|The funeral of Robert P. Prager, German alien enemy, lynched at Collinsville last Friday morning by
a mob for alleged seditious utterances, was held at 2 o'clock yesterday afternoon from the
undertaking rooms of William Schumacher, 2002 South Twelfth street, following information from
the German Government that it would guarantee the funeral expenses. The services were held under
the auspices of the Harmonie Lodge of the I.O.O.F., of which Prager was a member.
A large American flag was spread over the casket, which was covered by flowers sent by unknown
persons. As Rev. W.S. Simon, pastor of the Jesus Evangelical Church, spoke a few words at the beir
of the dead man, there was scarcely a dry eye in the room, which was filled to overflowing, although
no known relative was among their number. The body was taken to St. Matthew's Cemetery, where
it was interred.
While the funeral was being held in St. Louis, a coroner's inquest was being conducted at Collinsville
into the death of Prager with a view to fixing the blame for his death upon members of the mob.
Nearly a dozen witnesses were examined during the day.
Joseph Riegel, 28 years old, an honorably discharged soldier of the United States Army, who is now
living in Collinsville, Ill., testifying before the inquest, is alleged to have admitted that he was the
leader of the mob that lynched Prager and related detailed incidents of the affair.
Riegel said he was in a saloon at 10:15 o'clock, when an officer entered and told the saloon keeper to
close the place. Riegel left and went to Main and Center streets, where he came across a crowd of
angry people in a heated discussion of the "German spy held in the City Jail." He said someone in the
crowd shouted "Let's get him."
At this proposal Riegel led the mob which marched to the City Jail where he says the mayor came to
the steps urging the mob to disperse delcaring the man the mob was hunting was gone.
Albert Kneedler, 19, a newphew of a former Collinsville mayor, testified at the inquest yesterday that
he first saw Prager when he was being taken through the streets by a mob, with a flag wrapped about
his head and shoulders. He said he followed the mob to the tree, witnessed the hanging, but did not
participate in it.
Earl Bitzer was another witness to testify yesterday. The rope with which Prager was hanged is
supposed to have been taken from a garage owned by his father.
|From the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, April 11, 1918
LYNCHED MAN IS INTERRED IN U.S. FLAG ST LOUIS
Flowers Sent by Unknown Persons are Placed on Casket of Robert P. Prager.
FORMER SOLDIER SAYS HE LED MOB
Obsequies held in St. Louis and Inquest is Begun by Coroner at Collinsville.
|Chicago Daily Tribune. April 5, 1918
EXTRA - ILLINOISAN LYNCHED FOR DISLOYALTY
Collinsville, Ill. - April 5, 2 a.m. [By the Associated Press.] - Robert P. Praeger, said to be of
German parentage, was hanged to a tree one mile south of the city limits here after midnight by a
mob of 350 persons.
The mob dragged Praeger from the basement of city hall, here he had been hiding.
Praeger was accused on making disloyal remarks in a speech he made recently to miners in
Forced to Kiss the Flag
Praeger early in the night was taken in hand by members of the local loyalist committee and forced to
parade barefooted through the streets kissing the American flag at intervals. The police rescued him
and took him to the city hall for safekeeping. Later in the night a crowd gathered in front of the hall
and demanded Praeger be surrendered to them. Mayor Siegel appeared on the steps and counseled
calmness, but the demands increased and the police then took Praeger to the basement, where he
was concealed beneath a pile of tiling.
Led with Rope on Neck
When the demonstrants discovered the man was not to be delivered to them they rushed past a
corden of officers and after a short search dragged Praeger from hiding. Barefooted he was led
through the streets at the end of a rope and later was hanged.
One of the mob is said to have shouted to the police as the party and prisoner passed down the
street: "In the morning you will find the body hanging to one of the telegraph poles on the Rock
road." The local police issued a statement late last night in which they said Praeger denied that he
was disloyal. He admitted he was born in Germany but that he had his first naturalization papers and
intended to become an American citizen. Collinsville is a city of 4,000 population
twenty miles east of St. Louis. (click on images below)
|When Prager's killers were later tried in court, supporters wearing red, white and blue ribbons
gathered outside of the courthouse, singing patriotic songs while vendors sold food. All of the men
tried for the lynching of Prager were acquitted. The jury stated that what the mob had done was
|"Dear Parents- I must this day, the 5th of April, die. Please pray for me, my dear parents."
