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Below are three KKK letters archived at Ball State University.

material submission 
Briana Felch

First the letters are submitted then the Ball State discussions and finally Briana's genealogical connection to James Conn the addressee in the first letter.

A letter from the KKK to James Conn and two other related letters in the BSF collection.

Letter copies received from Ball State University of Muncie, Indiana of 3 KKK warning letters to residents of Attalla, AL ca 1870.  Typed description of the Archives KKK documents are included on the same page as the photocopy of the envelope of the Allen Gray letter and read as follows:

"KU KLUX KLAN ---1870

These three warning letters of the Ku Klux Klan, addressed to three citizens of Attalla, Alabama, came into the possession of a gentleman who was present at the proceedings, held at Patona, Alabama, against members of the Klan because of the supposed killing by its order of one, Luke, a white school teacher, near Cross Plains, Alabama.
There are: Three (crossed out and "One" written above) warning letter(s)
A photograph of two members dressed in the Klan regalia
A booklet, the "Prescript," of the secret rituals and by laws of the * (symbol) *.
Note that in the booklet, the Klan is never identified by name, but always by the symbols:
* (symbol) *.  The letters are all concerned with an interference in an election, a charge which was generally leveled against the Klan, and each was dispatched in the customary manner,  - "SBAN", (Sent by a nigger).  The material listed was in the possession of the original holder, above mentioned, since 1870."
Copies Received 11 Aug 2005.
Content Transcriptions:

KKK warning letter to Mr. Jas. P. Conn, Attalla, AL, ca 1870:
----------------------------LETTER No. 1 BEGINS HERE-------------------------
"Head Quarters of the Grand Cyclops 11th hour Last Moon
General Order No. 400796

Mr. Jas. P. Conn
The spirits are mourning (sp?). Hell is gasping and the eyes of the Grand Cyclops are
------ (smudged) you. Keep quiet until the present election is over have nothing to do or say to the negroes and be sure to send Col. Henry Hammonds to Attalla by Tuesday morning or hell will  ? pop (sp?).

By order of the KKK"

[Envelope reads across left side:] KKK 123575
[Top:] Official Business
[Address:]  Jas. R. Conn, Esq (?), Attalla, Ala
-------------------------------LETTER No. 1 ENDS HERE-------------------

Similar letter to William Pruitt, Attalla, AL:
----------------------LETTER No. 2 BEGINS HERE--------------------------------
"117th Division Grand Cyclops 12th? Moon Last Hour, General Order No 333333

Mr. Wm. Pruitt

Your actions as Grand Juror has been considered and passed upon by the 49th 117th and the 97th Divisions of this order.  General retribution (?) is at hand, your name ("have been" marked out) has been passed favourably upon as a suitable man for our purposes by the grand Division of the state. Marke?  ------ ? your walks in ? future (?). Keep clear of negroes, have but little to do or say in the present Election if you would escape the danger that lies in your front (?).

By order of the KKK's."

[Along left edge:] KKK 333333
[Along top:] Official Business
[Addressee:] Wm. Pruitt, Esq., Attalla, Ala
-------------------LETTER No. 2 ENDS HERE--------------------------------

KKK warning Letter to Allen Gray, Attalla, Alabama, ca 1870:
-----------------------------LETTER No. 3 BEGINS HERE-------------------------------
"Den of the great grand division of the State A (sic; At) Large

17th and 18th moon 15th minute and last hour Grand order No 02

To the Hon. Allen Gray, T.M.  (?Not sure of T, but looks like the T in "to")

Sir Your high position has been well considered by his magesty the great grand master of the ku klux klan of the State at large is seriously object---- (?).  your conduct is seriously objectionable. your name is known through all the States.  you will not Sir be dealt with by any subdivision but held responsible to the great grand worthy master of the State.v

Say no more or do no more in the present election if you wish to escape danger by order of the great grand ku klu (sic) klux (sic).

Sir you have been the instigation of much suffering in this community and it will not be tolerated any longer. you may make a futile demonstration of this if you like but your neck will certainly fall (? feel?) limp if you do.

We ("the of" scratched out) the order of the ku klux klan mean what we say - by order of kkk. "

-----***Note by BSF:  Capitalization (or lack thereof) is duplicated. KKK is never capitalized here.


