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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


April 3, 2004 - Issue 110


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The Indian Priest
Father Philip B. Gordon
Chapter 13 - Father G. and the KKK

by Paula Delfeld
credits: submitted by Timm Severud (Ondamitag)

Father Gordon's series of lectures were initiated to offset some specific items of complaints against the Catholic Church which were asserted by purposely ill-informed and anti-Catholic talkers touring the country and very active in neighboring counties.

One man especially, called Pat Malone, was particularly active in Barron and Rusk Counties. The C.F. Schmit Council No. 2137 of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, instituted an investigation and reported:

"Malone was a Klan speaker spewing forth his rottenness… going about shooting hot air and running up bills he never paid… Getting into a bad scrape in Neillsville, involving the wife of a citizen there… an inmate for a time at the home of the notorious Kruegers, who killed United States Officers after resisting the government draft… not an ex-priest as advertised… very crude… the kind of 100% un-American trash that is out traducing the loyal Catholics of this country and attempting to remove the First, Second, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution."

From Ladysmith in Rusk County, under the date of April 22, 1926, a letter to Father Gordon stated, "… The class of people supporting 'Pat Malone' were either supremely ignorant or bigoted. The intelligent and the businessmen realized that he was a professional mudslinger, out to wrest people of their hard-earned money through his malicious fanaticism. The latter considered him quite a joke. Pat Malone was abetted by one minister only in Ladysmith, the Reverend Sawyer, a Christian minister. The others, particularly the Methodist and Congregational ministers were heartily and militantly against him. The latter were even challenged by 'Pat' to debate but refused to have anything to do with the fanatic."

"This Malone has residence in Milwaukee. His real name is Arthur Malone; he formerly made a living as a partner of a young doctor who performed illegal operations somewhere in Wisconsin… It would do my heart good, and I would feel avenged, if a bunch of sturdy young lads would give him the fine dunking and a forceful egress from your town. - Signed L.J. Quigley, O.S.M."

Around the beginning of May 1926, a fiery cross was seen blazing near the Ed Murphy and Dennis Murphy farms. It was taken as a sort of challenge by some of the Irish farmers and some feeling was aroused, particularly against the County Sheriff.

Some suggested that Father Gordon ought to write or telegraph the governor, John J. Blaine. He followed the suggestion and on May 11, 1926, the governor wrote to Mr. George B. Mattson, Sheriff of Polk County, Balsam Lake.

Dear Sir: "Complaint has been filed that one of your deputy sheriffs was implicated in the burning of a cross in connection with some meeting of the Ku Klux Klan."

"The burning of the cross is very offensive to a large group of our people, even to a large group who are not members of any church, the feeling being that it is a desecration of the very sacred symbolism of civilization. Due to such feeling and due to the fact that the Klan is an organization of hates and haters, the assemblage of a large number of people under such circumstances in such a demonstration, have a tendency to incite a breach of the peace and order. In fact, such meetings often incite a breach of the peace."

"I think it would be a just cause for removal if a sheriff of this state participated in any such demonstration, especially when it is the duty of the sheriff to hold himself in readiness to prevent any breach of the peace."

"Therefore, if one of your deputies participated in one of these demonstrations, he should be removed at once…"

Sheriff Mattson replied on May 14 stating that if any of deputies were guilty of committing an unlawful act he would be removed from office at once. He listed his regular deputies who received salary as: James Ely, Undersheriff, Chris Peterson, Deputy, Louis Soderberg, Deputy, Harry Mattson, Deputy, and Albert E. Mattson, Special Deputy, as well as several who served without pay.

On April 26, 1926, August E. Ender, editor of the Rice Lake Chronotype, Rice Lake, Wisconsin, replied to Father Gordon's letter, saying,

"… as to the class of people who visited and supported Pat Malone, the city of Chetek will furnish perhaps the best example. The city is over 95% non-Catholic and as being more or less opposed at all time to the Catholic religion. Well, the upshot of the meetings was that a mass meeting was held at the school, it was resolved by the Parent Teachers Association that all would stay away from the meeting, and that they would try to keep their children away also, especially from meetings for men and women only…"

"At Barron the leading KKK among the businessmen, owner of a general store, incurred the displeasure of the Lutherans, Episcopalians and members of the Masonic order and others to such an extent that he has sold out. None of the ministers of Barron supported Pat Malone, but nearly all actively opposed him, and he was forbidden to use the Methodist church, and Reverend Clark of the Baptist Church said his utterances were 'un-Christian.' Pat finally set up shop in a tent, and ridiculed all the ministers in Barron."

