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Joseph Peck Babbington Papers, 1866-1875

Manuscript Collection #631

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Joseph Peck Babbington Papers
Creator: Babbington, Joseph Peck
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Memoir of Ku Klux Klan activities in North Carolina and South Carolina during the Reconstruction Era. (undated)
Extent: 0.11 Cubic feet, 2 items , of a handwritten manuscript, consisting of one original and one photocopy, containing twenty-nine chapters and 217 pages.

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

November 12, 1991, one original unbound volume; Memoir on Ku Klux Klan activities in North and South Carolina during the Reconstruction era. Gift of Mr. Roland S. Carpenter, Asheville, N.C.

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Joseph Peck Babbington Papers (#631), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Mr. Roland S. Carpenter

Processing Information

  • Processed by A. Rubenstein

  • Encoded by Apex Data Services

Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Joseph Peck Babbington (or Babington) was editor of several Piedmont newspapers during the 1870s to 1880s, including the Shelby Aurora and the Rutherfordton New Regime.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

The manuscript in this collection, The Overseer's Daughter, is a fictionalized account of the activities of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in North and South Carolina. It relates events told to or experienced by the narrator between 1866 and 1875. The Reconstruction Period was one of great civil unrest and the author tells one side of the story in an autobiographical format. [The page numbers in this description refer to page numbers found on the bottom right-hand corner of each page.]

In the manuscript Joe Peck (the name used by the author) discusses the organization of two groups; the Red Strings or Lincoln Union League, and the Slickers (similar to the Klan), a band of men in opposition to the Red Strings. The Slickers were started by Mary Goodlake and Jessie Medlin. Jessie's father was the overseer for Mary's father, hence Jessie is the "Overseer's Daughter." Peck and his followers in the Slickers are initiated into the Klan (after the Slickers disbanded) along with Jessie and Mary who came to be known as the "Queens of the Klan." In the story Joe Peck and his brother continued on as leaders of the den (their local Klan group).

Most of the manuscript chronicles events in the Klan's fight against what Peck calls the "carpetbaggers, scallawags, and Negroes" and the activities of "ladies of the evening." Crimes committed in the manuscript include murder, cattle theft, stealing from smokehouses, attempted hanging, and barn burning; and punishment could entail excessive flogging and banishment but rarely taking of lives. However, punishment of death forNegroes did occur when crimes of rape (chaps. 9 and 25) or murder (pp. 48, 61-68, 73-77, and 196-201) were committed. Usually the KKK confronted white men they felt were inciting rebellion in the Negroes and the Negroes were warned to stop listening to the "mean white men" and go back to working hard.

Peck also describes the KKK night rides during which the members would communicate by signals, disguise themselves in white robes and hats, powder their horses white, and pad their horses feet to keep them quiet (pp. 23, 27-29, 57-61, 71, 129-130, and 165-166). When Klan members approached "evil-doers," they would either surround the building where they were or form a circle around the men.

Political figures (chaps. 14, 26, & 28) mentioned in the manuscript include N.C. Governor William Woods Holden (pp. 22, 100-103, 188-196, 208-212), a supporter of legislation protecting Negroes; and George W. Kirk (pp. 192-196, 208-212), who led North Carolina troops (pp. 208-212) organized by Holden in order to break up KKK groups in the western part of the state. The manuscript also mentions Captain Thomas Jordan Jarvis (pp. 100-102), who later became governor of North Carolina, and Plato Durham (pp. 100-103), a Reconstruction legislator, as being strongly supported by the KKK during the meeting of the 1868-1869 North Carolina state legislature. Peck tells of ballot box stuffing by Democrats, notes the capture of a black preacher and the beginnings of Negro Methodist Churches (p. 68), and remarks on the KKK dens working together when encountering U.S. soldiers (pp. 37-48, 131-133) and helping to fight crime in Columbia, S.C. (pp. 124-140).

The author concludes that in the latter days of the Reconstruction Period many crimes were committed by the Red Stringers and their sponsor, the Union League, for which the Klan was blamed unjustly. He also describes a group of traitorous ex-Klansmen called the Ku Klux Pukes who informed on members of their former den. Peck closes by saying that once law was upheld in the area, the Klan let punishment be taken out of their hands and put back into the courts, so that the KKK could stop meeting and disband.

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
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