Who Was Charles Birger?
As a rival to the Shelton Brothers, Charles Birger was born to a simple Jewish family in what is today known as Lithuania. At the time, it was a part of the Russian Empire.
Immigrating to the U.S. as a young child with his family, they settled into the St. Louis area where Charles got a job at the ripe young age of eight. He worked as a newsboy for the Post-Dispatch. Later, he would work his way up the ranks and move to the O’Fallon area of Missouri where he would work in a pool room.
In July of 1901, young Charles enlisted himself into the U.S. Army and would be assigned to the Company G of the then 13th Calvary Regiment. He was stationed in the South Dakota region and often described as a great soldier and in 1904 he would be honorably discharged at Fort Meade.
After the army, Charles found work as a Cowboy. Eventually, he would return to the Illinois area where he would meet his future wife, Beatrice. Here he would become a minor and expand the coal mining community of the Harrisburg area. Later, he became a keeper at a local saloon.
However, in 1919 the United States would adopt prohibition that would ban the sale and the manufacture as well as the transportation of alcohol drinks. Charles saw this as an opportunity since it would put his saloon out of business and in the year 1920 he would join up with the bootleggers Shelton Brothers who would later become rivals.
Charles based his bootlegging operation in the Harrisburg area of Southern Illinois. Eventually, the authorities of the Saline County region convinced him to relocate and he built up a fortified speakeasy named Shady Rest across the line in Williamson County. Shady Rest was located right off of Highway 13 and it was halfway between Marion and Harrisburg. A barbecue shack would stand as a guard service for the speakeasy.