Chester, PA: Tragedies
Market Street Massacre

1948 Market St. Massacre; Photo courtesy of John Fusco

"My father [Joseph (Sonny) Fusco] tells me that the shots came from above the restaurant.  As you can see the State Troopers are in the process of searching for the shooter. The only person we can identify is Paul McKinney standing on the outside step of the restaurant. Maybe some other readers can identify the others pictured."

John Fusco, JFF21@rcn.com

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A picture (c. 1900) of the building where the shooter was


November 6, 1948

My recollection of the Market Street Massacre

By Lou Warfel

The Market Street Massacre took place on Nov. 6, 1948. I was working in the Buten Paint Store at 624 Edgmont Ave. It must have been around nine o'clock in the morning when a customer came in and told us that a sniper was shooting people down in Bethel Court. We kept getting vague, confused reports for the next few hours. It wasn't until much later in the day that we found out what had happened.

Melvin Collins, a 38 year old migrant worker from Virginia, had argued with some small time numbers writer, on the sidewalk in front of his place of residence on Market Street below Third. In the end Collins shot and killed the man. The enraged gunman then fled to his second floor front room apartment Collins opened fire from his front window killing a couple of people who had come to the aid of the first victim. He continued to fire at everyone within his vision and range. Only one of those killed was a white man. He had driven to the neighborhood to pick up a man who worked for him and before he knew what was happening he was dead. At some point Elery Purnsley, Chester's first black police detective arrived on the scene and he was shot and killed. Everyone who could, fled the area. But some people who had taken shelter behind parked cars were trapped, afraid to move.

Eventually the police put together a plan to enter the building. As they stormed the building Collins turned his 22 caliber rife on himself and put a bullet through the roof of his mouth. In all, eight people were killed and six wounded I do not know the names of the dead and wounded.

Best Wishes

Lou

Article contributed by Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of any tragedies or other unusual events in the history of Chester, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com

2001, 2002 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 10/18/05