Profiles in OC Pioneers Who Were Klan Members: Ferris F. Kelly, San Juan Capistrano Postmaster

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The Orange County men who joined the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s were almost all residents of North and Central County, specifically the cities of SanTana, Anaheim, Fullerton, La Habra, and Brea. The numerical breakdown isn't really surprising: Orange County didn't have that many cities then, and outside of that core and the coast from Seal Beach to Newport, the rest of the county was mostly hills, agriculture, and ranch holdings. Laguna Beach was a lifetime away; San Juan Capistrano, an eternity connected to the rest of civilization via unpaved Highway 101--actually, it'd be the old El Camino Real, as the 101 wasn't commissioned until 1926. You'd have to be committed to white supremacy in those days to join the Klan from Capistrano, a city chockablock with Mexicans, Californios, and Juaneños even in those days and far, far away.

But that's the type of man Ferris F. Kelly was.
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Kelly, second from left, with OC supervisors and others discussing the route of the Ortega Highway
Orange County Archives

Kelly was the postmaster for San Juan Capistrano, which didn't have a problem with bootlegging ala Anaheim, was relatively at ease with its brownies--so why did Kelly join the Klan? The answer, of course, is lost to history, although we can all safely surmise that Kelly was a white supremacist--you know, because the official oath of the Klan made people abide by the supremacy of Whites and all that. Tell that to the people who put the Ferris Kelly Buildings on San Juan historical walking tours, going on and on about the niceness and tolerance of their "Spanish" town.

Tune in every Monday around 5 p.m. for the latest entry exposing Orange County city fathers who were Klan members!

Previous entries:

Clyde Fairbairn, Longtime Olive resident/nice guy
Charles McClure, Brea's first police chief
John F. Pieper, Tustin feed store owner, councilmember
William Starbuck, Fullerton school trustee, druggist
Hoyt Corbit, Yorba Linda Pioneer, Fan of Richard Nixon
Lucien Proud, La Habra mayor/school trustee
Albert Hetebrink, Fullerton rancher
Henry W. Head, Orange County godfather
Dr. Roy S. Horton and Marshall Keeler, Santa Ana Unified trustees
Sam Jernigan and Jesse Elliott, Orange County sheriffs
Herman Hiltscher, Fullerton bureacrat


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