STORIES FROM THE ARCHIVES OF THE PINKERTON DETECTIVE
BY CLEVELAND MOFFETT.
McCLURE'S MAGAZINE, 1894. pp. 90-
SOME twenty years ago five counties in eastern
Pennsylvania were dominated, terrorized, by a secret organization, thousands
strong, whose special purpose was to rob, burn, pillage, and kill. Find
on the map that marvelous mineral country, as large as Delaware, which
lies between the Blue Mountains on the south and the arm of the Susquehanna
on the north, and there you will see what was the home of these banded
outlaws, the merciless Molly Maguires. Look in Carbon County for Mauch
Chunk, with its towering hills and picturesque ravines, and from there
draw a line westward through Schuylkill County and into Northumberland
County as far as Shamokin. This line might well be called the red axis
of violence, for it cuts through Mount Carmel, Centralia, Raven Run, Mahanoy
Plane, Girardville, Shenandoah, Tamaqua, Tuscarora, and Summit Hill, towns
all abounding in hateful memories of the Molly Maguires. Now, on this line
as a long diameter, construct an egg-shaped figure, to include in its upper
boundary Wilkesbarre in Luzerne County and Bloomsburg in Columbia County,
and on its lower to pass somewhat to the south of Pottsville. Your egg
will be about fifty- miles long and forty miles across, and will cover
scores of thriving communities that once were the haunts of the murderers
and ruffians who polluted with their crimes this fair treasure garden of
a great State.
Such was the situation when the Centennial Exhibition
was opening its gates to enthusiastic millions. A scant hundred miles
separated the City of Brotherly Love from these tormented centres of violence. But
what a contrast! Here a proud metropolis was gay with flags and
illuminations; there the mountains mourned in the ashes of poor men's homes.
Here sounded rejoicing bells and cannons; there weft heard the groans of
victims butchered. Here were grand parades, and hurrahing multitudes; there
lurked bands of armed assassins, defying alike the laws of man and God,
and leaving behind them everywhere curses, and tears, and blood. The condition
of things in Schuylkill, Carbon Luzerne, Columbia, and Northumberland Counties,
in this glorious year of grace 1876, was horrible to contemplate. And meantime
the nation's orators at Philadelphia were blowing themselves red in the
face at the trumpets of self-praise!
The origin and development of the Molly Maguires
will always present a hard problem to the social philosopher, who will,
perhaps, find some subtle relation between crime and coal. One understands
the act of an ordinary murderer who kills from greed, or fear, or hatred;
but the Molly Maguires killed men and women with whom they had had no dealings,
against whom they had no personal grievances, and from whose death they
had nothing to gain, except, perhaps, the price of a few rounds of whiskey.
They committed murders by the score, stupidly, brutally, as a driven ox
turns to left or right at the word of command, without knowing why, and
without caring. The men who decreed these monstrous crimes did so for the
most trivial reasons—a reduction in wages, a personal dislike, some imagined
grievance of a friend. These were sufficient to call forth an order to
burn a house where women and children were sleeping, to shoot down in cold
blood an employer or fellow workman, to lie in wait for an officer of the
law and club him to death. In flee trial of one of them, Mr. Franklin B.
Gowen described the reign of these ready murderers as a time "when
men retired to their homes at eight or nine o'clock in the evening and
no one ventured beyond the precincts of his own door; when every man engaged
in any enterprise of magnitude, or connected with industrial pursuits'
left his home in the morning with his hand upon his pistol, unknowing whether
he would again return alive; when the very foundations of society were
In vain the officials of the Philadelphia and Reading
and Lehigh Valley Railroads,whose lines spread over this region like huge
arteries, offered thousands of dollars in rewards for the apprehension
of the criminals. In vain Archbishop Wood, of Philadelphia fought the Molly
Maguires with the whole power of the Catholic Church issuing an edict excommunicating all members of the organization, depriving them of all spiritual
benefits and refusing them burial in Catholic cemeteries. In vain the Catholic
priests throughout the five counties, under Father Bridgeman of Girardville,
seeing that not even the Church's curse could check the course of crime,
formed an organization Popularly called the " Sheet Irons," which
was to oppose the Molly Maguires politically and in every possible way.
