Oklahoma Catholic and the Oklahoma Klan – 94 years ago this week

(From the unpublished memoir of Dick Snider)

…I have a stronger recall of the night the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross in our front yard.  It was, and still is, the worst thing that ever happened to our family, and it was all because we were Catholics – the only Catholic family in town.  I was too young to remember it all, but my two older brothers told me about it many times.

As the cross burned, my mother, crying, pleaded with my Dad not to go outside, but he went out on the porch and confronted the Klansmen.  He told them they might as well take off their white sheets and hoods, because he knew who they were.  He also offered to take any of them on.

The Klan spokesman responded by warning my Dad he had better pack up his family and get out of town.  He added that starting the next day, my Dad’s drug store, the only one in town, was boycotted.

In the days that followed, while my Dad and Mom were facing up to the fact we had to move, some of the town leaders came to my Dad and told him, almost tearfully, they were sorry they participated in the cross burning, or that they did nothing to try to stop it.

We were singled out because we were an undesirable minority, and over the years, in my newspaper career, I’ve had to laugh when editors have lectured me on the fine points of discrimination.

We had no choice.  We had to get out of town, and to do that we had to sell almost everything we owned, including a Jersey milk cow, chickens with baby chicks, furniture and my mom’s few household treasures.  We were sent on our own Trail of Tears – uprooted and told to get to our new home the best way we could

oakwood sale

Newspaper auction notice in 1926

We did it in a Model T Ford touring sedan, meaning it had a cloth top and button-down windows.  It was crammed with what we could get in it, and I’ve heard many times all the stories about the nightmare of our slow and miserable trip from Oakwood to Wyoming, and a tiny speck of a town called Veteran, where my mother had relatives and a general store needed a proprietor.

The ironic thing is that my dad, Daniel William Snider, converted to Catholicism so he could marry my mom, Leona Frances Shively.  I don’t think that he was ever sorry he did it, and they both had come a long way to the point where they met and were married in western Oklahoma, in a church that now is a farm storage building, in Anton, a town that no longer exists.


Goltry, Okla., May 5, 1926. The family of Dan and Leona Snider pose with Dan’s brother John and his wife Maude and son Dent on the Snider’s way to Wyoming. From l-r top clockwise, John, Dan, Leona, Maude, Dan and Leona’s three sons Richard (Dick), Al, Dan Jr. and Dent