NIU Libraries Digitization Projects
Lincoln/Net Prairie Fire Illinois During the Civil War Illinois During the Gilded Age Mark Twain's Mississippi Back to Digitization Projects Contact Us

Wells-Barnett, Mrs. Ida B. The East St. Louis Massacre: The Greatest Outrage of the Century . Chicago: The Negro Fellowship Herald Press, 1917. [format: book], [genre: report; narrative]. Permission: Public domain
Persistent link to this document:

Previous section

Next section

Chapter III.

On Sunday, July 8th, I returned to Chicago and made my report to the Negro Fellowship League that evening. This meeting passed resolutions which recommended:

1st, That a committee be sent to Governor Lowden, with the facts that i had collected, asking,

a) That a searching investigation be made into the reasons why not a single shot was fired by the militia for the protection of black men and women in all that forty-eight hours of rioting.

b) That in many instances, the soldiers combined with the police in searching black men, thus making it safe for the mob to beat and kill them.

c) Demanding that a court martial be instigated to find out the cause of this neglect of duty and to punish the offenders.

2nd, That the state of Illinois be requested to make provision for the care of the thousands of men, women and children who have been driven from their homes and were now being taken care of by the people of St. Louis, together with the Red Cross workers and the assistance of the colored citizens of St. Louis.

-- 14 --

3rd, To inquire what action, if any, the state would take to restore order in East St. Louis to such an extent that the people might go back to their homes and their work, and demanding protection for those who do.

Acting on these recommendations, the Negro Fellowship League voted a committee of five persons to wait upon the governor. The following committee was appointed. I. B. W. Barnett, chairman; Rev. J. W. Robinson, pastor St. Marks's M. E. Church; Professor R. T. Greener; B. W. Fitts and Mrs. William Farrow who had raised upwards of $6.00 in her effort to contribute toward the expense of this trip.

At the meeting held at Bethel A. M. E. Church, Monday night, July 9th, through the courtesy of the pastor, Rev. W. D. Cooke and the trustees of Bethel, this committee was enlarged by the addition of two persons; Rev. W. D. Cooke, who was made chairman, and H. A. Watkins. The meeting gave $52.00 to pay the expenses of this committee to Springfield. They left on the midnight train, and had an interview with Governor Lowden Tuesday, July 10th, at which meeting were present besides the governor, Adjutant General Frank Dickson and Col. John R. Marshall, as well as our own committee.

The Governor listened attentively, and said the State would do everything it could to reestablish law and order, and that a court martial had been ordered to investigate the conduct of the state militia. He said that the state had no emergency fund from which to do anything for the refugees in St. Louis, Missouri, but he called up the Red Cross chairman, Mr. O'Connor, and asked him to take the matter up and see what might be done.

The interview was very satisfactory with the exception of the fact that Governor Lowden took occasion to advise us against incendiary talk. The writer told him that if he had seen women whose husbands had been beaten to death, whose children had been thrown into the flames and in the river, whose women had been burned to death, he would not say it was incendiary talk to denounce such outrages. In response to my statement that fifty persons whom I had interviewed, told me that the invariable custom of the soldier was to search the men and take from them even their pocket knives, thus leaving them at the mercy of the mob, or they would stand by and see the work well done, he told me to get him the names of persons who would testify to that effect and see that they were placed in his hands. This terminated the interview.

Mrs. Farrow and I took the train at once for St. Louis and went immediately to the municipal lodging house. The papers had announced that this lodging house would be closed on Wednesday, and the statement had also been made that Hon. Charles Nagel had made a complaint about Missouri taking care of Illinois' people. We expected to find the hundreds that we saw the Friday before, but in four days the thousands that were there had dispersed! Some had gone back South. Others had accepted the invitations of the Chamber of Commerce and gone back to the industrial plants to work by the day, but they came back every night to St. Louis to sleep. Hundreds had gone up into Pennsylvania and other centers of labor where they needed help. There were only 25 persons in the municipal lodging house and these 25 had already secured places to go. For this reason the lodging house was closing its doors; these people who had been beaten, persecuted, run out of their homes and robbed even of their wearing apparel, were taking up new courage, and utilizing the only capital they had, the labor of their hands.

