Springfield 1908 (Part I)

Hill1News has been online for over three years and somehow I forgot to write about one of the worst race riot to ever occur in the Land Of The Free and Home of The Brave. It’s time we talked about the Springfield, Illinois, Race Riot Of 1908. But before we proceed there are a couple of words that I need to give you their meaning as in the context of this story.
“Yahoo!!“- This word should be associated with a rebel yell.
“Bang Bang” – These words should be associated with gun fire.

So to begin with I am going to give you one chance to guess what precipitated the riot? That’s right.. two black men were accused of raping a white women in two separate attacks. Now in 1908 there were two rules that every black father and black mother told their sons.. rule number one.. don’t you ever rape no white women… and rule number two… remember rule number one. So before we get to the hangings and cross burnings, let’s go back a year before it all started. It was 1907 during a three week period from October thru the second week in November… an event known as the Panic of 1907. Basically what happened was that an entity borrowed a significant sum of money from the banks to corner the copper market. It didn’t work out and when people started making runs on the banks… taking their money out… a lot of banks and trust’s went insolvent. A trust is a corporation that handles other people’s money and is tasked with funding the beneficiaries and determining how the money is spent. Anyway, the third largest trust in New York failed. It was called the  Knickerbocker Trust Company.. I am just giving you the name because the Panic of 1907 is sometimes referred to as the Knickerbocker Crisis. Anyway after Knickerbocker failed, the crisis spread to other regional banks and trust’s and before you knew it everybody was taking their money out of financial institutions. So earlier I said somebody wanted to corner the copper market and it didn’t work out.. I guess you want to know the whys and whats. It’s beyond the scope of our article but here is an excerpt giving you a little more about the whys and whats…

The 1907 panic began with a stock manipulation scheme to corner the market in F. Augustus Heinze’s United Copper Company. Heinze had made a fortune as a copper magnate in Butte, Montana. In 1906 he moved to New York City, where he formed a close relationship with notorious Wall Street banker Charles W. Morse. Morse had once successfully cornered New York City’s ice market, and together with Heinze gained control of many banks. Augustus’ brother, Otto, devised the scheme to corner United Copper. Otto proposed a short squeeze, in which the Heinzes would aggressively purchase as many remaining shares as possible, and then force the short sellers to pay for their borrowed shares. The aggressive purchasing would drive up the share price, and, being unable to find shares elsewhere, the short sellers would have no option but to turn to the Heinzes, who could then name their price. To finance the scheme, Otto, Augustus and Charles Morse met with Charles T. Barney, president of the city’s third-largest trust, the Knickerbocker Trust Company. Barney had provided financing for previous Morse schemes. Morse, however, cautioned Otto that in order to attempt the squeeze, Otto needed much more money than Barney had, and Barney declined to provide funding. Otto decided to attempt the corner anyway. On Monday, October 14, he began aggressively purchasing shares of United Copper, which rose in one day from $39 to $52 per share. On Tuesday (Oct. 15), he issued the call for short sellers to return the borrowed stock. The share price rose to nearly $60, but the short sellers were able to find plenty of United Copper shares from sources other than the Heinzes. Otto had misread the market, and the share price of United Copper began to collapse. The stock closed at $30 on Tuesday and fell to $10 by Wednesday (Oct. 16). Otto Heinze was ruined. The stock of United Copper was traded outside the hall of the New York Stock Exchange, literally an outdoor market “on the curb” (this curb market would later become the American Stock Exchange). – Wikipedia ( Panic Of 1907)

