Fred (Frederick Charles) Brenckman.

History of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, online

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Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 10 of 44)
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prehend or bring to justice the perpetrators of these
crimes. Coal operators were ordered to suspend
operations until the discontinuance of the draft, while
mine foremen and their men were warned, at the peril
of their lives, not to overlook this peremptory demand.
Murders, incendiarism and open riots became more
frequent and bold, and but little attempt was made
in the way of concealing these crimes. It was at first
thought that opposition to the enrollments and drafts
upon the part of this lawless element had inspired
much of the violence and crime that prevailed during
the period of the war ; but upon the termination of hos-


tilities, when crime and bloodshed were dailj^ becoming
more rampant, the people at last awoke to a realization
of the fact that an organization existed among them
that was more formidable and dangerous than any
avowed and open foe could possibly be.

Men were sometimes killed in broad daylight; some-
times in the darkness of night, and invariably by
strangers — persons at least unknown to chance spec-
tators, or to the parties violently put out of the way.
Suspected individuals would be apprehended, but in
the end nobody could be found able to identify the
criminals. The Mollies ruled the people with a rod
of iron. The voice of their dread fraternity was un-
heard, but its fiendish work was none the less surely

Even the political sentiments of the commonwealth
were to some extent moulded by them, and in their par-
itcular field they elected or defeated whomsoever they

The men whose capital was locked up in the coal beds
were as obedient puppets in their hands, while there
was absolutely no security for life and property.

This was the state of affairs in the anthracite coal
regions in the fall of 1873, when Franklin B. Gowan,
then president of the Philadelphia and Reading Rail-
way Company and of the Philadelphia and Reading
Coal and Iron Company, made arrangements with
Allan Pinkerton, head of the world-famed detective
agency of that name, to send a detective into the
haunts of the Mollie Maguires, with a view to breaking
up their organization, punishing its guilty members
and restoring the reign of law and order in that por-
tion of the commonwealth.

The man who, after mature deliberation, was called
upon to perform this arduous and hazardous under-


taking was a young Irishman named James McParlan,
who assumed the name of James McKenna. He is still
alive, and some years ago was detailed to unravel the
mystery surrounding the murder of Governor Steu-
nenberg of Idaho, but in that case he was not so suc-
cessful as he was in exposing the MoUie Maguires and
in bringing them to justice.

Prior to his connection with the two great Penn-
sylvania corporations, Mr. Gowan had been the district
attorney of Schuylkill county, and his duties in that
position had brought him frequently in contact with
the work of the Mollie Maguires. He was, therefore,
able to render valuable assistance in the prosecution
of the task which was freighted with such far-reaching
consequences to the inhabitants of the coal regions.

McParlan was successful, at the end of nearly six
months, in establishing himself in the confidence and
good-will of the members of the society which he was
seeking to overthrow, and was initiated as a member
of the order at Shenandoah, Schuylkill county.

Not only is much of the credit for the disruption of
the Mollies' organization due to McParlan, but we are
largely indebted to him for what knowledge there is
of how its inside workings were conducted. As Mc-
Parlan learned, it was an oath-bound society, whose
members recognized each other by signs and pass-
words and were required under dire penalties to carry
out the orders of their officers and to execute the man-
dates of the body to which they chanced to belong.
They were organized in small local societies, termed
** bodies," presided over by a president, known as the
''body master." All grievances of members were laid
before the ''body," and it was there determined what
measures of redress or vengeance, if any, should be
resorted to. When the object of vengeance was merely


to be punished or beaten, the members of the *'body"
were generally called upon to perform the job. When
there was need of greater secrecy, the members of
other '* bodies," living at a distance, were usually se-
cured to carry out the wishes of the society.

This was a rule that was nearly always adhered to
in cases where murder was intended, making the prov-
ing of an alibi, the ever ready weapon of the society
in clearing its members when charged with crime, com-
paratively an easy matter.

