Category Archives: Crime and vice

Springfield’s statewide stickup gang, 1938

Authorities squelched a statewide crime wave with the arrests of a Springfield-based stickup gang in March 1938. Sangamon County assistant state’s attorney John Curren called the group, which he credited with 150 or more robberies, “the best organized gang of … Continue reading

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Body in the barrel mystery, 1930

Springfield police thought they’d wrapped up their case when junk dealer Harry Ross confessed to murdering his partner and trying to burn the man’s body. But a judge said detectives went too far when they interrogated Ross for six days … Continue reading

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House of prostitution standoff, 1885

While a crowd gathered outside, a stylish bordello madam held off a Springfield police raid for nine hours in August 1885. Police tried to serve a warrant on Retta Rawlins’ “house of assignation,” which was upstairs in a building on … Continue reading

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New Year’s news, 1920

Good news dominated Springfield newspapers on New Year’s Day 1920. The pages of the Illinois State Journal and Illinois State Register were full of predictions about the year to come. Businesspeople were optimistic. Among those the Register quoted was Joseph … Continue reading

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First marijuana arrests, 1938

Sangamon County resisted “reefer madness”, but marijuana finally arrived in Springfield in 1938. “Brilliant raids” by two Springfield police detectives resulted in the arrests of three men – two locals and one from Youngstown, Ohio – on Aug. 6, 1938, … Continue reading

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First Prohibition bootlegger, 1919

This entry has been updated with the photos above. The 14 gallons of whiskey federal agents seized on May 30, 1919, made Servia Diaz Springfield’s first officially recognized Prohibition bootlegger. Diaz (1897-1975), an immigrant from Spain, claimed he had made … Continue reading

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Fortune-teller scandal, 1897

A fortune-teller with a gift of gab went to prison in 1897, thanks partly to an investigation by Springfield’s first woman dentist. Arthur A. Waite went by the name of “Luke Leslie” when he set up shop at Second and … Continue reading

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‘Segregated district,’ 1909-15

In the early 20th century, the city of Springfield set aside a few square blocks where prostitutes were allowed to ply their trade without interference from police. The theory behind the quasi-legal “segregated district” was to keep the rest of … Continue reading

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‘Humane officer’ report, April 1904

Charles Stone (1847?-1911) was appointed Springfield’s first humane officer in November 1903. The position was part of the Springfield Police Department, and the humane officer had all the powers of any other police officer, but with the special duty of … Continue reading

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Temperance movement, 1874

Springfield’s women’s temperance movement lost much of its momentum in 1874, after a (male) Methodist minister went out of his way to blame the local liquor trade on immigrant Germans and Irish. Doubly unfortunate for the crusading women, Rev. William … Continue reading

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