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Collinsville, Illinois, Newspaper Clippings

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

EARLY HISTORY OF COLLINSVILLE

 

IMPROVEMENTS IN EDWARDSVILLE, ALTON AND COLLINSVILLE
Source: Alton Telegraph, September 12, 1851
In taking a stroll through Edwardsville the other day, we were much pleased at the many evidences of improvement which meet the eye upon every hand. During the season there have been a number of new dwellings erected, and others are now in process of completion. The construction of a plank sidewalk along the principal thoroughfare will add greatly to the comfort and convenience of pedestrians, and efforts should be made to secure its extension the entire length of the street. We were informed that houses are in great demand, thus giving good evidence that the population is gradually, though slowly, upon the increase, and the citizens anticipate a very considerable accession to business and population upon the completion of the plankroad to St. Louis.

We will venture one suggestion, while upon this subject, which if carried out would add greatly to the appearance and character of the town, and be calculated to leave a better impression upon the minds of strangers visiting it. Remove or burn down those unsightly old buildings which may be seen near the principal street, and look like so many relics of the last century; paint your meeting houses and schoolhouses anew, and restore the broken glass, &c.; pay a little more general attention to the planting of shade trees, and your town will soon present a handsome and inviting appearance.

One can hardly visit Alton now-a-days without noticing some new and important improvements. Hills are being leveled, valleys filled up, old buildings torn down and replaced with new ones, and everything indicates the prevalence of the go-ahead spirit. The merchants there are getting in extensive stocks of goods, and say they are determined to offer country merchants as good an assortment, at as low prices, as they can find anywhere. With the increased trade, which will flow in her lap upon the completion of the rail and plank roads, Alton will be upon the highway to metropolitan greatness.

We had occasion to visit Collinsville a few days since, and were gratified to see the progress already made to connect this delightful village with St. Louis by a plank road. The whole distance hence to Collinsville is ten miles, and we traveled over about six miles of the road completed. The whole cost of the road, when completed, is estimated at about $28,000 to $30,000. We understand that it lacks about $3,000 to fill up the stock, or the cost of a little over a mile. The citizens of Madison County have subscribed liberally to the stock, and it seems to us, independent of the question of its being a good paying stock, that it is manifestly to the interest of St. Louis to lend a helping hand to complete this road.

 

COLLINSVILLE EXPLOSION
Source: Alton Telegraph, December 12, 1851
From Collinsville, December 2, 1851: A sad disaster occurred in Collinsville yesterday, which will cause this day long to be remembered as a day of mourning and sadness. At a quarter past four yesterday afternoon, the large still in the new distillery of Kurtz, Davis, & Co., burst, scattering, or rather pouring its scalding contents upon five persons who were near it, and injuring them fatally. Mr. Entzminger, the Chief Distiller, died in about three quarters of an hour in intense suffering, being so cooked by the boiling liquid that his remains could scarcely be recognized. Mr. Vines Davis and Mr. John Loyd (of Ridge Prairie), partners in the firm who owned the establishment, were able to get out of the room, and Mr. Davis, with the aid of friends, walked to a house nearby, where Mr. Loyd was soon carried. At first, hopes were entertained for Mr. Davis, as he seemed to sustain the shock a little better than the others, but he died about half past one in the night, and Mr. Loyd a little before three. Mr. George Fisher, employed in the distillery as an under-distiller, was taken into the village to Mr. Pabst’s. He died at a quarter to six in the morning. A stranger, whose name, after diligent inquiries, I have not been able to obtain, had come that day (from St. Louis I believe) to seek employment as a teamster, and had but three or four minutes before entered the still room to see Messrs. Davis and Loyd. He was so injured that he died at one o’clock in the night. He was at Kettler’s Hotel. Thus all five died before daylight, the shock upon the nervous system being so severe that the powers of life never rallied.

Entzminger was also severely affected by the inhalation of the vapor, as he was longest in the room, and was the only one who had not strength to extricate himself. But in all the cases, the severe shock, consequent upon the infliction of so extensive and so painful an injury, was the real and efficient cause of their early death.

