|Founded||Founded c. 1949 by Pat Salmon in or near Back of the Yards (New City)|
At one time the Rebels of Cornell Square in the Back of the Yards neighborhood were one of the most notorious street gangs in the city of Chicago. Since the Rebels never saw a day of the 1970s decade they have been since forgotten but now this page should shed some light on how important the Rebels were at one time. The Rebels had more than a 20 year existence in the city and at one time numbered in the thousands, at their peak they had about 2,500 members by the late 1950s as they spread into other neighborhoods and even had members in the suburbs.
The Rebels began in the tough streets of the Back of the Yards in the year 1949. The Rebels were not supposed to be a gang upon inception but instead a social club called “Rebels Social and Athletic Club.” The Rebels were started by 13 year old Pat “Fish” Salmon and other boys that were junior high and high school age at the intersection of 51st and Wolcott and their headquarters was at 1855 W. 51st Street in the Spikes Candy Store. The boys hung out in this candy store constantly for many years and the owner, Mr. Perun, even had to remove all the chairs to prevent the boys from hanging out too long.
I don’t know when the Rebels turned into a gang but it was sometime while Pat Salmon was running things as he and the other founders engaged in some hoodlum behavior in the earlier 1950s. The original Rebels were brawlers despite only being a social athletic club. Rebels also dressed as greasers upon their inception. Pat Salmon left the gang around 1954 or 1955 as he got married and started a family but the Rebels only became more dangerous after Salmon left. The Rebels started to get into fights with neighborhood gangs like Spartans, Sons of Italy, Sons of Chinatown and the Cavaliers. In the year 1956, the Rebels got a major boost when the Spartans joined their ranks after they had to chose between absorbing into either their allies the Sons of Italy or their rivals the Rebels, surprisingly they chose to absorb into the Rebels in the early part of 1956.
In the year 1956, the Rebels got tons of notoriety when they were involved in a major murder case that swept the headlines all through the Chicago metropolitan area. In October of 1956 the Rebels arranged a fight with a rival gang or multiple gangs at Cornell Square Park which is right outside their headquarters. A violent fight broke out that resulted in one youth named Robert Bukovic was slashed severely in the face and one rival gang member to the Rebels named Fred Kruse pulled a .22 caliber revolver and shot two Rebels. He shot 18 year old Edward Melant in the chest and arm and he shot 17 year old Warren White and killed him. It was said Kruse was on a mission to kill a Rebel to make a name for himself. Several members of both gangs were arrested and Kruse was convicted of murder. I don’t know who the rival gang was but I know they came from the Gage Park neighborhood at 52nd and Sawyer. I heard stories the Sons of Italy, Sons of Chinatown and the Cavaliers were involved somehow in the fight but I don’t see how because Sons of Italy are from Englewood while Sons of Chinatown were from Armour Square and Cavaliers were from 49th and Laflin. The newspapers also mentioned a 71st and Western gang somehow involved but they didn’t mention the name. The legends don’t make sense either but either way there was a gang fight that resulted in a death and it was all over the newspapers and really made the Rebels notorious. The Rebels were back in the paper a few days later when a group of female Rebels roamed the neighborhood looking for bloody vengeance. As starry eyed youths all over Chicago area read about the Rebels they flocked to 51st and Wolcott to get the initiation ceremony growing the gang’s numbers into the thousands. According the Blackstone Rangers book written by R.T. Sale there were 2,500 members of the Rebels by this point.
In 1956 the Spartans merged into the Rebels growing Rebel forces.
According to the R.T. Sale book the Rebels mixed it up with the Blackstone Raiders by 1957. Back in 1957 the Raiders were in their infancy and had territory in nearby Englewood by Garfield Boulevard. The Raiders were not known about and there were no articles or anything about them. The event that really sparked not only rivalry with the Raiders and more notoriety was a murder case that happened in March of 1957. On March 11, 1957 the Rebels were hanging out at Spikes rather bored. 17 year old Joseph Shwartz had an idea to go out and, “get us a nigger.” Before you knew it a bunch of the boys piled into a car and drove around the south side looking for a black youth to attack as Shwartz shouted out, “It’s Nigger time!” As they drove and stopped at lights they saw 17 year old honor student Alvin Palmer standing at a bus stop at the intersection of 59th and Kedzie in the Gage Park community. All 8 boys got out of the car and surrounded Palmer. Shwartz leaned against a pole and just stared at Palmer for a while in an awkward silence until he raised up a large ball peen hammer then struck Palmer on the top of the head with the hammer with one fatal blow killing him instantly as his lifeless body fall onto the curb. In the aftermath several boys including Schwartz were arrested and multiple boys were convicted, Schwartz got 50 years in prison. Schwartz sobbed his remorse and apologized but the courts still threw the book at him. This murder made major headlines across the Chicago area as once again the Rebels got more notoriety. It turned out Alvin Palmer was a member of the Blackstone Raiders and the Raiders got payback by shooting a Rebel, that incident didn’t make the news.
Former founder Pat Salmon tried to help the boys stay out of trouble by opening a new clubhouse in April of 1957 at 1742 W. 48th Street.
In February of 1958 the Rebels made the newspapers again for two incidents. One incident involved gang members causing a ruckus at a bowling alley in West Englewood at 5643 S. Western Avenue. When police arrived they attempted to arrest one youth and cuff him to an object but he broke free and 20-25 Rebels at the bowling alley fought with the police as girl members cheered on the gang members to hurt the police. A short time later in the month the Rebels made the paper again when they were networking with gangs in the rural city of Ottawa Illinois in central Illinois. The Rebels allied up with a gang called “The Jets” from Ottawa and the gangs had agreed to travel to each other’s cities to help against their rivals. This was truly shocking that gangs were networking despite 60-70 miles of separation, this was also showing how powerful the Rebels were becoming but it also brought heat upon the gang.
After the 1950s, the Rebels began losing steam beginning in 1959 as new gangs formed in the neighborhood. The first group to break away was the notorious Saints that still exist today. A group of founders of the Rebels got together and formed the Saints. Within a year the Saints would recruit young members and evolve into the crazy club they are today, they learned from the original Rebels how to run this neighborhood.
Other groups that came out of the Rebels were the Muscaduddler’s, Ravens, Cornell Dukes, Demons and others in the early and mid 60s. By the late 1960s the last of the Rebels disbanded or started some more gangs.
By the mid 1960s the Rebels saw their last days as the last evidence of their existence was a August 11, 1966 article that mentioned their existence still in the Back of the Yards area. Shorty after the article the Rebels went extinct. The Rebels were perhaps the city’s first super gang before any of the current super gangs either existed or became as large as they became.
The Rebel legacy was a strong one in the Back of the Yards through the 1980s. Older members stayed in the neighborhood and even owned businesses while many still hung out in the neighborhood and still had respect. Many Rebels hung out at a tavern at 50th and Oakley that was owned by Roger Kasper.
Known sections of the Rebels from the past
Back of the Yards neighborhood Established 1949-1969
Sections of the Back of the Yards
51st & Wolcott (Spikes Candy Store) Established 1949-1969
Many other territories or cells all across the Chicagoland area in the late 1950s