Snake Kinney Kills Rival

     Thomas Kinney would be elected a Missouri State Senator before his untimely death in 1912.  The 43-year-old State Senator was responsible for several pieces of legislation, which benefited the poor and working class in Missouri.  Prior to his service, however, St. Louis knew a different Thomas Kinney.

     Tom “Snake” Kinney was how Kinney was known in his younger days.  The co-founder of Egan’s Rats with his brother-in-law Tom Egan, Kinney was one of the toughest men to come from St. Louis’ Irish “Kerry Patch” neighborhood.


Thomas E. “Snake” Kinney from the Public Domain

    On Sunday, September 20, 1896, Kinney was with a group the Rats in Moore’s Tavern on Morgan Street.  A few doors down, Kinney’s rival “Baldy” Higgins and a few of his gang were in Cella’s Saloon at Sixth and Morgan Streets.  Kinney and Higgins oversaw rival faction in ward politics.

     “Baldy” Higgins was a very bad man, who killed Thomas Stapleton on Election Day 1894.  When one of Kinney’s men stopped in at Cella’s Saloon, Higgins beat the man quite severely.  As the Rat ran out onto the street, Kinney and the other Rats were exiting Moore’s Tavern.

     Both groups had been up all night.  When they met on the street at 6 am, spirits were high with both groups.  Kinney observed Higgins chasing one of his men and quickly intervened.

     Heated words were exchanged between both men.  Higgins pulled a knife and charged at Kinney.  Far from backing off, Kinney also charged toward Higgins causing both men to topple to the ground.

     Both men rolled around the ground before a gunshot was heard.  Higgins staggered to his feet.  Higgins’ men took him to City Hospital, where emergency surgery was performed on his lung wound.  However, Dr. Sutter said Higgins would soon die.

     Kinney didn’t return to his saloon at Second and Carr Streets but went to another tavern at Seventh and Franklin.  St. Louis Police arrested him there.

     Higgins did indeed die.  The Blair Street Gang leader died from a single gunshot, which passed through both lungs.  Kinney claimed self-defense.  In fact, he told police he was not armed, when the encounter began.  Higgins’ gun fell out of his pocket during the scuffle.  Kinney used it to shoot Higgins.

     The jury must have believed Kinney because he was acquitted of the murder.  Kinney would continue to lead the Rats from his saloon, while also participating in ward politics.  It was his work as a Ward Committeeman which led to Kinney becoming a State Senator.  Debates might have been less intense, when “Snake” Kinney was present.

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Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 21, 1896 edition, p. 8

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