In vain, reputable citizens in almost every town, formed and armed committees
of vigilantes who were to take the law into their own hands, inasmuch as
the forces of the law were paralyzed. All was of no avail; public offices
remained in the hands of ruffians; the same fierce crimes persisted; people
were assaulted, robbed, and murdered with increasing frequency.
DETECTIVE MCPARLAND DETAILED.
In 1873 Mr. Franklin B. Gowen, then President of the Philadelphia
and Reading Railroad, took counsel with Allan Pinkerton in regard to the
matter. "It was owing to Mr. Gowen," says Mr. Robert A. Pinkerton
in a recent letter, " that the Molly Maguire organization was broken
up. Mr. Gowen, when a young man, had been District Attorney of Schuylkill
County, and, while occupying this office, had found great difficulty in
convicting men accused of crimes, as the Mollys would swear to alibis for
any of their members arrested. When he afterwards became the president of
the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, in order to protect its interests,
and its employees, and the managers and superintendents of the mines which
it he found it necessary to break up this organization, and it was then
he consulted Mr. Allan Pinkerton.""`I have the very man for you,"
said Allan Pinkerton, the man to 'whom he referred being James McParland.
Like his employer, James McParland had become a detective by accident.
For a number of years he had been occupied with irregular work, sailing
the Great Lakes in the summer, and acting as coachman during the winter,
when he could get employment. Early in the sixties, while he was employed
Chicago as a night watchman, Mrs. Allan Pinkerton came to know him, and
interested herself in him. Through her recommendation and that of Capt.
R. J. Linden one of Allan Pinkerton's ablest lieutenants he was given a
chance to show what he could do on the Pinkerton detective
force, and he was soon recognized as a young man of rare aptitude for detective
work and advanced rapidly.
A few weeks after the interview between Mr. Gowen
and Mr. Pinkerton, James McParland was announced to have sailed for Europe
on an important mission. Only two men in the country knew that he had really
set out for the terrorized region, with instructions to run down these
Molly Maguire bandits, whether it took six months or six years, six hundred
or six hundred thousand dollars. His orders from Allan Pinkerton were explicit:
"You are to remain in the field
until every cut-throat has paid with his life for the lives so cruelly taken."
After some weeks of reconnoitering on foot through
the coal regions, the young detective arrived in Pottsville, where
he established himself in a boarding-house kept by a Mrs. O'Regan. There
he met a man named Jennings, who volunteered to show him the sights of
the city that same night. Passing a noisy drinking-place called the Sheridan
House, McKenna, for that was McParland's assumed name, proposed going in.
Jennings warned him as he valued his life never to cross the threshold
of that place.
" It's kept by Pat Dormer," he said, "the
big body-master of the Molly Maguires. He stands six feet four, weighs
two hundred and fifty pounds, and is a bad man."
McPARLAND BECOMES A HERO AMONG THE MOLLY MAGUIRES.
McKenna noted his companion's frightened tone, but,
far from being disturbed by these words, rejoiced to find himself so
soon on the right scent. Later in the evening, having given Jennings the
slip, he went back to the dangerous saloon and entered without ceremony, finding himself in the midst of a noisy company, most of
them drinking, while some danced to a screaming fiddle. Things moved on rapidly enough during the next two hours. McKenna, having invited all
hands to the bar, paid for a second round of drinks; and then, springing
into the middle of the floor, danced a flying hornpipe, to the full
approval of the assembled Irishmen, who were all Mollys. He completed the
favorable impression thus made by singing a roaring song, and was then
invited to a game of cards, Pat Dormer himself being his partner, against
Jack Hurley and another big ruffian, named Frazer, who used to boast that
he thrashed every stranger who came into camp.
"You've got six cards in your hand," said
McKenna to Frazer, after a few minutes' playing; "that's too many
in a game of euchre."
