wheelchair. His name was William Laurence Saunders.
Carolina Story: A Virtual Museum of University History:
"In 1922, the [University of North Carolina] named its new history department building for William L. Saunders to recognize his work as a compiler of historical documents. Saunders graduated from UNC in 1854 and then practiced law in Salisbury, North Carolina. During the Civil War, he served as a colonel and was wounded in two battles. In 1869-1870, he became known as the chief organizer of the Ku Klux Klan in North Carolina and Chapel Hill. When [conservative Southern] Democrats regained power in North Carolina, Saunders became Secretary of State and arranged for the publication of North Carolina’s colonial records in a series on which historians still rely. He served as a university trustee from 1874 until 1891."
It's surprising, yes, that this man would continue to be revered as much as he was after his known association with a group responsible for untold murders.
|"Two Members of the Ku-Klux Klan in Their Disguises"|
Acts of violence were blamed on blacks, but everyone knew that they were actually the work of the Ku Klux Klan... including the federal government.
Capt. Samuel A'Court Ashe, a fellow Confederate officer and North Carolina lawyer-turned-historian, wrote the following about William L. Saunders:
- During the exciting period of Reconstruction from 1867 to 1870, Colonel Saunders was deeply interested in public affairs. In 1870, he contributed to the Wilmington Journal, of which Major Engelhard, his brother-in-law was editor, an article on the Kirk-Holden War that attracted wide attention. It was regarded as the strongest and most perfect article published in the State, and although unsigned, it established for him an enviable reputation.
- The Conservatives were successful at the election held in August, 1870, and obtained control of both houses of the Assembly.
1870 was the first and only time that conservatives had control of both houses until 2012. That's right... they are in total control of the state once again. Their anti-government agenda was wide open and North Carolina elections for nearly 100 years involved two candidates from the same party... both conservative Southern Democrat, but one only somewhat more progressive... still, both firmly under conservative white control... until just before the election of 2012, that is. Any notion of the then liberal Republican party of Lincoln (not today's version, surely) was put aside. To North Carolina and most of the unrepentant South, state governments were dominant over federal.
The federal government tried to fight back. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government instituted the Force Acts and used them to prosecute Klan crimes. They were criminal codes which protected blacks’ right to vote, to hold office, to serve on juries, and receive equal protection under the laws. The laws also allowed the federal government to intervene when states did not act. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. Afterwards, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts (see Wilmington Race Riot of 1898), started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks' voting and running the early liberal version of Lincoln Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877 when a backroom deal released the unremorseful South from federal Reconstruction policies.
It can be argued that the South never paid their dues for the insurrection against the government of the United States, an insurrection that cost over 600,000 human lives. Afterwards, KKK activity was designed as retribution against blacks and their supporters for their betrayal of white southerners' "generosity." The Civil War began simply to preserve slavery, despite what others may argue about "states' rights." The only state right that interested Ashe and others like him was the right to keep slaves. After that, it was pure vengeance against the federal government.
|"Holden's Impeachment. Trial of the Governor of North Carolina-He is Found Guilty and Removed," Houston Daily Union;
William Holden, the governor who tried to end the violence was impeached by the KKK-supported North Carolina government and the acts continued.
On the 23rd of September 1872, the soon-to-be Secretary of State for North Carolina, William Laurence Saunders was summoned to appear before a Congressional Joint Select Committee of both houses inquiring of his involvement in these white-supremacist organizations. This became the first use of the 5th amendment to avoid incrimination of oneself - he refuse to testify to Congress!
A partial transcription of this hearing follows:
In pursuance of said order, the said sub-committee met on the 23rd day of September, 1871 and one W. L. Saunders of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, who had been duly subpoenaed as a witness to appear before the Joint Select Committee of the two houses of Congress, then appeared, and submitted to be examined as a witness, and was duly sworn by the chairman of the Joint Select Committee. In the examination of said witness, the following questions by the chairman, and answers by the witness, were elicited:
Question: The purpose of this committee is to inquire in relation to the execution of the laws, and the security of life, person, and property in the late insurrectionary states. As bearing upon that question, we have been examining in regard to the existence of secret organizations in the State of North Carolina, particularly those which are alleged to have committed acts of violence. Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of any secret political organization of that character in the State of North Carolina?