Robert Prager in a letter written to his parents before he was hanged, 1918
|They marched him just outside of the town, beyond the edge of police jurisdiction, and in the early
morning of April 5, 1918, the mob stripped him naked, wrapped him in an American flag, and
decided to lynch him. Over two hundred people witness the event and did nothing to help.
|The mob cheered and waved flags while leading him to the tree upon which he was to be hanged.
When asked if he had anything to say, Prager replied in broken English, "Yes, I would like to pray."
He then fell to his knees, clasped his hands to his breast and prayed for three minutes in German. He
was allowed to write a short note: "Dear Parents, I must this day, the 5th of April, 1918, die. Please
pray for me, my dear parents. This is my last letter. Your dear son". The noose was then placed on
his neck and he was quickly hanged by a rope. However, since his arms had been left unbound, he
was able to support himself, so he was lowered, bound, and hanged again...this time, with his body
pulled 10 feet into the air by a rope held by 100 or more hands.
|Robert Prager, 45, had moved to Illinois from Dresden, Germany and was working as a miner. He
applied for membership into the local miners' union, but was denied because of suspicions that he
might be a German agent plotting to blow up the mine in which he worked. After hearing rumors of
Prager's possible espionage, a mob of 300 men and boys assembled and decided to kidnap Prager.
The police had put him into protective custody earlier that evening and there were only four
policemen present when the mob battered down the jail doors and overpowered and restrained the
police. The mob found Prager under a pile of rubbish in the basement of the jail where he had been
hidden by the police. They dragged him through the Collinsville, Illinois streets while demanding that
he kiss the American flag and sing the National Anthem.
|The Hanging Of Robert Prager
|Robert Paul Prager, a
German-born coal miner who
was seize by a mob in
Collinsville on April 4, 1918,
and hanged over the false
rumor that he was a saboteur
for Germany during World
War I. Prager immigrated to
America in 1905, worked as a
baker in St. Louis and moved
to Collinsville to work the
Donk Brothers Co. mine in
Maryville. He was lynched on
a hackberry tree just west of
Collinsville, and died about
12:30 a.m. April 5. He was 30
when he was murdered.
|A copy of the letter that
Robert Paul Prager wrote to
his parents shortly before he
was hanged. Leaders of the
street mob had let him write
it on the fender of a car,
then took him a few steps to
the tree. Written in German,
the note says, "Dear parents,
I must on this the 4th day of
April, 1918, die. Please pray
for me, my dear parents.
This is my last letter and
testament. Your dear son
and brother, Robert Paul."
The alleged mob leader gave
the letter to the Collinsville
|Post-Dispatch reporter Paul
Y. Anderson, who
interviewed the boastful
Joseph Riegel a few days
after the hanging of Robert
Paul Prager. Riegel told
Anderson that he had been
the ringleader and was having
second thoughts about his
actions. But he denied it all in
court. Anderson took the
stand to confirm the
accuracy of his interview
with Riegel. In 1929,
Anderson received a Pulitzer
Prize for his reporting on the
Teapot Dome Scandal.
|The 11 men who were
accused of killing Robert Paul
Prager. They went on trial in
the Madison County
Courthouse in Edwardsville
on May 28, 1918. The jury
acquitted them after 45
minutes of deliberation on
June 1. They are shown here
in front of the courthouse on
May 15 as jury selection
began. At far left in front is
Wesley Beaver, who also was
accused of helping to drag
Prager from a hiding place in
Collinsville City Hall on the
night of the lynching. Second
from left in back row is
Joseph Riegel, alleged
ringleader. At far right in the
back is their escort, sheriff's
deputy Vernon Coons. Seven
months after the verdict, a
guilt-ridden Beaver killed