Today, little business has been done in this place, the citizens feeling little disposed to attend to ordinary employments in the feeling of mingled excitement, horror, and sadness impressed by so sudden and so awful a calamity. The deceased have been buried today, most of the people attending the funerals. Mr. Loyd was taken to his own house and buried near there. Mr. Davis, a member of the I.O.O.F., was buried by the Order, and Mr. Entzminger, Mr. Fisher, and the stranger immediately after Mr. Davis. Mr. Fisher had lately come from Belleville, whence his aged mother came to witness the interment of her only adult son. Her only other child, a youth of 15 or 16, living here with his brother. The remains of the stranger were lowered into the grave, and a few shovelfuls of earth thrown in, when three horsemen rode hastily into the graveyard – foremost of whom was a twin brother of the unfortunate, sadly disappointed at not seeing even his corpse.

Messrs. Davis, Loyd, and Entzminger have left wives and children of tender age, to feel their absence and deplore their loss. Assistance was promptly rendered by the citizens of our village immediately upon the occurrence of the accident, and everyone was eager to be of some service. All our physicians were, as soon as possible, in attendance, and Dr. Carpenter of Lebanon soon arrived, being sent for by Mr. Loyd, but no aid of anxious friends or skill of physicians could avert or delay the rapid doom, or do more than allay in some degree the anguish which they endured.

The cause of the accident was the weakness of the hoops on the Still. The distillery was new, and had been put in operation but a few days, its construction had been pushed, and hoops on this still had more than once given way and been replaced. I am informed that Mr. Murphy, superintendent of the work, and Mr. Entzminger, distiller, were not satisfied with it, considering it unsafe still, and an increase of pressure exploded it. Mr. Murphy narrowly escaped, his back being sprinkled with the hot liquid, which did not penetrate so as to scald him. He leaped instantly out of an adjacent door, ten or twelve feet from the ground. Mr. Byrd, a workman in the chamber above, blinded and almost suffocated with steam, crept into the mill building adjoining, unhurt.

The enterprise of erecting this distillery, begun and prosecuted in defiance of the public sentiment of the place, and in violation of the tenure by which the land was held, has been unfortunate from its commencement, and is finally the cause of the most painful disaster that ever afflicted and astonished this community. We could scarcely realize as we returned from the last funeral, that twenty-four hours before, these men were all alive and well. Signed by L. D.

 

COLLINSVILLE NEWS
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, August 16, 1855
From Collinsville, August 6, 1855 - - Last Friday morning, the 3rd instant, our village was quite stirred up by the news that during the preceding night, a fine horse belonging to Dr. Henry S. Strong had been stolen, the thief taking off at the same time, a saddle and bridle belonging to Dr. George H. Dewey. While this news was passing around, a new excitement came into the field - a young man was arrested for attempting to pass counterfeit money. He made several attempts to dispose of the bill, and finally, thinking perhaps that he had tried it a little too often, he went to a livery stable, and tried to get someone to take him to St. Louis, but he was too late. Mr. Huffy, to whom he had offered the money, with the aid of others, took him before Justice Nelson, who committed the rogue to jail, and he was safely lodged at Edwardsville before night. He gave his name as _______ Ferguson, and said he was from Fairfield, Wayne County, in this state. The horse-thief and horse have not been heard from. Dr. Strong has offered a reward of $50. The same night, in a quarrel between Charles Pabst, a German tavern keeper, and a boarder named Joseph Sheerer, Mr. Pabst received a severe blow upon the side of the head with a heavy hickory club. Had the blow been direct instead of glancing, it would have probably broken his skull. Sheerer thought proper to leave forthwith next morning. A beer carouse was at the bottom of the quarrel.

