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Mob Law Rampant!


July/August 1860

From The Missouri Democrat, Thursday, July 26, 1860.



Twenty Houses of Ill Repute Sacked.


At ten o’clock last night, some forty or fifty persons simultaneously appeared on the levee near the foot of Almond street, armed with axes, crowbars, sledge hammers, and similar implements, with which, and with a rush and hurrah, they proceeded up Almond street, attracting an additional crowd as they advanced. The object of this apparently sinister, certainly ominous, and decidedly startling movement, was soon made evident beyond the slightest peradventure. It was to clean out, smash-up, tear in pieces, stave to atoms and burn to ashes whatever was cleanable, smashable, tearable, staveable, combustible, in the notorious nests of bawdy houses which cluster on Almond and neighboring streets. A den kept by a Mrs. Hoppe, on Almond between Second and Main streets, was riddled with astonishing speed and effectiveness. Another on Second between Poplar and Almond, and one below Almond on Second, were successively attacked, despoiled, and their contents destroyed. The entire row on Almond between Third and Fourth streets, some six tenements, shared the same fate. The property of Madam Haycraft, on the southwest corner of Almond and Fourth was next assaulted, and similarly rifled. Madame Belle Beason’s notorious hole on the north side of Almond, between Second and Third streets had previously been visited by the destroyers.

As the work of devastation progressed, multitudes of citizens assembled, hundreds of whom joined assiduously in aiding the enterprise. At first a party of police offered resistance but, were attacked with rocks, one of which struck policeman Joseph Friese upon the stomach, inflicting a wound which may prove fatal. The police succeeded in arresting three of the rioters, John Wickmer, Leonard Lambert and Charles Hellard.

In the affray, some twenty shots were fired by the “stars,” to intimidate the crowd, but happily no one was hit. A large crowd accompanied the officers and their prisoners to the police station; and a disposition is said to have been evinced to effect a rescue, but the attempt was not made.

The path of the destroying mob was marked by blazing bonfires, in which were consuming the wreck of smashed furniture of the houses just sacked. At Second and Almond, on Almond, between Third and Fourth, on Fourth at Almond, on Myrtle near Eighth, and at still other localities, these fires were successively rising, illuminating the scenes of sack and destruction, and attracting additional multitudes of wondering citizens and women, and even children. The police yielded the point, and the mob were left to accomplish their work without further molestation, so far as we could discover, until at least 11 o’clock. At that hour the excitement continued and the work was still progressing. Before we left the district, not less than twenty tenements had been “cleaned out,” and it was in contemplation to finish ten or twenty more.

So far as we could learn, the prevalent sentiment was one of regret that so lawless and wholesale a destruction of property was permitted, while the salutary effect of breaking up these establishments was undisputed. But it was thought disgraceful that it should be deemed necessary for the mob to do a work which should in some manner be effected, so far as was desirable, by the enactment and enforcement of law.

The tenement at the southwest corner of Fourth and Almond, was Bill Clexton’s noted South Fourth street Exchange. Adjoining it was a house and a cigar store, kept by some fancy Frenchwomen. Both these establishments were thoroughly riddled. In the rear, a defense was made by parties inside, who fired several shots into the crowd, but without injuring any person, so far as we learned.

The feminine denizens of these destroyed rookeries were seen fleetly scattering in all directions, and their passage through the thronged streets was made the occasion of very uncomplimentary shouts, while nothing like personal violence toward them was thought of.

The lesson of these disgraceful scenes is, that when an intolerable nuisance is left unsuppressed by the authorities, when remonstrances, protests and prayers fail to arouse easy officials t a sense of their duties, the mob will assume the function of the police, and will do for the city what the law has failed to accomplish.

We should add to the above that the fire department was promptly called out, to prevent a destruction of buildings by fire.

LATER.—The police mustered in force at half-past eleven o’clock, and effected the arrest of about fifty of the rioters. At one o’clock the mob was still at work, but less violently, and the arrests were continuing.

Policeman Kennedy suddenly dropped dead at Fourth and Market streets, from heat exhaustion.