A big riot at a Little Mine

Here’s a chance to read one of our old Local History Room columns, first published in June 2012 before the launch of this blog . . .

A big riot at a Little Mine

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In his 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” Ben C. Allensworth called it “the most serious riot ever known in Tazewell County.” It was the Little Mine Riot of June 6, 1894, which took place at the Hilliard Mine near Creve Coeur (then known as Wesley City). This event didn’t get its name because the riot or the mine were little, but because the Hilliard Mine was leased by the brothers Peter and Edward Little, coal-mine operators of Peoria County.

The Pekin Public Library’s local history room collection has only Allensworth’s account of this incident. Local historian Fred W. Soady, however, went into greater depth in his master’s thesis, “Little Mine Riot of 1894: A Study of a Central Illinois Labor Dispute.”

Shown in this photo reproduced in “Pekin: A Pictorial History” is the entrance to a Pekin coal mine that was located off Broadway Road at the former location of the Herget Bank Parkway/Broadway branch. Coal mining was once big business in Tazewell County, but was also the occasion of the county’s biggest civil disturbance, the Little Mine Riot of 1894.

“Labor” and “management” sometimes have differences that lead to a falling out, and workers go on strike. Such disputes usually don’t involve exchanges of gunfire and people shot to death, as happened in the Little Mine Riot, but relations between the Littles and their miners had deteriorated drastically.

The miners’ immediate and primary grievance, according to Allensworth, was that the Littles had installed new machinery that meant fewer men were needed to work the mine. In addition, “The miners in Peoria County had been on a strike for some time, and the fact that coal was being taken daily from the Hilliard Mine seemed to be a source of aggravation,” Allensworth wrote. Local historian Dale Kuntz, however, has observed that ethnic and racial tensions also contributed to their unhappiness – the Littles employed Italian Catholic immigrants and African-Americans, .

As Allensworth told the story, “The result was that threats by the strikers to close their mine came to the ears of the Littles, and they prepared for trouble by storing guns and ammunition in the tower which overlooked the valley below. On June 15th (sic), Sheriff J.C. Friederich received the following telegram from Ed. Little: ‘The miners are coming tomorrow, five hundred strong, and armed. Be on hand early.’ Sheriff Friederich and Deputy Frings swore in about thirty deputies. They could secure no weapons worthy of mention, and, consequently, went up unarmed. In the meantime about three hundred miners assembled on the opposite side of the river, and nearly all armed with guns, pistols and other deadly weapons. They crossed the river in boats, and under the leadership of John L. Geher, an ex-member of the Legislature, marched to the mine. The sight of the mine in operation seemed to enrage them beyond control, and they started on a run for the works. They were met by the Sheriff, who asked them to abstain from violence, and commanded them to disperse. They brushed the sheriff and his deputies aside, and began firing in the tower. The assault was replied to by the Littles, striking a miner by the name of Edward Flower, who fell dead.”

Unsurprisingly, some details of this incident are unclear and disputed. The miners claimed the Littles shot first, and Ed Little is reported to have admitted as much, and to have said Geher had done all he could to avoid violence. The miners also protested that they were provoked by the proud and domineering attitude of one of Little brothers.

Allensworth’s account continues, “In the tower were the Little brothers, William Dickson, colored, Charles Rockey and John Fash. Seeing that resistance was useless, they ran out a flag of truce. Both the Littles and James Little, a son, were wounded. Dickson attempted to escape but was followed and shot several times, was taken to a Peoria hospital and died there. The miners completed the work of destruction by pouring coal oil down the shaft and setting fire to it. Some eleven men were working in the mine at the time, but all succeeded in making their escape.”

When news of the riot reached the ears of Gov. John P. Altgeld, two companies of the state militia were sent to Tazewell County, which was virtually placed under martial law for about a week. Residents of Pekin also organized a company of guards to defend the city, because the striking miners had threatened to come to Pekin and break their friends out of the county jail.

In the end, cooler heads prevailed and the rule of law was restored. In September 1894, Geher, Daniel Caddell, John Heathcote, and a man named Jones, were sentenced to be imprisoned for five years in the state penitentiary in Joliet, but Gov. Altgeld pardoned them after they had served about a year of their sentences.

