09 February 2021

Racially Charged Shooting at the Link Saloon

Illustration from SL Trib 1900-05-15
In 1900 a SLC saloon owner charged his Black customers 5 times the normal price for beer which resulted in a gunfight on the streets of SLC.

Lewis Link owned the saloon at 201 S State (now occupied by the Parkside Tower building). Link grew up in Missouri and served in the Confederate Army with his father during the Civil War.

Link conspicuously placed a sign stating that “Drinks 25 cents to all colored people at this bar.” This was 5 times the normal price ($7.75 vs $1.55 a drink in today’s money).

On May 14 1900, it was payday at Fort Douglas and a group of Soldiers from the 9th Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) came to SLC to spend some money. The Soldiers likely had known about the sign for some time as many had previously been patrons of Link’s Saloon.

William Maddick, an English-born White man, was a bartender at Link’s Saloon that night. The Soldiers ordered drinks, paid the normal price, and then left the bar.

Maddick confronted the Soldiers and shot 5 rounds into the streets of SLC. He shot 2 people: 16-year-old Andrew Roy White, a Black teenager who worked at Fort Douglas and who was trying to be a peacemaker and settle the debt, and 40-year-old Willis Pearsall, a Black man who was a civilian bystander who was walking home.

It was reported that Maddick was likely drunk during the incident. Maddick said that the Soldiers shot at him first; however, a doctor’s inspection indicated a rock, not a bullet, grazed his head.

The two people shot eventually recovered from their wounds.

William Maddick was arrested and tried for assault with intent to murder.

Every effort seemed to be made to protect Maddick during the trial. When he first appeared in court the Judge asked how did he plead, Maddick said “Well I was the man who did the shooting, I guess.” The prosecution objected and insisted Maddick be given more time to consult with his attorneys. Witnesses for the prosecution were also intimidated and urged to retract their testimony.

In the end, William Maddick was acquitted by a jury as the shootings were considered justified in self-defense.

Sources: SL Herald 1900-05-15; SL Trib 1900-05-15; SL Trib 1900-06-06

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