[Along left edge:] KKK 999999
[Top edge:] Official Business
[Addressee:]  Hon. Allen Gray, T.M  (or could be P.M), Attalla, Ala
-----------------------------------LETTER No. 3 ENDS HERE--------------------------------

Here is a link to the contents of the KKK files at Ball State:'james%20r%20connalabama'_

Archives and Special Collections, Universities Libraries, Ball State University

Ku Klux Klan letter, ca 1870, Attalla, Ala to James R. Conn (1870)
----holograph, with letter
-----Warning to "keep quiet until the present election is over"
Photocopy: S.1: s.n., 197-?
Sp. Coll, F326.K8, 1870A

(similar letters also to William Pruitt, Attalla, AL (warning to "have little to do or say in the present election" and to Allen Gray of Attalla warning to "say no more or do no more in present election').

Ball State University, 2000 W. University Ave, Muncie, IN 47306
submitted by-------
Briana S. Felch, Huntsville, AL

Ball State Communication notes regarding the KKK letters.


***Note from BSF: 1)Ball State University website referencing the letters: search='james%20r%20connalabama'
2) Internet search of August 11, 2005 for information regarding the white teacher Luke revealed the following:
1) ADAH (AL Dept Archives and History) website;
"KKK During Reconstruction" a book by Gene L. Howard, "Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy" Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama Press, 1984. Description: A chilling account of the lynching of white Canadian Methodist missionary and school teacher, William Luke, and several of his black students, by Alabama Klansmen."

"Reconstruction KKK

State of Alabama; some put to death within the last 2 years by KKK
9) William C. Luke; a white man, teacher of a Sunday School or day school for colored children at ?Patonee*, in Calhoun Co, AL; a thoroughly educated Christian gentleman from the north who spoke several languages. He was put to death by a band of KKK near the village of Cross Plains in that county a little after midnight of Monday, July 21, 1870."

****Note from BSF: City name is "Patona".
***Note by BSF:  Capitalization (or lack thereof) is duplicated. KKK is never capitalized here. (Allen Gray letter). This letter has very little capitalization and only minor punctuation. KKK or Ku Klux Klan was never capitalized in this letter and usually the first word of the sentence was not as well. He liked to capitalize the S words (State and Sir and Say) and he capitalized the addressee's name).

***Note by BSF: The KKK symbol is an asterisk * followed by what can best be described as a diagonally striped shape that appears rectangular with a curve to the left at the top, followed by another asterisk.
***Note from BSF: Regarding the more exact dating of the 3 letters;
1) The name of the town of Attalla was "Newton" until Feb 21, 1870 when Attalla was selected as the name for the post office location. It was officially named Attalla in 1893.
2) Re: Luke murder: William C. Luke was murdered after midnight, Monday, July 21, 1870.
(source: website "Reconstruction KKK").

----------------------------------- search='james%20r%20connalabama'

Archives and Special Collections, Universities Libraries, Ball State University

Ku Klux Klan letter, ca 1870, Attalla, Ala to James R. Conn (1870)
----holograph, with letter
-----Warning to "keep quiet until the present election is over"
Photocopy: S.1: s.n., 197-?
Sp. Coll, F326.K8, 1870A

(similar letters also to William Pruitt, Attalla, AL (warning to "have little to do or say in the present election" and to Allen Gray of Attalla warning to "say no more or do no more in present election').

Ball State University, 2000 W. University Ave, Muncie, IN 47306

Archives and Special Collections Research Center, Bracken Library, Room 210
Ball State University, Muncie IN 47306-0161
ph 765-285-5078; fax 765-285-2644

Subj: RE: Archives and Special Collections Request
Date: 8/8/2005 10:12:40 AM Central Daylight Time
From:Jane E. Gastineau
To: Briana
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Ms. Felch,

Thank you for your inquiry regarding the KKK's letter to James Conn. The letter we have is a single-page photocopy of the original with its envelope.  It is part of a three-letter group sent by the KKK to men in Attalla before the 1870 election.  All are warnings to "keep quiet" or "do not more" regarding the upcoming election.  I would be glad to mail you a copy of the letter to Conn; I can also mail copies of the other letters if you would like to see them.

The Archives and Special Collections Research Center does not charge for fewer than 20 photocopied pages, and there is no charge for postage.  So the Conn letter (1 page) or all three letters (5 pages) can be sent to you free of charge.

