Legends Of America
Since 2003
Why am I seeing the old web design?

Legends of America

 

 Tip Jar

Legends Facebook Page    Legends on Pinterest    Legends on Twitter
 

Cairo, Illinois - Page 4

<<  Previous  1 2 3 4 5 6  Next  >>

 

 

Will James hanged in Cairo, IllinoisIn response, the crowed jeered: “We don’t want to hear him; string him up; kill him; burn him.” James was hanged from an arch at 8:00 pm. However, when the rope broke, James was riddled with bullets. The body was then dragged by a rope for a mile to the scene of the crime and burned in the presence of at least 10,000 people. Many women were in the crowd, some of whom helped to hang and drag the body. His remains were then cut up for souvenirs before burning the rest. His half burned head was then attached atop a pole in Candee Park at the intersection of Washington Avenue and Elm Street. The next morning, nothing was left of his body other than bones.

 

With their blood-thirst boiling, part of the mob then went in search of James’ named accomplice – Alexander. However, they evidently didn’t find him, if such a man ever existed.

 

In the meantime, the other part of the mob fled to the county jail, where they hammered at the cell of a man named Henry Salzner, for more than an hour. Salzner, a local photographer, had been charged with murdering his wife with an axe in August. The prisoner plead for mercy, while protesting his innocence, but it was to no avail. The bars finally gave way, and the prisoner was dragged to a telegraph pole at Washington Avenue and 21st Street. He was lynched at 11:15 p.m. and once dead, filled with bullets. Salzner’s body was left in the street and claimed by his father the next day.

 

The mob remained in a frenzy and order was restored only after Governor Charles Deneen ordered eleven companies of the National Guard to proceed to Cairo. By morning, all was quiet, the mob had dispersed, and only a few persons, on the lookout for Alexander, were lurking about the streets. However, hundreds of men continued to search the river front, breaking into freight cars in the hope of finding Alexander.

 

During the mob chaos, the Mayor and the Chief of Police were being guarded in their homes, as the infuriated mob threatened them.

 

The very next year, in 1910, a sheriff's deputy was killed by another mob attempting to lynch a black man accused of snatching a white woman's purse. Again, the National Guard was called in and martial law implemented until order could be restored.

 

Though the racial tension continued, the town continued to thrive. In 1910, the historic Gem Theatre opened its doors to much acclaim. Seating 685 people, it was a cultural hot spot in the town. Unfortunately, a fire completely gutted the theatre in 1934, but it was rebuilt two years later including a new, elegant marquee. The Gem continued to operate for nearly another half century, before it was closed in 1978. Unfortunately, though the vintage theatre still stands, it is long vacant and has fallen into serious disrepair.

 

Gem Theatre before 1934

The original Gem Theatre before the fire that gutted it in 1934.

 

Gem Theatre, Cairo, Illinois

The Gem Theatre sits abandoned and silent today, Kathy Weiser, April, 2010.

This image available for photo prints & commercial  downloads HERE.

 

 

 

In the meantime, Cairo's reputation was developing a "mean, hard edge," which was backed up in 1917 when the city had the highest arrest rate in the state with 15% of its population incarcerated at one time or another. This reputation, which would get worse before it was over, still lasts to this day, even though Cairo's "meanness" is long past and its citizens work together to do what they can to save their dying town.

 

Workers piling sandbags in Cairo, 1937Like many other cities across the continent, the 1930's and the Great Depression hit Cairo hard. The town's population and fortunes began to dwindle.

 

In 1937; the focus changed to another potential disaster, when in February, the Ohio River swelled to record heights. The flooding inundated the towns of Paducah and Louisville, Kentucky, as well as Cincinnati, Ohio and scores of other smaller communities and as the huge crest moved downstream to the Mississippi River. Newsreel cameramen and newspaper correspondents rushed into Cairo to report the anticipated catastrophe. Women and children were evacuated from the city and a three-foot bulwark of timbers and sandbags was hastily built atop the levees. But, lucky for Cairo, the water rose swiftly to within four inches of the bulwark, wavered several hours and began to slowly recede. Of all the cities on the lower Ohio River, Cairo alone withstood the flood.

 

Though the citizens saved the town from flooding, its rough reputation was continuing, as the same year, it had the highest murder rate in the state. At the same time, its prostitute population was estimated to be over 1,000. And, for Cairo, conditions would get even worse. In the early 1940's, 12 serious fires destroyed businesses, most of which were never rebuilt. Making matters more difficult, after World War II was over in 1945, the town suffered from extremely high unemployment rates rather than flourishing like many communities across the Midwest. This further increased its crime rate and the city became a haven for organized crime. By the 1950's, the Illinois Senate began investigating a $20 million bootlegging operation that was sending large amounts of bootlegged liquor into nearby "dry" states.

 

 

Continued Next Page

 

River Wall and Levee in Cairo, Illinois' heydays

Cairo River Wall and Levee during its heydays.

 

Cairo, Illinois Levee today

Cairo's Levee today, Kathy Weiser, September, 2012.

This image available for photo prints & commercial downloads HERE.

 

<<  Previous  1 2 3 4 5 6  Next  >> 

From Legends' General Store

 

Vintage Poster Maps - A new collection of reproduction vintage USA and State Maps which have been restored and sometimes updated with additional information. Printed maps are 11x17".

 

Americana Posters & Prints HERE!

  Reproduction vintage maps

 

  About Us      Contact Us       Article/Photo Use      Guestbook      Legends Of Kansas      Photo Blog     Writing Credits     

Copyright © 2003-Present, Legends of America