Another growing issue was the presence of the Ku Klux Klan in Orange County. During the 1920s, the Klan made efforts to integrate into local government, churches and civic organizations.
LEFT: Samuel R. Bowen, prior to his stand against the Klan in 1925 and his run for city council in 1928. (Image, Huntington Beach News, April 27, 1923)
In August 1924, a couple weeks before the Klan organized a community "spectacle" in Huntington Beach, Reverend Horace Lackey, a lecturer for the Klan, stirred up a large crowd at the corner of 3rd and Birch streets in Santa Ana "from a truck which bore the fiery cross and the American flag" ("Thousands here listen as Klan called organization built up on Americanism", Santa Ana Register, August 12, 1924). The City of Santa Ana had refused him a permit to speak in Birch Park.
The Santa Ana Register reported Lackey's stated purpose was "to preserve the rights of the white race." Lackey critized newspapers as being owned by "Catholics and Jews and 'not a single line of news that reflects credit to the klan is ever sent over the wire.'"
Lackey credited the Klan for passage of recent immigration laws, which would have included the alien land laws prohibiting property ownership by Asian immigrants, but not immigrants from other countries. He stated the Klan was opposed to Catholic school teachers teaching in public schools "until after they made their first allegiance to the flag of the country." At the same time, Lackey stated "the klan was not fighting the newspapers, as they were not fighting the Catholics, Jews, or negroes."
"The Ku Klux Klan is not in politics," Lackey continued, "and will resist every effort that is made to drag it into politics, but the 8,000,000 men and the 3,000,000 women who belong to the organization are in politics, and I want to say that no man opposed to the klan's ideals will ever be elected to office in Orange County, or in the United States."
BELOW RIGHT: A Klan meeting advertised in the Santa Ana Register, December 5, 1924.
By January 1925, the Klan's efforts to take over local political offices had become the subject of an Orange County Grand Jury report. Local Klan leaders Reverend Leon Myers and William Starbuck had been instigating rumors about elected officials at public events. The Grand Jury released a special report "notable for its cool and dispassionate form of expression...that laxity charges made by klan leaders against public officials (were) wholly groundless and responsible for 'much injustice.'"
The 19-member Grand Jury unanimously agreed on the findings of their investigation that statements made by Klan leaders Myers and Starbuck at mass meetings were hearsay and "discounted to the vanishing point."
Read more about Myers and Starbuck, and their efforts to slander local officials in Huntington Beach, "Prohibition and booze under the cornerstone" (January 8, 2018).
ABOVE: Samuel R. Bowen is responsible for hiring the City's first landscape architect to undertake a beautification program. The arches that once stood at the west end of Main Street at Pacific Coast Highway were installed at his direction. (Photo, City of Huntington Beach archives)
Taking a stand against the Klan
Bowen's stand against the Klan became public in 1925, when he was president of the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce. The Klan was thought to be behind a recall of elected city council members. Bowen
called upon the Chamber to vote on a resolution opposing the Klan's
involvement and affirm their confidence in the elected office holders.
"The troubles that seem to assail us are traceable to the door of the Invisible Empire, the Ku Klux Klan," stated Bowen ("Huntington Beach Chamber Flays Ku Klux Klan Recall Movement Against Trustees," Santa Ana Register, April 7, 1925). "Immediately after a recent election, pressure was brought to bear upon city officials to have certain appointed offices declared vacant and klansmen appointed."
Bowen continued, "The Ku Klux Klan would take away the rights of American citizenship, and substitute instead secret political plots and methods by dictating to their members what they shall do. We should set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred and intolerance."
The Chamber of Commerce stand against the Klan came about eight months
after the Klan "spectacle" in Huntington Beach on Labor Day 1924. (Santa Ana Register, August 30, 1924)
The Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce
unanimously adopted the resolution, which also was to be introduced for adoption by
the Lions Club, Women's Club, Rotary Club and Realty Board. The Santa Ana Register characterized it as "taking a determined stand against the Ku Klux Klan" and "an active stand in the political fight which is looming in this city."
Three years later, Bowen ran for city council in 1928 with a winning slate of three candidates--including former newspaper man Elson Conrad and pharmacist Bayard Butcher--all of whom were aligned on enacting oil drilling restrictions and anti Klan positions. They were sworn into office on April 16, 1928.