McParlan visited the different towns, especially the
strongholds of the Mollies, throughout the anthracite
region and laid carefully prepared plans for his peril-
ous work. He kept in almost daily communication
with Mr. Gowan at Philadelphia, who was one of the
few that knew him in his true character. The detective
exhibited industry, perseverance and determination to
a remarkable degree in the midst of surroundings that
might well have appalled the stoutest heart. His find-
ings were preserved with the greatest secrecy until
such time as the whole gruesome story could be laid
before the world from the records of the courts. This
occurred in due time, and he appeared as the principal
witness against a number of murderers who were con-
victed on his testimony and that of corroborating wit-
nesses. By three years of unremitting industry, dur-
ing which time he was compelled to resort to treach-
ery, deceit and double dealing, he succeeded in secur-
ing many confidences and even the inmost secrets of
those whose lives he sought, and ultimately secured at
the bar of justice.

He assumed to be one of the worst among the class
of outlaws with whom he was compelled to associate,
but himself always carefully refrained from the actual
commission of crime. He accounted for his ability to


live without work by telling various plausible stories,
pretending that he was a pensioner of the government
and a dealer in counterfeit money, among other things.

McParlan was very popular among the Mollies, who
seemed to esteem him all the more because he appeared
to be a thorough desperado and a polished rogue.

As to whether or not he was justified in pursuing the
course that he did, let casuists argue and theorists
quibble ; there can be no question concerning the recti-
tude of his conduct in the minds of practical men, when
all of the circumstances under which he labored are

One of McParlan 's co-workers during a part of his
stay in the coal regions was Captain Eobert Linden,
ostensibly a leader of the coal and iron police, but also
a Pinkerton detective. Together they were successful
in thwarting many a deep laid scheme for the destruc-
tion of life and property.

Among the first of the outrages attended by fatal
results within the limits of Carbon county, and charged
to the Mollie Maguires, was the murder of George K.
Smith, at Audenried, on the evening of November 5,

Mr. Smith was a member of the firm of George K.
Smith and Company, operating the mines of the New
York and Lehigh Coal Company at Yorktown.

He had given the enrolling officers a list containing
the names of the men employed at the mines operated
by the firm of which he was a member, and some of
their number had been drafted for service in the army.
This circumstance is said to have led to his assassina-
tion. He was assailed by a large body of heavily
armed men in his own dwelling and was quickly dis-
patched in the presence of his terror-stricken family.


Although several persons were under the ban of sus-
picion, and were supposed to have participated in the
affair, it was impossible, until the lapse of many
years, to obtain any information as to the absolute
guilt of the mistrusted parties. Some of these were
then arrested and placed in jail at Mauch Chunk, but
were forcibly rescued a short time thereafter, at night,
by their associates in the order.

Another Carbon county affair which was charged to
the account of the Mollies, and which aroused general
indignation, was the attack made upon Superintendent
Hendrix, of the Buck Mountain Coal Company. He
was in his room at the house where he boarded in the
village of Clifton, in company with his wife, when, on
the evening of June 11, 1869, he was brutally assaulted
and beaten to the verge of death.

Over two hundred men joined in the attack, sur-
rounding the house and taking it by storm. The inter-
position of Mrs. Hendrix, who threw herself between
her husband and his assailants, taking many kicks and
blows that were intended for him, was all that saved
him from death. Mr. Hendrix was beaten with black-
jacks, pistol butts and clubs, besides receiving two
stabs from a knife.

After making a fruitless search for another intended
victim who boarded with James Harvey, a neighbor of
Mr. Hendrix, the band of outlaws then moved in a body
to Eckly, a short distance beyond, in Luzerne county.

There they proceeded to square some grudge they
had against Captain P. F. McGinley.

He bore the reputation of being a fearless, resolute
man, and armed with a magazine rifle, he awaited their
onslaught in a second story room of his' home.

Breaking in the front door, the Mollies seized the
captain's father and used him as a shield while ad-


vancing upstairs to attack the son, the old man plead-
ing piteously for his life in the meantime.

The captain managed to get in one shot, which, as
was subsequently learned, was not without effect, but
was soon overpowered and clubbed into insensibility.
Years afterwards it was learned that the perpetra-
tors of these outrages came principally from Yorktown
and Audenried, ten miles away.

The unprovoked and cold-blooded murder of Mor-
gan Powell, assistant superintendent of the Lehigh
Coal and Navigation Company, at Summit Hill, on the
evening of December 2, 1871, crowning, as it did, so
many previous and similar events, greatly exasperated
the law-abiding jDcople of the coal region.