"Reports that came from Ladysmith say the last meeting was a joke, and God in his infinite mercy may have seen fit to send Pat there because since then the Masons and Knights of Columbus have often been honored guests of each other at invited meetings, and the value of free advertising to the Catholic Church is too great to measure in dollars and cents. Pat said the Methodist minister at Ladysmith, Reverend T. Harry Kelley, was a Romanist in disguise, and Kelley came back at him and silenced him for good in that community."

"You have been doing noble work in educating the people as the aims of Malone's panhandling tactics. He is always looking for trouble and to put enough kick into his meetings he usually has to jump onto some unoffending Protestants. - Cordially, A.F. Ender"

In 1941, Father Gordon was to reminisce about the affair, "After fifteen years and knowing the people of the county better than in those days, I often wonder if all the perturbation was worth the while or was necessary. In later years, I even came to think that someone of the Irish themselves might have burned the cross 'to get Murphy mad.'"

But, he said, "the letters will indicate how degenerate became the workings of an organization such as the Ku Klux Klan, built on racial and religious prejudice. I often wonder if the set of men and women who do so much criticizing of any anti-Semitic utterances in these days and are willing to bar Father Coughlin from the air, because of alleged anti-Jewish sentiments felt the same when their Catholic fellow-citizens and Catholic neighbors were under fire from the likes of creatures known as 'Pat Malone.'"

Pat Malone apparently left the scene. Most Catholics were not particularly aroused. Some members of the American Legion urged some action, but there was really nothing that could be done and so the event passed into history.

However, in 1941, Father Gordon wrote, "One of the most remarkable coincidences that I have ever noted was to read the following news clipping from the Minneapolis Star-Journal issue of August 9, 1941:

"Evangelist Pat Malone, guest speaker, will deliver another of his series of sermons at Prospect Park Baptiste Church Sunday. He concludes his series the following week."

"Malone's morning sermon topic, 'The One Besetting Sin,' will follow the morning worship at 11 a.m."

"'The Greatest Tragedy Ever Recorded' will be his evening topic and follows prayer service at 7:30."

Father Gordon thought it would be worth a great deal if someone undertook to satisfy his curiosity and find out if this Pat Malone, Evangelist, is by any means the same Pat who had stirred up the community fifteen years earlier.

"Maybe (as I sincerely hope) the resemblance of names is purely accidental. Two men can easily have the same name in this vast country of ours. If by chance, it is the same Malone, then God help the Baptist!"

Father Gordon felt progress had been made in at least one area when he quoted a write-up of what he called one for the most unique events in which he had been involved:

"Perhaps the committee in charge unwittingly arranged it so, or perhaps they did it deliberately but Centuria Commercial Club banquet staged last Thursday, aside from being one of the most enjoyable and most successful occasions of its kind ever staged in the village, was also one of the most unique of its kind ever held in this part of the state."

"The banquet was successful from the standpoint of attendance, over one hundred partaking, successful also because of the general spirit of good cheer and sociability which pervaded, the fine eatables served, and the interesting program."

"But the unique feature was called to attention by Reverend Philip Gordon, toastmaster for the evening, who in his inimitable, humorous way, pointed out that the banquet was being held in the dining room of a Swedish Lutheran Church, with the pastor of the church asking grace at the beginning and pronouncing the benediction at the close; the band was under the direction of the pastor of the German Lutheran Church; the Methodist pastor was on the speaking program; the toastmaster was the pastor of an Irish Catholic parish; of the three members of the committee in charge, one was an Englishman, one a Dane and one a German; the main speaker of the evening was a Scotchman; the entertainment of the evening gave Italian and French dialect reading as a part of the program; and to further complete the mixture, there was one real American present - an Indian - no one, but the Reverend Gordon."

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