A diverse community
Bowen's mother, Emilia Miranda--married to newspaper man Nathan Streeter Bowen--was Mexican American, Bowen had been tutored by a Belgian priest, and his neighbors were from all over the world. Spanish was his first language. His granddaughter, Beverly Bowen Moeller, recalled him meeting "with a small group of friends on Wednesday nights to read Don Quixote in the original 17th Century Spanish and laugh at the adventures of the hapless knight."
RIGHT: Beverly Bowen Moeller, daughter of Mayor Samuel R. Bowen, Huntington Beach Grammar School class photo, 1934. (City of Huntington Beach archives)
Bowen Moeller fondly recalled in her 1984 hand-typed history, titled Fifty Years Ago in Huntington Beach held at the Orange County Archives, that Huntington Beach was a diverse and close community.
"...I would walk along the high-crowned oil road past the chili pepper drying houses, past an old wooden derrick with the fields of the small farms belonging to German, Japanese and Italian neighbors," wrote Bowen Moeller. "Across the street from our house was my favorite place in my small world, the nearly self-sufficient farm of the Armenian neighbors...These memories are akin to the proverbial fly caught in amber, caught and preserved unchanged..."
Remembering Samuel Bowen
Samuel Bowen created a successful business producing oil production fishing tool technologies in Huntington Beach, with the S.R. Bowen Company. His company later moved to Texas and exists today, as NOV - Bowen. Bowen's Huntington Beach manufacturing business was steps away from present-day Huntington Beach City Hall, at Yorktown and Lake streets.
LEFT: The S.R. Bowen buildings that stood at Yorktown and Lake streets, near present-day Huntington Beach City Hall. The Bowen buildings were lost to a fire in 1989. To this day, locals question the nature of the fire, as preservationists had mobilized an effort to create an oil museum utilizing the historic structures. (Photo, courtesy of Dennis Masuda). © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Today, where the S.R. Bowen buildings once stood, is a little-noticed, small bronze plaque next to the sidewalk. People drive by it every day. The identity for who the plaque honors is only visible from a couple feet away.
Inscription on the plaque:
Three industrial buildings were located at 1980 Lake Street and were operated by Samuel R. Bowen and his partner, Sisti Siracusa, as the S.R. Bowen Company and the Bowen Fishing Tool Company.
The S.R. Bowen
Company was founded in 1920 and was credited with numerous developments
of tools used in oil production in Southern California and worldwide.
Some noteworthy tools produced included the Bowen L&L Spear (used to
retrieve pipe from oil wells).
The S.R. Bowen Company remained in Huntington Beach until the mid 1950's when they moved to Santa Fe Springs, CA.
RIGHT: The small bronze plaque at Yorktown and Lake streets across from Huntington Beach City Hall for former Mayor Samuel Redman Bowen, who took a public stand against the Ku Klux Klan in April 1925. (Photo, M. Urashima, August 16, 2013) © ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
The S.R. Bowen industrial buildings were locally significant because of the elaborate, interior exposed wood truss roof supports and corrugated metal ("Tin"), exterior siding and roofing. The buildings contained machine, welding and blacksmith shops, warehouse space and offices. The buildings were constructed in 1920-1928 and dismantled in July 1989.
Samuel Redman Bowen was born in Martinez, CA and spent his early life in
the San Francisco area. he came to Huntington Beach from Coalinga, CA
in 1920. In 1928 he was elected Mayor of the City and served one term.
He was a veteran of World War I and a member of the Huntington Beach American Legion Post. He was also a past president of both the Huntington Beach Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce. Samuel Bowen died August 6, 1944.
Presented to the City of Huntington Beach by the Huntington Beach Company - 1989
What monuments say about us
The small plaque at the corner of Yorktown and Lake streets holds a much bigger story about Huntington Beach, its oil history and the fight against the Klan in the 1920s. Samuel Bowen took his fight against the Klan public in April 1925. In April 2021, Klan flyers were distributed around downtown doorsteps advertising a "white lives matter" rally.
It's time to create a larger monument at the corner of Yorktown and Lake, as a more prominent reminder for today's and tomorrow's generations that Huntington Beach can, in the words of Samuel Bowen, "set ourselves against being dominated by an organization governed by prejudice, hatred and intolerance."
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