A. L. Ramsour's Senate Testimony (1871)

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Date: 10 Mar 1871 to 10 Mar 1871
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Surnames/tags: Catawba_County North_Carolina Ramsour
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This page contains an [annotated] transcript (with embedded links for additional context) of Andrew Loretz Ramsour's 1871 testimony about Reconstruction era Ku Klux Klan violence in Catawba County, North Carolina to the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Outrages in the Southern States, examined by the Chairman (Senator John Scott, R-PA), which is in the public domain. According to N.C. Lt. Gov. Tod R. Caldwell, writing in a letter to the Weekly Standard in Raleigh at the time, Ramsour "came to [Morganton], having fled from his own County to save his life" following the second attack on him at his home (which Ramsour describes in some detail in this transcript). He "was lacerated with stripes from his shoulders to his hips," Caldwell observed, as a result of "a most cruel and brutal whipping upon his naked back" (The Rutherford Star, 18 Jun 1870).


This page quotes from primary sources published during the Reconstruction era in the United States which contain dehumanizing language reproduced here as it originally appeared, without any substitutions, in order to honestly reflect the troubling "themes of identity and human behavior at the heart" of this disturbing history.


WASHINGTON, D. C., March 7, 1871.

A. L. RAMSOUR sworn and examined:


Question. Where do you live?

Answer. In Catawba County, North Carolina.

Question. How long have you lived there?

Answer. In that county ever since I was born—fifty-two years.

Question. What is your business?

Answer. I was brought up a farmer, but I have worked at the mill-wright business for some ten or fifteen years.

Question. Have you been at any time visited by men in disguise, known as Ku-Klux?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. When?

Answer. I think it was the 7th of June, 1869 [sic].

Question. Go on and state what they did and said at the time.

Answer. Shall I commence and tell the whole history?

Question. State the cause for it, if you know it, and then what occurred.

Answer. There were some Ku-Klux in our neighborhood, as I learned from some colored people who came and told me they had been whipped by them. I asked the colored people if they could swear to any of them; they told me they thought they knew some of them, and they told me who they thought they were. I asked them why they did not tell on them; they said the Ku-Klux threatened if they did not do so and so they would get after them.

Question. Do what?