 

COLLINSVILLE PLANK ROAD COMPANY vs. HUNTER
Source: Alton Weekly Courier, June 4, 1857
An action of trespass; damages, fine $25; toll $3.78; total, $28.78. Hunter, having refused to pay toll, was stopped from passing the gate; he then and there assaulted the gatekeeper, and attempted to pull down the gate; whereupon the Company brings suit for damages. Tried before Judge Snyder. Defense proved that it was impossible to travel from Collinsville to Troy on the old county road, without passing over part of the plank road, then wished to prove that the plank road was out of repair. Testimony objected to by plaintiff. Question argued - the purport as follows: Are individuals or the public justified in refusing to pay toll and in attempting to tear down the gates, because the Company does not keep their road in repair? Sloss and Rutherford for defendant; Underwood and Gillespie for plaintiff. Decided that, persons must pay toll for passing over the road, and are liable for any trespass against the Company, and the remedy against the Company for neglect in keeping a good, passable road, must be by quo warranfo. Defense abandoned the suit, and the Court gave judgment for plaintiff for $28.78. Court was in session from 71/2 to 101/4 yesterday evening. Judge Snyder is working, and so are the rest of the officers.

 

WANDSALY, HAYCELL & CO. DISTILLERY DESTROYED BY FIRE
Source: Alton Telegraph, April 11, 1862
About 1 o’clock Monday morning, a fire broke out in the second story of the large distillery of Wandsaly, Haycell & Co. (?) in Collinsville. The fire, it is supposed, originated from the friction of the machinery. The building and machinery, which a few years ago cost $30,000, were entirely destroyed, together with five hundred barrels of whiskey ready for shipment, and also six hundred dollars’ worth of beer just ready to be drawn off. The establishment and its contents are a total loss, nothing being saved. There was no insurance. The loss is supposed to be fully $25,000.

 

COLLINSVILLE MURDER
Source: Buffalo, New York Evening Courier and Republic, 1873; Bloomington Daily Leader, April 29, 1873
On Saturday last a terrible murder was commuted near Collinsville, Madison County, Illinois. On the farm of a Mr. Henry Nair, three miles west of Collinsville, lived a married colored man, George Burke, and a woman, also colored, named Maria Bowman. Burke had paid her considerable attentions, which she had refused to receive, thereby exciting his jealousy. He had threatened her life several times, but no attention was paid to the threats. On Saturday he returned from St. Louis very drunk and violent and assaulted Maria with an axe. After stunning her by a blow that fractured her skull, Burke cut off the unfortunate woman's head and right hand and threw the trunk into the creek nearby; then, sobered by his crime, fled, taking the axe with him. He has not yet been apprehended.

 

COLLINSVILLE TORNADO
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, April 15, 1879
A terrible storm from the northwest struck Collinsville about 2:45 o'clock yesterday afternoon [April 14], playing havoc and destruction though, fortunately, but one life was lost, that of Annie Reynolds, daughter of John Reynolds, a girl of eleven years who was crushed to death instantly. In the same house where this little girl was killed, a son of Patrick Doner had his leg broken. The other casualties were but slight, comparatively. The storm was attended by a large quantity of hail, and came up with but little warning, the noise before it struck the place being like that of a train of cars. The Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches were badly damaged, the steeple of the Presbyterian Church being blown off. A horse and buggy were caught up forty or fifty feet in the air, carried two hundred feet, the animal crushed and the vehicle torn to pieces. There were many almost miraculous escapes from death. The total loss is estimated at $50,000.

Source: Utica Daily Union, June 15, 1896 (in an article regarding past tornados and their "work")
April 14, 1879 - 1 man was killed and 60 buildings destroyed in Collinsville, Ills. This tornado struck a cemetery and leveled every tombstone.

Source: Belleville, Kansas Telescope, April 24, 1879
A terrible cyclone from the northwest struck Collinsville, Illinois at a quarter to three o'clock on the afternoon of the 14th. One hundred houses were more or less damaged, 10 of which were leveled with the ground. Only one person was killed - a little girl named Annie Reynolds. Many persons were injured and about thirty of the houses were totally destroyed. The storm lasted only two or three minutes, but was frightfully severe. It moved easterly from Collinsville. The cemetery, just outside the town, was laid waste, nearly every tombstone in it being leveled to the ground. The total damage done in Collinsville is estimated at fifty thousand dollars.