Having been asked by Governor Lowden to get the names and addresses of people who made charges against the state militia for failure to do their duty or for assisting the mob, both Mrs. Farrow and I began as soon as we returned to St. Louis, to collect such stories.

The first person I talked with was a man named John Avant whose foot was so swollen he could not wear his shoes. He says he hurt his foot running; that he worked at the C., B. & Q. He was with about twenty-five others who came out from their work on Tuesday morning. They were sitting or standing around the restaurant where they usually ate, when six soldiers and four or five policeman came upon them suddenly and shot into the crowd, wounding six. One of the number has since died. They also were

-- 15 --

searched and even their pocket knives taken from them.

One of the shots fired took off an arm of a woman who was working in this restaurant. A half dozen others told me that they went back over into East St. Louis to work, but that they came back to the Missouri side to sleep at night. The railroad companies for which they worked, gave carfare together with two meals a day, and paid them $3.00 and $4.00 a day, where previously they had only paid $2.00 and $2.50. They said they would do this as long as the soldiers remained.

One of the half dozen men standing around, told me that he saw a woman and two children killed, also her husband. That they were going across the bridge and the mob seized the baby out of her arms and threw it into the river.

Charles Perry, 19 years old, had been a year in East St. Louis from Jackson, Mississippi. He worked at Laden's Baking Powder Factory. On Tuesday, about 4:30 P. M., he saw a mob of about 50 on the bridge. He too has gone back to work, but he stays nights on the Missouri side.

Frank Brown has been in East St. Louis about a year, having come there from Salt Lake City, Utah. He saw a man hit a colored man with a piece of iron and shoot him four times in the stomach.

Story of Mrs. Mary Lewis.

Saw the mob kill man a few doors away. Became frightened and told husband she would have to leave. Man at house named Hugh McMurry told her she could come to his house in St. Louis, as she knew no one in St. Louis. "I put on my suit and clean dresses on four small children and then got on the car with them. The mob yelled, "There she goes," but did not fire, so she got away. While the house was still in sight, the mob had broken windows and set it on fire, shooting into it. Sister was in the house, but escaped, being shot, and was badly stoned. Husband, though shot, got up and ran about 40 feet before they finished him. Was heard to beg Mr. Warren not to let them kill him.

William Lues, an employee of the Wabash R. R. Co., was on his way home from work, sitting between his employer and his employer's son in the street car, when the mob grabbed him, shot him to pieces and then put a rope around his neck and dragged him in the streets.

James Frizzar, age 53 years, address where he worked. Lived in St. Louis since he was a child, having come there from Montgomery, Ala. When he was leaving his work Monday afternoon, July 2nd, five men attacked him, beat him and shot him through the chest. While he was helpless, some soldiers came and took him to St. Mary's hospital in East St. Louis. He stayed there three days, then left and went to the County hospital, St. Louis. Bullet had not been extracted. Was married. Had no children. Wife lives in Cairo, Illinois.

Story of William Gould.

Does not know the place of his birth. Has been in East St. Louis since he was a babe. Is 34 years old and a teamster. Worked for the Hill Thomas Lime and Cement Company at Sixth and Walnut. Riot started near City Hall July 2nd. The mob came to the plant and took all the horses up some place on Broadway, then came back and set the place on fire. There were six other Negro men in the place besides himself. The mob was composed of about 75 men, women and children. 50 feet away, the men in the burning building ran out, and the mob fired volleys, but none of the men were injured except Mr. Gould, who was shot in the right leg. He was being cared for in the City Hospital of St. Louis. Had no children. Was married. Wife escaped harm. Mr. Gould sought refuge from the mob by hiding in some large weeds near the old rolling mill. The next day the soldiers came and took him to the County hospital in St. Louis.

Story of James Taylor.

The mob started at 2:05 A. M. At 4:15 they hanged two Negroes who were coming from work, to a telegraph pole and shot them to pieces. Saw

-- 16 --

them rush to cars and pull women off and beat them to death, and before they were quite dead, stalwart men jumped on their stomachs and finished them by tramping them to death. This was at the corner of Broadway and Collinville. The cars were crowded and moving, yet they jumped on and pulled them off. Others they stuck to death with hat pins, sometimes picking out their eyes with them before they were quite dead.

