North Carolina Voices

Reconstruction

"The great want of North Carolina is now a civil government. We believe a large majority of her people are prepared to organize a new State Government one that will reorganize and carry out the emancipation views of the national administration, and in other respects evince a feeling of undoubted loyalty to the old government and to the old flag . . . . Let differences among our people be only political and not personal or social . . . but if there be among us those who hate the old government, or who would contrive any measure designed to impede the progress of reconstruction, we desire it to be distinctly understood that we have no sympathy with such, but we regard them as traitors and enemies of the State. We warn the people to be on guard against such men, no matter what their professions or conduct may have been heretofore. The slaveocracy dies hard; the heads of the hydra will inflict wounds even after they have been severed from the body. Crush them as they are cut off."
  William Woods Holden, Newspaper Editor, Organizer of the Republican Party in North Carolina. Provisional Governor of post-war North Carolina in 1865 (and elected governor in 1868). Raleigh, N.C. North Carolina Standard, May 15, 1865 (Buy the Book)

"Those days of reconstruction worked a hardship on everybody . . . One morning when I was about two miles from the city [Wilmington, N.C.], and just before day dawned, I saw the most fearful looking object I ever beheld, coming meeting me right in the road . . . . I have never been able to guess which was the worse frightened, myself or the horse I was driving. I reckon it was the poor animal that was to be pitied the most . . . . [thereafter] the horse would keep looking and dodging as soon as he came within half a mile of the place we had met the Ku Klux [Klan]."
  Myles Walton, Masonboro resident

"Immediately after the surrender of General Lee, in April, 1865, a bummer named Albion W. Tourgee, of New York, from Sherman's army came to Caswell County and organized a Union League . . . and he made many speeches telling the negroes that he was sent by the government and that he would see that they got forty acres of land. He succeeded in getting J. W. [Stephens] and Jim Jones appointed justices of the peace of Caswell County and they annoyed the farmers very much by holding court every day, persuading the darkies to warrant the farmer, &c. . . . . The first trial that Jim Jones had, a negro stole Captain [James T.] Mitchell's hog. He was caught cleaning the hog by Mitchell's son and by a darky whose name was Paul McGee. He was carried before Jones and Jones turned him loose and said he had been appointed by Governor [William W.] Holden to protect the negro and he intended to do it. Soon thereafter I formed the Ku Klux Klan and was elected county organizer. I organized a den in every township in the county and the Ku Klux whipped Jones and drove him out of the county . . . . [Stephens] burned the hotel in Yanceyville and a row of brick stores. He also burned Gen. William Lee's entire crop of tobacco, and Mr. Sam Hinton's crop. Ed. Slade, a darky, told that he burned the barn of tobacco by an order of [Stephens] and another darky told about his burning the hotel, also by an order. [Stephens] was tried by the Ku Klux Klan and sentenced to death. He had a fair trial before a jury of twelve men . . . Immediately I rushed into the room with eight or ten men, found him sitting flat on the floor. He arose and approached me . . . and he asked me not to let them kill him. Captain Mitchell rushed at him with a rope, drew it around his neck, put his feet against his chest and by that time about a half dozen men rushed up: Tom Oliver, Pink Morgan, Dr. Richmond and Joe Fowler. [Stephens] was then stabbed in the breast and also in the neck by Tom Oliver, and the knife was thrown at his feet and the rope left around his neck. We all came out, closed the door and locked it on the outside and took the key and threw it into County Line Creek . . . . The night after Jones was whipped the Ku Klux went up to see if he had moved, having been ordered to do so. There were three very worthy darkies living in the neighborhood, named Stephen Taylor, William Garland and Frank Chandler. They were carried up to the grave yard by the Ku Klux, where we had left our horses. I walked through the grave yard, placed my hands on Will's naked shoulder and it nearly scared him to death. He shook all over. The next day Will came by my house and Capt. Graves, my brother-in-law, asked him where he was going. Will said, "Lordy, Mars' Billy, I'm going across the creek." "What's the matter, Billy?" asked Capt. Graves. "Dem things got me last night. They were as tall as the eaves of this house. I knows they came out of the graves, for I saw them with my own eyes and one came up and put his hand on my shoulder and his hands chilled me clean through."
  John G. Lea, Ku Klux Klan leader in Caswell County and member of the gang that murdered state senator and Freedmen's Bureau agent John W. Stephens on May 21, 1870. From Lea's confession to the North Carolina Historical Commission, July 2, 1919.


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