Source: Cambridge, Ohio News, April 24, 1879
From the Globe-Democrat, St. Louis, Missouri - A terrible cyclone from the Northwest struck the town of Collinsville at a quarter to three o'clock this afternoon, and taking a zigzag course, with the general direction almost due east, tore through the place, demolishing ten buildings, ruining about thirty others, and damaging more or less some seventy-five residences and business houses. A slight rain preceded the storm, and nearly everybody was indoors when the cyclone struck. But, notwithstanding, ten houses were leveled with the ground, only one person was killed - a little girl named Annie Reynolds, and one or two others were badly injured. The storm lasted but two or three minutes, but was frightfully severe. After it passed, people rushed out of their houses in all directions; mothers looking for children and husbands; fathers and brothers who were away from home hastening to their houses to see who was killed or hurt.

The greatest excitement and confusion prevailed for some time, but upon the appearance of Mayor Wadsworth and several other prominent citizens on the streets, quietness began to prevail, and ready hands and strong arms went to work to search the ruins for those who might have been caught by falling houses. From a double tenement house occupied by John Reynolds and Pat Dovan, a six year old boy of the latter was taken in an unconscious condition and with a broken leg. He was soon removed and placed in charge of a physician. Little Annie Reynolds was also taken from this house dead, and crushed almost out of resemblance to a human being.

Among the houses destroyed or damaged were the following: A two-story frame dwelling of Mrs. Griffiths, demolished; a row of four houses owned by Fred Metz and occupied by four families, badly wrecked, two of them being totally destroyed; a large tenement house of C. L. Roberts, occupied by eleven person, twisted from its foundation, carried about ten feet and nearly gutted of its contents, but the inmates received but slight scratches and bruises; a tenement house, also owned by C. L. Roberts, occupied by Reynolds & Dovan, previously mentioned, completely demolished; the residence of Mr. Roebuck, occupied by William Johnston, editor of the Argus, roof carried away; the handsome two-story brick residence of Fred Metz, roof lifted off and front and side walls blown down, but the rear of the house in which the Metz family lived was uninjured; the two-story frame, occupied by James Combs, almost totally wrecked. The roof of this house was dashed against the residence of M. C. Heedly, smashing its rear rooms into splinters. The residence occupied by Charles Hennecke and William Hass was nearly torn to pieces, but the inmates were unhurt. The blacksmith shop of Mr. Wendler was torn to shreds, and the wagon shop of John Gronour, a large two-story frame well filled with wagons, carriages and material, was totally destroyed and the contents torn to pieces. A cluster of tenement houses owned by Richard Withers was badly damaged, but the occupants were unharmed. The carpenter shop and residence of W. W. Nilson was wrecked, and Nilson, his wife, and two small children more or less hurt. A large two-story frame occupied by Henry Huffenbeck as a saloon and boarding house, having a porch about seventy-five feet long, eighteen feet high, carried away. The residence of Louis Heck had the roof lifted off all four walls, and was crushed in a total wreck. The millinery store of C. A. Sengletary was badly damaged and stock nearly destroyed. The principal church was badly shaken up. Funeral services were being held in the church at the time, and falling plaster and flying window glass bruised and cut nearly all the people present, but none seriously. Numerous other shops and dwellings were damaged, fences, plank sidewalks, trees, outhouses and stables blown to pieces or carried away, gardens destroyed, etc.

The cyclone, as usual, was rotary in its movement and struck and bounded from the earth three times during its passage through the town. Its width was only from sixty to eighty feet. One of the evidences of its force was the picking up of a horse and buggy and carrying them at a height of twenty to thirty feet distance about fifteen rods, dashing them to the earth, crushing the horse to a jelly and the buggy to splinters. The cemetery just outside of town is laid waste, nearly every tombstone in it being leveled to the ground. The storm disappeared in the east, and there are reports that it did damage elsewhere, but these reports are not yet confirmed. The total damage in Collinsville is estimated at $50,000.

