The Herrin Massacre

Since being a small child, I have had a love of history. Though several years have elapsed since that time, the desire to learn about the past and better understand it has not diminished. I was raised in “Bloody Williamson,” in Southern Illinois, though by the time I came around, that nickname had faded from the memory of most.

The local history that I happened to catch while growing up mostly consisted of the mobster who had somehow–years after his death–become a “cool” anti-hero, Charlie Birger. And even at that, the details were limited to the fact that he was a gun-toting guy who fought against the KKK, and who was later hanged, uttering the final words, “It’s a beautiful world.”

The coal mines in southern Illinois, during my youth, still employed a large number of people—all of them union men. Perhaps this is why we never heard many details of the infamous “Herrin Massacre” that took place in 1922, even though it was front page news nationwide for several weeks in cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago.

I have no bias for or against unions. I have several friends who are union men, and I have even been a union man myself at one time. I have nothing against unions, so long as they keep their proper place and they work within the bounds of the law and of fairness. In 1922, the union men in Herrin, Illinois performed a series of acts which cannot be justified or defended by any rational standard of right and wrong.

Recently, I ran across an old brittle copy of a book called “The Herrin Conspiracy,” wherein the details of that horrible event–the Herrin Massacre–were clearly set forth.  The author of that short booklet is unknown, though the information contained is an accurate picture of the events which took place on that day in 1922 when Williamson County earned the name “Bloody Williamson.”

This story makes for an interesting comparison with the Lord’s church.  It shows what can happen when people insist on their “liberties” even in the face of those who have problems with it.  It shows what can happen when leaders ignore their responsibility.  It shows what can happen when people of one community think only of themselves and not at all caring about the welfare of others.

It is a story of conspiracy, of murder, and ultimately a travesty of justice.

This book was written less than six months after the events, and at that point in time, no one had been charged with the murders of around 20 men and the destruction of millions of dollars of equipment.

I have taken the liberty to edit this booklet and have added footnotes to it.  It is an interesting snapshot of the times, and several illustrations can be gleaned from it.

Download it here (FREE) and see what you think.

-Bradley Cobb

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