- Answer: Well, sir, I decline to say whether or not I have been a member of any of the so-called Ku-Klux organizations, on the ground that I am not obliged to testify in a case wherein I may incriminate myself...
Question: Do you decline to answer the question of the ground that you cannot do so without [in]criminating yourself?
- Answer: I decline to answer the question on the ground that if I testify in this case, it will furnish evidence which will make me amenable to the Laws of North Carolina, as declared by the judges of the Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the White Brotherhood?
- Answer: Well, sir, I conceive that that question comes in the same category.
Question: Do you decline to answer that question?
- Answer: I decline to answer that question...
Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the Constitutional Union Guards?
- Answer: To that I give the same answer.
Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of an organization known as the Invisible Empire?
- Answer: I make the same answer as before.
Question: Have you been at any time, or are you now, a member of any of the organizations which are popularly known as the Ku-Klux organizations?
- Answer: I make the same answer to all of these questions.
Question: Have you had any communication with persons who have stated to you their knowledge of such murders or such whippings in the County of Orange, in the State of North Carolina, or in any other part of the State of North Carolina?
- Answer: I have only one such conversation.
Question: With whom?
- Answer: That I decline to answer.
Question: Where did he live...?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: What position... did he occupy... ?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Was he a member of the legislature... ?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Was he a member of the bar?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Was he a leading man?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Do you decline to give any information may lead to the identity of that person?
- Answer: Yes, sir; That is the sum and substance of it.
Question: What was the offense... ? Was it murder?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Was it whipping?
- Answer: I decline...
Question: Do you know Henry Ivy?
- Answer: No, sir...
Question: Do you know Abraham or Abe Hedgepeth?
- Answer: Yes, sir. I know him.
Question: Do you know whether he is or is not, or has he at any time told you whether he is or is not, a member of any Ku-Klux organization?
- Answer: I decline to answer.
This line of questioning continued, asking Saunders to identify Ivy, Hedgepeth, James Copeland, William Andrews, Jesse Morrow, the wheelwright Nat. Williams, Fletcher Freeland of Durham at a station of the North Carolina railroad, Samuel Johnson, William Minor, John Durham, F. N. Strudwick, John McCauley, A. P. Cates, J. Cooley, J. Carmichael, Dr. E. M. Holt, and a host of others... he refused every question. He boldly refused, defying the federal government... eliciting great pride in his fellow North Carolinians... a pride that has lingered through the decades...
Edwin Michael Holt of Orange County mentioned above is of particular interest. He was born 1807, married three times, lived variously in Orange and Alamance Counties and died in 1884. The abstract for the Alamance Cotton Mill Records, 1839-1926 in the Southern Historical Collection at UNC states:
- The Alamance Cotton Mill was established by Edwin Michael Holt and his brother-in-law, William A. Carrigan, in 1837, signalling the start of industrial development in Alamance County, N.C. The Alamance factory was located on Great Alamance Creek, site of Holt's father's grist mill. The plant was under Holt management for 89 years, during which time the Holt family controlled most of the county's cotton manufacture.
Erwin Allen Holt, textile executive from Burlington, was a member of an organization named the North Carolina Defender of States' Rights, a well-known white-supremacist and anti-government group. His papers involve his "concerns about racial segregation, Jewish control of the federal government, strict interpretation of the Constitution, the Status of Forces Agreement, communism in the U.S., and Hawaiian statehood," among others. Included is correspondence about preventing racial integration, and broadsides, leaflets, and circulars issued by various right-wing organizations of which Holt was a member." Much of the NC Defenders material consists of copies of letters from Sterling Rawlinson Booth, Jr., of Raleigh, and Earle Le Baron, faculty member of East Carolina College, to public officials, Holt, and the membership. Common topics are "liberals" at ECC and UNC, segregation, and Communism, common topics often heard today.
