1853 Riot At LaSalle Illinois

Taken From the Alton Telegraph (Alton, Illinois)
December 21, 1853

Transcribed by Nancy Piper


From the Chicago Press
Riot at Lasalle - Full Particulars

This affair which has resulted in the death of two persons and much excitement in the vicinity of the scene and elsewhere, occurred on Thursday last, between two and three o'clock in the afternoon, at the great excavation and embankment at the south end of the bridge of the Illinois Central Railroad across the river at Lasalle.  At this point there is an embankment at over 60 feet, and an excavation, about one mile from the bridge, of 70 to 80 feet.  Here were collected four hundred laborers employed by Messrs. Storey, Talmadge & Conklin, contractors  for the heavy work near the bridge.  Among these workmen there have been various disturbances since the commencement of the work and the ring-leaders of the late riot were the same who murdered Thorn, last summer and were acquitted.

It appears that the difficulty on Thursday grew principally out of an agreement made a short time since between all the contractors, to pay $1 instead  $1.25 per day.  The hands of Storey & Co. were notified that  they might receive $1 and continue upon the work, or receive $1.25  for what time they  had worked  and leave the grounds.  Accordingly Mr. Storey and his clerks commenced paying off at the store and office upon the bluffs near the works.  The room was arranged so that none of the hands could enter, and the settlements were made at a window prepared for the purpose.  After proceeding a short time an  error was discovered in the account, when Mr. Storey opened the door and informed the men of the error and told them that the pay-master would commence paying again  in an hour or two, or something to that effect, when one who kept a boarding house for the hands crowded into the room, swearing that he would have the pay if it was there, at the same time striking Mr. Storey in the face, and endeavoring to choke him.  Two or three others now pushed in, when Storey drew a pistol  and fired two or three times, severely wounding one, who died on Friday night.

During the scuffle in the room, Col. Maynard, a Superintendent of the works and a resident of Chicago, left by the back door to find and take care of Mrs. Storey and child.  While he was gone the assailants were forced from the room and the door re-fastened, when the crowd began with axes, picks, and shovels, to break down the door.  One succeeded in entering  when Storey asked his clerks whether it was best to shoot.  They said "no we had better be quiet."  Mr. Storey, not knowing that Maynard had gone to take care of Mrs. Storey and child, went by the back way to the house.  Finding his wife gone, he started for the stable to obtain a horse on which to leave the place.  The men seeing him, rushed toward the stable shouting "kill him," "kill him!" and with stones and shovels brutally and almost instantly  murdered him; one man striking him upon the head  with a large stone after he was dead.  When they had completed their terrible work they set up a loud and fiendish yell - some shouting "now we're satisfied."

Col. Maynard, who had been threatened, after saving Mrs. Storey and child, hastened across the river to Lasalle, spread the alarm, and telegraphed to Ottawa, where Court was in session, which many of the merchants and others of Lasalle were attending.  Whereupon the court immediately adjourned and the sheriff, accompanied by Capt. Fisher's Military Company and others, started for the scene of the disturbance and arrived by the cars in a short time.  Before their arrival, the citizens of Lasalle armed themselves, took possession of all crossings, and thirty-five or forty went over to the works when the rioters separated and hid among the shanties.  The works were now surrounded and the hands driven up to the office where each one was made to pass through the guard while the foreman identified  those engaged in the riot, whom the Sheriff arrested and had examined on the spot by Justice Margrave.  The number thus taken was twenty-eight.  Three others were afterwards arrested and all conveyed to the Ottawa Jail.  Before the party from across the river had reached the shanties, several of the principal rioters escaped, but were pursued by the citizens of Lasalle in all directions; but up to Saturday noon no further arrests had been made.

Mr. Albert Storey, the murdered man, was a native of Masachusettes, an old railroad contractor and a temporary resident of Chicago.  His remains were buried at Lasalle on Saturday at 2 o'clock.  The name of the man who first struck Storey was John Ryan.  The names of those arrested cannot be ascertained.  After the arrests were made, quiet was entirely restored, and it is probable that no further disturbances will occur.  It was stated, however, that the hands were determined to work no more this month, as they had money enough to support idleness for that time.

During the affray several incidents occurred which area not uninteresting.  Before all of the rioters could be taken and examined by the magistrate, several shots had to be fired by the surrounding party, more to frighten than to kill, yet it is probably certain that had not the military been present the whole twenty-eight, first arrested, would have met a very summary fate.  One man endeavored to run away, when he was fired upon seven or eight times, wounding him in the arm.  He had a double barreled gun, which he discharged once without effect at his pursuers.  He proved to be one of those who first struck Mr. Storey.

When the works were surrounded  and a search took place, at one of the shanties a fellow was found ascending a ladder; when he was ordered down, he refused whereupon some one tried what virtue there was in bayonet metal.  He very soon began to cry, "don't shoot, don't shoot," and speedily came down, evidently excepting "a disagreeable shot."

In another shanty a stout customer was found in a very small hole, made under the floor, and entered by a trap door.  The place was hardly large enough to hold a man and was used for a sort of cellar.  We asked what he was doing there, he with remarkable simplicity and apparent innocence, exclaimed, "und sure an here's where I slapt."

It was stated that there was foreman enough in the room when Storey was attacked to have kept the intruders off.  It is believed that at this time, there are nearly two thousand railroad hands within one mile of Lasalle.

Much praise is due to the people of Lasalle for their endeavors to preserve the peace of the neighborhood.  For a long time past, they have been much annoyed by men, who, when intoxicated, care but little for quietness or the lives of others.  Especially should they be applauded for their promptness and general conduct during the late disturbance.  Several of the principal merchants  and others  left their homes and business to cross the river and "stand guard" day and night upon the bluffs, taking care of railroad and private property, and facing an infuriated mob. Large parties went  in all directions to overtake the offenders, and they left  nothing undone which was possible to do upon the occasion. They desire the peaceful progress  of the road, and its speedy completion and are anxious that justice may be done to all partied concerned.


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