From a 2008 story in The Southern:
"Birger was born Shachna Itzik Birger in Russia around 1880. His family immigrated to the United States when he was about 8 years old and set up their home in the St. Louis area.
"(Franklin County Historic Preservation Society President Bob) Rea said Birger became a 'news boy' with The Post-Dispatch newspaper and later moved to the O'Fallon area where he started work in a pool room. In 1901, he joined the 13th Calvary, according to Rea.
'He went out west,' Rea said. 'He was an expert horseman.'
Birger committed a number of crimes throughout his career as a gangster, but Rea said he wasn't convicted of most of them because he claimed self-defense.
'He would allow them (his rivals) to publicly threaten him so he could claim it was self-defense,' he said.
Because of his criminal history, Birger brought national attention to Southern Illinois.
'He gave us national attention that we didn't necessarily want,' said Jon Musgrave, local author and historian. 'The exploits and the massacre and the Klan wars and gang wars between Birger's faction and the Shelton Gang got as much play as Al Capone.
'He was a criminal, but unlike the Shelton Gang, Charlie had aspirations of respectability,' Musgrave said. 'He wanted to hobnob with the top people. He wanted to have that class that he just couldn't get as a coal miner. He would portray himself as American born when he wasn't. He wouldn't portray himself as Jewish when he was.'
Birger was married several times and had two children, Minnie and Charline. Neighbors said he lived the life of a respectable man in Saline County despite leading his gang of criminals throughout Franklin and Williamson counties.
Rea said Birger had everyone fooled, even those who thought they knew him best.
'Over in Harrisburg, he had a family,' Rea explained. 'His neighbors said he was a family man and a solid citizen. He got on the radio and said he was going to protect the people of Saline County from the outrageous acts of the Shelton Gang. These people couldn't believe this guy was running around Franklin County with guns.'
The rivalry between Birger, the Ku Klux Klan and the Shelton Gang is where much of the violence stemmed in Southern Illinois during that time.