"You're a li—"
"Am I?" said McKenna, seizing Frazer's
big hand in his sailor's grip, and making him show half a dozen cards.
The result was a fight in the handball alley, which
Pat Dormer lighted up especially for the purpose, the company of Mollys
ranging themselves in an appreciative circle to see Frazer demolish the
plucky little fellow, who, though strong and agile, was far out-classed
in height and I weight. In the first round Frazer caught the detective
a swinging right-harder under the ear and knocked him down, while the spectators
applauded. But the battle was not over yet; for McKenna's blood was up,
and he was a hard hitter, his arm being nerved by the consciousness that
much depended upon his victory. Six times in succession he floored the
bully of Pottsville, and the seventh time Frazer fell heavily on his face
and failed to get up again.
McKenna immediately became a hero. All hands insisted
on treating him, and even Mrs. Dormer and her eldest daughter came forward
with congratulations. In such a company friendships are made easily and
quickly, and a week later the detective was on such intimate terms with
the formidable Pat Dormer that he was invited to his sister's wedding,
and pretended to get gloriously drunk with everybody else there. As a matter
of fact, while apparently asleep on a bench, he managed to overhear some
of the passwords and catch some of the signs and signals adopted by the
Mollys, which he carefully practiced the next day, and subsequently used
McPARLAND JOINS THE ORDER.
A little later, in December, 1873 McKenna told Dormer
he was going to move on in search of a better job, and the admiring body-master
gave him a letter to the desperate "Muff" Lawler, body-master
of the Molly Maguire lodge at Shenandoah, - a great coal
centre twelve Miles north of Pottsville, with a population of nearly ten
thousand. This letter insured him a cordial reception, and he made such
good use of his opportunities that within a few weeks he was installed
as a boarder in Lawler's house, and was regarded by the Mollys who frequented
Lawler's saloon as a roaring, reckless fellow, quite good enough—that is,
bad enough—to be initiated into the Molly Maguires. The ceremony took place
in due time over Lawler's saloon, and, after having paid for unlimited
whiskey and been instructed in the signs and pass-words, McKenna was pronounced
a member in full standing. And he rose jet time to be secretary of a division,
An incident occurred about this time that greatly
increased McKenna's prestige among the Mollys. He had accompanied "Muff"
Lawler to Big Mine Run, to visit an aged Molly who was very ill. While
in the sick-room, an enemy of Lawler's, Dick Flynn; the terror of the Colorado
colliery, burst through the door, armed with a carving-knife and a six-shooter,
and showing every intention of using them. Lawler jumped down-stairs and
escaped, whereupon Flynn turned upon McKenna, and remarked with an oath
that he had missed " Muff," but would kill his "Butty."
"We'll see about that," said McKenna, flashing
a revolver in the man's face before he could make a move. Pale and trembling,
Flynn dropped his weapon, and at a word from McKenna backed down the stairs.
"I don't like to kill you in the presence of a sick
man and these ladies," said the detective. At the bottom of the stairs
there was a beer-cellar, and in this the prisoner was securely locked,
waiting the arrival of an officer, who took him to jail.
This display of nerve, taken with the trashing of Frazer,
gave McKenna a great reputation throughout that section; and he was soon
regarded as one of the worst Mollys in the State, not only by members of
the order who admired him, but by respectable citizens, who looked upon
him with fear and abhorrence as a man capable of the most desperate acts.
Wishing to leave no means untried that might ingratiate him still deeper
in the confidence of the order, he created the impression that he had to
his credit nearly all the crimes on the statute book, not excepting murder,
and that the abundant supply of money he always seemed to have was the
product of counterfeiting.
