History of the Braidwood Illinois Riots

History of the Braidwood Illinois Riots

Nineteenth century Braidwood, Illinois was a wild and rowdy place. The town was built on top of coal, and it attracted hardy miners from the east. Braidwood sprouted like a mushroom after rain, practically overnight. James Braidwood sank the first coal shaft in 1872, and within a year over two thousand people had moved to Braidwood. Miners were a rough and tumble crowd: most of the early city inhabitants were of Irish stock, but there were also poor people from practically all the countries of Europe. Considering that the population of Braidwood consisted of immigrants from many countries, it is not surprising to see that there were conflicts about religion and politics; and these conflicts sometimes erupted violently. In April 1876 a closely contested election was held for officers for the town of Braidwood.

Just before the polls closed, fights broke out near the Braidwood Illinois healthcare facility and Braidwood hospital, resulting in a general melee. Marshall Simms searched the crowd and then arrested Pat Creeley, a ringleader of the rebellion. Creeley did not resist the arresting officers, but the crowd tried to wrestle Simms to the ground. The Marshall drew his gun, with the intention of using it as a club. The crowd then attempted to grab the gun away from him. Simms retreated, leaving Creeley with the crowd. By this time the general melee increased, and a number of innocent bystanders were assaulted and beaten. The quickness of the attacks gave a sense of victory to the rioters. The violence then calmed down; however not for long. There was a spirit of violence and rioting abroad, which resulted in an attack upon the polls. The mob again triumphed, thus stealing the entire records of the election. One poll counter for the Republican party who had tried to save the ballot count list he had made was beaten senseless by the unmerciful mob. And, there were no further arrests.

By the next year, 1877, things took a turn for the worse as the entire nation was in the throes of a depression. Jobs were scarce everywhere, and workers with good-paying jobs like Braidwood healthcare workers had to accept pay cuts to keep what they could. Trains stopped, shops closed, machinery fell idle. In the coalfields the demand for coal fell radically as factories cut back production or failed altogether. In April of 1877 the coal companies demanded that their miners take a pay cut. The winter pay rate went from 90 to 65 cents per ton mined; and the summer rate went from 85 to 70 cents per ton. The miners retaliated by going on strike. The mining companies brought in outside strikebreakers including “black legs” – train carloads full of blacks from the impoverished rural South – who were hired on a daily basis. By the end of July 1877 a crisis boiled over, when the striking miners formed groups to maim or kill all of the strikebreakers in town, especially the black legs. The county officials and police, feeling overwhelmed, called for help from the governor. Governor Cullom responded by sending 1,300 soldiers to the riot scene to restore civil order (two hundred of the force eventually invested and occupied the city for weeks).

The governor himself visited Braidwood and urged calm, and guaranteed equal protection. Then the situation calmed down, and at length the strike was broken. Some black miners departed, but a number of them stayed on, working in their own shafts and raising families Braidwood, Illinois. Today, if you are looking for quality Braidwood Illinois healthcare, look no further than Riverside Medical center. Riverside can provide you information on their top notch Braidwood healthcare system and the Braidwood hospital.

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