Sad episode in county history


1880 papers said Klansmen attacked Black gathering in Danville

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Editor’s note — The following is from newspaper articles that appeared in The Highland Weekly News and Hillsborough Gazette in the summer of 1880. The articles appear in their entirety in the book “Black History of Highland County” by Kati Burwinkel, Myra Cumberland Phillips and John Glaze.

It was reported on July 29, 1880 that a group of Ku Klux Klansmen attacked a group of Black Christians attending a weeklong religious camp in Danville. On Friday night, KKK members, fueled by hatred and alcohol, made their way to Danville from Hillsboro and began a fight with church members using “clubs, billies and loaded canes.” The church group eventually was able to run off the attacking men.

On Saturday, the paper said that Gus and Bill Dickman of Danville, and Jake White, Frank Manker and Bill Eggling of Hillsboro “paraded the streets until after dark, and made threats that they were going to Danville to clean out the camp meeting,” After drinking in a local bar, the men went to the camp after 10 p.m. when most of the church members were in bed. A crowd of about 40 to 50 people showed up at the camp to also make threats.

The crowd began throwing rocks at the church crowd and despite the Rev. Clark’s efforts to calm the crowd, the gang began firing guns. In about 5 minutes, 50 to 75 shots were fired, but the KKK group suffered the most injuries with Bill Dickman shot in the stomach, Frank Manker shot in the head, Jake White beaten and Bill Eggling bit on the back of the head. None of the church group reported injuries.

News of the fight spread through the county like wildfire. The paper stated that “many good citizens expressed their regret that the roughs were not all killed outright.” On Sunday, however, the roughs gathered once again in Danville to wait for the church group to break camp and head home. As the wagons came into Danville, the roughs saw the church people were armed with double barrel shotguns. The first wagon passed through Danville unmolested, but soon the second wagon came into Danville carrying 13 men and women. There were 75 roughs waiting. Moments later, as the wagon sped through Danville, shots were fired from both sides of the street. Again, most of the injuries were suffered by the roughs.

The papers reported that no authorities made any effort to keep the peace in Danville.

Several days later, George Pugh, George Charles, William Boelzner and Charles Murphy were arrested. Charles and Boelzner were held over and Pugh and Murphy were discharged. Gus Dickman and Frank Manker were also arrested for their role in the Saturday night fight. Dickman died of his injuries.

No one was arrested for firing into the wagon as it passed through Danville. The prisoners were held on $300 bail (about $8,200 in 2022 dollars). There were no further articles found about the court case and a search of court records did not indicate how the case was resolved. Several of the men went to jail later on for other crimes.

1880 papers said Klansmen attacked Black gathering in Danville

Submitted story