Civil War Blog

A project of PA Historian

The Ku Klux Klan Orphanage Fire and the Fund Raising Scam of 1926

Posted By on August 23, 2017

On 21 November 1926, a major fire ripped through Klan Haven, an orphanage established by the Ku Klux Klan near Paxtang, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.  Forty-six children were led to safety by the quick action of home attendants and fire fighters.  According to reports at the time, the cause of the fire was suspicious, and the home’s matron blamed it on “the work of the devil.” Fortunately, no lives were lost and no one was seriously injured.

The property damage was extensive to the former John Y. Boyd Estate, a thirty-four room mansion occupying a hilltop near the William Penn Highway, east of Paxtang.  The Harrisburg Evening News of 22 November 1926 reported that it took six fire companies to keep the flames from spreading to other site structures, and that all that was left of the mansion after several hours were the masonry walls (shown in the photo above), the dry timbers and woodwork  of the interior having fed the flames for hours.  The orphans were temporarily housed at the Children’s Home of Harrisburg and other accommodating sites.  Initial estimates by Mrs. Mary I. Goodwin, Major Kleagle of the Women of the Ku Klux Kla of Pennsylvania and New Jersey were that it would take at least $100,000 to replace the building.  She announced a fund raising drive for $150,000 to rebuild the home.  Local Klan groups were required to participate by contributing and raising funds from non-Klan members in their communities.

The Elizabethville Echo, 2 December 1926, reported on scams that were taking place in the state and issued warnings about them:



The Ku Klux Klan of Pennsylvania launched a campaign last Thursday to raise a $75,000 fund to be used for the rebuilding of Klan Haven, an orphanage for children of the state.  The institution was razed by flames last week and the small charges of the home are now in temporary quarters in Harrisburg.  The site of the home is located near Paxtang Park outside of Harrisburg.

Klan officials say that by assessing each male member $1.00, the fund thus subscribed will far exceed the amount needed for re-building.

Following reports throughout the state that a number of fake solicitors are in operation in this and other counties of the state as solicitors for the Klan, fund officials of the robed order have issued the statement and warning that no collection from the general public will be sponsored by the Klan.  One of the schemes worked by fake solicitors, it is said to sell small articles or merchandise door to door with the promise that ten per cent of the price would be given to the Klan fund.

The orphans are at present quartered in the old Polyclinic Hospital, Harrisburg, and plans, forging speedily ahead for rebuilding the home call for three buildings, instead of the one large building.  They will include one house for the superintendent’s quarters, offices, dining room, and nursery for the younger children and two separate buildings for the older boys and girls.  The new structures will be fire proof.

According to information in later Harrisburg newspapers, the re-built home was dedicated in July 1928, but the home’s history is sketchy after that date.  Rallies and other events were held on the grounds in the years immediately after the fire, including a fund raiser held by U. S. Senator J. Thomas Heflin, a strong supporter of the Klan.  His event, according to news reports, drew more than 3000 people.

This post is a continuation of the reporting on hate groups that were active in the Lykens Valley area in the years following the Civil War.  It was a widely known fact that the third iteration of the Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in the Lykens Valley and adjacent valleys during the early years of the 20th Century.  This third iteration of the Klan was strongly white supremacist and was opposed to equal rights for African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.  Undoubtedly, many of the Klansmen and Klanswomen of the Lykens Valley supported the efforts to re-build the Klan orphanage by contributing their dollar, despite the fact that the organization was under scrutiny by federal and state authorities for criminal acts which included terroristic threats and homicide.


News stories and clippings are from Newspapers.com.


Pennsylvania Railroad Offers Excursion from Lykens to K.K.K. Rally in Washington, 1926

Posted By on August 21, 2017

The Harrisburg Telegraph of 11 September 1926 advertised a special excursion rate of $6.00 by the Pennsylvania Railroad for anyone interested in attending the Ku Klux Klan “parade” to be held in Washington, D. C., on Monday, 13 September 1926.  The train was to leave Harrisburg at 2:00 A.M. on the 13th and return from Washington at 9 P.M. the same day.