Having thus laid the foundation for his future work, McKenna,
with a letter of recommendation from "Muff" Lawler, now began
a period of wandering through the distracted counties, getting work in
various mines, but never keeping one position very long. In the course
of his travels which extended over many weeks, he made the acquaintance
of most of the prominent Mollys, including Jack Kehoe, of, Girardville, and "Yellow Jack" Donahue, both of whom were afterwards hanged
on his testimony. Everywhere he found that his reputation had preceded
him, and he was received by all the Mollys with the respect which ruffians
never fail to pay men whom they regard as greater ruffians than themselves. At each new stopping place he came into possession
of new secrets touching crimes of the order already committed, and others
that were planning, all of which he reported day by day to Allan Pinkerton.
HOW THE MOLLY MAGUIRES OPERATED.
He learned that the number of Molly Maguires in the five
counties had been much exaggerated in the popular mind, through
fear, and that there were not really more than three or four thousand active
members of the organization, whereas it had been reported through the State
that there were ten times that many. McKenna saw, however,
that it was impossible to exaggerate the desperate character of
these men. He found that each county was governed by a "county delegate,"
his territory being divided into districts, or "patches," each
under a " body-master " or chief officer, who gave out the signs
and pass-words to trusted members, and ordered the execution of crimes
that had been decided upon. In nearly every case the body-master was the
keeper of a saloon near one of the shafts, slopes, or drifts, and
no autocrat ever wielded a power more irresponsible than his over all who
came within his jurisdiction. In order to force the miners and workmen
to buy liberally at his bar, which was usually run without a license, it
was necessary for him to control their relations with the mines, and to
do this he must have the superintendent absolutely in his power. If any
superintendent dared to refuse the request of a body-master to hire or
discharge any man, with or without reason, that superintendent's life was
as good as forfeited. " Bosses" were in the same way constrained
to give Mollys the best jobs—that is, the easiest—and in case of their
failure to do so they were promptly made an example of with clubs or revolvers.
Before killing a superintendent or a colliery " boss," the body-master
would usually serve him with a " coffin notice," a roughly written
warning, bearing crudely drawn knives and revolvers, and a large coffin
in the centre. Woe to the man who allowed such a notice to go unheeded
! In nearly every instance he was shot or clubbed to death within a few
days by unknown assailants.
A peculiar reciprocity system was in operation between
the various "patches," in accordance with which, if the body-master
of District No. I wanted a certain man killed, he would call upon the body
master of District No. 2 for men to do it; and in return for this favor,
he was bound to furnish assassins for the body-master of district No. 2
whenever the latter found himself in a murderous mood. As a measure of
safety, it was always arranged; if possible, to have the murders committed
by men not acquainted with their victims, these being pointed out by the
resident body-master. The commission of these murders was regarded as a
title to distinction, and by way of pecuniary reward, it was customary,
after each accommodation of this sort, to organize a dance and drunken
revel for the benefit of the assassins. To illustrate the system: Whenever
"Muff" Lawler of Shenandoah wanted a man put out of the way,
he applied to Jack Kehoe of Girardville, thirteen miles to the south, for
two, three, or four Mollys to do a "clean- job." Kehoe would
select the men, give them a special sign chosen by the two body-masters,
tell them to provide themselves with firearms, and report to Lawler, whom
he described accurately. Upon entering Lawler's saloon, they would throw
him the sign agreed upon, whereupon he would answer and lead them to a
place of concealment, usually in some lonely part of a road over which
the victim would pass. There Lawler would leave them with a Molly whose
duty it was to point out the " boss " or superintendent to be
killed; and when he passed, the men from Girardville would shoot him down
like a dog, leave his body at the roadside, and start off for home as if
nothing had happened. This was a matter of weekly occurrence.
AN IMPORTANT DISCOVERY.
