November 1, 1880: Fear of Violence Closes Boyertown Businesses


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA

November 1, 1880: Nearly all the places of business in Boyertown are closed tonight for fear of violence.

Members of the Tow Path Club of Pottstown, armed and looking for trouble, have come to town for a Republican political meeting “to give it to those dumb Democrats.” They flourished their pistols and uttered threats against the Boyertown people.

When Alexander Sassaman shouted “Hurrah for Hancock” (a Civil War hero and the Democratic candidate for President in the upcoming election), someone hollered “go for him” and with axes raised, they attacked.

Sassaman started to run but was overtaken and inflicted with several wounds on his head, one of which chopped off a piece of his skull and cut a deep gash into his brain. He fell senseless to the sidewalk.

Editor Spatz of the Boyertown Demokrat believed that the Republican leaders were determined to hold a meeting in Boyertown to cause violence and imported a gang of armed ruffians to attack the first man giving them an excuse.

The assailant, Samuel Fryer, has been arrested, charged with assault to kill Sassaman. A $2,000 bail has been posted and J. Howard Jacobs, Esq. of Reading has been retained as counsel for the defendant.

Sassaman, with part of his skull having been whacked off, lingered between life and death for several weeks, but by the end of the year, he had fully recovered.

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