But a better deal was available from Lykens, from which it was announced that the train returning to that place would not leave Washington until 11:50 P.M. in the evening, giving Lykens Valley passengers a longer stay in the capital for the same price.

From the Elizabethville Echo, 9 September 1926:


The Pennsylvania Railroad will run a Special Excursion Train to Washington, D. C., leaving Lykens at 12:05 A.M. Monday morning, September 13th and Elizabethville, about 12:19 A.M.; Millersburg, 12:50 A.M.  Tickets will be sold on the train at the rate of six dollars for the round trip.  Returning this train will leave Washington at 11:50 Monday night.  The Ku Klux Klan will hold a convention on September 13, 14, and 15, but anyone desiring to take advantage of this half fare rate can do so.

This post is a continuation of the reporting on hate groups that were active in the Lykens Valley area in the years following the Civil War.  It was a widely known fact that the third iteration of the Ku Klux Klan had a significant presence in the Lykens Valley and adjacent valleys during the early years of the 20th Century.  This third iteration of the Klan was strongly white supremacist and was opposed to equal rights for African Americans, Catholics, Jews, and immigrants.

The special excursion price seemed to normalize and enable a group that was under investigation at the time by both federal and state authorities for criminal behavior, including terroristic intimidation and murder.

It is not known how many people from the Lykens Valley took advantage of the special trains and traveled to Washington to participate in or support this march.

Many hundreds of photographs exist of the two “walks of hate” that took place on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D. C., in 1925 and 1926.  The images portray hooded men, women, and children!  Some of the photos may show residents of the Lykens Valley.

At the time of the Washington marches, the Klan boasted membership in the multi-millions and was able to influence legislation in many states, including states in the northeastern part of the country such as Pennsylvania.  It also had influence in major corporations, such as the Pennsylvania Railroad, which as a favor to the Klan and its members, provided the excursion rates described in the advertisement and article that appeared in the Telegraph and Echo.


Newspaper clippings from Newspapers.com.  Photographic images from Library of Congress.


Isaac M. Spong – Buried in Lebanon, Not Malta!

Posted By on August 18, 2017

The name of Isaac M. Spong was first introduced to the Civil War Research Project by inclusion in the Klingerstown Bicentennial Album, which stated that he served in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry and was wounded at Dabney’s Mills, Virginia – and that he was buried in the St. Luke’s Parish Cemetery, Malta, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.  Subsequent research has shown that the Isaac M. Spong who served in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry is buried at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery, Lebanon, Lebanon County, Pennsylvania.

The card above, from the Pennsylvania Archives, indicates that Isaac M. Spong enrolled at Lancaster on 11 February 1862, and was mustered into service at Harrisburg on 25 February 1862 in Company I, as a Private.  He re-enlisted in February 1864, was promoted to Corporal on 1 January 1865, was wounded on 6 February 1865, and was honorably discharged with his company on 13 July 1865.  By occupation, he was a plasterer and was about 23 years old when he enlisted.

Two Findagrave records exist for Isaac M. Spong (or Isaac M. Spang as he was also known).

The first record has the text of an obituary which is incorrectly dated as 1931.  This obituary is easily found in the Lebanon Daily News of 5 July 1901:

Isaac Spang, plasterer, residing at 1116 Cedar Avenue, was found dead in the meadow, along the embankment of the Cornwall railroad between Cumberland and Chestnut Streets, near Donaghmore station on Thursday about noon. He is aged about 56 years. From witnesses who saw Spang, it was learned that at about 11 o’clock Thursday morning Mrs. Spang was seen leading her husband, evidently trying to get him home. While walking along the embankment of the Cornwall Railroad, near Donaghmore station, he was seen to fall to the ground. Mrs. Spang left her husband lie and hurried home in order to secure assistance of neighbors with a view of removing her husband home. When she arrived at the scene she was shocked to find that her husband had died during her absence and became grief stricken. Word was sent to the police station and Deputy Coroner Charles D. Weirich was notified. He at once proceeded to the scene and after viewing the remains directed their removal by the family. Spang was a veteran of the Civil war and his body was removed to the residence by several Sons of Veterans, who were near when death occurred. Deputy Coroner Weirich selected a jury as a precaution in case Coroner Shultz decided to hold an inquest later. Death is said to have been caused by heat prostration and alcoholism. Spang for some years resided in the Second Ward. He is survived by a wife, Caroline [Fetter] Spang, and those children, who are at home: Lenora Spang, Beulah Spang, Albert Spang, Isaac Spang and Caroline Spang; a son resides at Reading and another at Pittsburgh.

