January 1925, on the front page of the Longmont Ledger, "Klan Cross Displayed Again." The flaming cross, said to represent the Longmont Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, "was placed on the Pillar of Fire Church at the corner of Main Street and Sixth Avenue New Year's night."
The trouble had begun several years earlier when William Simmons, a suspended Alabama minister, came west to organize the Denver Klavern, also known as the Denver Doers Club. A $10 initiation fee was collected at the door of the Brown Palace Hotel, as thousands of men were drawn into the fold.
Charismatic Denver physician John Galen Locke picked up the banner of the Klan on a platform of American Values, allegiance to the flag and the Constitution. KKK xenophobia throughout the nation continued its earlier attack on blacks, now adding Jews, Catholics, immigrants and bootleggers. In Colorado, the anger was pointed mainly at the expansion of Roman Catholics and Hispanics in the state.
The hierarchy of the Klan was unwavering and demanding. The Grand Wizard or Imperial Wizard's word was not to be questioned. Under him was the Grand Dragon, followed by the Grand Titan and the Grand Cyclops. Klansmen were expected to heed, not question, the word and orders of those above them.
The Denver Post reported that the Klan was "the largest, most cohesive and most efficiently organized political force in the state."
The Longmont Times-Call took a firm stand against the Klan, countering that the movement was divisive and power hungry, espousing an excessive and vicious attack on those who opposed their objectives.
October 1924, a Klan open meeting was held at the city of Longmont Auditorium to explain their ideals and to enroll new members. The Rev. G.M. Baumgardner opened and closed the meeting with a prayer. He thanked the group for their fight for free speech, a free press, American values, law and order, restriction of immigration, and prayer in the schools.
The Longmont Ledger, in December 1924, reported that "eight robed Klansmen entered (a) Christian Church during an Evangelistic service." They thanked the Rev. and Mrs. Jope for their excellent work and donated an unknown sum of money.
A warm spring evening in 1925 found families sitting on their front porches, children at play in those last few minutes before bedtime, while the stars shown bright in a clear Colorado sky. Suddenly, the cricket symphony halted and heads turned toward Steamboat Mountain. A dramatic flare of yellow and orange flames rose above the town of Lyons -- another burning cross.
On July 24, 1925, the scene was echoed down-valley when a blaze of fire arose on the top of Haystack Mountain. Below were hundreds of hooded specters shouting and screaming profanities and slogans of fear.
During the 1925 Longmont general election, the population was bombarded with KKK media coverage, extravagant financial donations and dramatic parades.
Hundreds of KKK members from around Colorado descended on Longmont in what was described "as a half-mile-long procession of robed Klansmen walking four abreast through Longmont's street." The waves of white robbed men awed some, terrified others.
The Progressive Economic Party, the Klan, won a majority of seats on the Longmont City Council. Up and down Main Street, signs appeared in store windows, "Whites Only" and "No Mexicans." Longmont's American Hispanic population began to fear for their lives.
Much-needed farm workers brought north to harvest the beet crop found themselves barred from local stores and saloons, surrounded by threats of bodily harm.
As the Klan pushed for greater control, parents became concerned. The KKK had begun a campaign for seats on the Longmont School Board. People were becoming disenchanted with the white-hooded men, their harsh beliefs and their general dictatorial behavior, where a fair exchange of ideas was not allowed.
The final blow to the Klan's dominance occurred when they tried to force through the Chimney Rock Dam project above Lyons. Voters in the 1926 election believed the project had been created solely to line the pockets of the KKK leadership. Rumor was that the dam construction crew was to be comprised solely of Klansmen.
A battle ensued. The state engineer's survey determined that the project would be prohibitively expensive. The $350,000 proposed by the city engineer was only a bare trifle needed to complete the endeavor.
Protests arose throughout the St. Vrain Valley. The dam was too expensive. Farmers were concerned for their senior rights irrigation water. Others feared a dam failure.
In the meantime, the U. S. Army Corps of engineers determined that the dam was unworkable. In a blaze of reason and public support, both the project and the Longmont KKK went down to defeat. As suddenly as they had come, they were gone. No more hooded figures stomped through the streets. No more Klan political rallies. No more burning crosses. The Klan's dominance had imploded upon itself.