- Type of Place
- Independent City or Town
- Metro Area
- Politics c. 1860?
- Don’t Know
- Unions, Organized Labor?
- Don’t Know
Sundown Town Status
- Confirmed Sundown Town?
- Was there an ordinance?
- Don't Know
- Don’t Know
- Year of Greatest Interest
- Still Sundown?
Method of Exclusion
- Threat of Violence
- Private Bad Behavior
Main Ethnic Group(s)
Wed, Jan 9, 2002 in The Daily Astorian
%u201CPublic outcry prompts item’s removal from list%u201D
By BRAD BOLCHUNOS
The Daily Astorian
VERNONIA This community’s links with the Ku Klux Klan are stirring controversy eight decades later.
A listing of notable milestones in Vernonia’s history riled some residents
because it included the KKK. But the person behind the list No. 20 on a sign at Vernonia Lake says it should not be ignored.
Now the dispute has led Enid Parrow, who dreamed up the sign, to remove the Klan reference from the list on a public information kiosk.
The concerns were expressed by residents were about the 1922 notation about Vernonia’s first organized meeting of the KKK.
Vernonia was by no means alone among Oregon communities which saw the KKK rise to prominence in the early 1920s, fanning a hatred of immigrants, communists and Catholics. Local records indicate the Klan swept the 1922 political ticket in Astoria, for example, where at the time the KKK published its own newspapers and had 2,000 members.
But the reference to the Klan in Vernonia’s historical display an item residents said was neither widely noticed nor discussed when it was installed several months ago troubled a relative newcomer to town who observed it recently.
A long time volunteer for community beautification and historic preservation through the nonprofit group Vernonia Pride, Parrow selected the dates from the book, “Vernonia: A Pocket in the Woods” by Ann Fulton of Portland State University.
“We’re trying to promote Vernonia rather than find fault,” she said. The goal was simply to provide a roster that would sample local historical events, she added.
“These things happened. It was part of history in Vernonia,” Parrow said. “If people don’t like the history, then so be it.”
The portion of the display referring to the KKK has been removed by Parrow and colleagues earlier this week and something else will replace it, Parrow
said. She hopes people will simply drop the issue, she added. For a place trying to promote its trails, parks and other amenities “it’s unfortunate there was this misunderstanding,” said City Manager Mike Sykes.
Throughout Oregon, much of the Klan activity was directed primarily against Catholics, said Lisa Penner, curator at the Clatsop County Historical Society. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan spread through local political offices across the United States.
In the appropriate context, remembering such troublesome times is important, Penner said. A few years ago the historical society’s exhibits grew to include a Klan robe and sword, donated by local a resident who was startled to discover the items among the possessions of a deceased family member.
“We were lucky to get these items to put them on display,” Penner said. She acknowledged “there are people not happy we mention (the subject of the Ku Klux Klan), because they would just as soon forget.”
But part of the effort to remember reveals how the height of local political power of the KKK was relatively short lived. It failed to flourish.
“It was an unhappy episode, but it died quickly,” Penner said. “They didn’t last very long.”
An Oregon resident writes:
%u201CWhen I lived as a child in Astoria, OR, in the late 1950s, the community got together and bought out an African American family which had the temerity to buy a house in town after retiring from the Navy there. No laws, but it worked just as effectively.%u201D
An Oregon resident writes that Astoria had a large Chinese population through most of its history. Was not a sundown town. C. 1910, laborers were imported from India, and there was agitation to have them leave.
According to David M. Chambers, “The Klan elected city officials in Eugene, Tillamook, and in Astoria…” (David M. Chalmers, Hooded Americanism (NY: Franklin Watts, 1976 ), 86.)