The murder was committed at about seven o'clock,
on the street, not more than a few paces from the store
of Henry Williamson, which place Powell had left only
a moment before to go to the office of William Zelmer,
the general superintendent of the company.

It appears that one of a group of three men, who
had been seen by various people waiting near the store,
drew close to Mr. Powell from the rear, and fired a
pistol shot into the left breast of his innocent victim,
leaning over the shoulder of Powell to accomplish his
deadly purpose.

Who it was that had killed him, no one could tell.
The three men who had been seen together, and one of
whom did the shooting, were all strangers, and easily
effected their escape. Patrick Kildea, who was
thought to resemble one of their number, was taken
into custody and tried for the crime, but was acquitted
for lack of evidence.

Emboldened by their success in so many previous
outrages, the Mollies were becoming reckless, and on
the morning of September 3, 1875, enacted a tragedy


that was destined to lead to the discovery, conviction
and execution of the authors of many deeds of blood.

At the time spoken of, John P. Jones, a mine fore-
man at Lansford, spoke what proved to be his eternal
farewell to his wife and seven children, and started
toward the colliery where he was employed. He fol-
lowed a path that led from Storm Hill to the depot in
Lansford, and which he had been repeatedly urged not
to take, because it was known that he was marked for
death by the Mollies.

As he proceeded leisurely on his way, probably hav-
ing no premonition of impending evil, he was over-
taken by two men, who were running as if in a hurry
to reach a train which had just arrived at the depot.
They halted when close to him, drew their pistols and
fired upon the luckless and unsuspecting man with
deadly effect.

The victim made an attempt to ward off his assail-
ants with his tin dinner pail, and as he did so received
another bullet from the pistol of one of the murderers.
Throwing up his hands, with a cry of mortal agony, he
fell upon his face, while two more leaden messengers
of death were fired in quick succession into his already
bullet-riddled body.

This tragic event occurred in broad daylight and in
the sight of a crowd of people.

The reports of the pistols brought many workmen
to the scene.

The assassins had been seen retreating rapidly over
the hill, and pursuit was soon given. When the hour
of noon arrived, their capture had been effected. The
men were identified as Michael J. Doyle and Edward
Kelly, of Mount Laffa, Schuylkill county; and James
Kerrigan, bodymaster of the Tamaqua division of the


Mollies. All of them were securely placed in jail at
Mauch Chunk.

The men were taken while resting beneath the shade
of a tree beside a spring, near Tamaqua. Kelly and
Doyle were recognized as having done the shooting,
while Kerrigan had accompanied them, but had re-
mained at a safe distance while the murder was being

No arms were found about their persons, but a little
later some officers, while making a search unearthed
three pistols and a heavy club, secreted under the trees
in the leaves near the spring where the men were taken
prisoners. One of these pistols was that known as the
"Roarty Pistol," highly prized by the Mollies, and
named after its owner, James Roarty, bodymaster of
the Coal Dale division of the society. It was termed
by them "the lucky pistol" and had been used at the
murder of Morgan Powell, Policeman B. F. Yost, of
Tamaqua, and others.

The arrest of Doyle, Kerrigan and Kelly was a stun-
ning blow to the Mollies, who realized that the most
desperate exertions would be necessary to save their
three comrades from the gallows and their order from
exposure and annihilation.

A large sum of money was soon raised and the best
law^^ers to be had were retained to defend the pris-

John W. Ryan, Linn Bartholomew, and J. B. Riley,
all of the Schuylkill county bar, and E. M. Mulhearn
and Daniel Kalbfus, of Mauch Chunk, appeared on
behalf of the defense when the prisoners were ar-
raigned at the October term of the Carbon county

To match this array of legal talent, the coal and rail-
road companies of this section of the anthracite region.


all of whom were directly and deeply concerned in the
outcome of the case, authorized their attorneys to as-
sist the district attorney, E. R. Siewers, in the prosecu-
tion. Hon. F. W. Hughes, appeared for the Philadel-
phia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, General
Charles Albright, for the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre
Coal Company, and Hon. Allen Craig for the Lehigh
Valley Railroad Company.

