In partnership with the Maine Memory Network Maine Memory Network

Maine Memory Network

The Nativist Klan

Text by Richard Judd and Candace Kanes

Images from Maine Historical Society, Aroostook County Historical and Art Museum and Island Falls Historical Society

When a new Ku Klux Klan formed in 1915 – a time of heightened patriotism, nationalism, and anxiety about the future – Maine joined in the secret movement.

The participation of residents of a predominantly white northern state in the nativist movement was not out of context.

The 20th century Klan continued to oppose the rights of African-Americans. But, as with the earlier organization of the same name that emerged after the Civil War, the Klan also targeted Roman Catholics, Jews, and others who were not Protestant and native born.

Irish, French-Canadian, and Italian immigrants came to Maine in the 19th and early 20th centuries and brought with them their Roman Catholic faith.

In 1854-1855, mobs tarred and feathered Father John Bapst in Ellsworth and burned Catholic churches in Bath and Lewiston, as a wave of nativist violence swept through Maine and New England.

Although French-Canadians and other immigrants found a place in Maine society, they retained much of their native culture. This was especially true of Franco-Americans, given their proximity to Quebec and their strong Catholic faith and numerous parish schools.

The Klan that was active in cities and towns throughout the state in the 1920s, used politics and public events to revive the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic sentiment.