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SOLVING THE MYSTERY OF A KLAN FUNERAL

Blog post by Randi Richardson

In the spring of 2019 a Bloomington resident who wished to remain anonymous donated five, small photos showing a large number of Ku Klux Klan members attending a burial ceremony.  The photos had no identifying information and the donor didn’t even know how s/he came to have the photos in his/her possession.

Three of the photos were generic; two offered some clues.  One of the photos included several females with backs to the camera in 1920s- era dresses and hats designed for warm weather.  There was a church in the background with a single visible tombstone.  A second tombstone, surrounded by Klansmen, was the focal point of a second photo.  A name was not visible on either stone.

The stone visible in the top photo is for the Devore family and the inscription is mostly illegible.  Crouch is the name of the photo in the bottom picture.  The church has been remodeled since the picture was taken.

Using the clues as noted above, diligent newspaper research uncovered several Klan funerals.  The one that seemed most likely was for Joseph Stine of Richland Township, Monroe County, who died on September 11, 1923, and was buried in the Chambersville Cemetery, just across the Monroe County line in Owen County on Hwy. 46.  The information was corroborated with a review of the death record and an on-site visit to the cemetery where a tombstone for Stine with the correct death date.  This was not enough, however, to verify that the donated photos were of Stine’s funeral.

To do that the two photos with identifying information were enlarged to show detail.  Fortunately, the details revealed unique features of the stones and with a thorough investigation in the older part of the Chambersville Cemetery the stones were located, surprisingly in close proximity to each other and to the Stine stone.

Solving the mystery of the photos was neither quick nor easily, but with diligence the truth came to light.

The church as it appears today.  The Stine stone is the one on the bottom left with a floral arrangement; the Devore stone is the tall one shown as the right edge of the church; the Crouch stone is the reddish one on a gray base located adjacent to the Devore stone on the left.

Sources:

Spencer-Owen Leader, September 19, 1923, p. 7.

Joseph Stine Death Record available online at Ancestry

Photo display at the Chambersville Church aka Mt. Olivet Christian Church

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