Kelly, Doyle, and Kerrigan were jointly put on trial,
entering the usual plea of "not guilty," and demand-
ing a severance, the case going over to the January
term of court.

In its far-reaching consequences to human life and
property, together with the general security and wel-
fare of society, this trial may justly be regarded as the
most momentuous in the annals of the commonwealth.

The trial was begun on the eighteenth of January
before Judge Samuel S. Dreher. On the twenty-first
of January a jury had been obtained, consisting of
William Bloss, Jonas Beck, Joel Strohl, Daniel Boyer,
Jr., Daniel Remaly, Abraham Henry, Levi West, Levi
Straub, Henry Long, Peter Cushman, Thomas A. Wil-
liams, and Drake H. Liong.

Michael Doyle was the first to be placed on trial, and,
as was to be expected, the leaders of the Mollies made
great efforts to prove that not one of the three men
charged with the killing of Jones could possibly have
been present when the crime was committed, as they
had really been elsewhere at that time. But through
the effective work of McParlan and other detectives,
their efforts proved abortive and unavailing.

McParlan, in particular, rendered great services to
the lawyers who represented the commonwealth in
this important trial. Mingling freely with the Mollies,
and looked u])on by the members of the society, as well


as those outside the organization, as one of their lead-
ers, he was admitted to all their councils, even to the
consultations of their attorneys. All that he thus
learned he secretly but promptly communicated to the
other side.

The trial had not far progressed before it became
evident to the attorneys for the defense, as well as to
the assembled Mollies, that they were being betrayed
by some one whom they had thus far trusted.

McParlan's reputation as a wicked Mollie was so
well established, and so cleverly did he play his part,
that he was not at first suspected.

It was finally thought that the traitor must be one
of the prisoners on trial, and suspicion centered upon
Kerrigan. He was not slow in detecting that he was
being shunned, and that he was no longer trusted.
This change of attitude toward him on the part of his
old associates in crime, no doubt, influenced him to a
great extent in making up his mind to give state's evi-
dence, and, by so doing, purchase immunity for him-
self at the expense of his self-respect and his fellow

He apprised the district attorney of the fact that he
wished to see him for the purpose of making a con-
fession. After due consideration, he was accepted and
placed upon the witness stand.

Kerrigan laid bare all the circumstances and details
connected with the assassination of John P. Jones, in-
forming the court that the deed was committed at the
behest of Alexander Campbell, bodymaster of the Sum-
mit Hill division of the Mollies. The grievance against
Jones was that he had blacklisted some men who were
members of the society.

Kerrigan's confession having been corroborated, in
every important particular, by the evidence of the


other witnesses for the commonwealth, the jury, on the
first of the ensuing February, returned a verdict of
"guilty of murder in the first degree."

After this, Mrs. Kerrigan, who had interested her-
self in trying to secure the release of her husband, said
he might hang, and further, that she would not raise
her hand to save him. Henceforth he was popularly
known as "Jimmy The Squealer," and received, as
he, no doubt, merited, the maledictions of all true Mol-

During the course of the trial, McParlan made the
acquaintance of a man named Durkin, who told him he
was ready, in the event of a verdict unfavorable to the
Mollies, to blow up the court house, together with the
judges, jurymen, attorneys, officials, and innocent
spectators, boasting that he had a can of nitrogly-
cerine safey hidden away near by for the purpose.

McParlan responded by telling the desperado that
he would be very foolish to attempt to put such a plot
into execution, because he would be almost certain to
be captured and strung up by the vigilance committee
to the nearest tree.

Probably this had the desired effect of frightening
the reckless fellow, and he wisely decided to abandon
the idea.

On the twenty-second of February, the Court sen-
tenced Michael Doyle to death. This was noteworthy
as the earliest conviction and disposal of a real Mollie
Maguire in Pennsylvania, and the news spread rapidly,
far and wide, striking terror and dismay into the ranks
of the organization. During the progress of the trial
the Mollies had been bold and defiant, and many of
their principal men were on the spot, expecting as they
expected to live, to witness the release of the defend-
ant. How shocking the result was to their nerves and


to their general composure, McParlan was among the
first to learn.

