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Monday, January 20, 2014

Local History : Charlie Birger

Southern Illinois brings many things to mind. If you are familiar with the area you will know about the beauty it provides. The business that made it thrive that of coal mining and the business that traveled along with it many many decades ago. The business of bootlegging and one particalur character to this area Charlie Birger.
 
so smooth he charmed neighbors, school kids, even pie-baking housewives--you need only drive to this town of 7,000 about 70 miles west of Evansville.
     This is where gangster Charlie Birger smiled at the crowd on the town square and said, "It's a beautiful world," before being hanged, about 10 a.m. on April 19, 1928.

To hear older folks talk about him he was a robin hood of sorts helping all that came about. Birger became the benevolent "protector" in Harrisburg, tossing coins to kids and making sure his Saline County neighbors had coal or food.  But across the line in Williamson County--where behind the barbecue-stand front at his Shady Rest cabin he offered bootleg liquor, gambling and a safe haven for rum-runners--he was a sinister mobster.         


 
Today you will find the spot Shady Rest in ruins but still there. It seems his legend will live on in this little town of Harrisburg Illinois where I live, ask anyone even the kids that are old enough to have heard the stories and they can all tell you about this man. Perhaps on the wrong side of the law but one that made sure the poor ate and the widows did not do without.
 
 

resource here

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