One of the most important discoveries made by McKenna
at this period was in regard to the murder of Alexander Rae, a mine superintendent,
who was brutally beaten to death in October, 1868. From various hints dropped,
he became convinced that a man named Manus Coll, familiarly own as "
Kelly the Bum," had been some way concerned in this crime. Coll had
been a Molly for a number of years, but had been expelled from the order
as being too bad even for that desperate organization. McKenna observed
that Coll was constantly hanging about the saloon- of Pat Hester, the Molly
above mentioned, who, although a ruffian himself, had a wife who was a
woman of refinement, and three intelligent and highly educated daughters,
who were school teachers. McKenna remarked also that, although the women
evidently loathed the presence of this drunken fellow Coll, they nevertheless
treated him with a certain deference, plainly born of fear. There was no
reasonable explanation of their manner, except that Coll knew of some crime
committed by Hester, and so held him and his family in his power. So confident
was McKenna of the justness of this conclusion that he went on a walking
tour through Schuylkill and Northumberland Counties in Coll's company,
hoping to draw valuable information from him. He was disappointed, however;
for, although he got Coll drunk again and again, he could never draw from
him any admission. Still his efforts were not in vain, for some months
later, when Coll had been imprisoned at Pottsville for burglary, McKenna
suggested to Captain Linden, who had been detailed by Allan Pinkerton to
serve as captain of the coal and iron police, an adroit ruse, which the
captain at once proceeded to put into execution. Going to Coll's cell one
day, Captain Linden said to him:
"Do you know what you told McKenna, in your drunken
frolics together, about the murder of Alexander Rae?"
Coll was so completely deceived by this "bluff,"
that the next day he made a full confession. He said that Rae was driving
along a lonely part of the road between Mount Carmel and the village of
Centralia, when he was attacked by four Mollys-Pat Hester, Dooley, McHugh,
and himself. Hester had suggested to them the plan, at his saloon, saying
that Rae would have nineteen thousand dollars with him, which it was his
custom to carry in a buggy, to pay off the men. By the merest accident
Rae did not carry the money in his buggy on this particular night, having
been ill and sent the money on ahead by his clerk, whom the outlaws allowed
to drive by undisturbed. After drinking freely most of the night, the Mollys
chosen for the murder set out at dawn on their deadly mission, and hid
in the woods, where they drank more whiskey until Rae's buggy came in sight.
At a signal from the picket, the assassins rushed upon their victim with
drawn pistols, " Kelly the Bum " firing the first shot. Rae pleaded
for his life, and handed the men his watch and sixty dollars in money,
which was all he had with him. He offered to sign a check for any amount
if they would spare him. The men hesitated a moment.
"What are we going to do with this man ?" said
one of the Mollys. McHugh answered:
"I'm not going to have a living man tagging me around,"
and then he fired, and some of the others fired also. Rae was only wounded,
but with clubs and the butts of their revolvers, they beat him to death;
his bleeding body being left beside a spring.
As the result of Coll's confession, Pat Hester, Dooley,
and McHugh were subsequently tried, convicted, and hanged.
Captain J. R. Linden at the time of the Molly Maguire troubles.
McPARLAND CALLED ON TO ASSIST IN THE MOLLY MaGUIRE CRIMES.
Early in 1875, Frank McAndrew, the body-master of the
Shenandoah division, having been forced to go into another township to
secure work. McParland, or " McKenna, was chosen as his successor,
and as such was expected to furnish murderers when called upon, and in general
to wield the terrible power of the organization. One of the first calls
made on him was for men to destroy the Catawissa bridge on the Philadelphia
and Reading Railroad, but by diplomacy he managed to have this project
abandoned. He next learned of and frustrated a plan of the Molly assassinate
a " boss " named Forsythe, and about the same time (July, 1875),
he saved the life of a young Welshman named Gomer James, whom the Mollys
had planned to shoot at a night picnic near Shenandoah. Whenever McKenna
learned of an outrage being planned, he immediately notified Mr. Franklin,
superintendent of the Pinkerton Agency at Philadelphia, who then took measures
to protect the lives or property threatened, by sending to the rescue a
force of the coal and iron police, under Captain J. R. Linden. It was impossible,
however, for the detective, work as he might, to prevent the continued
commission of murders and- assaults, for the territory actively covered
by the organization was fifty or sixty miles square.