An old woman between 70 and 80 years old, who had returned to her house to get some things, was struck almost to death by women, then men stamped her to death.

A colored store keeper at 8th and Broadway with his family was shot and wounded. The store was set on fire and they burned to death.

George Launders and Robert Mosely were burned to death at the Library Flats at 8th and Walnut.

Rev. James Taylor's wife fled to the Broadway theatre with her five children, but left there in safety before it was burned. She said when she left there were about twenty-five white women in the basement of the theatre where they had sought safety.

There were 10 or 12 men with Rev. Taylor when he made a dash for safety, several of them armed. Doesn't know if any of them escaped.

He saw a soldier hand his gun to one of the mob.

Had narrow escape as there were men in autos and on motor cycles who shot into the grass and bushes everywhere they thought anyone might be hiding. Came across woman also hiding, who were frightened almost to death. Swam the Cahokia River with her.

Men had fingers cut off by mob, then heads split open with axes.

Colored people acted bravely in spite of handicaps.

Mr. Taylor said, he was searched 29 times for fire arms.

Colored men were frequently beaten while enroute to and from packing houses, with no protest from companies or police.

"The first and last shot fired at me was by a soldier in uniform."

Will Morgan, employed at the B. & O. roundhouse, saw the mob make the Negroes swim into the Cahokia River, then shoot them, one being killed instantly. The other managed to struggle back to shore, only to be stoned to death by children.

Soldiers surrounded the home of William Bass. One of them went inside and drove husband, wife and 9 children out. Asked Mr. Bass if they had any guns. He replied, that he had one, but that it was no good. "Have you any money?" he asked. Receiving a negative reply, he cursed and walked out.

Mr. Buchanan's Story.

Mr. Buchanan says: He did not see a single soldier, excepting Col. Tripp, do anything to protect the Negroes. He formed a hollow square and made the first arrest of about 200, composed of women and men. He also took a rope from the neck of a Negro whom the mob had attempted to bang. Mr. Buchanan saw them beat men down with revolvers and clubs; white men knock Negro women down and then the white women would finish by beating them to death or nearly so.

Every Negro man that he saw get out of Black Valley alive, the soldiers would march them to the police station, badly beaten though they were, and scarcely able to walk, with their hands raised in front of them and afraid to turn their heads. The mob threw bricks at their heads and bodies, because the soldiers had their bayonets pointed at either side of them. They did the women the same way, excepting their hands were not raised in front of them. They were dodging around the soldiers to keep the mob from hitting them with bricks, stones and sticks. Their clothing was badly torn.

A man who worked for the Hill Thomas Lime & Cement Co. on 6th and Walnut streets, after the building had caught fire and was surrounded by the mob, called the manager up and said, "The whole place is on fire, and if I stay it is death and if I leave it is death. I am going to stay. Good-bye."

Mr. Buchanan escaped death by hiding in the Southern Illinois National Bank where he was employed as a messenger. C. Reeb, president of the bank, procured an automobile and took Mr. Buchanan and family,

-- 17 --

escorted by soldiers, to St. Louis. Mr. Buchanan still works at the bank but is undecided about the future. He said, they were almost sure one of the employees of the bank, a clerk, was one of the rioters and that the president was doing all in his power to obtain the facts about it, and had told him, if he was guilty he would see to it that his punishment fit the crime.

Story of Rachel Frances Ingraham.

Has lived in town 17 years and owned the home in which she lived. During that time there had never been an arrest. The soldiers came to her house Monday, July 2nd, or thereabouts, and asked the whites about the reputation of the Negroes in that same block. Then the soldiers came to Mrs. Inghram and asked her about the white people across the street. She began by saying, "You have asked me about them and I will answer you. They disturb my peace; they curse and use indecent, vile language, and I saw one white woman take a pitch fork and run in front of a woman to kill her, and she slammed the door in her face. The white woman who had the pitch fork said the woman she was attacking said, "These houses where these niggers are living ought to be burned and the niggers killed."

The soldiers then told Mrs. Inghram that the white woman living across the street gave her a good name. On the fourth, some cans were thrown back of her toilet off of thrifty garden. The white woman who lives just above Mrs. Inghram on the same side of the street said, "Just look at that old s.. of b.... standing over there daring us. We are going to kill him if it is the last thing we do."

