Every now and then the ignominious saga of the Ku Klux Klan and its shameful mark on U.S. history resurfaces in the news. We read about it in newspapers published in the North, but not in the detail of publications in the South. Arrests and trials still come to light from crimes 25 years ago.

With the country on edge over modern-day terrorism, the KKK inflicted terror on certain ethnic groups during a different time span. The Klan organized right after the Civil War and bran-dished its fear until about 1870 before fading. Its tar-get was mostly blacks. Klansmen dressed in robes and wore sheets over their heads to conceal their identity from federal troops. They struck mostly at night, beating or killing their prey, many of them white sup-porters of blacks.

The 20th Century Klan surfaced in about 1915 in the Atlanta area. A burning cross became its symbol. The white-robed Klansmen participated in parades and marches, and their cross-burning tactics spread across the nation. Blacks, Catholics, Jews and foreigners were targets. The KKK tapered off in the 1930s during the Great Depression, then bounced back in the 1960s. They were active mostly in the South.

The South, however, wasn’t the only region where the Klan operated. Wisconsin and Michigan were hot breeding grounds for the organization. Marinette and Menominee did not escape the haunted path of the KKK.

In the summer of 1926, the KKK held a rally on the west side of Marinette in the vicinity of the Kimberly-Clark paper mill. The Klan’s presence ruffled the nerves of local settlers. A mob of several hundred men stormed the Klan’s camp-site on Park Street near Parkridge, tore down a tent and set it afire. The attackers also smashed an organ used during Klan meetings. A Marinette man, employed by the railroad, was injured in the melee and was taken to a nearby home for protection. The locals branded him a member of the Klan, although he vigorously denied membership. He said he was merely recruited by the KKK to watch over the tent.

As rumors swirled about the two towns that vigilantes may be plotting an attack, the city police chief and sheriff beefed up their manpower by deputizing five new officers to give the two departments 10 officers at the scene. About 300 people attended the KKK meeting and more than 1,000 locals surrounded the meeting site. The under-manned law enforcement had no chance once the donnybrook erupted about 9:30 p.m.

The Klan had been in Marinette for about two weeks before the uprising. District Klan leaders from Milwaukee, along with their lawyers, became involved in the case. The KKK said “Protestants and Catholics” were involved in the tent burning, “and we believe it (the riot) was incited by the bootlegging element in the city.”

Nine local men were arrested for their roles in the fracas, all of them going to trial in Marinette County Circuit Court before Judge William B. Quinlan. Six were found guilty, three were acquitted. The trial lasted 371 days. A jury of eight men and four women wrestled with the evidence in the case for 74 hours, one of the longest jury deliberations up until that time. The jurors were badly shaken by their experience, one woman wept as the verdict was read. Extra deputies circled the courtroom when news came that the jury had a verdict.

Five of the six men found guilty were sentenced to three months in the “county workhouse.” The sixth was given a suspended sentence of six months because of ill health. He was gassed in combat in World War I, and tuberculosis set in. He was sent to a federal hospital for treatment.

John 0. Miller, the Marinette attorney for the five defendants, appealed to Gov. John J. Blaine for a pardon. The men had only served seven days of their sentence when the governor sent a telegram to the attorney granting the exculpation. Miller sought the par-don after an outpouring of support for their release. More than 600 persons signed petitions asking for a pardon.

Although the legal work of the attorney and the support of hundreds of local residents weighed heavily in the governor’s decision, perhaps the most influential plea was made by City Attorney Richard “Jab” Murray. One of the town’s most colorful lawyers, politicians and a former football star at Marquette University and with the Green Bay Packers, Murray, acting in an unofficial capacity, went to visit the governor. Murray went at the request of family members of the prisoners. His clout in Madison helped persuade the governor.

Otto Topel, superintendent at the county-run workhouse, described the five men as “model prisoners.” He said they never refused his orders to work and even had a wood-cutting project scheduled for them at the time they were freed. “The men have been the most popular prisoners that have ever been confined at the workhouse,” noted Topel.

In a separate KKK incident, Marinette Police Judge C.A. Budlong dismissed charges against 20 local defendants on disturb-ing the peace counts, “due to hearsay evidence.” The dismissals were requested by Marinette County District Attorney Arnold F. Murphy. The KKK was active in other parts of Wisconsin. Fifteen persons, including a Catholic priest, were arrested following a disturbance in Hudson. In Crandon, more than 2,000 Klan members attended a July wedding at a KKK event. The bride, a resident of northern Marinette County, and the groom wore KKK robes for the ceremony.

The ugly scenes of KKK activities may have occurred mostly in the South, but hostile acts took place in the Upper Midwest as well, including Marinette County.