The Origin and Development of the Ku Klux Clan, Meeting Place
The following data is extracted from Trinity College Historical Society .
meeting place. The house afterward came into the hands of Judge H. M. Spofford, and is still the home of his widow.“O wad some power the giftie gie us
The committee appointed to select a name had some difficulty in deciding upon one which would represent the character and objects of the society. Among those presented for consideration was that of "Kukloi," from the Greek word Kuklos, meaning a band or circle, whereupon some one exclaimed, call it Ku Klux. Clan was afterwards added to complete the alliteration. Thus, instead of their first intention, they had chosen a name meaningless to themselves as to every one else. It is true that Shakespeare says, "What's in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet," but it is doubtful if the organization would have ever reached such large proportions and wielded so great a power had it been called by some commonplace name, signifying its character and objects. Strange as it may seem, the members themselves were the first to feel its weird effect, and began to shape their plans in harmony with the name they had chosen.
Amusement was still their object, but now it was to be sought by means of secrecy and mystery; so, when the committee on rules reported, the plan was modified accordingly. These are the officers of the plan finally adopted "A Grand Cyclops, or President; a Grand Magi, or Vice-President; a Grand Turk, or Marshal; a Grand Exchequer, or Treasurer, and two Lictors." The latter were the sentinels of the "Den," as they called their place of meeting.
The obligation for membership was to maintain profound secrecy with reference to the order and everything pertaining to it. They were not allowed to tell that they were Ku Klux, nor were they allowed to disclose the name of any member. It was against the constitution to invite any one to join the order. However, a member might say to some desirable man, "I am going to join the Ku Klux." If the person expressed a desire to do likewise the member would say: "Well, I think I know how to get in. Meet me at such a place, on such a night, at such an hour, and we will join together."
"Each member was required to provide himself with the following outfit: A white mask for the face, with holes for the eyes and nose; a tall fantastic cardboard hat so constructed as to increase the wearer's apparent height; a gown or robe of sufficient length to cover the entire person." As to color and style, each used his individual taste in selecting the most hideous and grotesque patterns. Each member carried a small whistle, by which they communicated with each other according to a selected code of signals. Such preparations bear the stamp of amusement and pranks and not of deviltry. Some may wonder where the fun came in. First, in arousing curiosity and then in baffling it; second, in the initiation of members.
The initiations at first took place in the law office, but it was small and situated in the business part of the town, and there was much danger of interruption from outsiders. However, the members soon found a more suitable place for their meetings. On a ridge west of the town there once stood a large mansion, with a brick front or main building, and an "L" built of wood. In December 1865, a cyclone destroyed the main building, leaving the "L" standing. It consisted of three rooms, from one of which a stairway led to a large cellar beneath. This they selected as their "den," and a ghostly place it must have been; a lonely wind-swept ridge, with the trees uprooted and torn by the storm, standing like gaunt spectres of death overlooking the dark, deserted cellar.
When a meeting was held one Lictor was stationed in front of the house and the other about fifty yards on the road coming out from Pulaski. Each of them, dressed in their fantastic robes, bore a great spear as the badge of their office.
When a candidate was to be initiated, he and the member approached the first Lictor, who, after asking some questions, blew his whistle for the other to come and take charge of the novices. The candidate was then blindfolded, under the impression that his companion was treated likewise. He was then led around through the three rooms and down into the cellar, different objects being placed before him from time to time, which added, at least, to his discomfort. The obligation of secrecy was then administered, and a series of more or less absurd questions was asked. After this the Grand Cyclops commanded : ''Place him before the royal altar and adorn his head with the regal crown." The "royal altar" was a looking glass. The “regal crown" was a huge hat, bedecked with two enormous donkey ears. "In this headgear the candidate was phased before the mirror and directed to repeat the couplet:"
To see oursels as ithers see us."
As he uttered the last words the Grand Turk removed the bandage from his eyes, and he beheld his own ludicrous image in the glass. This was a signal for all the members to engage in shouts of laughter.
In the early history of the order they were very careful about the character of those initiated, as a single unreliable man could have spoiled all the fun by divulging their secrets. Some of their methods in disposing of undesirable candidates are amusing. In one instance they had the candidate to meet them on top of a long slope, just back of the town. Without being blindfolded, lie was led before the Grand Cyclops, who, being mounted on a stump so that his robe concealed it, appeared fully ten feet tall. After asking him some questions, the Grand Cyclops ordered the Lictors to blindfold the candidate and proceed; whereupon they proceeded to put him into a large barrel and to start the barrel rolling down the hill.
Source: Trinity College Historical Society