December 9, 1908
MAN AND GIRL AMONG DEAD
Tent on Missouri River Flat Boat Where the Women and Children Members of the Religious Fanatics Took Refuge.
In a battle between police and religious fanatics which began at Fourth and Main streets at 3:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon and ended at the Missouri river bank, two persons were killed and five were injured. The trouble came about through the police trying to break up a religious street meeting, at which revolvers and knives were carried by the exhorters.
Just a few minutes before the tragedy occurred George M. Holt, a probation officer, found Mrs. Melissa Sharp, Mrs. Della Pratt and the latter's five children singing near Fifth and Main streets. He asked why the children were not in school, and was answered with an insult.
"Do you belong here?" he asked of one of the women.
"No, we have a house boat on the river," she replied.
The fanatics, after a collection amounting to about $3 or $4 had been made, started north on Main street with Mr. Holt following. They went into what is known as the Poor Man's mission, 309 Main street, conducted by J. C. Creighton and wife. Mr. Holt then approached J. A. Sharp, husband of one of the women, and addressed him and Louis Pratt, the other's husband.
"I am the father of Jesus Christ," said Sharp. "I have been sent to reorganize the world. You are no more than damned sheep. Get out of here. I am going to preach with my children right in front of that police station. You'll see what they'll do to me. Get out!"
With that Sharp drew a big revolver and struck Mr. Holt over the head. He left the "mission" with the fanatics following, all of them but two having revolvers, Sharp with both revolvers and knives. The fanatics consisted then of Mr. and Mrs. Sharp, Mr. and Mrs. Pratt and the latter's children, Lulu, 14, Lena, 12, Mary, 11, Dewey, 8, and Edna, 4 years old.
While Mr. Holt hurried into police headquarters, his head bleeding, the fanatics ranged along the curb in front of John Blanchon's saloon, 400 Main street, and the men began to flourish revolvers and knives and talk in wild tones about what God had commanded them to do. While all this was going on Patrolman Dalbow, who was sent from the station to see what the trouble was, walked up to James Sharp, who styles himself as "Adam God." Witnesses say that Dalbow spoke kindly to the man and told him he must cease, as a crowd was gathering.
"Do you come as a friend, brother?" Sharp asked.
"Yes," replied the officer," the sergeant wants to see you.
"I am going over and shoot the sergeant," said Sharp, his wrath rising again.
Just at that juncture Lieutenant Harry E. Stege, who had followed Dalbow out of the station, arrived on the scene and said to Sharp, "Drop that knife," at the same time drawing a revolver and pointing it at Sharp.
Then the trouble began in real earnest. Louis Pratt, who, up to that time had stood mute by the curb, a little in the rear and to one side of Sharp, raised a revolver which he was carrying in his hand and shot at Lieutenant Stege.
The ball tore through Stege's clothing form the right to the left side along the chest, taking a chunk out of the left arm. Stege retreated, shooting, and a general fusillade was opened on the police. Pratt shot Dalbow through the chest, just as he was drawing his revolver, and one of the women, Mrs. Sharp, witnesses say, shot him in the back as he retreated.
Dalbow staggered across the street south to the door of the emergency hospital. As he pushed open the door his revolver fell from his hand. "I am shot bad," he said to Dr. R. N. Coffey. The officer caught him and carried him to a cot in the hospital. He died in a few minutes without regaining consciousness.
The shooting by that time had attracted the attention of all the officers in police headquarters. Sergeant Patrick Clark, in his shirt sleeves and unarmed, went out and into the thickest of the fray. The big leader, Sharp, was tackled by the sergeant and, though the latter was armed with both a knife and a revolver, the sergeant went after him with his fists. Clark was stabbed twice in the face and as he turned, was shot through the shoulder.
Captain Walter Whitsett, Inspector Charles Ryan, Detective Edward Boyle and others went into the street, emptied their revolvers and returned for more ammunition.
The gamest fight against the greatest odds was made by Patrolman Mullane, who ran down Fourth street from Delaware street just in time to meet the enraged fanatics fighting their way toward him. Louis Pratt, Mrs. Sharp and Lulu, the oldest Pratt girl, all attacked him, paying little heed to the shots of others. He at that time was the only policeman in uniform in range. Mullane would shoot at Pratt and when the woman and girl would walk right up to him and shoot at him, the big Irishman, realizing that they were only women, only clubbed his gun and struck at them.
The three-cornered fight lasted until Mullane's gun was empty and they had him cornered behind a small wagon on the north side of Fourth street. While he was attempting to get at Pratt the woman and girl pumped shots into him from the rear. He soon followed Sergeant Clark into the station, where both men fell to the floor. Doctors attended them there. They were later removed to the emergency hospital, their wounds dressed, and sent to St. Joseph's.
While there were no fewer than 500 spectators in the crowd when the shooting began, only one was shot. That was J. J. Sulzer, 2414 Benton boulevard, a retired farmer. He was an onlooker and was hit by two bullets, the fanatics evidently taking him for an enemy. He was shot in the right hip first and almost immediately afterwards in the right chest. That ball ranged in such a manner that the spinal cord was severed. Mr. Sulzer dropped on the car tracks in front of city hall. He was treated at the emergency and sent to the University hospital. The doctors think he cannot live, as he is paralyzed from the shoulders down.
There was not a moment while the fight was on that the police could not have killed all of the women and children, but they refrained from doing so. Seeming to realize the fact, the women and older Pratt girls -- Mary, Lena and Lulu -- constantly gathered around the two men who were doing most of the shooting. The women and girls would circle about the men, thereby blanketing the fire of the police, and would then fire point blank at the officers themselves.
Among the fanatics, Pratt and Mrs. Sharp made the gamest fight. Sharp, the leader of the bunch, disappeared during the fight, as if the earth had swallowed him. Pratt was so badly wounded that he had to be left on the street, but even then one of the women, Mrs. Sharp, ran to him and gave him a loaded revolver. Struggling to position, he fired again until his weapon was emptied.
Chief Ahern turned in a riot call, and all the police in the city that were available appeared there as soon as possible, under commands of captains and lieutenants.
When it was found that Sharp, the ringleader, had escaped, the chief scattered his men in all direction over the city. It is believed that he was wounded. The houseboat was guarded last night.
At midnight Dr. Eugene King of St. Joseph's hospital said that Sergeant Patrick Clark was in a serious condition, but that he was doing nicely, and stood a good chance to recover. Patrolman Michael Mullane had shown some little improvement during the hour preceding 12 o'clock. Dre. King said that his chances of recovery were very slight.
The condition of J. J. Sulzer at the University hospital was reported by Dr. A. W. McArthur at midnight to be very critical. Dr. McArthur said that one of the bullets was lodged just beneath the skin on the left side of his body, but that he would not attempt to remove it until this morning.. Hope for Mr. Sulzer recovering from his wounds was slight, the surgeon said.
Labels: Adam God sect, boats, Captain Whitsett, children, emergency hospital, Fourth street, guns, Inspector Boyle, Main street, ministers, Missouri river, murder, North end, Police Chief Ahern, violence, women