 

COLLINSVILLE - A PUBLIC CHASTISEMENT
Source: Auburn, New York New & Bulletin, March 28, 1883
J. N. Peers, editor of the Herald, was publicly horsewhipped here by Mrs. Marshall, the wife of a well-known business man, for the publication of an article reflecting upon herself, husband and mother. Peers was badly marked about the face and neck.

 

BELL FACTORY IN COLLINSVILLE DESTROYED BY FIRE
Source: Alton Daily Telegraph, January 15, 1885
January 13, 1884 – The oldest and most extensive stock-bell factory in the United States, in Collinsville, was burned to the ground at 4:30 o’clock this morning. Fifteen thousand dozen bells were destroyed. The loss is between $50,000 and $60,000; no insurance. The business was established in 1849, and was known as the I. C. Moore factory. For the past seven or eight years, it has been owned by O. B. Wilson. The origin of the fire is supposed to be a match thrown on the floor by a young man who roomed in the building. The fire engine was on the scene promptly, but was of no use on account of the hose being full of ice. No wind prevailed, and this was all that saved the greater portion of our city.

 

COLLINSVILLE - WHERE COW BELLS ARE MADE
Source: Waterville Times, New York, Abt. 1890
Collinsville, Ills., is a great place for cattle bells. That cow bells are made and do not grow on trees or elsewhere seems to surprise some people, but there are four establishments in the United States which are exclusively devoted to manufacture of that article, and two of these are in Collinsville. One hundred and fifty dozen are turned out daily and thousands of them dangle from the necks of unfortunate cows all over the prairies of North and South America. The manufacture of cow bells is entirely distinct from that of other bells. Instead of being molded the metal is rolled into sheets, cut into symmetrical polygons, which when folded are pressed into their well-known form. Having been riveted they are next packed in clay and brought to a white heat. When suddenly cooled, these steel bells are found to be not only tempered but also beautifully brazed. - St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

 

COLLINSVILLE - BIRTHPLACE OF CATCHER WILLIAM KANE
Source: The Auburn, New York Bulletin, March 13, 1891
One of the bright and shining lights of the St. Louis "Browns" last season was Catcher William Kane. Kane is a six-footer, and few balls get by him, He was born at Collinsville, Ills., about twenty-three years ago and has developed into 170 pounds of manhood. His first work as a ball player was as an amateur in his native town. After playing with a number of good clubs Kane joined the Madison club, of Evansville, Ind., and did such excellent work with this team that President Von der Ahe soon snapped him up for the "Browns."

 

COLLINSVILLE - "ILLINOIS HOUSE" DESTROYED BY FIRE - HISTORIC LANDMARK
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, September 30, 1891
The Illinois House, five miles west of Collinsville on the St. Louis plank road, was destroyed by fire Saturday evening. The flames were discovered about 7 o'clock, and two hours afterward the whole building, which was a large frame, was a heap of smoldering ashes. Part of the contents were saved. The loss is about $4,000; no insurance. The building was within a few hundred feet of Monks Mound and was known far and wide. For over half a century it has offered hospitable shelter to the traveler. Before the days of railroads, it was a popular stopping place for the stage coach drivers and teamsters going to and returning from St. Louis. The building had a dance hall connected, in which were held many joyous social reunions of the neighborhood, and which, in election years, afforded, accommodations for political meetings. Singular as it may seem, a ball was to have taken place Saturday evening, for which everything was in readiness, and as the hour for guests to arrive grew night, the fiery element did its work. Captain John Schmidt was the proprietor of the place. Since his death, his widow and son, John, have been conducting the business. The post office of Brooks was in the building. The books and papers were saved and have been removed to Henry Seebode's, a near neighbor, where Uncle Sam's affairs will be conducted until otherwise ordered.