I do not find anything else in our collection specifically related to James R. Conn or the 1870 election in Attalla, Alabama.  The 1870 elections were the first held after the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted black male citizens the right to vote, and the first black congressman from Alabama (Rep. Benjamin S. Turner) was elected at that time.  The KKK was very active before the election, working to prevent blacks and their white supporters from voting and/or being elected.  In response, Congress passed an enforcement act in 1871 (also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act) to suppress KKK activity. So the Conn letter was surely part of the larger events of Reconstruction and post-Civil War politics.

I hope the above information is useful.  Please let me know which letter(s) you would like copied, and I will send them to you.  Is the street address on your email the address to which you would like them sent?

Jane E. Gastineau
Ball State University

From: Briana
Sent: Sunday, August 07, 2005 1:32 AM
To: Gastineau, Jane E.
Subject: Archives and Special Collections Request

Ms. Gastineau:

I found a listing in your Archives and Special Collections of a KKK letter ca 1870 to James R. Conn in Attalla, AL and would like to see about obtaining a copy of this letter and any other information you may have regarding James' connection to the KKK and/or the circumstances regarding the "election" referenced in the letter.  I am a descendant of James R. Conn's brother, Simon S. Conn b/1826 d/bet 1870 and 1880 Marshall Co, AL. James R. Conn was b/1834 and d/1899 in Etowah Co, AL. I am researching the Conn genealogy, and would like to have a copy of this historical letter to add to my genealogy files on the family.

Any information you can send me about the method and costs of obtaining a copy would be most appreciated.

I look forward to hearing from you soon regarding this matter.  Thanks for your time.

Briana S. Felch

Subj: RE: Archives and Special Collections Request
Date: 8/15/2005 9:22:14 PM Central Daylight Time
From: Jane E. Gastineau
To: Briana
Sent from the Internet (Details)

I'm on vacation this week and checking my email on the road.  But when I get back to BSU, I'll look at the letters again and let you know what I think.  And thank you for the information on Attalla and Luke. I'll definitely add that information to the file with the letters.

I'll get back to you next week.  This is interesting stuff.


From: Briana
Sent: Fri 8/12/2005 5:58 PM
To: Gastineau, Jane E.
Subject: Re: Archives and Special Collections Request

Thank you for the copies you sent.  I received them the other day and find them fascinating.

I am not sure if you can help me with this or not, but I was wondering if you had read the letters and what you made of them?  What I am trying to figure out is concerning the nature of the warnings in the letters.  Specifically, I would generally take the idea of a warning letter from the KKK as a threat, but the Conn letter and Pruitt letter sound rather mild, and more of a warning to a fellow KKK member or KKK sympathizer (warning for their general safety), whereas the Gray letter sounds as if the KKK is actually threatening to HARM Gray.  In addition, in the Pruitt letter, the KKK makes references to Pruitt "serving their purposes" and sounds as if they respect Pruitt.  Is this what you make of these letters? (Basically, my question is are they all threats from the KKK or are they general warnings to fellow sympathizers, or a mix of threat and warnings?).

In addition, the description of the documents provided reference a date of ca 1870, and I thought I might be able to help you narrow that down somewhat. I am not sure if you will want to add this information or if you are already aware of it or not.  Online searches revealed that the town of Attalla was known as "Newton" until 21 Feb 1870 when Attalla was chosen as the post office.  It was officially named Attalla in 1893.  That source was And I also found that William C. Luke was killed Monday, Jul 21, 1870 sometime after midnight. That website was

What that says to me, is that since the addres was Attalla and since the letters were produced in regards to the Luke lynching, the letters were certainly written after 21 Feb 1870 and probably written after 21 Jul 1870.

In addition, the ADAH website lists a book about the lynching of William Luke by Gene L. Howard called "Death at Cross Plains: An Alabama Reconstruction Tragedy" pub. by the University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa) in 1984.

I know you are busy, but if you have time to let me know your thoughts regarding the nature of these "warnings" to these citizens and whether they were of a threatening type or of a friendlier type to a fellow KKK member/sympathizer, I would certainly appreciate it.  I hope you will find the information I sent you regarding Luke and the Attalla name useful.  By the way, the towns of Patona and Cross Plains, according to that website are in (or were in) Calhoun Co, AL.  Today, the biggest city in that county (to my knowledge) is Anniston (Anniston Army Depot is located there).

Thanks for your assistance with these letters. I certainly appreciate it!