The first record also has a photograph of the grave marker at the Mt. Lebanon Cemetery.

The second record was created by Dennis Brandt, Civil War researcher and writer, who is known for his posts based on actual consultation of the pension records at the National Archives.  Brandt offers some additional information about Isaac M. Spong, but nowhere in the write-up is anywhere other than Berks County, Lancaster County or Lebanon County mentioned.

A Civil War veteran, he enlisted in Lancaster 11 February 1862, mustered into federal service at Harrisburg February 25 as a private with Company I, 107th Pennsylvania Infantry. He contracted a variety of ailments throughout his service such as bronchitis, dysentery, and fevers and was admitted to Wolf Street U.S. Hospital, Alexandria, Virginia, in the summer of 1862, then transferred to the hospital in York before returning to duty. Listed as a deserter April – May 1863, he returned to duty without apparent serious repercussions. He re-enlisted as a Veteran Volunteer 29 February 1864, at Mitchell’s Station, Virginia. On June 16, 1864, he was admitted to Carver U.S. Hospital, Washington DC, for treatment of “primary syphilis.” Promoted to Corporal 1 January 1865, he suffered a shell wound to the flesh of his left hand during fighting at Dabney’s Mills (Hatcher’s Run), Virginia, 6 February 1865, but remained on the active roll and honorably discharged with his company 13 July 1865.

In 1880, he lived in Lititz, Lancaster County, and by 1890, in Lebanon, Lebanon County, where he was buried under the Pennsylvania Indigent Soldiers Act. 

As sometimes happens, there are two Findagrave entries for the same person at the same cemetery. In this case, it probably is due to the spelling variant of the surname – Spong and Spang.  However, no Findagrave entry has been located for a person of the same or similar name in a cemetery in Malta.

There are several veterans who have been misidentified as buried in Klingerstown area cemeteries.  It appears now that this is one of them.  If any reader can provide a photograph of the grave marker at Malta which purportedly is of a Civil War veteran named Spang or Spong, it would be helpful in finalizing the issue, but at this time, it is clear from research, that the Isaac M. Spong who served in the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry is not buried at Malta.


Was Daniel Shive Murdered in 1893?

Posted By on August 16, 2017

During the Civil War, Daniel A. Shive served in the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company A, as a Private, from 12 September 1864 through his honorable discharge on 30 May 1865.  He applied for a disability pension on 28 March 1891, which he received, but not long afterward, he was found dead along the railroad tracks near his home in Halifax, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The Harrisburg Telegraph of 29 August 1893 reported the incident as follows:


Daniel Shive’s Body Found Near His Home at Halifax

Daniel Shive had been a track-walker on the Northern Central railroad for eight years and was regarded as a particularly trustworthy employee.  This morning, Morris Shroyer, of Mahantongo, a foreman of the railroad company, found Shive’s body striped of all clothing along the track near his home at Shivetown, about two miles south of Halifax All that could be found was one shoe, and it is supposed he was murdered by tramps.  His face was terribly mangled, as was also his body.  One leg was crushed and an arm was broken.  The body was a horrible sight to look upon,  Shive was sixty years old and leaves a widow and several adult children.  Halifax was greatly excited this morning and tramps will be shown little consideration in that vicinity.

Coroner Hoy empanelled a jury at Halifax this morning and adjourned the inquest until Friday.