Early in July, 1875, while McKenna was still in Shenandoah,
acting as a body-master, a shocking murder was committed by Molly Maguires
at the town of Tamaqua, situated on the Little Schuylkill, some twenty
miles to the east. The victim was Franklin B. Yost, a policeman, and a
man who had served honorably in the civil war, and a most peaceful and
worthy citizen. I Hurrying to the scene of the crime, McKenna
addressed himself to " Powder Keg" Carrigan, the body-master
of that patch. The way in which Carrigan earned his sobriquet of "Powder
Keg" well illustrates his character. Some years before, while working
in a mine at Beckville, he had come into the slope one cold morning when
the men were crowding around a huge salamander heaped with burning coals.
He carried on his shoulder a keg of powder, and, seeing that there was
no place for him at the fire, he leaned over the circle formed by his comfortable
comrades, and, placing the keg of powder on the red-hot coals, remarked
"As long as you boys won't move, I'll have to make
a place for myself."
The men scattered in terror right and left, whereupon
Carrigan coolly lifted the keg of powder off the salamander, sat down upon
it, lit his pipe, and began smoking.
McKenna was not long in learning that "Powder Keg"
himself was the man at whose instigation the murder had been committed.
Carrigan explained to him that they had killed the wrong man, his grievance
having been not against Yost, but against another policeman, Bernard McCarron,
who had aroused "Powder Keg's" enmity years before by frequently
arresting him for disorderly conduct. Carrigan nursed the memory of this
treatment, and when he had became a body-master at once proceeded to arrange
for the killing of McCarron. Having applied to Alexander Campbell, the
body-master of Landsford, Carbon County, as was customary, for two men
to do a " clean job," he brought the men to a retired spot on
McCarron's beat. Later in the night, when a policeman passed by, the two
men shot him, according to orders, and then started for their homes. But
on that night McCarron had exchanged beats with Yost, who accordingly came
to a violent death, although neither the Mollys nor anyone else in the
region had any but kind feelings toward him. Carrigan showed McKenna the
revolver, a weapon of thirty-two caliber, with which the policeman had
been killed, and explained that it had been borrowed from a Molly named
Roarity by the two men, Hugh McGehan and James Doyle, who with others had
done the murder. McGehan was the man who-fired the fatal shot. McKenna
secured the names of every man concerned in the crime, and ultimately,
on his evidence, it was punished by the hanging, in Pottsville, of Hugh
McGehan, Thomas Duffy, James Roarity, James Carl, and James Doyle.
Captain J. R. Linden at the present day.
TWO CLAIMANTS OF A REWARD FOR MURDER.
Following closely upon the murder of Yost, there
came in August, 1875, a "Bloody Saturday," as it was called by
the Mollys, when they killed on that one day, Thomas Guyther, a justice
of the peace, at Gerardville, and, at Shenandoah, Gomer James, the same
whose life had been saved a few weeks before by McKenna's intervention.
James was a desperado himself, having some time before, while drunk, shot
down an Irishman named Cosgrove, and this offense the Mollys had sworn
to avenge. Angered by several failures, for which McKenna was responsible,
the Mollys resolved that on this particular Saturday their plans I should
not miscarry. The Shenandoah firemen were giving a banquet in a public
hall, and Gomer James was serving as bartender. A little before midnight,
when the gayety was at its height, Thomas Hurler left his mother, who was
sitting on a bench near the bar, and going up to James ordered
a glass of beer. James served him promptly, whereupon Hurley threw down
a nickel, and lifting the glass in his left hand, pretended to drain it.
but he held a pistol, ready cocked, in the right-hand pocket of his sack
coat, and while the glass was at his lips, he pulled the trigger. Then,
quite unconcerned, he finished his beer, and affected to join in a search
for the murderer. At the time he himself was not suspected, there being
no evidence of his guilt, except an unobserved hole in his coat.
So fierce had been the desire for James's death that Jack
Kehoe, the county delegate, had stated that the order would pay five hundred
dollars to the man who should accomplish it. After the murder, at a meeting
of the officers of the different Molly Maguire lodges of Schuylkill County,
the payment of this reward came under discussion, and it then appeared
that there were two claimants for the reward, Thomas Hurley and John McClaine.
