|The Riot of
Louis Peck was new in Akron. The
Afro-American was originally from Patterson, New Jersey. He and his wife had been working
in a restaurant since coming to Akron. Mr. Peck picked up six-year-old Christina Maas,
daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Maas, who was playing outside near her home on Perkins
Hill, drove her into the countryside and left her crying and injured by the roadside with
night coming on. He drove back into town and abandoned the rented horse and buggy. He was
quickly traced through a Main Street liveryman.
Every policeman on duty was notified of the crime and began
looking for Peck. Officer Duffy, while patrolling Union Station shortly after midnight,
arrested Peck who was caught jumping from a freight train car. He was taken to the city
prison. Mr. Washer, the prison keeper, spent the rest of the night securing a full
confession from Louis Peck.
At 9:00 that morning he was arraigned before Mayor, W.E. Young in mayors court. He pleaded guilty to
the charge of rape and his bond was set at $5,000. Because of his inability to furnish
bail, he was bound over to prison.
Exaggerated stories of Pecks confession of the
criminal act, the evening papers (one was printed in red ink) and cries of the newsboys
selling them stirred up intense feelings of resentment. As early as noon, threats of a
lynching were being made to the authorities. The executive government heard rumors of
trouble brewing all afternoon. Paying attention to these threats, they ordered Sheriff
Frank G. Kelly to take the prisoner to Cleveland for safe keeping. Another colored man,
William Howard (who was awaiting commitment to county jail), was also moved for safety.
The Akron authorities then congratulated themselves on such a wise plan.
The crowds began to gather at Main and Howard Streets
shortly after 6:00. There was much banter of taking matters into their own hands. As it
began to grow dark, the crowd closed in on the City Building. They began calling for Peck
and taunted the police officers within. The Chief of Police summoned every available man
The group tried to push into the building but the officers
barred them. The first attack on the building was a shower of brick and stones. Then a
ladder was used as a battering-ram on the north doors. The doors were rapidly giving way.
A police officer opened one of the front windows and emptied his revolver over heads of
the mob and into the spectators that were observing from across the street. His bullets
struck and killed four-year-old Rhoda Davidson and ten-year-old Glen Wade.
Hundreds of shots were fired and charges of dynamite
exploded repeatedly. Two large buildings, Columbia Hall and the City Building, were burned
to the ground. As the City Building burned, several people broke into a small building
alongside and pulled out the electric police car
automobile. They started the car, ran it about the streets until bored, and then ran
it into the canal.
Eventually a committee of six, headed by a very vocal
member of City Council, was appointed from the mob to inspect the jail for Peck. When the
doors opened, the mob poured in. They searched every corner and found no Negro within.
Even Mr. Washers private apartments were raided. The mob, greatly disappointed,
headed for the county jail. It was searched to no avail. They promptly moved to the Old
Court House, battered in the doors, and searched every room except the office of the
treasurer. The heavy iron doors held fast.
The crowd hurried back to the City Building. When the mayor
appeared in an open window at the health center and motioned for silence, the people
became attentive. When the mayor explained that Peck had been taken to Cleveland, the
crowd refused to believe and the attack was renewed with passion.
By 4:00 oclock that morning, the scene was nearly
deserted. By 7:00 the first of the militia arrived. Eventually forty-one men and boys
faced charges related to the riot; thirty were convicted.