Before Chicago's 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, Lemont saw an uprising of its own.
And two local artists, Rob Moriarty and Mona Parry, are helping spread the word about one of the most important times in the village’s history through a mural they’re painting on the wall of Bonus Electric on Main Street.
The scene depicts what is known as the “Lemont Massacre of 1885,” which involved a labor dispute with Lemont quarry workers and owners. The battle was so intense that the governor called in the militia. Three men were ultimately killed and several men and women were injured.
Moriarty and Parry have been working with members of the Lemont Area Historical Society on showcasing the village’s rich history for nearly a decade.
“In that time, we have discussed important local histories which could be shared through public art projects,” Moriarty said. “This story seemed very appropriate because of the location of the wall which sits very close to where the actual battle occurred.”
He said the mural also connects Lemont’s history with a larger history of American labor.
“This event occurred on May 4, 1885. One year later the Haymarket incident happens in Chicago and is largely remembered as the beginning of the struggle for the eight hour work day,” Moriarty said. “Lemont is acknowledged as a spark in that struggle. There is an undeniable relevance with this story and contemporary labor struggles for better work conditions. The park across the street from the mural has a small plaque which dedicates the park to the three fallen workers.”
The artists began painting the mural in early July, though research for the narrative began a few years earlier.
They credit the help of Susan Donahue from the Lemont Area Historical Society for her help making sure the narrative is accurate. They anticipate the mural being completed in late spring or early summer next year.
Several scenes will be depicted in the mural, including the workers organizing, then refusing to work, and the battle between the striking workers, their families and the state militia. The mural will end with bread and roses.
Moriarty said there are still at least four areas of the narrative that need to be finished.
“We are looking for someone to donate a lift that could be used to help us complete production,” he said.