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Assassination of John Walter Stephens

The year 1870 is one of the years that will go down in history as one of great social and political significance, and it well marks the culmination and the decline of the Ku Klux organization. Never before, nor perhaps since, was there a time when prejudice and feeling, intermingled with crime, ran so rampant along social and political lines. It was a time when the Negro, or the white man who took any part with the Negro in politics, on hearing after Nightfall the clattering of horses’ feet or the loud tap on his door, would feel his blood run cold in his veins for fear there was a raid on foot and perchance he might be the victim. John Walter Stephens was born October 14, 1834, in Guilford County, N. C. His parents were good people, comfortably situated on a farm, and were consistent members of the Methodist church. His father died when he was about 18 years of age, leaving a wife, four sons and two daughters. Walter, with his brothers, lived on the farm and supported the family. A few years later he learned to make harness, and went into the harness business. His education was of a very ordinary sort, for he had only the advantages of the common schools. He studied a great deal at home, however. When he grew into more matured life he “often mourned his lack of education, and he used to say that was what every poor man owed to slavery.” In 1857 he married Nannie E. Walters, who died two years later, leaving him a little girl one...

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