Boston's Broad Street Riot  June 10, 1837
except taken from "A complete History of the Boston Fire Department" by A.W. Brayley 1889

      The story of the famous riot that occurred on Broad street and vicinity, Sunday afternoon June 10, 1837, is one quite difficult to tell, as there are so many conflicting statements. From the testimonies given at the trial of those arrested as principles  in the affair we glean the following:

     The company attached to Engine 20 had just housed their apparatus, after returning from a fire in Roxbury, and about 12 members were in the house. One of them, George Fay, went to purchase a cigar, and on his return, with it in his mouth, he passed down Broad to the foot of East street where an Irish funeral procession was being formed. The participants in the procession were on both sides of the street, and covered the sidewalk. Fay tried to pass on the curb-stone, and by accident jostled some one, who immediately shoved him into the street, with the remark that "he has no business on the street", following it up with a effort to strike him.  Fay got up and struck back. Several witnesses of the scene, standing on East street, came to help him, and were soon joined by members of the engine. Mr. Miller, the third officer went out and called his men back to the house, which order they immediately obeyed, but were followed up by their enemies, and several members were badly beaten. He ordered out the engine, and the bell to be rung for fire and then went for help. The funeral procession had formed, and proceeded down Broad street. Engine company 9, on their way to what they supposed, from the alarm, to be a fire, turning the foot of Summer street with their usual rush, came suddenly upon the rear of the procession but did not touch them; but no sooner had the mourners beheld the engine company than they left the ranks and immediately repaired to the wood-pile in the vicinity, and then the row began in earnest, at the head of J. Robinson's wharf. Engine companies 6 and 14, who arrived were attacked by the increased force of Irishmen, and the firemen were badly beaten, and driven from their engines. They, however, quickly rallied, and, with additional numbers, drove their foes down Broad street.

     A rush was made by the Irishmen to obtain possession of Purchase street, and attack the enginemen by showering down stones, etc., upon them from the more elevated position. But they were pressed upon and driven back by their opponents, who rushed up from the intervening streets and alleys, at manifest disadvantage, and, regardless of life and limb, drove them back step by step, sometimes retreating when their foes rallied or their ammunition(?) was expended, but again gaining their ground until the latter were driven into Broad street, beyond the corner of Purchase street. A house in Purchase street, near Gibb's lane, where several of their opponents had taken refuge and from where some missiles were thrown, was attacked and its windows broken; but the principal work of destruction was carried on near the junction of the street with Broad street and the immediate vicinity.

     Assistant Engineer Wilkins, being in his store, saw the head of the procession proceeding towards old Broad street, and supposed from the dust raised that the fire was near by. When he came to where the contending parties were advancing upon each other, he held up his engineer's badge, and called to the firemen to "hold on" at the same time directed the Irishmen to "keep back". Both parties then stopped. But the Irishmen again returned to the charge with shouts and yells and the firemen were driven back. When Engineer Wilkins first arrived on the scene, he did not know the extent of the difficulty, and observed to the enginemen that their antagonists would not meddle with them, and directed them to proceed down Broad street toward State street, then to separate, and each company to take their engine home. They proceeded on in obedience to this order; No. 6 being ahead, was immediately attacked, the men were driven from the ropes; the bell broken, and other parts of the engine injured, and the apparatus itself remained in the hands of the assailants six or seven minutes.

     A gang of stout boys and loafers, who had followed the firemen at such distance that they might be protected from the dangers, and at the same time participate in the mischief of the affray, attacked the houses of the Irish in the rear of the scene of the combat, tearing to pieces and destroying everything wantonly and recklessly. The houses were sacked, their contents thrown into the streets, and everything demolished as speedily as possible. Feather-beds were ripped open, and their contents thrown out the windows; the fine feathers, wafted by the wind, being blown to a considerable distance. Money was stolen, stores broken open and contents destroyed and appropriated, and the most in wanton spite displayed in all their depredations; and what makes these acts more shameful was, that most of those who had suffered the lose of their little worldly goods were entirely ignorant of the cause of their suffering, taking no part whatever in the riot. A number of Irishmen who had concealed themselves in the cellars were dragged out and severely beaten with clubs and sticks. In fact, everything was in the hands of the mob. The only redeeming spirit shown by these miscreants was their conduct towards the women and children, who were let out unmolested, no one offering them harm or insult.

     The Mayor was soon on the ground, and adopted, as soon as possible, measures to assemble the militia.  The volunteer corps were ordered to assemble at Faneuil Hall; but the members were so dispersed-a large portion of them spending the day in neighboring town-that it was not until six o'clock that a sufficient force could be mustered, when a strong detachment of infantry, led by the Lancers, under General Davis, marched into Broad street; and the Irish party having by this time been driven into their houses, and about fifty being lodged in jail, the violence of the riot was exhausted. The street was soon cleared of all who did not reside there, and the military took charge by forming a cordon by posting guards at the various avenues. The citizens to the number of about ten thousand, who had been attracted by the flying reports, gradually dispersed, and quietness once more prevailed. The military continued on duty all night. The Mayor took the precaution to place a guard at every church in the city, to prevent any false alarm that might arise during the night, with a tendency to renew the Rangers, the New England Guards, the City Guards, the Lafayette Guards, the Montgomery Guards, the Winslow Blues, the Mechanics' Riflemen and the Independent Fusiliers were on duty all night, and the City Guards were left in charge of Faneuil Hall the next morning. Fortunately no person was killed; but the number of wounded will never be known. Mr. Charles Sears, formerly captain of Ladder Company 2 was probably the most severe, he being knocked down on the wharf and surrounded by eight or ten of the Irish party, and almost beaten to death, after which he was about to be thrown overboard, but one of their number prevented the bloodshed. Mr. Barnes of Engine 1, and Mr. John Russell assistant foreman of Engine 10, were badly injured; also Capt. J.C. Tallent of the North Watch.

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