Briana S. Felch
---------------------------------BSF 9/1/2005

Subj: RE: Archives and Special Collections Request
Date: 8/30/2005 11:49:36 AM Central Daylight Time
From: Jane E. Gastineau
To: Briana
Sent from the Internet (Details)

Ms. Felch,

I'm sorry it's taken me more than a week to get back to you again---I'm still playing post-vacation catch-up.  But, finally, I've reread the letters.  I think you're right about the differences in tone among the letters.  The Gray letter is surely more openly and crudely threatening (the handwriting is cruder, too, which is interesting)--one can't miss the meaning of "your neck will certainly feel hemp if you do"--and it's clear that Gray has already done something "seriously objectionable" to make the KKK angry.  The Conn letter seems more measured/subtle--perhaps Conn hasn't done anything "bad" yet--but it's still a threat, I think.  The wording is rather formulaic, but knowing that "Hell is gasping and the eyes of the Grand Cyclops [sic--a cyclops has only 1 eye, right?] are on you" and being told to do something "or Hell will pay" seems threatening to me.  I guess I don't read any indication that Conn is either a KKK sympathizer or opponent, just someone the KKK wants to manipulate.  I wonder who Col. Henry Hammond is--knowing might clarify Conn's position.  The Pruitt letter may be more a "reminder" to a sympathizer or someone the KKK has manipulated before---Pruitt's behavior has "passed" KKK requirements.  I don't know that they respect Pruitt, but they think that he is useful to their "purposes" and that he will cooperate with them if encouraged and reminded that "general retribution is at hand."  So I think you're right about this being a warning to Pruitt to avoid future "danger" by continuing to behave as the KKK desires.

All that, of course, is only my reading of the letters, and I don't have any local context to put them in.

I added your information about Attalla and dating the letters to our files.  Thank you very much for that information.

Thank you again for your interest in our materials.


Jane E. Gastineau


Briana's Genealogy back to James Conn


Within one of the emails is the below little blurb about my interest/connection to the Conns. To be more specific, my ggg grandfather is Simon S. Conn (1826-bet 1870 and 1880 m/Alsrey Gentry (1830-ca Nov 1879?), and his brother was James R. Conn (1834-1899). Their parents are Joseph and Hannah Conn. Joseph b/ca 1805-d/bet 1867-1870 and Hannah was b/ca 1807, d/aft 1880. I have been unable to find the exact dates of death and places of burial of Simon, Alsrey, Joseph and Hannah. Joseph is my earliest known Conn ancestor. The Conns and Gentrys were in Cherokee Co, GA in 1850 and in St. Clair Co, AL by about 1857. St. Clair County borders Etowah County, AL and many of my ancestors from the area either lived along the county line or moved from one to the other. With regards to the Conns, there were many Conns in Cherokee Co, GA in/around 1850 and several came to the same general vicinity about the same time frame. I suspect either brothers or cousins to Joseph, but I have not been able to determine one way or another for sure. (In fact, there is a Simean A b/1824 who often seems to get confused with my Simon S.).

With Alsrey Gentry, I am pretty certain her brother was the Elisha E. Gentry who married Elizabeth Conn about the same time as Simon and Alsrey married, also in Cherokee Co, GA. They are living next door to Simon and Alsrey in 1850. But I have no clue as to Alsrey's parents or any other siblings. There are several Gentry families in Cherokee, but none that indicate a possible kinship to Alsrey. I long thought Elizabeth was Simon' sister, but such does not appear to be the case. Elisha's second wife was Sarah Ann Conn, and it looks like in 1860 they were in Guntersville in Marshall Co, AL, then went to Stephens Co, TX.

In a futile attempt to find something to help in my Conn dead ends, periodically I try a shot-in-the-dark regular search engine, trying to concentrate on the more unusual names (Alsrey Gentry is a good one) or possibly a more distant relative that I might not have searched for before. From what I can recall, I literally stumbled upon this information with such a search, though I cannot recall if I was searching for James R. Conn specifically or Conn+Alabama.

The information was very interesting, but unfortunately, other than a few cursory internet searches (giving me the information I provided to you), I have not really done any real digging on the information. I actually acquired the information in 2005, but I just happened to think of it out of the blue the other day when I got an email from a distant Conn cousin that I had not corresponded with in several years. HE is a direct descendant of James R. Conn, and, needless to say, he was very excited to get the new information. (It was also exciting to be able to provide such fascinating and rare information that such a more experienced researcher did not already have).