He afterwards declared that the unforeseen result
had come upon the order like an earthquake in a quiet

The case of Michael Doyle having been disposed of,
Edward Kelly was next placed at the bar before Judge
Dreher. While his defense was not allowed to go by
default, the most strenuous efforts being made on his
behalf, he was also found guilty of murder in the first
degree. He then made a voluntary confession, clearly
showing that he had not been wrongfully charged or
convicted, and substantiating all that Kerrigan had

Kelly explained that he did not ask for mercy nor
expect it, but, before dying, desired to purge himself
of his crime.

From facts brought to light during the trial of
Doyle, Alexander Campbell was taken into custody
and lodged in jail at Mauch Chunk. Thomas Duffy,
James Boyle, Hugh McGeehan, James Carroll and
James Roarty were also arrested and placed in the
Schuylkill county jail, charged with the murder of
Policeman Benjamin F. Yost, of Tamaqua, on the
morning of July 6, 1875.

The majority of these men were residents of Carbon

Campbell was arrigned for trial, charged with the
murder of John P. Jones, June 20, 1876. It was not
claimed, strictly, that he had taken any direct part in
the murder, but that he had arranged for others to per-
form the deed. One of the jurors sickened and died
during the progress of the case, making a new trial
necessary. Campbell was eventually found guilty of
murder in the first degree as an ''accessory before


the fact." His conviction on such grounds contained
infinite possibilities for trouble of the gravest kind,
from the standpoint of the Mollie Maguires, many of
whom, while not murderers, in the popularly accepted
sense of the term, were equally as guilty as he.

Subsequent to the conclusion of Campbell's trial, a
number of his friends within the organization, who had
been witnesses in the case, and had perjured them-
selves in an effort to secure his release, were arrested
on that charge and held for trial.

This, again, was a proceeding that appeared to have
been wholly unexpected by the Mollies, who had been
accustomed to play fast and loose with the truth when-
ever the occasion demanded.

Meanwhile, the Mollies were not satisfied that all of
the evidence upon which their partners in crime were
being convicted had been furnished by Kerrigan.

Suspicion soon rested upon McParlan, and his as-
sassination was decided upon, as a matter of self-pro-
tection, revenge, and of general policy. By his native
shrewdness and great daring he frustrated a number
of well-laid plans that had been made to do away with
him. He was also largely indebted for his life to the
unwavering loyalty and continued confidence of an old
friend in the order, Frank McAndrew, bodymaster of
the Shenandoah lodge, to which McParlan belonged.

McAndrew generously protected him at the immi-
nent peril of his own life, believing him to be inno-
cent of the charge of double-dealing. The time had
come, however, for the detective to throw off his dis-
guise, because the part which he had so successfully
played for three years was no longer possible for him.

Accordingly he appeared on the witness stand, and
the evidence he there gave resulted in the arrest and


conviction of numerous criminals who could not other-
wise have been reached by the arm of the law. His
nature naturally revolted at the idea of facing his late
associates in the order in his true colors, and it galled
him to be compelled to move about the streets of
Maucli Chunk, Pottsville and the other places, where
he gave testimony, accompanied by an armed escort.
The recital of his experiences when assuming to be a
Mollie, his almost miraculous escapes, and the tales of
horror which he told have, jDcrhaps, never been equalled
in the history of American jurisprudence.

At the October term of court at Mauch Chunk, in
1876, the cases of John Donahue, Thomas P. Fisher,
Patrick McKenna, and Alexander Campbell, charged
with the murder of Morgan Powell at Summit Hill, five
years earlier, were called.

The men demanded separate trials, and the common-
wealth chose first to try John (Yellow Jack) Donahue.

It was clearly proven that on the request of Alex-
ander Campbell, with a promise of one hundred dollars
for the service, Donahue had selected his men at Tus-
carora, and, assuming their leadership, had proceeded
to Tamaqua, where they met Cornelius McHugh, who

Online LibraryFred (Frederick Charles) BrenckmanHistory of Carbon County, Pennsylvania; also containing a separate account of the several boroughs and townships in the county, → online text (page 10 of 44)