Now I know I have spent a lot of time on this piece but I just need to add one more thing for those who need clarification on what a short sell is or how this scheme called a short squeeze is supposed to work. My analogy is the scheme at its basic… so don’t try this at home. Okay so let’s say you go out and borrow ten pounds of reefer from the dope dealer instead of stock. The dealer’s price is $100.00 a pound which comes to $1000.00. You go out and sell the reefer right away and buy yourself a new Cadillac and get a $15.00 process, cause you’re about to be the main man with the plan!!. Remember this is 1908 and a black man with a Cadillac and process was cooler than a blizzard at the South Pole. So in order for you to make money, the price of a pound has to go down. In this make believe scenario we will say that the next day the DEA has gone on strike and the cartels flood the market with lots of reefer. The price goes down to 50.00 a pound. You buy ten pounds for $500 and give the ten pounds back to the dealer you originally borrowed it from. You keep the five pounds or difference which is $500.00. That’s the way it is supposed to work. But more often than not that’s not how it goes. It usually goes like this… the DEA shuts the border down and you can’t even get a picture of Bob Marley across. The price of reefer then skyrockets to $1000 a pound. Now it’s starting to get real because the dope dealer wants his 10 pounds of reefer or there is gonna be a new headstone in the cemetery tomorrow. His boy Muscle Face takes the keys to your Cadillac and drives away but not before he beats the Murray’s grease outta you. You need $10,000 or else. So yeah, most short sellers don’t make money and thats what happened to Otto, the price of cooper went up. Well they were just coming out of this economic disaster in 1908 and of course with a diminished money supply the local economies suffered. During this period bankruptcies were at the second highest rate up to this date. The Panic of 1837 was the highest volume of bankruptcy filings up to 1907 as far as I can tell. It was caused by another get rich quick scheme that failed. I don’t know why they always call these financial disasters the “Panic,” of such and such, when a more appropriate name would be the “Arrogance,” of such and such. Anywho, before the Panic of 1907, there had been an influx of over one million immigrants the preceding two years. Now Springfield because of it vice economy and the fact that a lot of its money came from the railroads, coal mines and salons, weathered the 1907 Panic a little bit better than the surrounding areas. Now before we move on, there may be some that want to know what I mean by “vice economy.” Well let’s just say what happens in Springfield… stays in Springfield.. or a gentleman never kisses and tells…. or that will be three bucks… if you know what I mean. So I said Springfield did a little bit better than the surrounding areas, but then things started to unwind. Although Prohibition wouldn’t start until 1920, the anti-alcohol movement was gaining momentum and would culminate with Prohibition. In 1908 new policies concerning alcohol passed in the state legislature with the effect of eliminating more than 2000 bars. Twenty percent of the establishments in Sangamon County, where Springfield is located were closed. Then the Illinois Central Railroad started acting up when they decided to start cost cutting measures, like reducing paid workdays from seven days to four. The coal mine owners said why should the railroads have all the fun and started paying their workers with checks instead of cash like they had been doing for decades. Well of course the coal miners didn’t trust the coal barons as far as they could throw a coal mine and immediately went on strike. These events had a trickle down effect on the economies of the affected areas. Nationwide more than 250,000 coal miners went on strike. Since the coal was transported by trains, the trains also had to sit idle because they did not have any coal to transport. Coal was also used to build roads. Guess what also came out in 1908? The Ford Model T, with over 15 million being sold. So now you don’t have any roads to drive your brand new car on that you want to show off to the gals. The people who build the roads lose their jobs, the railroads lose their coal and the coal miners lose their cash… and on top of that ain’t nobody got three dollars… so ain’t a lot of kissing and not telling going on.. It was just stank.. stank… stank.

So a while back we said that millions of immigrants were coming to America, mostly from European nations. I used the word mostly because a lot of immigrants came from China or other Asian countries. I don’t have to tell you that black immigration to America was non existent in the early 20th century for all intensive purposes. I mean why pay thousands of dollars in today’s money to come here and be hung from the tree right outside the immigration office with it cut off…. “Yahoo!!” You might as well go ahead and marry the witch doctor’s daughter like you said you would. Just relax and take deep breaths while they push that armadillo clavicle bone through your bottom lip… at least you can sorta kiss and not tell once you gain consciousness again… Anywho, African Americans were already represented in the midwest as many African Americans fled the South at the beginning of the 20th century in order to escape racial oppression and to look for better employment opportunities. So yeah mostly European immigrants came to America during the early 20th century. In 1908, nearly 35 percent of these immigrants who came to America were unable to speak English, and nearly 15 percent were illiterate. So I assume that in 1908 as in the present days, one of the first items on a racist no-no list and one that somebody can get a ticket to the upper room for… is looking at them and speaking a foreign language to somebody else… that comes right under being black. “This is Merica!! We speak Angleish here!! Go back to Mexico!!” They say that because they think that all people who don’t speak English are Mexican… lol… Well these things, not being able to read and not speaking English, produced tensions between white Americans and white immigrants. White Americans deemed the white immigrants to be biologically inferior, culturally and religiously bizarre with a proclivity to filth, laziness and violence. I don’t know why that sounds familiar… Anywho, white Americans will be white Americans and the white immigrants social stature was placed one and a half notches above African Americans. Even so immigrants still had to sustain repeated racial slurs that racist White Americans assign to anyone different from them. Terms such as “Polack” for the Polish, “Guinea” for the Italians and a term I thought originated from the 60’s civil rights movement, “Honky,” a term which racist white Americans assigned to Hungarians when they immigrated here. Racist are mentally ill, I have always said that. They always have to be better than someone else. If black folks wasn’t here than I bet you would hear something like, “I think that Poligger is looking at a white women… go get the rope…” Well… knowing that you are white but other whites are putting you on a lower social rung not because of your skin color but because of your culture is something that can be fix. You got to go “Super Racist!!”
Super Racist!
Faster than a speeding jungle bunny! More powerful than a BLM sermon after a police shooting! Able to leap over five darkey’s to get at the one that spit in his sippin whiskey!
Look! Up on the porch!
It the Sheriff!
It’s the Massa!
No! It’s Super Racist!