Dan Sullivan, owner of the Banner Ice Plant, Pennsylvania avenue, said, if it had not been for him, they would have burned that corner up.

Mrs. Inghram's husband had started down town to attend to some business, and some one came and told him not to go; that they were killing people, Tuesday, July 3rd, so he returned. Later, Mrs. Inghram tried to take a street car to go over to St. Louis. At the same time, another Negro, named Maggie Love, attempted to get a Collinsville car with five or six children, all small. The conductor pushed all the colored people back and said they couldn't get on. "You're not allowed on here." Then Mrs. Love went back home with her children. She left for St. Louis. Her place is for sale and white people are occupying it. Mrs. Ingraham and lots of other colored women tried to get on another car, and the conductor told them, "You can't get on this car, and I don't want to take you down town to get killed." Then all the women returned to their homes. The next day Mrs. Inghram got a wagon and went to St. Louis and was housed in the Municipal Lodging place for two days and one night. Mr. Inghram never left East St. Louis.

Tuesday about 7 A. M., two soldiers and another citizen came to their home and asked if he had any guns. Her husband said, "No." One said with an oath, "Now * * * * if you've got any guns in here, you know where you'll go." The next day, Wednesday, soldiers came just about dark, broke the fasteners off screen door and came in. The occupants, seven families in all, had gone. Two families remained. Mr. Inghram broke the door open and left them open. When they were leaving in their wagon, containing Mr. and Mrs. Tally and their children, on 10th street, as they passed, they were jeered at, saying, "Here comes some niggers. We'll get 'em." They were carrying car pins, strung on a rope, about 10 or 20 men and children, and the soldiers saw them and circled around their wagon and kept the mob from attacking them. The soldiers guarded until they got off the bridge.

A huckster, David Lambart, white, told her, "There is a lot of these Red Cross women in here getting testimony. Governor Lowden was also present. As soon as the soldiers leave, they will kill them all up."

On the next day we made a visit to East St. Louis. We found that some of the citizens who had left their homes a week ago, had gone back and were again trying to take up the thread of life. Dr. M. B. Hunter, one of the leading physicians, was also one of the county physicians, had left his home with the intention of not returning. His office had been burned up. His operating table, his surgical instruments and his handsome office furniture had all gone up in smoke. He owned a handsome two-story residence, but had decided for the present to leave his home. The Board of Supervisors,

-- 18 --

which had six colored men on it, met the week previous and had taken his county office from him. They had met two weeks before that and deposed N. W. Parden as Assistant State's Attorney. They were said to be searching for Dr. N. A. Bundy, a prominent Negro dentist, who was said to have encouraged colored men to purchase guns for the protection of their homes. Dr. Bundy was nowhere to be found. His wife had also left town. Mr. Parden, who had been a prominent feature in politics, had also disappeared.

Dr. W. A. Wallace, editor of the Western Star and a general officer of the Zion Church, had had his entire printing plant burned. He has a beautiful home and six lovely children. He had come back to his home, and his wife said she felt secure, because a company of soldiers were encamped in the church across the street from her home.

The feeling seems general that there is no safety or security for the colored people. That the people who figured in the mob were only held in abeyance by the presence of the soldiers, and that when they were gone, the colored people would be no longer safe. Many having openly stated on the railroad trains, the street cars and the industrial plants, that if Negroes took their jobs, they had already done some killing and they expected to do more. An Associated Press dispatch of July 10th, 1917, from East St. Louis had the following:

"A man arrested by Capt. O. C. Smith, F Company, 4th Illinois Infantry, was released by the police, ostensibly "on order of the state's attorney." Captain Smith asserted that he heard the man say:

"I've killed my share of Negroes today. I have killed so many I am tired and somebody else can finish them."

When Capt. Smith went to the police station yesterday to prefer a formal charge he found that the prisoner had been released."

Previous section

Next section

Wells-Barnett, Mrs. Ida B. The East St. Louis Massacre: The Greatest Outrage of the Century . Chicago: The Negro Fellowship Herald Press, 1917. [format: book], [genre: report; narrative]. Permission: Public domain
Persistent link to this document:
Powered by PhiloLogic