The Littles also filed a claim for damages to their business and were awarded $7,710.60, and to ensure that Tazewell County would not again be caught unprepared for major civil disturbances, the county purchased 100 Remington rifles.

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Albert Wallace sentenced to death

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

In our column last week, we presented the Pekin Daily Times account of how Albert Wallace murdered his sister Belle and attempted to murder Belle’s husband John Bowlby, also injuring others at the Bowlby’s farm and causing a fire in the Bowlby home. This account was published in the March 14, 1896 edition of the Daily Times, published the day Wallace was hanged for his crimes.

The Pekin Daily Times report from that day has been reprinted in the November and December 2016 issues of The Monthly, newsletter of the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society. That day’s newspaper also told of Wallace’s trial and conviction, sentence, and appeals, under the headings “INTERESTING CASE,” with the subheadline, “Murderer Lived Between Hope and Fear For Over a Year”; “LEARNED HIS FATE,” with the subheadline, “Said He Preferred Death But Would Like to Have Fooled His Enemies”; and “LAST HOPE DESTROYED,” with the subheadline, “Why the Governor Refused to Commute the Sentence to Life Imprisonment.”

Here follows the Daily Times 1896 account of the legal aspect of these tragic events:

*****

The first legal step after the shooting was the preliminary examination of Wallace before ’Squire Rhodes, Wednesday, February 20th [1895]. There were three charges against him, all for assault with intent to kill and murder. He waived examination and was bound over to the grand jury in the sum of $1,500. Early Thursday morning, February 21st, one of his victims, Belle Bowlby, died.

The coroner’s inquest was conducted Friday, February 22d, by Coroner Bailey. The principal witness was Lawrence Lyman, who said he was positive that it was Albert Wallace, who did the shooting. The verdict was to the effect that Belle Bowlby came to her death from the effects of gun shot wounded inflicted on her person by Albert Wallace. The jury recommended that he be held without bond to await the action of the grand jury.

The grand jury returned an indictment at the May term, 1895. The court appointed W. L. Prettyman and W. A. Potts, attorneys to defend. Then came the arraignment and plea of not guilty; next a motion for continuance on the part of the defendant was made and continuance was granted. The cause was continued until the September term of court at which time the case was heard. After a fair and impartial trial, in which a sensation was sprung by the defence (sic) resting their case without calling any witnesses to testify, the jury brought in a verdict of guilty and fixed the penalty at death. The jury was composed of A. M. Chapman, foreman; David S. Birkett, Sebastian Minch, J. M. Sharp, F. M. Gragg, B. B. McClellan, John Umdenstock, Chas. Bailey, George Kent, Louis H. Wehner, S. H. Robison, Frank Webb. The verdict was reached on the third ballot.

At this stage of the case Mrs. Quinn, of Tremont, a sister of the murderer, interested herself in behalf of her brother and engaged G. B. Foster, of Peoria, to assist Messrs. Prettyman and Potts to obtain a new trial.

The case was argued before Judge Green, and a new trial was refused, and Wallace was sentenced to be hung on the 25th day of October, 1895. His attorneys appealed to the supreme court, at Ottawa, and was granted a supersedeas and a stay of proceedings until the case could be heard by the court of last resort.

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This sketch of Albert Wallace awaiting his fate in his cell at the Tazewell County Jail illustrated the Pekin Daily Times account of his trial and hanging on March 14, 1896. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

When the case was heard, the supreme court, at Springfield, found that Judge Green had erred in fixing the day of execution at more than twenty-five days from the day of sentence, and ordered the court to re-sentence Wallace. Judge Green re-sentenced him on the 19th of February, and March 14th, 1896, was set as the day for his execution.

Since that time his attorney have worked faithfully to have his sentence commuted to inprisonment (sic) in the penitentiary for life. Affidavits, in regard to the insanity of his parents, were procured, and petitions of citizens of the county were presented to the governor, asking him to commute his sentence to imprisonment for life. Counter petitions were procured by States Attorney Saltonstall and T. N. Green, and the case was argued before the governor on the 13th day of March, 1896.

The governor, after hearing the case, decided that he could not interfere, and the law must take its course.