Yes, Super Racist.. strange visitor who came from Europe to America with white power but no abilities beyond those of an ordinary black man. Super Racist, who can change the course of yo thinking and get yo mind right. Able to bend the knee of the most contrary darkey with just a flick of the lash. Who disguised as Reilly Allwhite, mild mannered reporter for the Klansmen Daily, fights a never-ending battle for white supremacy and hanging them in front of the courthouse like daddy used to do…. the American way!
Lol… and yeah I keep it loaded on the desk right in front of me…

Anywho, so the number one thing on the European immigrants mind was how do I become “more white?” Well they imitated American whites. Seeing how blacks were treated as subservient, expected to shuck and jive, be differential to abuse and physical attacks, they saw white supremacy as a way to enhance their “whiteness.” They started distancing themselves from black folks and treating so called uppity blacks with disdain.. although some of them worked side by side with and for black people every day. Eventually they no longer wanted to work with black people and considered the jobs that black people worked demeaning. So I am being politically correct when I say they viewed the jobs as demeaning.. they called them “nigg*r jobs.” Well it might beg to reason that how is it there was all this racism up north… Or to put it more specifically, how was there additional racism up north beside the good old northern racist seeing that many of them fought to free us from slavery? Short answer.. European immigrants were not the only ones immigrating to the North. The Confederacy took a long time to get back on it’s cotton picking feet. The devastation of Sherman’s March through the length of the Confederate Heartland left most major cities in total ruin. He burned everything in sight and I mean everything!! Black folks use to say that after Sherman’s army left Atlanta, they use to carry salt, pepper and hot sauce in their back pockets because you could pick your fried chicken right up off the ground. So yeah, the Confederates immigrated to the North also and with them they carried their prejudices. As I said earlier Blacks had been leaving the South to escape racism and for better jobs up North. This migration came immediately after the Civil War, but sometime around the latter part of the 19th century the migration begin to slow.. well I mean to slow as far as Blacks heading to the Mid-West and small cities like Springfield. By the early 20th century Blacks from the rural South begin moving to large cities like New York and Chicago in what is known as the “Great Migration.” Over 6 million Blacks migrated from the South between the years of 1916 and 1970. Meanwhile during the early part of the 20th century, the trend was reversed for European immigration. So in 1908 there were 45,000 people living in Springfield, Illinois. Forty percent were first and second generation immigrants, fifty five percent were White Americans with around a five percent black population. To put it more precisely there were 2700 black people living in and around Springfield, Illinois in 1908. About half of the working male population were porters and laborers. You had a couple of Unc’s who were miners, some affluent black politicians and the rest were janitors. According to historians there were no white janitors in Springfield at this time. I think they had white janitors but their title was different.. Czeslaw: “Boss I’m not doing ni@@4r work…” Boss: “What do you mean ni@@4r work!! Boy you are an Environmental Maintenance Professional!!” Only “you” can go into a “real” white man’s office and empty his trash!!” lol… As the job situation worsened, immigrant resentment toward blacks grew. Like I said earlier blacks were already in Springfield when European immigrants began to arrive. Subsequently there were a few blacks who were affluent, with some even living in white neighborhoods. So these affluent blacks really set the stage for the impending racial unrest. Immigrants saw the social order of white superiority being challenged by affluent blacks, the same mechanism they were using to try to achieve equality with white Americans. I mean how you going to be superior when that nigras bathroom is bigger than the house you live in. Then you got other nigras smiling and grinning and winking at your environmental ass when a rich nigra walks by… you think to yourself, “I hate these nigras..” So you got that type of dynamic going on and then you have merchants taking advantage of it. To prevent the formation of unions, the merchants would hire black strikebreakers during strikes, pitting blacks against white immigrants. Of course it was a win win for white capitalist, a cheap black and immigrant labor pool and resentment between blacks and immigrants trying to emulate whites. It was a tried and true recipe to prevent unionization of the laboring class. It worked all the way up to 1886, when Samuel Gompers founded the AFL. American Federation Of Labor. Now known as the AFL-CIO. The CIO stands for “Congress for Industrial Organization,” and was made up of international unions from the ranks of the AFL to specifically focus on and organize workers in mass production industries. Anywho, although these unions would go on to become the pillars on which middle class America was built, they were just starting out and back then it was everybody for themselves.

