08 August 2020

The First Appearance of the KKK in Utah

Utah Klansman at the funeral of
Gordon Stuart, SL Telegram 1922-04-20.
The first public evidence of the Ku Klux Klan in Utah came in the form of a newspaper advertisement on March 6 1922, and then a public demonstration at the funeral of a Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriff on April 19 1922.

The initial effort to establish a chapter of the KKK in Utah began in SLC during the latter half of 1921. A national organizer for the KKK, E. T. Cain (probably an alias), arrived to assist with preliminary set up.

By early 1922 the KKK had established a formal Klavern and had obtained an official charter from Imperial Headquarters. Cain soon passed off management to SLC resident Alexander W. Christensen (more on him later).

Cain and Christensen made little progress in recruiting for the KKK. By Feb 1922 only 9 men were members.

In an effort to boost membership they placed a public advertisement in the Salt Lake Tribune and Salt Lake Telegram on March 6 1922, which was largely ignored. A couple months later they made their first public appearance… at a funeral.

Gordon Stuart was a 26-year-old Salt Lake County Deputy Sheriff who was killed when he went to serve civil papers on a farmer and to confiscate his livestock.

The nearly 500 mourners were dumbfounded when near the end the graveside service at Sandy City Cemetery, 8 or 9 masked men in full regalia suddenly appeared.

Forming a human cross, they marched silently in their white robes with a small red cross in a circle over the right breast and tall hooded caps tipped with red tassels.

The leader placed a cross of lilies with a banner inscribed “Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, Salt Lake Chapter No. 1.” The Klansmen then turned to the west, raised their left hands toward the sun, and departed in two curtained and unmarked cars.

Although the Klan’s visit was carefully prearranged it is unclear their specific motivation.

Source: Blazing Crosses in Zion by Larry R. Gerlach, pgs 25-28.

SL County Deputy Sherriff Gordon Stuart, SL Telegram 1922-04-18.

First advertisement of the KKK in Utah, from SL Trib 1922-03-06.

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