 

TRAIN WRECK ON THE VANDALIA AT COLLINSVILLE
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, September 17, 1895
The west-bound train No. 9, known as the milk train of the Vandalia railroad, was wrecked at Collinsville at 7:31 Sunday morning as a result of a misplaced switch. Charles Sandifer, the fireman, was killed almost instantly, and H. A. Bauers, the engineer, received injuries which may result seriously. Ed Canfield, the baggage car porter, received slight injuries. There were ten passengers on the train, but none of them received more than a good shaking up. The train was running along at a good rate of speed, and as the switch was only half turned, the engineer saw the danger too late to bring the train to a stop. He bravely stayed at his post and tried his utmost to slow up. When the train reached the fatal obstruction, the front trucks of the engine flew to the side track, but were turned almost entirely around by the swift momentum. The engine was dragged a distance of about 30 feet along the track, throwing it to one side as the coupling pin broke from the immense strain. The three cars passed the engine, coming to a standstill about 20 yards down the track. The baggage car was derailed and it stopped the two remaining coaches. After the shock had passed, the passengers and crew searched the debris for the missing engineer and fireman.

Source: Oswego, New York, Daily Times, September 16, 1895
A westbound passenger train on the Vandalia line was wrecked at Collinsville, Ill., yesterday by a misplaced switch. Fireman Sandifer was crushed beneath the engine and instantly killed. Engineer H. A. Bauers, who was working with the lever as the engine turned over, received fatal injuries. The opening of the switch was undoubtedly the work of some miscreants bent on plunder or revenge.

 

COLLINSVILLE ZINC WORKS BURNED
Source: Rochester, New York Democrat and Chronicle, January 8, 1897
The zinc works at this place were destroyed by fire this morning. The works were owned by Meister Bros., and the damage is estimated at $50,000 with partial insurance. The fire was of unknown origin.

 

COLLINSVILLE TORNADO
Source: Troy Weekly Call, February 10, 1900
The city of Collinsville, lying seven miles west of Troy, was visited by a terrific tornado on Thursday morning (February 8, 1900) at about 2:30 o’clock, and that portion in the immediate vicinity known as Cantine and Heintz Bluff was almost completely wiped out. More than a score of persons received injuries, and some of them are probably fatal, although no deaths have been reported up to this time. It is only a miracle that a large list of deaths is not the result, as nearly everything in the wake of the storm was leveled to the ground or carried away.

The storm swept down on the sleeping victims in the little houses in that section, and reduced them to splinters without warning. People were covered up in the debris or carried away by the unseen force, and were compelled to help themselves and their friends as best they could in the shadows of the darkness. The news did not spread until daybreak, and then the entire population rushed to the storm-swept district to offer such assistance to the distressed, as was within their power. Physicians were early upon the scene, and were busily engaged all day administering medical aid to the injured.

The heaviest losers were the laborers and farmers in the vicinity of the Zinc Works and “Little Italy.” Many of the dwellings, together with their contents, are a total loss, having been reduced to splinters. The smokestacks of the Heintz Bluff Mine were blown down, and other damage done about the place. Telegraphic communication on the Vandalia Line was considerably damaged – poles and wires being strewn everywhere. Fire added to the horrors of the situation, but despite the wind, did not spread, and no great loss resulted.

The first house to go down was that of Frank Kobart, in which the family was buried in the debris, but escaped with their lives. Next, a group of dwellings occupied by the Markchetti’s was completely demolished. Another group of large frame dwellings in which the Lawrence, Odderhole, and Fix families resided, was reduced to ruins. About a dozen small houses occupied by Italian laborers were more or less demolished. The brick residence of Fillmore Crowson, three-quarters of a mile west of Formosa, is a total wreck. It is remarkable to note that, considering the manner in which buildings were torn to pieces, their occupants escaped with their lives.

The wind, which wrought so much havoc in the outskirts of Collinsville, apparently came from the southwest. The houses in the path of the storm were mostly those on the surrounding high hills, and offered very little resistance to the destructive force, which is estimated to have traveled at a terrible rate. The path of the storm ranged from fifty to two-hundred yards in width, and several miles in length. The course is easily discernable with the eye, having literally cut a swath through the settled portion and the adjacent timber through which it passed.

Great throngs of people from all parts of the surrounding country flocked to the scene yesterday. The injured and otherwise afflicted victims are receiving all possible care and protection.