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five once said. “It’s like a jungle sometimes.” Back in 1908 it was like a jungle all the time. You never knew when Tarzan was going to swing out the tree’s on some unsuspecting native and whip his ask me no questions just because… Blacks had no allies back then. Immigrants worried about black job competition, white Americans worried about growing black political clout and newspapers made a fortune taking advantage of the situation. In one instance newspapers fueled such a degree of white antagonism against the black workers that it resulted in the Battle of Virden, a miners strike in Virden, Illinois. One hundred blacks and their families came to Virden on a train to cross the picket line. Eleven people died.. not all black.. but after the strike ended Virden became a sundown town and most black miners were expelled. A sundown town is where if you are black and you are still in town when the sun is not in the sky… well lets just say you better carry a lantern on top of your head and tell them you didn’t know it was night time.. and hope they go for it… or the following Sunday the choir at church is going to be singing “Amazing Grace” and Pastor I. Tolemso is gonna be at somebody’s house that night eating fried chicken and biscuits. Aunt Bessie who is sitting at the piano, opens the hymn book and sees somebody had written in the back…” Sun up.. lets ride to town in a pickup truck.. Sun down… nigga dont play wit me.” Black men were known as menaces. According to reports demonization of black men occured in newspapers at least 13 times a day across the country and at least once a day in Springfield. When I say demonization I mean headlines with the words, “brute”, “menace”, “beast”, “nigger”, “rapist”, “fiend” and “inferior.” This demonization played a vital part in the Springfield Race Riot. So before the Civil War some degree of interracial tolerance existed between black men and white women relationships. However, after the war, keeping the races separate became essential in maintaining the racial hierarchy of white supremacy, as black men became competitors to white men. Black domination became the go to phrase and black men were cast with sexual agency. They were aggressive sexual beings which white women needed particular protection from. Even in the halls of Congress black sexuality was at the forefront of arguments against the Klu Klux Klan Act of 1872. The act allowed the government to detain the racist as long as they wanted to without trial. The Klan were saying that one of the reasons they organized was to protect the honor and chastity of the white women. Rape of white women, it was argued, was the natural proclivity of black men without slavery to restrain them.. bang !! bang!! “Yahoo!!” Okay I am bringing this up to point out that a black man accused of raping a white women in the early 20th century was one of the quickest ways to start a mass casualty event. This brings us to the Springfield Race Riot of 1908

