Piece of southern Illinois history found - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Piece of southern Illinois history found

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Charlie Birger was the last person publicly hanged in Illinois. Charlie Birger was the last person publicly hanged in Illinois.
The gallows is on display in the Franklin County Historical Jail Museum. The gallows is on display in the Franklin County Historical Jail Museum.
The gallows was found in a barn in rural Grand Tower. The gallows was found in a barn in rural Grand Tower.
Historians say Birger smiled as he was hanged. Historians say Birger smiled as he was hanged.
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, IL (KFVS) -

A long-sought historical artifact returns to Franklin County, Illinois 85 years after it brought justice to one of southern Illinois' most notorious gangsters.

Heartland historians have often wondered what happened to the actual scaffold used to hang the infamous boot-legger and gangster Charlie Birger on April 19, 1928.

Mystery solved, it was tucked away in a barn in Grand Tower!

Historians said they feared the scaffold was lost to history.

"We built a replica gallows in 1995 and of course prior to doing that, from day one, we tried to find out what happened to the gallows, and we knew they came from Jackson County because Franklin County didn't have its own set of gallows," said Robert Rea, President of the Franklin County Historic Preservation Society.

When the gallows went back to Jackson County, it went into storage for decades.

That is until the county cleaned out the basement and planned to toss the macabre artifact.

Then for 40 years, it disappeared! It was recently discovered in a barn in rural Grand Tower.

Charlie Birger was the last person to be publicly hanged in the state of Illinois before the law changed.

Historians say the mystique around Birger continues to grow today.

"Part of the attraction of Charlie Birger is that he was a Robin Hood type figure. While he even admitted he did a lot of bad things and deserved to be hanged, he did a lot of good things too," said Rea.

Marion Mitchell helped find the gallows.

"He helped the poor, there were people who didn't know where the bag of food came from but Charlie Birger had made sure it went to them. At the same time he was also a cold blooded killer," Mitchell said.

The gallows is now on display at the Franklin County Historical Jail Museum.

The replica gallows is also set up to mark the spot where Birger's execution took place.

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