“The Belleville Guards”
In the last years of the nineteenth century Bellville had it's very own militia force. The Belleville Guards often served under the direction of the St. Clair County Sheriff and the Belleville Police Department. Sheriff James W. Hughes and Sheriff Herman G. Weber both activated the guards to stop the violence associated with striking coal mine and railroad workers.
By Jon Stacy
The History of the Belleville Guards began in November 1874; during an unruly coal miners strike. East St. Louis mine owners agreed to pay Union miners four cents per bushel. Non-Union workers known as “Blacklegs” would work for three cents a bushel & mine owners in Belleville and Freeburg refused to pay four cents and brought in the blacklegs.
St. Clair County Sheriff James W. Hughes found himself with his hands full throughout the county, with the miners uprising. On 10 November 1874; Sheriff Hughes, requested a shipment of arms from Springfield, and called for a one hundred man militia to be formed; and it’s volunteers comprising of former Civil War Soldiers. Once the arms were received the Citizen Militia was sent to patrol the streets of Belleville, to assist the small Belleville Police force, so the Sheriff’s deputies could focus their efforts elsewhere in the county. The militiamen were deputized during this ordeal and flyers were placed around the city, basically stating: Hostile actions will be met with hostile force. Needless to report, with an armed deputized militia force patrolling the city, there was no further violence; and the strike subsided.