New City (Back of the Yards)
New City (Back of the Yards)

New City (Back of the Yards)

Origins Settled in 1865 and annexed in 1889
Area Southwest Side

Pershing Road on the north, Garfield Boulevard on the south, railroad tracks on the east near the Fuller Park park, Western Boulevard to the railroad tracks on the west; Back Of The Yards: Pershing Road on the north, Garfield Boulevard on the south, Halsted Street to the railroad tracks on the east, Western Boulevard to the tracks on the west; Canaryville: Pershing Road on the north, 49th Street on the south, railroad track on the east near the Fuller Park park, Halsted Street on the west

Gangs founded Saints, City Knights, Latin Souls, Party Players, Rebels,
Gangs headquartered Saints, City Knights, Latin Souls, Party Players, Rebels, Two Six,

The New City neighborhood is the second site of extreme Chicago poverty and extreme gang activity that dates all the way back to the 19th century, second behind the south west quadrant of the Near North Side neighborhood.

The area was first platted and settled in the year 1865 when the construction of the Union Stock Yards began that opened on Christmas Day of that year.  The area was a part of Lake Township that was developed in the year 1850 and now Lake Township would offer a major stock yard, slaughterhouse, and meat packing plant that offered to employ thousands of newly arrived immigrants.  Irish and German immigrants were the first to arrive and settle in this area as they had no means for transportation nor could they afford public transportation.  The area was platted with several cheap homes and apartment buildings that could easily house the impoverished immigrants for a cheap rate.  The city of Chicago heavily discriminated against the Irish back in these days but the town of “Lake” was perfect for them as they had to live in these shanty towns.

The stock yards dumped gallons of carnal waste of animal remnants and refuses into the Chicago River polluting the water giving it the term “Bubbly Creek.”  The stock yards would dump other waste in the streets and all around because there was no regulation due to the area being severely impoverished and neglected.  The streets were not paved and there was no sewage system in this town as trash was strewn about in the streets and especially the alleyways.  Workers lived in already dilapidated buildings with no toilets or running water.  Many slept on dirt ground over pieces of cardboard.  These horrid conditions gave rise to Irish street gangs that roamed the neighborhood looking to steal food and other items and to also brawl with other Irish gangs.  Crooked ward bosses, business men and crooked politicians found the area to be ripe with young thugs looking for any opportunity to make even a penny by doing a dirty deed.  The Irish gang members would be paid to terrorize voters, cause damage to businesses or even hurt someone in exchange for a small payment from the crooked ward bosses, and the cycle would continue once these Irish gang members grew older and became active in politics in Chicago’s corrupt political machine.

Irish gangs bullied the German youths in the neighborhood and also newly arrived Czech youths in the 1870s.

The Irish gangs were controlled by crooked politics and by the Irish Mafia that originated in the Near North Side neighborhood.

In the 1880s Polish immigrants made their way into this town of Lake and took up employment in the stock yards, the yards loved employing them because they were seen as “strikebreakers,” which were newer employees that were more grateful to deal with low pay and the harsh and long working hours.

The gangs of Lake were harsh and violent even back in the 1880s; Irish gangs like the Bearfoots, Hamburgs, Old Rose Athletic Club, Shielders, Dukies were the dominating forces in the neighborhood and now had influence in Canaryville and Bridgeport.

In the 1880s the first generations of Irish gang bangers had grown up and were in alumni versions of these gangs as they took up many political positions while still being gang affiliated.  In the year 1889 the town of Lake was annexed into the City of Chicago and the community near the Union Stock Yards became known as the “Back of The Yards” while the mostly Irish neighborhood to the east was known as “Canaryville,” the whole area that encompassed both neighborhoods became the official neighborhood of “New City.”  The Back of The Yards name came from the fact that the community was built around the Union Stock Yards, it also referenced how the stock yards dumped all their waste into the back yards of the residents.

In that same year of 1889 Samuel Gross built several “working man’s Cottages” that were small, affordable homes for workers; however, they would soon deteriorate just like the rest of the neighborhood.

In the 1890s African Americans began taking up employment in the stock yards and in the 1900s decade Lithuanian and Slovak immigrants also began employment in the yards and took up residence.

In the 1900s decade many of the Irish and Germans had achieved some upward mobility and moved to Canaryville and Bridgeport or elsewhere.  Many achieved that mobility from getting government jobs or becoming involved in organized crime.

During World War I a small cluster of Mexican immigrants came to live and work in the Back of The Yards community making the yards and the neighborhood even more of a cultural melting pot.  The cultures would clash throughout the years in the neighborhood and in the stock yards among workers.

