Klan Marching Against Owosso Catholics
Owosso - On October 20, 1924, The Owosso Argus-Press wrote about The Knights of the Klu Klux Klan that held a large rally in Owosso at the parade ground with between 1,000 and 1,500 marching down through Owosso. The paper stated, “cars were parked solidly on both sides of the streets along the entire route of the parade, while hundreds of people stood beside them or watched the procession from points of vantage in buildings.” The Argus continued, “It is estimated that the crowd was one of the biggest, if not the biggest that ever witnessed a parade here.” The paper also stated, “Before and after the parade an airplane flew over the grounds and the city, and in the evening displayed a fiery cross.”
This photo taken of the Klan march in October 1924 was first published on the front page of the Owosso Argus-Press. I have in my collection the original photo.
Please see images of the story retold by the Argus-Press on Oct 20, 2004, of the event of Oct. 20, 1924.
The Nineteen Twenties was a time of discrimination, of extreme dislike, and non-acceptance of anyone not just like you. The Klan was active at the time discriminating and terrorizing Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and any group that believed in racial and religious harmony. The Klan was afraid that the Catholics were going to be able to become a political force and preached against them.
Villages along the west coast of Michigan had been settled by emigrants from many European countries in the mid to late 1800s. They brought with them their prejudices and many communities frowned on their residents of a certain heritage marrying residents of another town that’s ancestors came from a different Northern European Country than them.
Owosso had its discriminatory ways also. The Roman Catholics lived in “Catholic Town” now called Westown while Protestants congregated on the east side of the river. Owosso’s businesses were mainly owned by white protestants, however, as a Jewish lady told me whose father was a Jewish Businessman at the time that the Jewish Businesspeople were tolerated because they brought money into the community. They still were not allowed to join the city club.
Owosso was the state headquarters for the Klan whose offices were in what is now known as the Exchange Building, N.E. Corner of Exchange, and Ball St.
In many northern cities at the time, the protestant preachers of many non-mainline churches preached in favor of the Klan. Shiawassee County was no different and it was not a rare sight to see a cross burning in the middle of the night in some Westown Catholics yards. The Klan met on top of Gute's hill in a small ravine on the south side of the peak where they would rally and burn crosses.
Stories are told of a few members of a couple of Mexican families that also were tormented that would sneak up by the ravine and watch the rallies. These men would watch for the Klan members to take off their hoods so they could identify them. More than a few of these Klan members were waylaid on the way home and received a good thrashing.
A misconception was that the Klan of the twenty’s was only against People of Color. The Klan was anti-anything except those who followed a skewed belief that was against all people except their exclusive racist and bigoted group. In Shiawassee County, mostly made up of white people, the hatred was focused against white people and the crosses were burnt in white people’s yards.
We are going to bring you more stories of that time in history regarding the Klan and of the way people thought and lived. It is only by reviewing the past that we can keep from making the same mistakes in the future.
Photo Klan March Owosso, Oct. 20, 1924, Corner of Main and Washington St. The Camera Captured This photo looking southeast from the building on the northwest corner of N. Washington St.