So besides the rape of Mabel Hallam which we will get to later, there were several other crimes that preceded the alleged rape by a black man. All of them allegedly perpetrated by black men. Hallam’s accusation was the last straw.. “Yahoo!!” Let’s talk about a couple of them before we get to Hallam. On Saturday, July 5th, the day after Independence Day, in the wee hour of the night, reportedly between 12:45am and 1:00am, a coal miner named Clergy Ballard (left) was attacked on his front porch by a then unknown alleged black assailant. The initial story went like this: Blanche, Ballard’s daughter had spent the evening out with friends at a local amusement park where they were celebrating the 4th of July. Almost 10,000 people were at the event… probably most of them drunker than Cootie Brown. A lot of us have heard the saying, “drunker than Cootie Brown,” but really didn’t know where the saying came from or how it started, including yours truly. While primarily known as “Cootie Brown” in the black community, the character’s real name is “Cooter Brown” and he was alleged to have lived sometime during the Civil War. One version has Cootie as a white man and the other version has him as an Indian. Both version say he was always drunk ( I mean day and night) because he did not want to fight in the war, and that he lived in the South but had family fighting on both sides. He knew he would not be accepted by the army because he was known to be an alcoholic. The Indian version adds a twist, saying he identified as an Indian because then he could say he was neither black or white depending on which army asked. Naturally the Indian version also has him dying in a fire that was so intense that there was nothing left of his body because of the alcohol he consumed. Well back to the story… So Blanche came back from the amusement park a little bit after midnight and went to bed because she was drunk… okay.. history doesn’t say she was drunk… but one version says she was in a “heavy sleep..” okaaayyyy… anywho, she was awaken by a strange form lying at the foot of her bed. She also shared the bed with her 10yr old sister. She then supposedly touch the form thinking it was her 22 year old brother seeking “repose”.. her word not mine… in her bed rather than his own. (Yeah, we could go there.. but let’s not…) seeking repose in her bed, she asked, ” Is that you Charlie?” When the form didn’t answer, she grabbed for the form’s hand and and felt “hard substances” in it. ( I wouldn’t touch that one with a ten foot pole…) The form then jumped away, “mumbled something and ran into the parlor.” Blanche called out to her mother Emma and in doing so awakened her father. Ballard, Branche’s father went into her room and “perceived,” a negro in the house. (Smells like a negro been in here..) However, before Ballard could close in, the man fled. So the reports say that Ballard only got a fleeting glance at the man as he ran through Blanche’s bedroom again and out the front door. Ballard only dressed in his drawers went out on the porch where he encountered a negro coming around the house. Ballard was then reportedly attacked by the man who cut him from left to right with a razor blade or some kind of big knife. Newspapers say they fought in Ballard’s yard, on his porch and even in the neighbors yard which was 100 feet away. Blanche told the newspapers, “They kept fighting until they got to the fourth house from our house. The man then let go of my father and ran away.” The “Illinois State Journal,” said “Exactly what happened in the yard, no one knows save Ballard and the negro..” Now I have been writing about this stuff for a long time and Ima tell you what I think happened. I think Ballard came out his house and accused the first black man he saw of trying to rape his daughter. “Nig@r you tried to rape my daughter and you coming with me!” Well like I said earlier, “being accused” of raping a white woman meant that you could soon be hanging out at the courthouse… and I mean literally hanging out “in front” of the courthouse. Faced with that prospect, well the black man had no other choice but to resist. Ballard was probably also very insistent that he come with him because… well he said so. Then the black man pulled out his 12 inch long, 2 1/2 inch wide Jim Bowie knife and said, “Ima have to cut you now…” Ballard started running and calling for his mama while the big black man chased him with that big long rusty knife. He caught him a couple of times, but in the end Ballard got away. Stumbling back on the porch Ballard succumbed to the attack. Ballard would be labeled a hero for preventing the “outrage” on his daughter.

Joe James After Arrest – August 5, 1908

On the same day there was another stabbing. It occurs about 1:00am. Ed Jamison, was robbed and stabbed near his residence about six blocks from Ballard’s home. They only took his coat. Jamison was also cut to pieces. Jamison wasn’t white. He was a mulatto. Mulatto was a common term back in those days for a person who had one parent of African ethnicity. When he got to the hospital, Jamison described his attacker to the authorities. He said a big black man approached him and said “You know what this is.. give it up or Ima have to cut you.” Okay he didn’t say it like that… but when Jamison refused to give him the coat, the attacker began to slash him with a sharp object. He said the attacker was “a light colored negro with a slight mustache.” The police believed Jamison knew his attacker but refused to tell them. “If you tell the PoPo who I am.. The next time Ima cut you like you was a 2 foot center playing for the New York Knicks.” Nonetheless the police aggressively tried to find Jamison’s attacker believing he was the one who also attacked Ballard. Eventually they gave up saying Jamison was attacked by someone wielding a razor blade or large knife. They said there was no connection because they concluded Ballard’s attacker used a pen knife. Now I am not a detective… but here are the medical results for both victims:

Eleven different wounds were found on the body of the murdered man. The one which appeared to be fatal was in the chest and looked like a knife thrust. It punctured the lung. Below and leading from it, to the left was a long, curved slash which was not very deep. Across both arms, just below the elbows were deep cuts severing muscles to bones. A slash across six inches long extended across the neck. There was a gash across the top of the head, one across the neck, one in front, and one behind the right ear, and a number of smaller cuts on the face, chest and arms.
Jamison was “severely stabbed” in the right shoulder, over the collar bone, and also across his left breast, splitting down his right arm from his shoulder to his wrist.