Answer. If they did not quit their radical principles, if they did not quit following “old Andy Ramsour.” I had become a republican, or radical as they called me. I told them that they ought to hit some of these fellows, take their false-faces off, or something of that kind. They said they were afraid, that the men threatened to kill them if they said anything against the Ku-Klux. Some of my neighbors then got to talking with me about it. I told them that they ought not to go about in disguie [sic], whipping colored people—that it was just because of their politics—to intimidate them. They said I had better not talk against them, they would Ku-Klux me. I told them I did not think they would. Well, it went on for some time; some four or five colored men who had been whipped came to me about it. I told them if any of these Ku-Klux came to their house again that they should take a gun and shoot them. There was a white man, by the name of Bulliuger, came into the neighborhood where we were building a bridge. This man said that the Ku-Klux met him one night and told him to tell me that if I did not quit my radical principles, they would kill me. I said to Bullinger that I did not believe they would do it; that they had been whipping several colored men, but I did not think they would interfere with me, as I had some property and standing. He said they told him to tell me that if I did not quit it they would come with 5,000 men. I asked him who it was told him that. He said he dare not tell, though he knew some of the men. I asked him why not. He said they would kill him if he told. I had heard from some colored men, also, that they threatened to kill Bulliuger if he did not tell me what he did. He advised me to be on my guard, anyhow, for he had seen them disguised that night, some thirty-five or forty of them, and that they had been frequently at the place where he was courting a girl. They found out that he was living near by [sic] where I was at work building a bridge, and so got him to take the message to me. A few months before this time I had been attacked and knocked off my horse in the road by some of them, and beaten very badly. My son then bought a pistol and wanted me to carry it to protect myself. I told him I never intended to kill any body [sic] and I did not want to carry any arms. My son said "Pa, if you don’t shoot some of them I don't want to call you my father. You ought to have fought Wilson when he knocked you off your horse." Well, so I carried the pistol two or three months. I was away from home most of the time and that was the reason, I suppose, they did not come to my house for me. One Saturday night I returned. While I was at supper my negro man came and and [sic] told me that the Ku-Klux had told a man who had been whipped that week that they would be at my house one of these nights; I said I did not think they would come, but anyhow I made preparations. My son got a carbine that I had and put it in the bed behind him up stairs [sic]; I took the revolver and laid it on my bureau close by my bed; about midnight I heard the dogs rushing out on the piazza; I pulled the curtain one side and saw the yard full of Ku-Klux; they flew around the colored men's house; they were all in disguise; I called to my son saying, "They have come!" but he did not hear. They knocked open the negro men's house, took out both the negro men, and then came into my house; I ran out of my bed-room up stairs [sic] and concealed myself in a loft, taking my pistol with me and an ax, thinking that if they came up there I could knock them down with the ax; I did not want to fight, but thought I would go where I would be safe in killing them if they came up after me; I staid [sic] there a little while, and they did not come up; then I went into a concealed place with my pistol; they hunted all over the house and could not find me; at first when they came into the house they asked my wife where I was; she said she did not know. One of the men at first spoke in a disguised voice, but when he got excited I recognized his voice; he said to my wife, "I know better; you do know where he is." Then I knew who it was from the voice. Finally they found me; they put a candle in the place where I was hid, and saw me; I snapped my pistol at the one who got just inside and told me to come out. I asked them what they wanted; they said, "Come out; we want to talk to you." Said I, "You can talk to me where you are." They said, "No; you come out!" and with that one of them jumped into the place, and as he did so I snapped the pistol at him; then they put in one of the negro boys, and I snapped at him; he says, "Andy, for God's sake, don't shoot me!" Says I, "Is that you, Rob?" Says he, "Yes; you may as well give up." "Oh," says I, "I don't intend to give up." With that they shoved the other negro man in toward me and told them to bring me out, and told me to give up my pistol; I said, "No, I do not intend to give up." "Oh yes," says one of them, "they have only threatened you and Rob, and to save my life do give up." Then they hallood [sic] out that they would burn the house. I snapped the pistol the third time, and one of them stuck his hand in the hole and shot toward me; it missed both the boys and went through the roof; with that I became alarmed. I thought I had better give up to save the house with my family, so I gave up the pistol and came out. Then they carried me down into my room; there I caught by the bedstead, but they wrenched me loose, and took me out into the yard. There they surrounded me, and, with their pistols pointed at me, told me to pull off my shirt. I had only my drawers and shirt on. There were some twenty or twenty-five around me. Says I,"If I have got to die I will as soon die with my shirt on as off." Then one of them caught me by the shirt collar and tore it loose, and with that they pulled off my shirt; as soon as that was off three of them jumped at me, and began to cut me with hickories. They gave me some thirty-five or forty licks—I do not know how many—with long, thin hickory withes [sic]. I screamed. My daughter, twelve years old, rushed out and caught around my neck, and they stopped whipping. One of them made a motion and they quit. One of them then whispered to me, "Just you vote the conservative ticket, and you are all right." Says I," God only knows who I will vote for." "I do not know what they were whipping me for only that I am a republican." "Yes," they said, "You have so many niggers about you; don't you know they are breaking you up?" Says I, “They are not doing me much good, but they have got to have homes." Says they, "You put away these niggers off the plantation, and quit your damned radical principles." Then they let me go to the house, with my son and daughter, and as I went up into the house there was a crowd coming out of it. They had searched for arms in my bureaus and they took all my ammunition and some other things. An old pair of revolutionary pistols they destroyed, but they were of no account any more. They then dispersed and went away. I could not identify any one of them from sight.

Question. Was your flesh bruised and broken?

Answer. Yes, sir; my flesh was cut open; my shirt was all bloody when they put it back on me; my skin was cut up on my back. While they were whipping me they whipped one of the negro boys about twenty yards from me.

Question. What reason did they give for whipping him.

Answer. For talking too big; that is what he told me they said to him. I did not hear it.

Question. Is that the only time they visited you?

Answer. That is the only time they visited me, but they were at my house some three times after the negro after I had sworn to the two men, Yoder and Wilson, whose voices I recognized. I knew Wilson's voice because we worked together on the railroad; in fact, he married a girl that my father-in-law was guardian for, so that he was a sort of brother-in-law.

Question: Did you try to have them arrested?

Answer. I had them arrested and taken before Judge Mitchell, and while I went over to Judge Mitchell's they took this negro boy and tried to make him swear that he said I told him to burn Wilson's house that night. The negro told me he told them he would die before he would swear to a lie; he had not said it.

Question. What became of these men before Judge Mitchell? Were they bonded over?

Answer. No, sir; neither of them; their daughters swore they were at home at the time.

Question. They were discharged?

Answer. Yes, sir; they were discharged in that case; in the other case they were bound over.

Question. What case was that?

Answer. When they Ku-Kluxed me in open daylight before that.

Question. When you were knocked off your horse?

Answer. Yes, sir; that case led to this.

