Two hundred railroad construction workers rioted in Cantrall on Aug. 20, 1926, following a brawl at an illegal beer parlor. When village marshal William O’Neal intervened, the rioters beat him up and took away his revolver and badge.
A half-dozen ringleaders then led a carload of Sangamon County sheriff’s deputies on what the Illinois State Journal called “a mad chase over hill and valley” between Cantrall and Athens.
The lead-in to the riot took place Aug. 19, when Henry Sidles, who investigated Prohibition violations for the state’s attorney’s office, and several deputies closed down Manford Carlo’s so-called “soft drink parlor” in Cantrall. Officials said the establishment had been the site of several fights. The raid turned up more than 100 quarts of “home brew,” reports said.
Carlo, however, was open again the next day. Most of his patrons apparently were section hands working on the nearby tracks of the Chicago & Illinois Midland railroad. Once again, trouble developed. The Illinois State Journal described the series of events.
Carlo and his customers, who, incidentally, had just been paid, became engaged in an argument, precipitated, it was said, when the section workers chided the owner of the place about the raid the day before.
Came then fight No. 1, not of serious consequences. The construction workers then returned, Cantrall residents declared, to the section camp to summon aid.
Before long, two hundred men lined up for action on the edge of Cantrall and announced to the world that they were going to “take the town.” The march was on.
Several belligerents advanced to Carlo’s establishment, with the rest serving as reserves. The boisterous customers were put out of the place, a brick found its mark on Carlo’s head and the battle was on.
The rioters wrecked Carlo’s business, then marched to the center of town, where they were confronted by Marshal O’Neal.
Five or six men jumped on him, knocking him to the ground, snatching his revolver and tearing off the emblem of his authority.
A hurried call to the sheriff’s office in Springfield brought five automobile loads of deputies and special deputies, each official armed with a revolver or a shotgun, pell mell across the countryside.
The show of force quelled the riot, except for the chase from Cantrall to Athens and back, the Journal reported. Two men ran when the rioters’ car was stopped, but two others were arrested, as were two men who remained in Cantrall when deputies arrived.
A total of six men, all from the Cantrall or Athens areas, ultimately were charged with unlawful assembly. Newspaper records show that three of the accused eventually paid fines — $3 for two of the men and $25 for the man thought to have led the riot, John Jett of Cantrall. Charges were dismissed against another suspect, and the results of hearings for two others could not be determined.
Manford Carlo spent four days in St. John’s Hospital for treatment of his head injury.
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