Two separate and distinct storms accompanied by heavy downpours of rain swept over St. Clair County. Property at French Village, Belleville, East St. Louis, and other points was considerably damaged, but with no serious damage to life and limb. A four-story brick building in St. Louis was leveled to the ground, and considerable damage of lesser importance resulted. The storm extended generally throughout the southwest and extended into Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.

The seriously injured are:
Sophie Fix, 17 years old; Katie Markchetti, 16 years old; Mrs. Joseph Markchetti; Mrs. John Lorenz; and Otto Aderhold.

Others Injured:
John and Mary Olsa and infant; John and Emma Quarenghi; Charles Quarenghi, 19 years old; Annie Quarenghi, 15 years old; Joseph Markehetti; Stephen Markehetti; Barney Falleteo; Mrs. Minnie Fix; Harry Fix, 24 years old; Will Fix, 13 years old; Nent Alderson; John Lorentz; Grace Lorentz (infant); theodore Lorentz; Mr. and Mrs. William Aderhold; and Mr. and Mrs. Frank Kobart.

 

FIRST ANNUAL EASTER EGG HUNT
Source: Edwardsville Intelligencer, April 29, 1916
The first annual Easter egg hunt was given under the auspices of the businessmen of Collinsville in Mauer Park in the West End Sunday afternoon at 3 o'clock. The affair drew several hundred spectators, all in Eastern toggery to the scene and at the stated hour all children over thirteen years of age were turned in to hunt for the eggs. There were about 93 marked eggs hidden and 155 prizes were offered by the businessmen for their recovery. The prizes ranged from a show ticket to several dollars, and included everything from an ice coupon book to a pound of candy. Needless to say, the youngsters had a fine time and brought all the eggs in, and the grown folks too declare it was real pleasure to watch them.

 

Robert Paul Prager lynchingTHE LYNCHING OF ROBERT PAUL PRAGER
Suspected of Being German Spy
Source: The Troy Call, Troy, Illinois, April 5, 1918
Robert Paul Prager, an alien enemy, 39 years old, and suspected of being a German spy, was hanged by a mob at Mahler Heights, west of Collinsville, about 1 o'clock this morning. Prager had been under surveillance for some time because of alleged disloyal remarks. He was in Maryville yesterday, where he posted a proclamation declaring his loyalty, and as a result he was run out of town. He was followed to Collinsville by a number of men, and a mob soon assembled at the Suburban "Y." It proceeded to the Bruno bakery where Prager was found and taken out and marched down the street in his bare feet with an American flag wrapped around his body. Police rescued Prager from the mob and took him to the city jail in the city hall. The crowd then went to the jail and demanded that Prager be turned over to them. In the meantime, Mayor Siegel had been summoned and pleaded with the men not to resort to violence. It was then Prager was taken out of his cell and concealed among the rubbish of the city hall. The mob dispersed after the talk by Mayor Siegel, but returned after several hours and made a search for Prager, who was taken out and hurried down the street. The police say they were unable to handle the situation.

Prager was marched out to Mahler Heights, west of Collinsville, and forced to kneel. Arms crossed, he prayed in German for a few minutes. The men placed a rope around his neck and Prager was swung to a tree for several seconds. He was then let down and asked if he had anything to say, and requested that he be permitted to write a farewell to his parents in Germany. His brief letter follows:

"Carl Henry Prager, Dresden, Germany. Dear Parents:
I must, this the fourth day of April 1918, die. Please pray for me, my dear parents. This is my last letter and testament. Your dear son and brother, Robert Paul Prager."

After being permitted to write the note, Prager was again drawn up by the rope and left hanging, and the mob dispersed quietly. Prager had worked as a baker at the Bruno bakery for several years, but of late had been trying to secure employment at the coal mine at Maryville. He was denied union membership there because of his disloyal remarks against the United States. He was registered in St. Louis as an alien enemy. The authorities are indignant over the affair. Attorney General Brundage and State's Attorney Streuber have denounced the lynching as a disgrace, and declare that the members of the mob must suffer for the act which was as unlawful as it was heinous and horrible. President Wilson and his cabinet have also denounced the affair. Attorney General Brundage is expected in Collinsville today, and the inquest into the death of Prager is expected to be held Monday.

