Near Kirkwood in St. Louis County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)
Riot in the Tunnels
One of the first projects on the Pacific Railroad was the construction of the first tunnels west of the Mississippi River — the Barretts Tunnels — one of which is currently located on the Museum of Transportation's grounds, about 13 miles west of the city of St. Louis.
Working conditions on the tunnels were difficult and dangerous. Living conditions were not much better. The men built their own "shanty" homes that were flimsy enough to move as they progressed in construction. The limited Irish workforce that labored on the tunnels was further compromised when cholera — a disease induced by unsanitary conditions — especially polluted drinking water — spread through camps. Management operated under the mistaken idea that cholera could be prevented by alcoholic beverages. Therefore, the Pacific kept the men supplied with "whisky, brandy and beer." The men were not saved from cholera, but were more susceptible to drunken disorderly behavior.
Misery and intoxication most likely played a role in the riot that occurred in December 1852 and early January 1853. According to newspaper accounts, workers on two different sections of the tunnels had begun warring against one another. In the process, two men were killed instantly and many others injured by the gunfire. The "riot" was in retaliation for the beating of a single laborer. The exact reason why he was beaten is unknown.
Erected by Museum of Transportation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Science & Medicine.
Location. 38° 34.328′ N, 90° 27.637′ W. Marker is near Kirkwood, Missouri, in St. Louis County. Marker can be reached from Barrett Station Road east of Old Dougherty Ferry Road, on the right. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 3020 Barrett Station Road, Saint Louis MO 63122, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Civil War Destruction (here, next to this marker); The Pacific Railroad Controversy (here, next to this marker); #2804 (here, next to this marker); Ground-breaking! (here, next to this marker); The Gasconade Bridge Disaster (here, next to this marker); The Pacific Railroad of Missouri: Audacious Dreams & Harsh Realities (a few steps from this marker); The Missouri Pacific Today... (a few steps from this marker); Jay Gould and the Missouri Pacific (a few steps from this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kirkwood.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 24, 2020. It was originally submitted on April 28, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 86 times since then. Photo 1. submitted on April 28, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.