On July 27th 1919 a massive race riot broke out in Chicago when a black teenager was drowned to death at 29th Street and Lake Michigan in the Douglas neighborhood.  This neighborhood was struggling with black and white race relations since the neighborhood was changing from white to black.  The beach in Douglas had an unofficial racial divide at 29th Street and a black teenager accidentally crossed that line, and a group of white youths felt justified in drowning the boy which sparked a massive war on the south side between whites and blacks that even resulted in shootings and deaths.  15 white men were killed in the riots while 23 blacks were killed.  The police did very little to stop the rioting as they were on the side of the white man.  The state militia needed to intervene since the city had no interest in putting down the uprising.  The rioting and brawling happened all around the New City neighborhood.  The Irish gangs of Canaryville gained a major reputation for battling invading gangs of blacks that were trying to cross over into the neighborhood or near it during the riots.  The Irish gangs fought savagely and from there on, Canaryville gangs became well known, and Canaryville was said to be one of the toughest of neighborhoods when in reality the Back of The Yards was much crazier as Canaryville has always been a neighborhood that tried to remain stable and middle class.

In the 1930s the Great Depression era threatened to make conditions worse for workers and for this community living standards as a whole, but the now mostly Polish populace decided they had enough of this and began forming the Packinghouse Workers Organizing Committee and the Back of The Yards Neighborhood Council that worked tirelessly to force the stockyards to provide better working conditions in the yards and also to regulate the yards from polluting the neighborhood to death, by 1939 they had achieved their goal and better conditions and pollution control helped better the community.  The Union Stock Yards employed over 40,000 Chicagoans by their peak in the 1940s but by 1952 the development of trucking routes to export and import meat around the country called for a closing of several meat packing houses and as the 1950s progressed employment in the area began to downsize causing more poverty and socioeconomic problems this brought about another breed of street gangs known as greaser gangs.

The Back of The Yards and Canaryville had the most violent greaser gangs in the entire city that were known to be the toughest in the city. Greaser type gangs began forming as early as the late 1940s.  The Rebels formed in 1949 and became the most notorious gang in the Back of the Yards.  The Rebels were one tough group as they quickly dominated the neighborhood by the early 1950s.

The Rebels fought outside gangs mostly as they slugged in out with groups like Chinatown Dragons and Sons of Italy.  The Spartans were another gang that tried to exist but they ended up joining the Rebels in 1956.  The Rebels would make the news multiple times in between 1956 and 1958 growing their forces more.  The attention brought heat on the Rebels by 1959 and a group of some of the toughest of the Rebels formed the notorious Saints.

The later 1950s brought even more gang violence as racial tensions between blacks, Hispanics and whites south of 51st Street and in the Englewood neighborhood and West Englewood brought about the rise of new gangs and severe gang violence.  African Americans were settling along Garfield Boulevard on the Englewood/Back of the Yards border as early as the 1940s but gangs like the “Rebels” fought viciously to keep blacks and other undesirables out.  The Rebels fought the “Blackstone Raiders” in the mid 50s which was the precursor group that would later become the Black P Stones.

The 1960s saw the formation of several more greaser gangs and also the formation of the Puerto Rican Village Sharks gang by 1962. Starting in 1960 the Saints became much more known as a new generation of Saints became heavily involved in gangbanging.

In the 1960s several other new gangs started that were mainly breakaway groups from the Rebels like Muscaduddlers, Demons, Cornell Dukes, Cherry Busters and others.

There was also the formation of the Gaylords in 1966 at Garfield Boulevard and Ashland.  This white group fought black gangs from Englewood and groups like the Saints and Cornell Dukes.

African Americans were attempting to settle in the southern part of the community south of 51st Street by the later 1960s and early 1970s and this resulted in a race war between whites and blacks in the community after blacks began to cross the Garfield Boulevard line this brought settlement of Black P Stones and Cobrastones in the area.  The Hispanic youths also felt strongly about blacks moving in as well. The intersection of 54th and Bishop especially became a haven of black families and the Cobrastones took over that intersection.  Black P Stones settled on 51st to 52nd and Marshfield too.

Another wave of Puerto Rican families moved to the 55th and Halsted area which brought in the Emerald Knights street gang that came from the north side.

The 1960s and 1970s saw a larger influx of Mexican migration into the neighborhood and the last of the greaser gangs were active at this time including the Sherman Park Gaylords that arrived in 1966 but where gone by the later 1970s.

The Back of The Yards community had a very high rate of poverty especially after the stock yards closed in 1971.