I’m like.. “Is there another detective who can look at the evidence?” “No sir! We can’t tell the white folks there is a big hairy black man with a long rusty butcher knife around here stabbing anybody lighter than a vanilla frappuccino!!” The next morning, the 5th of July, only two newspapers reported on Jamison’s attack and both accounts differed slightly. Ballard’s son said “The negro was dressed in light trousers, wore a new pair of shoes, blue shirt, brown winter cap and a black coat. He was a yellow negro.” Of course his neighbors said.. “yeah we saw him.” The two newspaper accounts differed only in that one said he wore a hat and the other didn’t. A little later that morning around 5:30 am, four white women saw a “menace,” Joe James sleeping off a hangover about a half-mile from the Ballard’s house.  Some reports said he was found in the grass in Reservoir park, others reported he was found in the “weeds,” but they all agreed he was a “menace.” The women left hurriedly and spread the word that there was a “menace” in the bushes. After hearing the news, Ballard’s sons along with a couple of other “law abiding citizens” confronted James and gave him a roll of toilet paper. James reportedly had blood on his clothes, no shoes on and a coat thrown over his head. After the attack on Ballard, two of the men with Ballard’s son’s had told police that James had entered their homes before going to Ballards during the investigation. A little girl looked up at her mommy and said, “Mommy why are they giving that black man toilet paper?” ” Well baby.. they are getting ready to beat the #@@!$ out of him.” The men attacked James with 2X4’s, nearly beating him to death. Halfway through the beating James lost consciousness. Unable to defend himself, he was dragged toward a telephone pole and fitted with a ten foot rope necklace with matching ankle and wrist bracelets. Luckily for him three deputies were in the area and were drawn to the crowd when they heard them shouting “Kill!! Kill!!” James was arrested and booked into jail at 6:30 am. So just to refresh your memory all of these events so far discussed have taken place within a few hours span, starting with the Ballard attack at 1:00 am this same morning. Unfortunately for Joe James, Ballard died from his wounds a just a few hours after James was arrested. So let’s get a little background on Joe James. James was not from Springfield. He was from Birmingham, Alabama and was raised by his uncle who was a pastor. For a time James lived with his mother in Mississippi but left in 1907 to return to Birmingham, where he did work as a  “bristle-puller,” and he drove a coal wagon for a time. As far as I can tell through my research a bristle puller was a person who shaved the coarse hair from a hog. The hair was then made into brushes. Now personally I have never seen that much hair on a hog… well I have never seen enough to make a brush out of…. and I don’t want to think about where or what he had to shave… and how many he had to shave to make a brush… but the records show he didn’t keep that job long… so Ima leave it there. He stayed in Birmingham for a few months before leaving .. not going anywhere in particular… Memphis, Kansas City, East St. Louis, Alton, Illinois and finally ending up in Springfield. He jumped off at Springfield on a train bound for Chicago. Like I said earlier jobs were scarce but he finally landed one at a black saloon called Bud Brandon’s Saloon.