He said, “I am satisfied that if this evidence of insanity were presented to a jury it would fail. As to the grandmother of the condemned man having been insane, it is conclusive; and Mrs. Quinn’s evidence that his mother was insane was strong, but it is shown that the father of Wallace was a rough, drunken man, who abused his family, and a woman treated in the way she was might act in such a way as to cause doubts regarding her sanity. Even if it were reasonably proved that the mother was tainted with insanity, the evidence in the case of this man does not show him insane. The affidavits of people living in the neighborhood, while they indicate that his mind might have been slightly affected, do not show that he could not discriminate between right and wrong. While I think this evidence should have been presented to the jury, I do not believe it would have affected their verdict.”

****

Governor Altgeld was positive in his decision not to interfere in Wallace’s case. He had been sick at Chicago but when he finally got back at his desk in Springfield, and called the attorneys together, he gave it an exhaustive hearing, commencing at 11:30 o’clock yesterday morning and concluding at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.

He inquired closely into the details and seemed desirous of getting the case thoroughly in hand before he took up the critical matter of a commutation. When he had the history of the entire case as he wished it he gave attention to the affidavits, petitions and declarations.

He said it was a peculiarly distressing case, owing to the many tragedies that had brought the Wallace family into public notice, fate seeming to pursue it with a relentless fury and remarkably fatality. First a son was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, while he was hunting, then Andy Wallace, the father, was shot and killed by Connelly (sic), then came the tragic death of Mrs. Belle Bowlby, and last Albert Wallace, expiating a crime on the gallows. Nevertheless the governor said that he could do nothing.

He held that the matter of insanity should have been tried in the courts. Both the circuit and supreme court, he said, had handled the case and he did not think it right to interfere.

The attorneys for the defense were seen by a TIMES representative on their return from Springfield and said they were not surprised.

When Attorney Foster was asked if anything further would be done, he said, “We have reached the limit; every effort within reason has now been made and it would be foolish to attempt anything further.”

Next week: Wallace’s last night

#albert-wallace, #andrew-wallace, #conn, #gov-john-peter-altgeld, #lawrence-lyman, #murder-of-belle-wallace-bowlby

The hanging of Albert Wallace

By Jared Olar
Library assistant

Three years ago in this column space, in a column entitled “Two generations of tragedy and loss” (Pekin Daily Times, May 18, 2013), we recalled the cold-blooded murder of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby by her brother Albert Wallace, a horrifying crime for which Albert was sentenced to death by hanging.

Wallace’s crime and his execution are notable events in the history of Pekin because his was the last legal hanging in Pekin. As told in Ben C. Allensworth’s 1905 “History of Tazewell County,” on Feb. 19, 1895, Belle Wallace Bowlby was shot to death by her brother Albert, who was living with his sister Belle and brother-in-law John Bowlby on the old Wallace homestead in Dillon Township. John and the Bowlbys’ hired man Lawrence Lyman also suffered very serious gunshot wounds in the incident.

What led up to the crime was the death of Belle’s and Albert’s father, Andrew Wallace, who was killed in 1890 by James Connell in self-defense. Andrew left his estate to Belle, which “led to bickering between Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby and Albert Wallace, who made frequent demands for money, and when refused, is said to have made threats against Mr. and Mrs. Bowlby,” Allensworth writes.

Finally, one night Albert took a shotgun and, aiming through a window, fired at John’s head. “Bowlby, whose hand was on his forehead, had several fingers blown off and a number of shot entered his head. Mrs. Bowlby sprang and opened the door, when she was shot in the stomach. Lyman was shot twice in the leg, and was badly burned in the face by the powder,” according to Allensworth. Belle died two days later, while Lyman lost an eye. John eventually recovered and remarried.

After the shooting, Albert borrowed a neighbor’s horse and rode to Pekin, where he surrendered to the sheriff. According to Allensworth, when asked why he was turning himself in, Albert said, “You will find out later.” Allensworth reports that Wallace was convicted of murder on Oct. 28, 1895, and sentenced to death by hanging. He was executed on March 14, 1896 – the last legal hanging in Pekin. Afterwards, the laws on capital punishment were modified: public executions were outlawed, and executions would take place in state penitentiaries only.

The detail of the 1891 plat map of Dillon Township shows the farmstead of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby in Section 15, bordering on the south bank of the Mackinaw River and identified as the farm of "Mrs. J. G. Bowlby." The 2015 Tazewell County plat book shows that her land is now owned by Malcolm Winkler. The old Wallace residence is marked on this 1891 map in the southwest corner of Section 15 as "Res," just above the Town Hall. Unhappy with his son Albert, Andrew Wallace deliberately cut Albert out of his will and left his farm and most of his property to Albert's youngest sister Belle.