The Latin Kings began moving into this area is 1972 but did not yet establish a section; however, their presence angered Latin Souls and Saints.  The Latin Souls moved here in the same year and war went on for about a decade until the Souls left this section.  The Saints were upset about the arrival of an outsider gang like the Latin Kings and also engaged in violent warfare with them as the Latin Kings were the first outsiders to settle here.  Saints also did not appreciate Latin Souls moving north closer to their territory and war ensued with them as well.

By the late 1970s the Saints and Latin Souls completely dominated all of the Back of The Yards community as white greaser gangs had completely faded out, the neighborhood was pretty much all Souls and Saints above 51st Street and these gangs swelled into hundreds maybe even in the thousands in membership by the early 1980s.  Freshly arrived Mexican migrants began moving into the neighborhood north of 51st Street by 1980 as Mexican gangs from other neighborhood infiltrated the area causing conflict with Latin Souls and Saints.

The Satan Disciples  settled at the intersection of 51st and Wood in 1980 while Two Six settled at 47th and Damen right near the Saints in 1980.  Saints and Two Six then broke out into a very nasty war being close in proximity.  The war between Saints and Satan Disciples also became legendary.  The Two Sixs would eventually expand their territory and take 47th to 51st then Hoyne to Winchester which would later cause violence with the Satan Disciples at 51st and Wood by the later 1980s.  The Bishops also arrived in 1980 and settled at 53rd and Winchester. The Bishops also flipped many members of what was left of the Gaylords throughout the 1980s.  The Two Two Boys would arrive at 51st and Wood in 1980 as they were granted access by the Satan Disciples due to the fact they were both Folks and the Two Twos had just joined Folks.  The 51 and Ada Latin King branch was officially established in the year 1980 which brought a massive war between them and Satan Disciples and Latin Souls near them.

In the midst of all the new gang violence by the early 1980s, there was a rise of party crew gangs.  Three of them were very significant, the Party Players, 48th Street Boys and the City Knights.  These three crews were dominant over the other many crews in the neighborhood.  throughout the 1980s crews like the D-Boys, Latin Taste, Latin Touch Boys and the Nightcrew flipped to join other gangs but not the Party Players and City Knights they continued on well into the 21st century.

By the year 1985 gang violence would escalate as La Raza migrated into the neighborhood and flipped all the 48th Street Boys to La Raza. The 48th and Laflin La Raza became very notorious as they bopped heads with all the other gangs in the neighborhood.

The El Rukns took out the Mickey Cobras from 54th and Bishop and this intersection ended up becoming the capital of the Jet Black Stones, a Black P Stone branch in the mid-1980s.

South of 51 Street the houses in this part of the Back of the Yards became the home of severely impoverished black Chicagoans which resulted in many of the homes to become run down and many became vacant deteriorating properties.

The neighborhood turned into a worse war zone especially as the 1990s rolled in.  The Back of The Yards is one of the first gangster neighborhoods and still is an area full of gangs and violence.  The neighborhood has not experienced much renovation over the years but has also not fallen into a severe state of decay unless you are looking at south of 51st Street.

There are many abandoned and deteriorated buildings south of 51st Street, this southern part of the Back of The Yards in pretty much an urban slum that is often not spoken about.  This area is highly distressed with several vacant lots and long shuttered homes and buildings.  The southern part of this community borders the Englewood and West Englewood neighborhoods which are the most blighted and dangerous neighborhoods in Chicago, the crime and gang activity from these two neighborhoods has been crossing over the Garfield Boulevard border since the 1960s and has intensified since the 1980s, mainly because gangs that protected that border like the Gaylords and Latin Souls had left that area by the late 1970s, allowing black street gangs to take over.

The neighborhood is mostly Mexican in the northern part north of 51st Street and has very few shuttered homes and businesses, this is not a blighted area.

Most of the white populace of New City is in Canaryville.  New City is still one the harder and more violent neighborhoods in Chicago and is the home to many hardened gang elements.  New City, more specifically Back of The Yards is the birthplace of the Latin Souls, Saints, Party Players and the City Knights.  Two Six, Satan Disciples, Latin Kings and La Raza continue to have territory here and are the most successful of the migratory gangs.  The Bishops would eventually establish a very close alliance with Latin Kings in the year 1991 but for some reason they still faded out of the area eventually.  Two Two Boys left the area long ago perhaps because of war with the Satan Disciples that erupted in the late 80s.


All images below are of vacant buildings at the time of the photo.  All photos are courtesy of Google Maps