Question. Were the two men that you had arrested persons that yon recognized and identified?

Answer. Yes, sir; by their voices.

Question. Are you satisfied that those two men were there and took part in whipping you that night?

Answer. Yes, sir; I am satisfied there were more there, but I could not swear positively; I am satisfied now from other evidence; I saw one of them going home that morning about 6 o'clock, from my house, after daylight.

Question. Who do you say swore that these two men were elsewhere?

Answer. Their daughters swore that they were at home that part of the night.

Question. At what hour of the night did this occur?

Answer. At 12 o'clock.

Question. How long before that was it that you were knocked off your horse in the day time?

Answer. That was going home from court.

Question. How long before?

Answer. Some six or eight months before. I started over to Newton with the deputy sheriff. There was a political meeting there, and I went into the court-house, and while I was in the court-house I heard some one cursing me, and I stepped out and went outside. I thought it was best for me to get home. I didn't like to be there anyhow late in the day, for fear they would do me like they had some others that had been mistreated. This deputy sheriff and I went over there together; and in going over I was telling him how they had let the white men slip and taken up these negroes. He was taking me over as a witness for a negro man. He had taken up the negro man on suspicion that he was a murderer or had done some misdeed in Virginia. He had taken him up and put him in jail on suspicion. I told him they ought to have taken up a white man who had committed a murder, or there was strong evidence of it; that they ought to take him up and punish him. Well, we went on to town together. As we went to go home, this man; Wilson, was standing in the door—he and a crowd of men. Wilson was playing with his stick, and laughing and talking with those about him; and I saw them. I and the deputy sheriff started to go home together. We didn't exactly start together. The deputy sheriff got his mule first. I had to do a little business with a gentleman there, and I got little belated. Wilson and his crowd got together on another road and came over to my road where I was saddling my nag, and started and got about a hundred yards before me, I suppose. I followed on after them, and as I got up to them I said, "Good evening." This man, Wilson, who is a very hot, fiery man, has always been a political man; I never was a politician in my life. He says, "God damn you, Ramsour, didn't I tell you never to speak to me?" I said, "I thought my mouth was my own; I thought I could say 'How d'ye,' at any rate." He came up to me and beat me with a big stave.

Question. That was in broad daylight?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. And you had him arrested for that?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Was he tried?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Was he convicted?

Answer. He paid the fine.

Question. He was convicted, then?

Answer. I suppose so; he paid the fine. The sheriff didn't keep him off of me, and they beat me for half a mile, I suppose. Then the deputy sheriff rode off, for he knew I was beat so had that the people would say he didn't do his duty; and so he rode off. They then beat me off my horse, and rode off to town.

Question. Was that the reason he gave for heating you, that yon spoke to him?

Answer. That was the reason, and that I was a radical.

Question. Did he say that?

Answer. That I ought to quit my damned foolishness against my country. He said that often, that I should quit my damned foolery, and not go against my own country.

Question. What county do you live in?

Answer. In Catawba County, close to Newton. This was before the other scrape.

Question. How has it been in that county since? Have there been any other outrages?

Answer. Yes, sir; about twenty-three have been whipped in my neighborhood. Some of them have been some women of a sort of bad character, as they make it out now. They whipped a couple of men two weeks ago; one of them for fooling a girl, courting her awhile and then marrying another. They are trying to correct the morals of the country, as they say now. Some colored men told me that these people had their meeting-place at such and such a night. I could hardly believe it; but I went to a school-house and found their tracks around it where they had been.

Question. What has been the character of the outrages they have committed in your county since they whipped you in 1868? Has it generally been whipping, or has there been anything more serious?

Answer. They killed one, or at least he died from the effects. They shot a young negro by the name of Wilfong; he belonged to a man by the name of Wilfong, and went by his name.

Question. What was he shot for?

Answer. This disguised band went there and shot him. They had a grudge against him for being too impudent, you know, talking too big; that was the principal cause. Several others are good farmers there; I could give the names of those who have been whipped.

Question. Give their names.

Answer. I have their names on a little memorandum.

Question. Have you that memorandum with you?

Answer. Yes, sir.

Question. Well, give us the names of the persons who have been whipped?

Answer. I have their names; they came to me and told me of their being whipped. I said "Why don't you go to the squire?" They said it was no use, for he was a Ku- Klux too; they said their only chance was to go to Ku-Kluxing too. I said, "Don't do that, you will get your reward; it will all come right some day."

Question. Go on and give us the names of those who have been whipped.

