It seems like wherever I’ve packed up and moved within the state of North Carolina, I’m never too far from the shrieking ghosts of some racist atrocity, or even worse, always seem to stumble into a community rotten with a century or more of systemic brutalization, its most upstanding representatives wearing crackbrush mustaches and, to a man, the horizontally oriented jug ears that display the family’s keen erotic inclinations toward its own blood.

The first place I rented was located in the swamps near the Grimes Plantation in Eastern North Carolina. Bryan Grimes became, through the attrition of Lee’s officer corps, one of his right hand men. Lee gave him the honor of fighting the last, murderous, needless rearguard action of the war at Appomatox, and he returned home with a guaranteed sinecure in the racialist hierarchy of his state. He was assassinated later, because of his intervention in an immigration  case. I haven’t been able to determine whether he was killed by pro immigrant Irish, or given his family’s later financial contributions to St. Alphonso’s in Baltimore, he’d aggravated his Scots neighbors. In any case, the Grimes were deeply afraid of a Negro rebellion, and pestered the federal government about it constantly.

The assassin was lynched, doubtlessly by some hookworm ridden plug chewers, who likely fit this neat contemporary description:

The large numbers of Southern men, and these were of the better class (officers in the Confederate army and planters, worth $20,000 or more, and barred from general amnesty) who presented themselves for the pardon of President Johnson, while they sat awaiting his pleasure in the ante-room at the White House, covered its floor with pools and rivulets of their spittle. An observant traveller in the South in 1865 said that in his belief seven-tenths of all persons above the age of twelve years, both male and female, used tobacco in some form. Women could be seen at the doors of their cabins in their bare feet, in their dirty one-piece cotton garments, their chairs tipped back, smoking pipes made of corn cobs into which were fitted reed stems or goose quills. Boys of eight or nine years of age and half-grown girls smoked. Women and girls “dipped” in their houses, on their porches, in the public parlours of hotels and in the streets.

This state of affairs largely continued through my childhood. I recall being dressed in my new easter clothes and shoes, and having to dodge shitheaps of recently disgorged plug tobacco in the gravel parking lot of the Baptist church where we prayed for Jesus to deliver us from the negro and the northern Jew. Even later, when I introduced my nice Jewish girlfriend to my maternal grandfather, he was dribbling greenish brown snuff into a Mason Jar. I don’t know how it happened, but somehow the US Open coverage he was watching on television snapped some switch on in his hindbrain, and he began telling us about the virtues of the Klan. It went something like this:

“Now you young people have lost respect for the Klan. There was a day when it would’a been different. But you’ll see. The day’s coming when you’ll need ’em. You may not like ’em, but they’re on your side.”

Need I add that this was probably one of the most effective cock-blocks of all time? I felt like strangling the old bastard right there in his recliner, but I was afraid of what it might blow out of of him, and I couldn’t move anyway. Mortified.

But the Klan and its supplemental hick legions never have that problem. At least as long as there are a dozen of them, they can work up enough nerve to slaughter just about anyone. Not too far from us is the location of the flashpoint of the war to end Reconstruction in North Carolina. It’s known by lazy-ass  Southern  historians as the Kirk-Holden War, because the Klan decided the duly elected Governor of the State and a commissioned officer of the United States Army were the perps. It’s sort of like the South getting to name battles in the Civil War.

I prefer to think of it as the Second Racist Insurrection, which is, unfortunately, ongoing. Like all racist wars, there are underlying economic causes, but these dovetail so throughly with the  economically debilitating feudalist tendentiousness of the goober states they tend to get lost. But there’s a  neat little syllogism that pretty much covers any racial unrest here in the South. If there’s racial animosity being stoked, one of the rich families has come up a couple bucks short in their accounts. So one of them yells out his front door “The Nigras is takin our money agin” and the bubbas take to the streets easy as shaking shit out of a boot.

The rest of the country is getting a little taste of this with the staged demonstrations against modernity, but thus far without the overt violence that has historically attended your average Southern Feast of Carnality. I present the confession of Mr. Lea, a Klansman who specified that his account of the murder of James W. Stephens, a Caswell County native and Reconstruction Republican be read upon his death. That alone is craven enough, but the self serving, defensive tone of his version, sprinkled with a little blackface humor, should have appalled everybody.

J. W. Stevens 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 Stevens and another darky told about his burning the hotel, also by an order. Stevens was tried by the Ku Klux Klan and sentenced to death. He had a fair trial before a jury of twelve men. At a democratic convention he approached ex‑sheriff Wiley and tried to get him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff. Wiley said he would let him know that day. He came to me and informed me of that fact and suggested that he would fool him into that room in which he was killed. He did so and ten or twelve men went into the room and he was found dead next morning. A democratic convention was in session in the court room on the second floor of the courthouse in Yanceyville, to nominate county officers and members of the Legislature. Mr. Wiley, who was in the convention, brought Stevens down to a rear room on the ground floor, then used for the storage of wood for the courthouse. I had ordered all the Ku Klux Klan in the county to meet at Yanceyville that day, with their uniforms under their saddles, and they were present. Mr. Wiley came to me and suggested that it would be a better plan, as Stevens had approached him to run on the republican ticket for sheriff and he had told him that he would let him know that day, to fool him down stairs, and so just before the convention closed, Wiley beckoned to Stevens and carried him down stairs, and Captain Mitchell, James Denny and Joe Fowler went into the room and Wiley came out. Mitchell proceeded to disarm him (he had three pistols on his body). He soon came out and left Jim Denny with a pistol at his head and went to Wiley and told him that he couldn’t kill him himself Wiley came to me and said, “You must do something; I am exposed unless you do.” Immediately I rushed into the room with eight or ten men, found him sitting flat on the floor. He arose and approached me and we went and sat down where the wood had been taken away, in an opening in the wood on the wood‑pile, 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. Stevens 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. I may add that it was currently believed that Stevens murdered his mother while living with him. Stevens kept his house, within sight of the courthouse and now standing, in a state of war all the time with doors and windows barred with iron bars and a regular armory with a large supply of ammunition.

They cut Stephens’ throat on the ground floor of the courthouse at Yanceyville, locked the door of the office where he lay bleeding to death, and returned to the Democratic meeting upstairs, before returning to their respective tobacco farms. What Lea neglects to mention is Stephens was able to see his children playing on the lawn in front of his house just before he was tied and cut up like a hog.

Governor Holden’s sin is he decided to hold these fucks accountable, and he aimed to do it  by visiting total war on the Klan.  Later, when the Allies defeated Germany, they in effect ushered in the radical reconstruction that was truncated in the south. The US had learned what happens when you don’t string ugly up.  Holden employed a veteran of the western theater of operations to shake some guns in the  cracker’s faces. Since the inhabitants of Caswell and Alamance counties were pretty solidly Klan, he suspended habeus and started rounding up the hoods. President Grant promptly notified the governor that he wanted to pursue a policy of status quo ante, and welcomed the Klan into the body politic .

There’s more of this, but I’ve got to get photos and a few courthouse documents. Dick Cavett had a post about unusual convergences recently, and this is along the same lines. His had to do with human frailty and beauty. Mine has more to do with a particular slice of cosmic hideousness.