From letter of March 25, 1959 in Collection Number: 03551 - Erwin Allen Holt Papers, 1953-1961
This organization was formed in reaction to the Supreme Court's Brown v. Board decision that desegregated all aspects of society. But, nothing could have been more defining an influence as the Civil Rights decision in 1964, which caused a huge migration of North Carolina conservatives over to the growing conservative Republican party that year. The election maps show this metamorphosis:
1954 pushed some southern conservatives to go "undecided," but they all voted Republican in 1964. Still, North Carolina was something special. As the maps show, it mostly went Democratic in 1960, whether out of tradition or otherwise, is difficult to determine. Still, of the eleven battleground states during the 2012 election, North Carolina is the only one that remained in support of the Republican candidate: Mitt Romney.
Illustrating similar behavior is their response to the secession crisis in 1860, they resisted it at first, and then poured more men into it than any other state once the Civil War was on! North Carolinians apparently like to pause and think first, which may be the quality that eventually saves us. Still, once the decision is finally made, watch out! Certainly, this last election provided Rob Christensen, reporter for the Raleigh News & Observer and author of A Paradox of Tarheel Politics more fuel for his writing! As the tagline for his book reads "How can a state be represented by Jesse Helms and John Edwards at the same time?" Indeed!
One thing about North Carolina that will not change until the demographics force it... is this white-supremacism. Many residents have fervently supported this since colonial days until the present day. And recently, I've seen an increase in the open expression of it... namely in the use of that word that we can't even bring ourselves to say completely in print... "N------"! It used to be avoided in public, but not so much lately. And, I, a white guy, was asked by a conservative "Why don't I move to Chapel Hill with the rest of my kind," after he discovered that I was progressive. lol Bullying is back in force, but not as much as it was in 1870. This, too will subside... the bluster will pass more quickly than when William L. Saunders created the White Brotherhood. Progress will happen despite this. The old racist guard is dying off. Still, the General Assembly since 2012 has been trying very hard, as one writer put it in North Carolina Just Gave Millionaires a Tax Cut, Raised Taxes on the Poorest 900,000 Working Families, "The combined effects of those tax changes give poor North Carolinians some incentive to move out of the state, a population shift Gov. Pat McCrory (R) hopes to encourage." Again, North Carolina conservatives are attempting to run off the "undesirables." It's not so bad, though... today's open internet discussions, instant exposure to criticism, make it more difficult to get away with murder or simply "plead the 5th!" :)
Still, back in 1871, when more of the state supported him and criticism was largely confined to official channels, William L. Saunders was told that the 5th Amendment did not apply in Congressional hearings and he stubbornly still refused to answer, safe in his clique.
Then, Saunders was arrested for contempt and asked another round of questions intimating that he was "held in high repute" as the leader of the White Brotherhood. The federal committee knew this man's involvement... they simply wanted him to openly admit it. Saunders declined to answer any of these questions, making it quite clear that he was the leader and was involved, however directly or indirectly in the murders of prominent politicians in the state. He "declined to answer" the government's attempts to seek justice for the murdered men.
|New York Herald;
- Whether or not he was, as J. G. de Roulhac Hamilton asserted, the head of the Invisible Empire in North Carolina, his complicity was indicated by his being summoned in 1871 before the congressional Joint Select Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary State. Face-to-face with his antagonists, he repeatedly declined to answer questions concerning his relationship with the organizations. In the same year a letter from "the brotheren" warned that "bill sanders will swing."
|William Lawrence Saunders SOLDIER-EDITOR-HISTORIAN-STATESMAN PATRIOT Col. 46 Regiment N. C. Troops Distinguished for wisdom, purity and courage For 20 years he exerted more Power in North Carolina than any other man "I decline to answer"|
See also: Colin Woodard's "Up in Arms" about Deep South conservative anti-government ideology and it's inherent violence.
See also: Historical Execution of Gov. George Burrington of North Carolina for how North Carolinians in the Lower Cape Fear abused North Carolina's history by writing the true founder of Wilmington out of it.