Joseph A. Keck's Journal & Letters

File K234, Historical Library, Des Moines, Ia.

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Stockport (RFD. 1), Iowa (1) The rise and fall of the Know Nothing Society as we have been requested by the State Historical Society to write up the Societies, in the early days of Iowa; We will take up first the Know Nothing Society, which to the best of our recollection was formed in Van Buren County in 1854 and among the first Organizers in the county was County Judge E. Mayne who was a farmer before he was elected to Office, and lived two miles S. West of Utica, and was an active Politician in the Whig party if my memory serves me right. One of the main features of the Society was to oppose Foreignors from holding office, of profit, and trust in our country. In those days it was claimed that a large majority of those that held Offices were of the Foreign element, which endangered our liberties., and was detriemental to our free institutions, Americans, to fill the offices, was the watch word, but of course it was not designed against any that was thoroughly Americanized, It had also in mind that the Roman Church, was also a menace to our free institutions, in regard to our free School System as it was to them that the Bible was banished from the Schools Room, In my boyhood days, attending the free school, the bible was one of the school books, and had readings from the book daily, along with the History of England and Greece & that was before the history of the United States was written, as at the present time; The recollection we have of the name given the Society, was American, while those outside call them Know nothings, because they could not find out any thing from the members, when asked questions relative to the working of the Society. the answer, don't now, the secret of the order, was not to let anyone know until he became a part of the order, There number of Societies formed in this and adjacent communities, they met usually in private houses, and sometimes at the school houses. The writer organized a lodge at the School house two miles South East of Utica, It was given out that they meet at the above named school house, and when they met they found the door locked, and the only thing feasible was to climb in through, which the(y) did and held their meeting without any interferance, from the outside among the number there that night, was a man living one and one half, that baulked and withdrew when he found out the object was to exclude the foreign element from holding office, the trouble was that he had a son in law that came under that class. When the meeting were held in private houses, the family would go to some of the Neighbors until the meeting adjourned, It was not the intention to run it into politics, but some office seekers took advantage of it to get into office, both the Whigs and the Democrats were included in the membership, Along about this time, the Whig party was dissolved, and a new party was formed called the Republican party, which was made up of Whigs and Democrats, and afterwards became the leading party, and it looks to me at this time, that the Know nothing Society was merged with the new party, at any rate the latter Society was abandoned, and at this writing we cannot call up any great good that was accomplished, except it had a tendency to arouse the people, interested in our free institutions. J. A. Keck Stockport Iowa Jan 20 1909 Return to Top of Page
Transcribed by Rich & Nancy Lowe for the Van Buren County IAGenWeb Project - copyright 2007