Bates College baseball team practicing on Rand Field in Lewiston in 1882. Muskie Archives and Special Collections Library

At least two New England baseball teams playing in the early days of the game after the Civil War apparently had ties to the Ku Klux Klan.

One of them, in Bangor, explicitly called itself the “Ku Klux Klan Base Ball Club,” while the other, in Gorham, New Hampshire, played as the “K.K.K.’s.”

In the most explicit account of one of their games, the Lewiston Evening Journal described a Fourth of July victory by the Bates College baseball team in Gorham in 1877.

That day, the Bates squad mauled the K.K.K.’s by the lopsided score of 28-4.

Challenge issued by the Ku Klux Klan Base Ball Club in Bangor in May 1868. Bangor Daily Whig and Courier

The Bangor team, which existed in 1868, took out an advertisement in the Bangor Daily Whig and Courier to challenge the Katahdin Base Ball Club of Hamden to play a game. It’s not clear if the Hamden club agreed.

A month later, perhaps finding it difficult to play ball while wearing sheets and hoods, the “Ku Klux Klan Base Ball Club” decided to change its name to the Omega Base Ball Club, according to a brief story in the Bangor paper on June 23.


There is remarkably little to indicate that the KKK operated in New England in the years when it emerged in the defeated South shortly after the Civil War as a secretive vigilante group that targeted newly free black Americans and their allies.

While the KKK flourished in New England during its revival in the 1920s, spurred in large part by hatred of Catholics and immigrants, its presence decades earlier has gone largely unnoticed.

One historian who has taken note of the KKK teams is Ryan A. Swanson in his 2014 book “When Baseball Went White: Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Dreams of a National Pastime.”

An 1879 photograph of the Bates baseball team. At least one player in the picture, whose last name was Sanborn, likely played against the KKKs years earlier. He is on the far right in the last row. Sanborn got two hits in five at-bats as the Bates right fielder against the KKKs. Bates College Muskie Archives Photo and Audio Collections

Swanson, a professor at the University of New Mexico, mentioned in the book that the KKK “provided perhaps the most extreme and direct association” for a club to draw on to show its desire to keep Black and white Americans separate.

Swanson found KKK baseball clubs existed after the Civil War in a handful of states, including Arkansas, Tennessee, Indiana, New York, New Hampshire and Maine.

He said the short accounts in newspapers that mentioned the teams at the time rarely contained any criticism of their names. But, he said, Ku Klux Klan clubs clearly “sent a message to Black players” of their exclusion.


Whether the KKK baseball teams in Maine or New Hampshire ever did anything more than play games is unclear. Members of the teams don’t appear to have tried to hide their identities since at least some of them were listed in box scores and advertising.

The Journal’s story about the Bates game in 1877 carried no hint of criticism. While Bates College was one of the nation’s earliest racially integrated colleges, graduating its first Black student in 1874, it’s not known if there were any Black players on the team when it beat the K.K.K.’s that year.

The paper said that the college’s nine players called the journey to Gorham “the pleasantest trip they have ever enjoyed in connection with baseball.”

Alpine House in Gorham, New Hampshire, in the 1800s. Robert J. Girouard Collection

A man named Milliken “entertained them in the best possible manner at the Alpine House” in Gorham, the paper said, and “citizens kindly volunteered to pay the expenses of the club and also of the families, as several ladies went to help make the occasion enjoyable.”

The newspaper said, “The K.K.K.’s as played yesterday were a picked nine collected” from Oxford County in Maine and Coos County in New Hampshire.

“They have some good baseball material, but could hardly do themselves credit as they were not used to playing together,” the Journal said.


An attached box score named the players for each team and noted the Klan squad made 17 errors on its way to getting clobbered.

The K.K.K.’s existed for at least four years.

An 1875 story in the Essex County Herald in Island Pond, Vermont, said the team had last played the Lancaster Stars two years earlier when their game was called after the fourth inning due to a rainstorm.

When the K.K.K.’s won the 1875 game, the Vermont paper said in its next issue, they were greeted on their return to Gorham with a cannon salute and supper at a fine restaurant.

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