The detail of the 1891 plat map of Dillon Township shows the farmstead of Mrs. Belle Wallace Bowlby in Section 15, bordering on the south bank of the Mackinaw River and identified as the farm of “Mrs. J. G. Bowlby.” The 2015 Tazewell County plat book shows that her land is now owned by Malcolm Winkler. The old Wallace residence is marked on this 1891 map in the southwest corner of Section 15 as “Res,” just above the Town Hall. Unhappy with his son Albert, Andrew Wallace deliberately cut Albert out of his will and left his farm and most of his property to Albert’s youngest sister Belle.

The story of Wallace’s crime and hanging recently has been featured in the Tazewell County Genealogical & Historical Society’s Monthly, in the Nov. 2016 issue, on pages 1760-64, and the Dec. 2016 issue, on pages 1786-89. These issues are devoted to a reprint of most of the news coverage of Wallace’s hanging in the March 14, 1896 edition of the Pekin Daily Times – an edition that is not available in microfilm form at the Pekin Public Library, for the library’s microfilms of the Daily Times only commence in Oct. 1914.

Unfortunately, the Society’s copy of that newspaper is missing page five, so the conclusion of the Daily Times’ news report is lost. Nevertheless, the extant portion of the newspaper’s report is still extensive, and the reporting is quite detailed not only in its account of Wallace’s hanging but also in its recapitulation of the events leading up to his execution.

This story took up a very large part, if not most, of that day’s paper. In keeping with the usual newspaper style of those days, the editors gave the report not only a large, bold headline – “WALLACE HUNG” – but also a series of six subheadlines:

“His Neck Was Broken With a Sickening Thud,” “THE TRAP SPRUNG AT 11:08 A. M.,” “Paid the Penalty on the Gallows For His Sister’s Murder,” “EXECUTION PASSED OFF VERY QUIETLY,” “Grewsome (sic) Spectacle Witnessed by over Two Hundred People,” and “Much Excitement Caused Last Night by His Sudden Illness.”

This drawing of the old Wallace homestead, located about 3 miles south of unincorporated Dillon in Dillon Township, was one of the illustrations of the Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of murderer Albert Wallace on March 14, 1896. The homestead's former location today has the address of 7860 Delavan Road. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

This drawing of the old Wallace homestead, located about 3 miles south of unincorporated Dillon in Dillon Township, was one of the illustrations of the Pekin Daily Times report on the hanging of murderer Albert Wallace on March 14, 1896. The homestead’s former location today has the address of 7860 Delavan Road. IMAGE COURTESY OF THE TAZEWELL COUNTY GENEALOGICAL & HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Below are excerpts from the Pekin Daily Times’ account that expound upon the background of and motive for Wallace’s cruel and hateful acts. Further excerpts telling of the murder, the trial, Wallace’s appeals of his verdict and sentence, and his hanging will be featured in subsequent columns.

“Governor Altgeld was positive in his decision not to interfere in Wallace’s case. . . He said it was a peculiarly distressing case, owing to the many tragedies that had brought the Wallace family into public notice, fate seeming to pursue it with a relentless fury and remarkably fatality. First a son was instantly killed by the accidental discharge of a gun, while he was hunting, then Andy Wallace, the father, was shot and killed by Connelly, then came the tragic death of Mrs. Belle Bowlby, and last Albert Wallace, expiating a crime on the gallows. Nevertheless the governor said that he could do nothing. . . .”

“[Wallace] had never been satisfied with the action of his father, Andrew Wallace, in willing his fine farm and other property to his sister [Belle]. This was a decision that the old man arrived at a long time before his death, and about the time he quarreled with Albert and bade him leave home forever.

“The chasm separating father and son became wider as Wallace became more and more dissolute in his habits. The other children could not put up with old Wallace’s awful temper, and all but Belle, the murdered woman, left the family roof. She was a very amiable little girl, and when a woman, patiently and without ever a word of complaint, . . . .”

At this point the Daily Times report jumps to page five, but page five is lost.

Next week: Wallace’s crime

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