Fire Buffs promote the general welfare of the fire and rescue service and protect its heritage and history. Famous Fire Buffs through the years include New York Fire Surgeon Harry Archer, Boston Pops Conductor Arthur Fiedler, New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and - legend has it - President George Washington.

Ready to roll from Springfield Fire Headquarters on North Fountain Avenue

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

RACE RIOTS - 1904 & 1906

Mobs set parts of Springfield ablaze during race riots in the early 20th Century.

On March 6, 1904, a white police patrolman, Officer Charles Collis, was shot twice while investigating a domestic disturbance and died of his wounds after giving chase to his assailant. Police arrested a black man named Richard Dixon (spelled Dickson in some accounts).

After Collis died, a mob formed at the jail - and Dixon was dragged from his cell and killed.

After hanging his corpse from an electric pole in the center of Springfield, the mob marched onto the Levee, a black neighborhood along the Mad River.

According to the Ohio Historical Society: ``The mob set businesses and homes on fire and destroyed the Levee.''

The rioters blocked Springfield firefighters from extinguishing the flames, although they managed to prevent the conflagration from spreading beyond the Levee.

The mayor called the state militia to restore order.

Police Division

More details from the web site of the Springfield Police Division:

Officer Charles B. Collis, 45, responded to a domestic disturbance on March 6, 1904, between Anna Corbin and Richard Dixon at the Corbin house.

During the course of the disturbance, Dixon was to gather his clothing and books. Corbin denied entry to Dixon. Dixon pulled out a revolver and shot Corbin in the chest. Dixon then turned the gun to Collis and shot him twice, once in the abdomen and once in the right arm. Dixon then ran out of the house.

Mortally wounded, Collis gave chase.

Dixon ran to police headquarters, gun still in hand, and Collis still in pursuit. Dixon was promptly arrested and Collis collapsed on the floor of police headquarters. He was taken to City Hospital ... (and) died of his injuries on March 7, 1904.

The news of Officer Collis’ death brought rioting in the streets.

The rioters demanded that Dixon be brought out from the jail so that justice would be served. Upon refusal to release Dixon, the rioters stormed the jail, threatened to kill the jail clerk, and removed Dixon. Dixon was shot, beaten, and hanged from the light post at Main St. and Fountain Ave.

He was then shot several more times from below.

1906 Unrest

About two years later, rioting broke out Feb. 27, 1906 following the shooting of M.M. Davis, a railroad brakeman who was white. The suspects in that shooting were also black.

According to The New York Times:

``Kempler's saloon, on East Columbia Street, was the first object of attack. It was looted, and the owner fled down the street, leaving his wife and three little children asleep in a room over the bar. Just as the crowd was about to set fire to the building the police and firemen forced their way to the door and rescued the woman and children in the nick of time.

``... On leaving Kempler's the mob rushed across the street to a five-story frame building from which the inmates had fled. They smashed in the windows and poured oil on the beds. They then set the house on fire, and it is now in ruins. The firemen did their best to save the structure, but as fast as a line of hose was run out some one in the mob would cut it.''

The mayor again called the state militia to restore order.

Springfield was also the scene of rioting at High and Fountain streets - then known as ``Rat Row'' - on Aug. 16, 1865.

Riots also erupted in 1921.