So a couple of days before the stabbings on June 2nd when James got off, he encountered two black plainclothes policemen. Yes I was surprised myself when I saw that there were black police officers in 1908. Historically the first black police officers name was William Johnson of Jacksonville, Florida in 1870…. naturally I assumed when he was “killed in the line of duty…” there wasn’t a whole lot of black people trying out for that job… History doesn’t mention the details of Johnson’s death, but my money is on “Yahoo!!” Next we have Bass Reeves( right) who was appointed as the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshal in 1875. The Lone Ranger television series was based on his life. The show first aired on radio in 1933 and Tonto was just added so the Lone Ranger would have someone to talk to. Afterwards Tonto was kept on when the show became televised. Anywho, the two black plainclothes police officers saw James walking and assumed he was loitering. They asked him to leave town. James had been in a fight the night before at the saloon over a gambling game. Newspapers reported people were “sore” at him because he won. I figure the haters dropped a dime on him. Anywho, when they told James to leave he reportedly told them “A nigger has as much right to be here as a white man. A white man is no better than a nigger.” James also told them he had a job, but they didn’t believe him because he couldn’t recall the name of the saloon he worked at. “Boy if I have to blow this whistle, twelve incredibly strong, extremely musty white men with rotten teeth and hair on their chest gonna come running over here… and we gonna tell them what you said and then we gonna leave…” James: “Okay so I take a left down there and that road will lead me out of town.. right?” James told them he would leave town.. but he didn’t. The next day they arrested James for vagrancy and fined him $25.00. That’s the equivalent of around $700.00 in today’s money. James had no way to pay and he was jailed. He was sentenced to five days and was set to be released on July 7th. On July 4th James was given forty cents and told to go out and buy the prisoners a few items… bread, molasses and pie. Because of James’s good behavior, he had been made a trustee. Forty cents is the equivalent of around $12.00 in today’s money. The police claimed that James left the jail “barefooted,” so there was no need to think he would not return. James did not return. Instead after James bought the prisoners stuff, he went to a saloon called “Dandy Jim’s,” where he bought two beers. Now James knew how to play the piano and he started playing for drinks. By the time the joint closed, James was “drunk as a skunk…” this particular saying has no backstory. It was first used in 1920 and the only reason for its use was because it rhymed. It is associated with with another saying, ” drunk as a mouse,” which in the 14th century was used in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” Anyway, after leaving Dandy’s he fell asleep in the bushes we talked about earlier where the four white women found him. News of James’s arrest spread quickly. The Illinois State Journal described James as a “typical southern darkey of medium size and of color not real dark.” After Ballard’s death the authorities recovered a piece of torn shirt and a cap. Sheriff Deputy, Harry Taylor identified the cap, and the piece of torn shirt, as belonging to James. The physical evidence was also identified by a man named Bob Oakley, a mulatto, former police officer and a bartender at one of the black saloon’s also identified the items as belonging to James. So the ringmaster said “Let the show begin!” Lee Oakley, Bob’s nephew voluntarily went down to the police after hearing what happened and said, ” a strange negro which he identified as James was kicked out of  Bill Johnson’s saloon on East Washington street the night before. The police showed him the evidence which he identified as belonging to James. Everyone of Ballard’s family members identified James as the killer. The people who chased the intruder the night of Ballard’s death identified James as the killer. After the arrest, when police canvassed the area again they mysteriously planted.. I mean found the murder weapon.. a pen knife a few feet from where James was found sleeping. The penknife was reportedly stained with blood, and had a blade less than two inches long. James was officially the murderer. Now to be fair, some of the newspapers were not buying it. ( See I am not the only one.) They questioned his motive. Ballard had a modest home and during the attack nothing was taken. While they were not calling Ballard’s daughter ugly, it was said that men would rather jump into a volcano with dynamite strapped to their groin rather than take her out…. okay I said that.. but them was some racist @##!!. They basically said the same thing the KKK said, “with James being black while the girls were white, James must have been attempting to rape the girl(s).” The newspapers had a field day. “One conclusion that finds most supporters is that James was a degenerate negro, inflamed by strong opiates with a crazed brain that sought satisfaction only in human blood… the brute.”

Scene from “To Kill A Mockingbird – 1963

So before they arrested James, it was thought that the same man who stabbed and took Jamison coat was also the same man that attacked Ballard. The description of the man that attacked Ballard did not match James. However after Ballard’s sons told the police that some of James belongings were found at the murder site, James became their target and the stabbing of Jamison never came up again. On July 15, 1908, James was brought before a grand jury of 23 men. History does not mention the color of the jurors but says there were no negroes present… okay it didn’t say that… but we all know. What surprising is that they discussed James’s case all morning with county and state officials stating they were prepared to convict James “beyond a shadow of doubt.” Back in the good old days James would have already been dead and they would just be meeting so there would be a record of his trial. Like the local newspaper reported, “The police department noted that, if it were up to them, they would have hanged James “right away.” James’s attorneys entered a guilty plea, a strategy to avoid the death penalty that they believed would result in life imprisonment instead. However, it was reported a life sentence would not be well received as “feelings run high against the negro” amongst whites who wanted him hanged. In other words if you don’t hang him, we will. With the court docket full, it was decided that they wouldn’t hang James until the 4th… I mean have his trial until the 4th of August. This brings us to Mabel Hallam who was attacked on August 12, 1908. As reported by the Illinois State Journal on August 14th, “a respectable” young married 21 year old woman had been attacked in the same working-class neighborhood as Ballard. She was married to William Hallam, a well known street conductor. Well the story goes like this;

