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In 1927, the "Invisible Empire" was visible in Bluffton

By Fred Steiner

The question, “Did the Ku Klux Klan exist in Bluffton in the 1920s?” may result in a “what!?” response from residents today.

You may decide for yourself, after reading this front page news item in the Nov. 3, 1927, Bluffton News.

Headline: Klansmen Invited

The story’s lead sentence follows:  All Klansmen are invited to hear the address by Rev. C.B. Tigner at the Church of Christ next Sunday, on the subject: “The Might of the Invisible Empire.”

The wording of that sentence could lead you to believe that KKK members were among the Bluffton News readership. However, we have no way of knowing that for certain.

Incidentally, the Church of Christ in Bluffton no longer exists. Its building is the vacant church on East Elm Street, behind the town hall, and is not to be confused with the United Church of Christ.

The term “Invisible Empire” was a Klan code word. We can’t read between the lines of this story, but on the surface it appears that the point of this church service was to keep the nation from giving up prohibition, as you will discover as you continue to read the story.

This conclusion is based upon the fact that the Klan had a relationship with the Anti-Saloon League, which in mentioned further in this story.

Here’s the rest of that news item:

"This is an address which the pastor says he had delivered before a great many Klansmen as well as other patriotic citizens and just before election, he believes is an opportune time to call attention to facts and conditions which exist.

"It is a very well-known historical fact that the nations which have forgotten God have perished. While Rev. Tigner says he does not want to be called an alarmist, yet he feels that American is standing on dangerous ground in many ways. Whether we shall continue to grow and prosper or perish like Rome and Babylon, all depends upon our attitude toward law and the ideals of our forefathers. The address will begin at 11: 00 a.m."

The following week’s Bluffton News published this story about the church service, indicating at least on the surface that the point of the sermon was prohibition:

Prohibition Enforcement Controlled
by Mellon, former Distiller
Says Rev. Tigner, Sunday

“The churches of America have been humbugged into permitting the enforcement of the eighteenth amendment to be under the department of treasury, which is presided over Andrew W. Mellon,  who was formerly one of the largest owners of distillery stock in America,” declared Rev. C.B. Tigner, at the Church of Christ Sunday morning in his sermon: 'The Might of the Invisible Empire.'

“This county can be made as dry as the Sahara, he continued, 'Whenever Christian people rise in the might of the power vested in them by the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and force the government to put prohibitionists in complete charge of this work - and not until then!'

"The minister further declared that because of the spirit fostered by this victory of the forces of evil, that lawlessness is rampant and murderers are escaping punishment almost altogether in many places,' he said."

And the church notes in the News in October included this news item from the Bluffton Church of Christ, leading up to the November event....

The complete version of this story is posted on