Friday, June 6, 2014

June 6, 1903: W. T. Wyatt

June 7, 1903 the Chicago Daily Tribune wrote:



Colored School Teacher Shoots and Mortally Wounded Charles Hertel, County Superintendent of Schools, Who Refuses to Renew His Certificate--Crowd of Five Thousand Angry Men Surround the Jail--Sheriff Unable to Save the Prisoner.

Belleville, Ill., June 6, 12:30 a.m.--[Special]--David J. Wyatt, murderer of Supt. Hertel, has just been taken from the jail by a mob and hung on the public square.

Belleville, Ill., June 6.--[Special]--A mob of 5,000 is at the city jail at midnight demanding that David F.[sic] Wyatt, a negro, be surrendered.  If the jailer yields Wyatt will be lynched.

The prisoner whose life is demanded shot and fatally wounded Charles Hertel, county superintendent of schools, in his office at 6 o'clock this evening.  

All Negroes Ordered to Leave.

Every negro in town was ordered tonight to leave town or suffer the consequences.

So far Sheriff Thompson has succeeded in standing off the mob.  He called on the fire department for assistance, and several streams of cold water has temporarily cooled the ardor of the crowd. How long before another assault will be made on the jail is problematical, but the officers are fearful they may not be able to save the negro's life.

The news of the shooting spread quickly, and in less than fifteen minutes the police station was surrounded by a mob of 500 people, principally business and professional men, who pleaded with the officers for the surrender of the negro.

Mayor Kern and Chief of Police Yaeckels saw that prompt action was necessary in order to prevent a lynching.  They quickly threw a platoon of police in front of the police station and with drawn revolvers and clubs drove back the mob.

Wyatt Rushed Through Crowd.

Wyatt, handcuffed to two policemen and surrounded by a strong guard, was then rushed through the lines of the public square, three blocks distant to the county jail, where he was placed in the murderers' cell.  

The mob soon increased to over 2,000 people, and their numbers were increased to 5,000 within an hour.

Mayor Kern, Circuit Judge Holder, and other prominent officials addressed the crowd, counseling peace and the law be allowed to take its course, but their words seemed to have little effect.

Cause of the Shooting.

The cause of the shooting was the refusal by Supt. Hertel to renew Wyatt's license to teach school.  Supt. Hertel had conducted teacher examinations today, and Wyatt, who had taught school for several years, was one of the contestants for a certificate.  His grades were not satisfactory and Supt. Hertel refused to issue him a certificate.  Wyatt, when told his certificate would not be issued, entered Hertel's private office and shot him without warning.  The bullet pierced Hertel's right chest, ranging downward.  A surgeon says he can live but a short time.

Hertel and George Fielder, his assistant, who was the only witness in the office at the time, struggled with the negro and overpowered and held him until Mayor Fred J. Kern and Officer Fred B. Phillips, who had heard the report of the revolver while standing on the street in front of the building, rushed into the superintendent's office on the third floor of the courthouse, handcuffed the assassin, and took him to the police station.

Mr. Hertel was serving his third term as superintendent of the schools of St. Clair county, having been first elected by the republicans in 1894, and was a candidate for the republican nomination for state superintendent two years ago.

Race War Threatened.

Tonight's shooting was not the only reason for warning all the negroes to leave the city  There has been considerable friction between the whites and blacks for sometime.

The Rev. Charles Thomas, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, has received several threatening letters warning him to leave Belleville or suffer personal injuries.  He is threatened with visits from white caps, and one letter reads he will be hanged to a telephone pole in the public square if he does not leave the city within forty-eight hours.  Thomas has sent the letters to Gov. Yates and appealed to him for protection.

The letters are believed to be the outgrowth of a recent equal right suit brought by Thomas against Henry Baumgarten. the proprietor of one of the leading white barber shops of Belleville, for $200 damages because Baumgarten refused to allow one of the employees to shine the minister's shoes.  Thomas entered Baumgarten's barber shop when the place was crowded with patrons and, seating himself in the chair, asked that his shoes be polished.  Aware that in serving the negro it would be detrimental to his trade, Baumgarten told the negro preacher that it would be impossible for him to serve him, as his patrons would object to it.  Thomas became enraged at this and stated that he was an American citizen and had the same rights in the barber shop that other customers had.   Baumgarten refused to serve Thomas, and the latter left the place, informing the proprietor that he would instigate suit against him.  The suit was brought and the jury decided that Baumgarten had the right to refuse to serve the colored preacher.  Today Thomas filed an appeal bond with August Hertel, a wealthy white citizen as surety.  He says he will carried the case to the Supreme court.

Can I just say how amazing Rev. Thomas was to stand up for his rights knowing full well it could be his death.  How many other unnamed persons fought to be treated as a fellow human?

Attorney General Hamlin promised not only prosecutions, but also convictions of the lynchers.  He stated, "During the time between now and September there will be no trouble collecting the necessary evidence, which it is manifestly impossible to get on short notice in the present state of public feeling in St. Clair county."  Mrs. Mary Wyatt, the widow,  stated that if the law had been able to take its course with her husband, even if it resulted in conviction and execution, she would have made no complaint.  Now that her husband has been murdered, she felt that his illegal executioners should be dealt with according to the law.  All according to a following article in The Chicago Tribune dated June 10, 1903.

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois), June 25, 1903 reads:  


Negro Preacher Would Fight the White People.

Chicago, June 25--If lynching and burning negroes is not stopped by the law, the black people must protect themselves.  If you have not a sword sell your coat and buy one.  Self-preservation is natures first law.

Such was the advice given last night to the colored men and women at Quinn chapel by the Rev. C. H. Thomas of Belleville Ills.  The statement was eagerly applauded by an audience that listened breathlessly to the accounts given by the minister of the days following of the lynching of David T. Wyatt, the colored school teacher.  Thomas told of the threats made against him because of his stand for equal rights in Belleville.  After he had sued a barber because the latter would not serve him, he was sent a notice that if he would not get out of town in twenty-four hours he would be lynched.

I told them to come right on, said the preacher, and they would get a warm reception.  When I am in the right and am attacked, I will have two or three to accompany me into the dark valley.  

State Attorney Barnum is as guilty of the murder of Wyatt as any member of the mob.  I told him that he will not always be in Belleville and if ever I met him outside I would smash his face or die in the attempt.

That is bitter language for a preacher, I grant, but I have been in this fight for thirty years, and it is past the play point with me.  It is all business.

I know, I know.  It's a lot to read, but history doesn't do abridged.  At least, not if you want a complete picture and not a view contrived to make you see things this way or that.  Finally, a small article from The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois), April 29, 1904.


Boyce Threatens to Expose Them, but Instead Pleads Guilty to Riot.

Special Dispatch to The Inter Ocean.

BELLEVILLE, Ill., April 28.--The last chapter in the David Wyatt lynching case was closed here today when William D. Boyce, one of the fourteen men indicted for participating in the affair, entered a plea of guilty to charge of riot and was fined $50 and cost.

The other thirteen men pleaded guilty and were each fined $50.  Boyce made threats from time to time that he would tell who the men were who actually put the rope around Wyatt's neck.  This caused great uneasiness among those who pleaded guilty to riot, and it is said that pressure was brought to bear on Boyce to such an extant that he concluded to pay the same fine as the others.

There were many other articles that I could have transcribed onto here.  Truthfully, that is just too much for anyone to want to read (unless you are someone like me who likes to find out all they can.)  Before I end this, I just want to say, what the hell was David Wyatt's middle initial?  Apparently the newspapers couldn't agree and the first article gave us two different initials in one article.  More tomorrow.

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