In any case; working from me back, here is my direct Conn line:
Briana Smith Felch - Mickey Smith and Mary Brothers - Homer Ervin Brothers and Bertie Elvira Galloway - Charles Columbus Brothers and Commella Grace Conn - Simon S. Conn, Jr. and Eliza Jane Lee - Simon S. Conn, Sr. and Alsrey Gentry - Joseph Conn and Hannah (LNU).

James R. Conn was b/27 Jun 1834, Cherokee Co, GA d/4 Aug 1899 Gallant, Etowah Co, AL, and buried at Bethlehem Primitive Baptist Church, Gallant, Etowah Co, AL. He married Sarah Sallie (Rogers or Suggens); some contradictions there with her last name). Sallie was b/6 Feb 1832, Cherokee Co, GA and d/17 Oct 1915, Gallant. James was a grocer and a tax assessor in Gallant. I don't know he ever fought in the Civil War. If I am not mistaken, it was their brother John B Conn who enlisted and served in Co G, 58th Alabama. (John B may also be found as John S or John D, some discrepancies there as well).

As a side note, Eliza, Simon Jr, Col. William Carroll Lee, and 3rd wife Sarah P. Taylor are buried at the Lee Cemetery in Gallant, Etowah Co, AL (right outside Attalla, AL). Eliza Jane Lee's father, Col. William Carroll Lee, Sr. was in the War of 1812 and Creek Indian Wars. His son, Polk Dallas Lee, was the Sheriff of Etowah County, Alabama between 1872-1876, and in 1880. Polk Dallas Lee was in Co A, 10th Alabama Infantry during the Civil War. Col. William Carroll Lee, Sr. was son of Judge Needham Lee (1770-ca 1820) who went from Hawkins Co, TN to Shelby Co, AL. Judge Needham Lee had at least 19 children, most of the boys whom fought in the Civil War and many of his grandsons also. The Lee line is detailed in the Memorial Record of Alabama. In addition, I recently found a fascinating account of the Lee and their Bailey cousins' connection in the early 1820's of their involvement in a large counterfeiting ring in/around Shelby County, AL. (It actually spanned several counties, but was largely based in Shelby). Charges were brought against the Judge (Needham Lee) and he seems to have skipped town while on bail or upon hearing he was to be charged. He was never seen or heard from again and no present day researchers have been able to track him down. James B. Bailey is believed to be the also one who ended up in Brazoria Co, TX. There were a lot of James B. Baileys in the family, but it is believed the counterfeiter was either the brother of Judge Needham Lee's wife, the Judge's nephew (wife's side). There is a Lee Room in the Shelby County Courthouse with artifacts from the Lee era and on the Judge. Unfortunately I have not been able to yet visit the Courthouse to see it. The family was very prolific and the men seemed to live to a pretty ripe age for the most part. William Carroll Lee and his clan ended up moving to St. Clair (which in addition to bordering Etowah County on one side, borders Shelby County on the other), but most of the Lees stayed in Shelby County. There is a fascinating history of the Brazoria Co, TX James B. Bailey, who was said to have drunk himself to death and his wife buried him with a jug of whiskey, and he is said to be a "ghost" and of local folk-lore. 

Another side note is that Allen Gray who also received one of the KKK letters I sent), I believe is buried in the same cemetery as some of my Conns; in the Lee Cemetery in Gallant, Etowah Co, AL. Allen Gray was b/1827 SC and d/17 Apr 1897, Etowah Co, AL. He married Louiza. Allen Gray was the 1st Postmaster of Attalla, AL "after 21 Feb 1870" according to my genealogy. (I do not show the source of that information). I did not put it together before, but he was apparently Postmaster at the time of the KKK letters, which would indicate his "high position" that they spoke of in the letter. And on the outside envelope, I wasn't sure if it gave the initials/abbreviation T.M or P.M after his name, so it must have been P.M. after all. My connection to Allen Gray is more distant; my gggg grandfather's (John W. Gilliland's) son, Wiley Buford Gilliland (by John's first wife and not my ggg grandmother) had a son named Thomas O. Gilliland who married Sallie Gray, daughter of Allen Gray. Allen's relationship to me does not compute via my genealogy program, but James R. Conn would be my "third great granduncle."