Monday, November 20, 2006

The Gangs of St. Louis - Chapter 1: The Mad Irishmen

Kerry Patch - in red square circa 1875

Where to start? I'll go ahead and start in the 1920's with a small neighborhood in St. Louis called "Kerry Patch". This neighborhood was the origin of several of the toughest Irish gangsters - sons of immigrants. Next to "Kerry Patch" was an Italian neighborhood referred to as “Little Italy”. These two neighborhoods are near the site of the present day Edward Jones Dome – home of the St. Louis Rams. A lot of battles would be fought on these grounds.

“The Egan Rats” was a gang conceived by a City Constable named William T. Egan. Egan’s biggest foe, Edward J. Hogan, was a State Representative, State Senator and a Business Manager for the Brewers and Soft Drink Workers Union. Hogan was also known as “Jellyroll” Hogan and was the son of a St. Louis cop. Along with his brother, James Hogan, "Jellyroll" developed his own gang.

“Jellyroll" and James decided to confront “The Rats” by cutting in on their action, which turned the early 20’s into a decade of gun battles inspired by money and hot, Irish tempers. It was a vicious decade with no signs of slowing down.

Despite popular belief, “Jellyroll” didn’t start the roar of the 20’s in St. Louis, Egan did. After flexing Egan’s influential muscle, President Woodrow Wilson granted commutation for a “Rat” Lieutenant named Max Greenberg in March of 1920. Greenberg had been convicted of stealing from an interstate shipment and had been freed from Leavenworth after serving only six months of his five year term. Even though Greenberg was granted freedom due to Egan's campaign, he felt no obligation to show Egan his appreciation and loyalty. A short while after Greenberg’s release, he defrauded Egan out of $2000 on a booze deal and became a turncoat that ended up devoting his life and loyalty to the Hogan brothers.

A year later, in March of 1921, Greenberg was gunned down at 6th St. and Chestnut while with a group of men including a loyal Egan activist named John Sweeney. In the end, Greenberg was merely wounded and Sweeney was dead.

Six months later Egan himself was gunned down outside a pub on 14th & Franklin while stepping outside for a breath of fresh air. Talk about your irony – this would be one of his last breaths. Nearby, a cop on foot heard the shots and ran to Egan’s side. Egan was then transported to the City Hospital located at 14th Street and Lafayette Avenue (this hospital is in the process of being redeveloped into lofts called The Georgian based upon the building’s Georgian Revival architecture). The city’s Police Chief and a priest from St. Patrick’s arrived shortly thereafter. At Egan’s bedside, he was asked, “who did this, Willie?” and he wouldn’t give any names out of respect for the “game”. He was a “Rat”, but not a rat. City Hospital picture taken by Jeff at Isucube.

After Egan’s death, a plumber and WWI veteran, William “Dinty” Colbeck, seized the throne over “The Rats”. And “Dinty” wasn’t about to be stopped. He was thoroughly convinced that Greenberg had been involved in Egan’s death. He was also confident that James Hogan was one of the gunmen that assassinated Egan. “Dinty” vowed to avenge Egan’s death by promising the deaths of Greenberg, James Hogan, Jacob Mackler (Hogan’s Lawyer), and two Hogan gang members named John Doyle and Luke Kennedy. In May of 1922, Kennedy was murdered and the Hogan’s retaliated by shooting up “Dinty’s” plumbing shop on Washington Avenue - but, no one was harmed in the shootings at the plumbing shop. Shortly after this incident, “The Rats” shot up Hogan’s home at 3035 Cass, merely causing more property damage, no carnage.

Chapter 1 will be continued tomorrow. I didn't have much time to look at the book and gather the information I wanted for the first chapter. I'll get it tonight


Skittles said...

This is interesting!

Mikala said...

Yeah, just wait until I get to the part where my grandparents, dad and uncles were friends with half of these guys. They were normal, nice guys. You never knew any different. I guess you could say they were very good at their "job".

Anonymous said...

I have a piece of your article in my basement. I recently purchased a 1940's mirror that came out of the home of Edward "Jellyroll" Hogan. I've actually been in his last permenant home... it was built of concrete, had gun turrets, and escape passages. The gentleman who now ownes the home tells an interesting history of the home and its dwellers.
The mirror is about five feet tall and is two intertwined mirrors. I've been on the internet google-ing old Jellyroll.
Very interesting. By the way, when you get to Dr. Glennan Engleman (sp?), he was my mom and dad's dentist. He was such a nice guy, he did dental work free for my mom who was the youngest of nine in a family where the dad was killed while tending his resale shop..... Isn't St. Louis interesting?? B.L.

Anonymous said...

keep it going! I am Jellyroll's gg grandson, and I stumbled upon this doing research. I have a few pieces of his past in my home also.