Answer. Elijah Finger, a colored man; Newton Killian, Sidney Mutts, Lawson Blackburn, one of the best servants, I believe, that ever was in our county; he was doing as well as any man: they whipped him because he voted for the [1868] constitution [of North Carolina, which abolished slavery in the state (as the 13th Amendment had done at the federal level in 1865) and provided for universal male suffrage]; George Conley, Jim Coulter, Robert Smyer, he was whipped with me; he has been whipped and interrupted three times, and myself comes next in rotation; Rufus Rhinehart, Steven Warlick, Isaac Robinson, Daniel Bullinger, a white man. Then there was several women whipped who were rather bad characters; it is not worth while to put their names in, I reckon.

Question. Give us all their names?

Answer. Well, Letty Wilfong and Maria Probst were whipped, and Newton Wilfong was the one that died; they whipped him several times, and the last time they shot him, and be died; Bob Robinson, Michael Petrie—they whipped him two weeks ago. I happened, providentially, to go by his house the morning after it happened. I had been to Cleveland, and it seems as if it was ordered that I should go by his house just as I did. Then there was Peter Young, a white man; Mahala Wilfong— they have been at her house three times, I believe; John Fowler, a young man I was guardian for, that was my body guard, they whipped him the other night.

Question. The other night?

Answer. Yes, sir; just about two weeks ago; he was staying with his grandmother, an old lady sixty years old, and they frightened her pretty near to death; and the miller, at the mill, they run him off. Mrs. William Hall; Henry Bost, he was pretty near dead; Mony Carpenter, a white man, was robbed of $80, the other week, by men in disguise. That is the last I have on my list.

Question. What period of time do these cases cover? How long ago was the first one?

Answer. About two years, I reckon.

Question. How late was the last one?

Answer. I think it was last Thursday night, two weeks ago, about the middle of February; the one I happened to go by his house, Petrie. I asked him what they had whipped him for; he said they told him it was because he had courted that other girl; he deceived her, they said.

Question. Has any body been punished for these offenses in that county?

Answer. No, sir; not one that I know of.

Question. How many have been arrested?

Answer. Only those I had arrested; those are all I know of. They would go and make complaints against them, and they would tell them they had better hush and say nothing about it. They would then come to me to say something; but I would say that I could do nothing.

Question. What is the political character of the township you live in?

Answer. I am the only white man there who is a republican; I am the only one; at our election I voted for the constitution, and they said I was the only white nigger that voted for the constitution; some twenty black men and myself voted for the constitution; the "nigger constitution" as they call it.

Question. How many of those black men have been whipped?

Answer. Some three or four, and all the balance intimidated. At the last election only one of them voted the republican ticket. Even the one who was working at my house didn't go to the election; he promised in the morning that he would go, but he didn't go. I went to the election, and when I came back in the evening I asked him why he didn't go. He said he didn't know what to do. I said to him, "Of course, you did as you pleased; I didn't persuade you to go."

Question. Have the colored people there felt uneasy and alarmed for their safety, in consequence of these whippings and scourgings?

Answer. Certainly they have; they have been in dread.

Question. Do they feel so yet?

Answer. Yes, sir; they do; this colored man who is at my house is afraid every night of his life. They have been there three times; and they say they won't go to one place more than three times, and then if he doesn't quit his damned foolishness they will kill him.

Question: What is the feeling among the white men in the county as to their safety?

Answer. Well. I don't feel safe at all myself; I have not felt safe for the last three or four months; I have had my knife and carbine right at hand every night. About two weeks ago I moved from where I was living, and moved over to Hickory Station; I thought I would in that way get out of the Ku-Klux crowd. I can't tell you they were there; but everything goes to show that they intended to get me out one night there. But I didn't venture out at all; my wife told rue to stay in the house; that I shouldn't venture to go out of the house at night.

Question. How were the men disguised who were at your house the night you have spoken off?

Answer. They had on all kinds of old skins and clothes; and their hats stuck up maybe two feet above their heads, and looked like they were stuffed with cotton, or something of that kind.

Question. Did they have gowns on?

Answer. Yes, sir; some had red gowns and some white gowns; mostly white gowns. They had no common clothes on, at least that you could see.

Question. Were their faces concealed?

Answer. Yes, sir; all but their eyes. I thought I might know some of them by their eyes, but I could not tell one of them. I would look at their eyes, but they would keep their heads in motion, dodging and dancing around, some of them swearing and making a fool noise all the time, calling for water, and keeping up foolish gestures all the time.


United States Senate. Select Committee to Investigate Alleged Outrages in the Southern States. Report On the Alleged Outrages In the Southern States by the Select Committee of the Senate: March 10, 1871. United States, 1871.

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