St Louis Police Veteran's Association City of St Louis Metropolitan Police Department City of Saint Louis Missouri Illustrated
Chestnut Street Police Station
and the story of Stagger Lee
A story appearing in the St. Louis, Missouri Globe-Democrat in 1895 says:
William Lyons, 25, colored, a levee hand, living at 1410 Morgan Street, was shot in the abdomen yesterday
evening at 10 o'clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis, at Eleventh and Morgan Streets, by Lee Sheldon,
also colored. Both parties, it seems, had been drinking and were feeling in exuberant spirits.
Lyons and Sheldon were friends and were talking together. The discussion drifted to politics and
an argument was started, the conclusion of which was that Lyons snatched Sheldon's hat from his head.
The latter indignantly demanded its return. Lyons refused, and Sheldon withdrew his revolver and shot
Lyons in the abdomen. Lyons was taken to the Dispensary, where his wounds were pronounced serious.
He was removed to the City Hospital. At the time of the shooting the saloon was crowded with negroes.
Sheldon is a carriage driver and lives at 911 North Twelfth Street. When his victim fell to the floor
Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away.
He was subsequently arrested and locked up at the Chestnut Street Station.
Sheldon is also known as 'Stag' Lee.
Saint Louis Globe-Democrat, December 28, 1895
The newspaper article makes reference to the
Chestnut Street Police Station in 1895
when the building at the address 220 Chestnut was a sub-station for the Second District,
and the former Headquarters of the Saint Louis Police Department prior to moving to Four Courts.
The Bill Curtis Saloon was located in the epicenter of what was then St. Louis' thriving vice district of Saint Louis.
The saloon was located at 1101 Morgan Street (now Convention Plaza amd once known as Delmar).
Billy Lyons died from his wounds, and Stag Lee was tried for this killing.
The first trial ended in a hung jury amidst major political controversy.
He was convicted in the second trial, served time, and it was reported he died in prison in 1912, of tuberculosis.
One would think this an unremarkable example of the ills of drink.
On Christmas Night, 1895,
St. Louisan Lee "Stagger Lee" Shelton shot William Lyons over a Stetson Hat and became a legend,
a story retold in different versions of countless blues, folk, and rock songs.
Thus the song "Stagger Lee" is remembered inspired by this crime, this is one of the versions
sung by numerous and various singing artists.
The night was clear, and the moon was yellow
And the leaves came tumblin' down. . .
I was standing on a corner
When I heard my bull dog bark
He was barking at the two men
Who were gambling in the dark
It was Stagger Lee and Billy
Two men who gambled late
Stagger Lee threw a seven
Billy swore that he threw eight
Stagger Lee told Billy
"I can't let you go with that
You won all o' my money
And my brand new Stetson hat."
Stagger Lee started off goin'
Down that railroad track
He said "I can't get you Billy but
Don't be here when I come back"
Stagger Lee, he went home
And he got his forty-four
Said "I'm going down to the barroom
Just to pay that debt I owe"
Stagger Lee went to the barroom
And he stood across the barroom door
He said "Nobody move"
And he pulled his forty-four
Then Billy he cried "Stag, oh Stag,
Please don't take my life
I got three little children
And a very sickly wife"
Stagger Lee... shot Billy
Oh, he shot that poor boy so bad
Till the bullet came through Billy
And it broke the bartender's glass.
Saint Louis Police Veteran's Historical Four Courts Photos Page