The supposed murder was also reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer the next day:


An Old Track-Walker Found Terribly Mangled Near His Home

HARRISBURG, 29 August 1893 – The dead body of Daniel Shive, for eight years a track-walker in the employ of the Northern Central Railroad Company, was found at the side of the track near his home at Halifax this morning.

It is supposed he was murdered by tramps.  His body was horribly mangled and was stripped of all clothing.  Shive was 60 years old.

Two days after the news appeared in the Philadelphia newspaper, the Harrisburg Telegraph followed-up with the coroner’s verdict:

Daniel Shive’s Death Accidental

It is believed now that Daniel Shive‘s death along the railroad at Halifax on Tuesday, was accidental.  His watch, which had stopped a few minutes past 2, and some of his clothing were found, making it clear that he was not killed by tramps, but by the cars.  Mr. Shive was a great fisherman.  The funeral took place yesterday.

An in the year-end news summary, published on 1 January 1894, the Harrisburg Daily Independent noted that Daniel A. Shive was “killed on railroad at Halifax” in September.

The matter may have been settled if it had not been for a similar incident which occurred in July 1895 when another track walker, Simon Glaze, met a similar fate at nearly the exact same spot on the railroad.  In reporting on the second incident, the Harrisburg Daily Independent recalled the death of Daniel Shive nearly two years prior.  Glaze lived in Matamoras, just outside Halifax Borough, and was 56 years old.


News articles from Newspapers.com.




Some Clarifications on Franklin Speese

Posted By on August 14, 2017

In the initial Civil War Veterans’ List of this Project, there is a Benjamin Speece [or Speese] and a Franklin Speece [or Speese].  Recent research has proven that this is actually one person, who should be identified as Benjamin Franklin Speece (1828-1906) who served in the 184th Pennsylvania Infantry, and who is buried at Messiah Lutheran Cemetery, Fisherville, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

The photograph above, by Jack Richter, who has done extensive research on Civil War veterans buried in Lykens Valley area cemeteries in and around Elizabethville, is posted on Findagrave

In addition to the Findagrave Memorial, the veteran’s name appears on two reliable lists.  First, Benjamin Speece is named in the Halifax Area list as a veteran buried at Fisherville.  Second, the name Franklin Speece appears in the 1890 Veterans’ Census for Millersburg as having served in the 184th Pennsylvania Infantry.  From cross-checking the information from these sources and from actual military records, Franklin and Benjamin are the same person.

Benjamin Franklin Speece was born 16 December 1928.  He married Catherine Wagner prior to the Civil War.  On 27 August 1864 Speece was mustered into Company I of the 184th Pennsylvania Infantry as a Private. He served nine months and was honorably discharged on 2 June 1865.  He made application for a pension on 6 August 1890, which he received and collected until his death, which occurred on 1 February 1906.

Research continues on this veteran.  The portrait above was cropped from a photograph said to be of Benjamin Franklin Speece and his wife and publicly posted on Ancestry.com.  And, a notice of his funeral appeared in the Elizabethville Echo, 8 February 1906:

Benjamin Franklin Speece was buried on Sunday at 10 a.m. at Fisherville.  Rev. G. W. Spotts assisted by Rev. S. A. Garnes officiated.  The funeral was attended by many fiends and relatives; his age was 77 yrs. 1 mo. 16 days.

In addition to the above brief notice, several mentions were found of pension awards and pension increases for Speece in the Harrisburg and Philadelphia newspapers.  The notices gave the post office addresses as Millersburg, Enterline and Fisherville.

After the death of B. F. Speece, his widow moved to Millersburg.

No information was found to indicate that Speece was a member of the Fisherville G.A.R. Post.

There is no mention in the funeral notice that he was a Civil War veteran.

And, his name does not appear on any Millersburg Civil War list nor is he named on the Millersburg Soldier Monument, despite the fact it is well documented that for a time, he lived in Millersburg and after his death, his widow moved there – still another Civil War veteran with a Millersburg connection who is not recognized by that community!


News clipping from Newspapers.com.