“I was lying in my bed in the front room, with the rear door open, having the screen door latched, and was awaiting the return of my husband, who is employed on the car lines. It was just 11:20 o’clock when that negro came into our home and came directly to my bed. He laid on the bed and grabbed hold of me. This, of course, awakened me. My husband does not possess such habits, and I asked him the question, ‘Why Earl, what is wrong with you?’ to which the negro replied, ‘I am drunk.’ Then he commenced gagging me, telling me all the time that if I made any outcry he would kill me. I was so frightened, I could not think of any move to make, although I did manage to make a couple of light screams, one of which was heard by Mrs. Hallam, my mother-in-law, residing next door to us, and whose bedroom is only a few feet from mine. The fellow dragged me into the back yard, carrying and pulling me through the kitchen of our home. He pulled and jerked and yanked at me until we were in one of the outbuildings. All the time his fingers were buried into my neck and the pain was intense. Finally, he released me, going out through the front yard. I claimed the fence into the yard of my mother-in-law, and there met her coming to help me. It was then 11:45 o’clock, just twenty-five minutes after he pounced upon me in my room.”

After the police chief heard about the crime, he assigned and ordered the whole department to find “a nig@rr!” I mean find “the nig@rr!”… and find one they did. George Richardson was a 36-year-old black, lifetime resident of Springfield. He was from a prominent black family in Springfield. His grandfather had been Abraham Lincoln’s barber, and white newspapers cited him having “above the ordinary intelligence. Having above ordinary intelligence should have disqualified him right away… Breaking into a young white woman house, who was married to somebody everybody knew and raping her in this atmosphere meant you was dumber than a chicken bone. Anywho, he was the man. The police rounded up a group of black men whom they had seen working the night before and figured it was one of them. They took them to Hallam’s house where she fingered Richardson because he was the darkest…. okay I don’t know that… Records say he was the only one she recognized… and I’m not going to get into that either… Anywho, Richardson said he was innocent. Richardson’s wife another well respected women, who was also respected across color lines corroborated his alibi and committed in testifying in his defense.

“As God is my judge, I am innocent of the crime I am charged with at Springfield. I have tried to conduct myself so as to win respect of my white neighbors, and believe that I have done so. I was born in Springfield, educated in the public schools there, and have always lived there. I am 36 years of age, have a wife, but no children. My wife believes in me and we are proud of our little home. I have worked for Mr. Rhinehart, contractor, for some time, and always work when I can find work to do. I worked all day Thursday, and went home at 6 o’clock awfully tired. I ate my supper, sat on the porch and smoked until 8 or half-past 8 o’clock and went to bed. I never left my room that night, but went to work Friday morning as usual. I was arrested while at work and was much surprised to be taken for this crime. I believe that my neighbors will support my alibi and vouch for my good character. I never saw Mrs. Hallam before until she identified me as the man who assaulted her. She is mistaken. I am ready to go back whenever the authorities think safe to do so and stand trial. “– George Richardson, August 15, 1908

When I read that statement somehow my mind wanders back to Solomon Northup. He was the depicted in the movie ” Twelve Years A Slave.” It just sounds like something he would say. Well we all know what happened to him… Anywho, the police claimed that his coat was “torn” and that they found “a trace of blood” on his coat. This was in line with Hallam’s statement that she “tore her assailant’s coat.” Despite multiple eyewitness account placing Richardson on his porch with his wife at the time of the attack, police arrested Richardson and took him to the county jail, where Hallam hesitantly picked him out of a lineup of potential suspects. She told the authorities that she could not be certain if Richardson was the man who tried to rape her because “all colored men looked alike” to her. Then the “respected” lady told Richardson.. “I believe you are the man. You will have to prove you are not.” Richardson was charged with rape and put into a cell with James. Now there was a lot of hating going on in them days… James and Richardson could probably see the street from their cell and see the white men across the street holding nooses in their hands and pointing at them. So I don’t know if that actually happened but, I know how them folks are… History does records the following; “After he was arrested, Richardson’s brothers were also persecuted. His younger brother, Tom, a produce clerk, was chased out of town when he was attacked in the wagon, that he drove for a packing firm, in the street. He escaped, left his wagon behind, jumped on a train at Illinois Central Station, and fled to Mississippi. Richardson’s older brothers, James and William, were arrested and thrown in jail for “public safety.” I think some historian made a mistake, it said Tom went to Mississippi… everybody knows you don’t go to Mississippi in 1908, less than fifty years after the Civil War!! Don’t you know thats your ass boy if they get you down there!! Anyway, after all the publicity of the attack, Mabel Hallam had her likeness put on postcards to sell and her husband was named as a “Special Deputy.” Their motto was, “I wish a nig**r would!!” Well I think this is a good place to stop, but please join us next week when we will explore more of Springfield 1908.


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