NOTES:
During the height of World War I, Robert Paul Prager, a coal miner, made speeches to his fellow coal miners on Socialism, and made derogatory remarks regarding American President Wilson. Prager had been under surveillance for some time, with some authorities fearing he was a German spy. The fear of German spies was prevalent throughout America, and bridges and vital businesses were guarded by the military to prevent sabotage. Many Germans pledged allegiance to America publicly, and some even changed their names to become more “Americanized.” The day before his lynching, Prager put up posters at the Maryville mine, proclaiming his loyalty to the American government.

The miners became incensed at Prager’s action. When they threatened to do him bodily harm, he escaped to Collinsville where he lived. He was followed, captured, and lynched. In Prager’s pocket was found a long “proclamation” in which he stated his loyalty to the United States and to union labor. The location of the hanging was along St. Louis Road in Collinsville, near the St. John Cemetery.

The news of the lynching of Robert Prager spread throughout the country. The Swiss embassy in Washington D.C., which was attending to German interests in America, offered to pay the funeral expenses, however the state of Illinois paid the funeral expense, and sent the Swiss embassy a bill. The funeral was held in St. Louis at the Harmonie Lodge of the I. O. O. F., of which Prager was a member, and he was buried in the St. Matthews Cemetery in St. Louis.

Joseph Riegel, Wesley Beaver, Richard Dukes Jr., William Brockmeier and Enid Elmore, all of Collinsville, were arrested at the request of the coroner's jury investigating the death of Robert P. Prager. Following the inquest, the men were taken to Edwardsville to await the action of the Madison County Grand Jury. Riegel, a proprietor of a shoe repair shop in Collinsville, previously had admitted to being the leader of the mob. Two of the other men were miners, and one a porter in a saloon.

The trial was held in May 1918. The eleven defendants arrived in the courtroom wearing American flags. The jury included: Keith Ebey, clerk, Edwardsville; T. Benett, railroad car accountant, Edwardsville; George Neary Sr., janitor, Edwardsville; Walter Solterman, teamster, Worden; W. C. Dippold, flour miller, Edwardsville; Marion Baumgartner, tailor, Edwardsville; D. W. Fiegenbaum, manufacturer, Edwardsville; John Groshans, farmer, Edwardsville; A. H. Challacombe, plumber, Alton; Frank Oben, horse and mule buyer, Alton; F. W. Horn, tailor, Alton; Frank Weeks, clerk, Edwardsville.

State's Attorney Streuber made a brief opening statement: "We do not represent Prager nor any pro-German nor any pro-German sentiment," he declared. "We have made an effort to keep possible pro-Germans off the jury and I believe we have one that is 100 percent loyal. Our only interest is to see that the law is upheld. If Prager was either a pro-German or a spy, there was a remedy at law, and we aim to show that a mob took the law upon itself, which is in itself a violation."

James M. Bandy, chief counsel for the defense, then spoke briefly. He declared there was evidence to show Prager's disloyalty and that "after all the evidence is in, the jury will not return a verdict of guilty."

More than 100 witnesses were summoned to appear at the trial. The men were declared not guilty by the jury, and were set free. The announcement of the verdict was greeted with loud cheers, and when the men filed out of the courthouse, they joined in a parade headed by the Great Lakes “Jackie” Band. The acquittal was no great surprise to those who heard the evidence in the case. The state failed to prove the actual participation of any of the accused men. As a result, one county paper asserted that Prager must have hung himself.

Following announcement of the verdict, State's Attorney Streuber dismissed the charges against five others who were implicated in the Prager case. They were George Davis, Martin Futchek, Fred Frost, Harry Stevens, and John Tobnick. The latter four were police officers and were charged with malfeasance in office.

In September 1919, it was announced that Robert Paul Prager’s body was to be exhumed, and moved “from one of the humblest graves” in the cemetery to one of the “prettiest spots in the burial grounds.” The Harmonic Lodge No. 353, I. O. O. F., was to pay for the exhumation and re-burial. They also erected a monument for Prager.

 

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