In order to decide between them, a committee of two was appointed; Pat
Butler, a friend of McClaine's, being one, and McKenna himself, who, in
his capacity of acting body-master, had taken a prominent part in the deliberations,
being the other.
The following Sunday, Butler and McKenna met in a secret
resort of the Mollys near Loso Creek, and there listened to the testimony
of the two sides. Hurley made out an overwhelming case in his own favor,
showing the pistol he had used, the hole in his coat through which the
bullet had passed, and, as a culminating argument, bringing forward, triumphantly,
his own mother, who was a willing witness that with her own eyes she had
seen her son commit the murder. In final support of his claim Hurley declared
that if the money was paid to McClaine, he would prove his pretensions
by killing Mclaine on the spot. The money, therefore, was paid to Hurley.
A year later, when McParland, or McKenna, related this
history in the courts, it appeared that Hurley had gone to Colorado, where
he was working as a miner under the name of McCabe. He had left Pennsylvania
hurriedly, after an attempt to kill a saloon-keeper named James Ryle, and
burn his house. Some years later Sheriff Glares of Gunnison County, Colorado,
arrested him for having stabbed a young man named Clines in a fight. He
was arrested as "McCabe," but on information from the East, the
sheriff was able to identify him as Hurley Taking him aside, the sheriff
said, "Your time has come, Tom Hurley! McParland is on his way here
to take you back to Pennsylvania."
"Who is McParland?" demanded Hurley.
"You used to know him as James McKenna."
No sooner had he heard the name than he slipped his hand
under a mattress and pulling out a razor, cut his throat from ear to ear.
As he dropped dying to the floor, he said, " Mac will never get me
A DEMAND MADE ON MCPARLAND TO PROVIDE MEN TO KILL A SUPERINTENDENT.
Shortly after the murder of Policeman Yost, McKenna, as
acting body-master of the Shenandoah lodge, found himself in a most delicate
and dangerous position. Yost had been murdered by men furnished from Lansford
by the body-master there, Alexander Campbell. It was, therefore, Campbell's
right to demand a return of the courtesy, which he did without delay, calling
upon McKenna to furnish men to kill John P. Jones, superintendent of the
Lonsdale Mine, who had refused to obey Campbell's orders, and paid no attention
to several "coffin notices."
In order to gain time McKenna promised to comply with
this request, but kept delaying on one pretext or another, until Campbell,
grown impatient, went to Jack Kehoe, the county delegate, and got him to
send a positive order to McKenna to do a "clean job" on Jones
without delay. McKenna notified Captain Linden and Mr. Franklin, and at
the risk of being killed himself, refused to carry out Kehoe's orders,
feigning a serious illness. Then the order came again, and, to allay suspicion,
he actually started for Tamaqua with several men and several bottles of
whiskey, under the avowed intention of doing the appointed murder. He contrived,
however, to get the men very drunk, and thus the night passed, and early
next morning, leaving his companions in a drunken stupor, he set out for
home, congratulating himself on having again averted a horrible crime.
He had gone but a short distance through the streets of Tamaqua, when a
young man, hatless and greatly excited, came riding into town on a mule
at full gallop. He stopped in front of the City Marshal's office just as
McKenna was passing, and called out:
"A man named John P. Jones was murdered a few
minutes ago, in the presence of three hundred people,—shot down by two
The young man then described the murderers, and McKenna
easily recognized them as a man named Doyle and a man named Kelly.
An angry crowd quickly gathered, and some of them recognizing
in McKenna a Molly Maguire leader, a movement was started forthwith to
lynch him. He showed, however, his usual nerve, and, drawing two revolvers,
walked through the crowd with an air that kept off attack. Although his
best efforts had failed to save Jones's life, he resolved that he would,
at least, secure the capture of the murderers. Going into the Columbia
House he wrote a few words on slips of paper, and then came out and secretly
dropped these slips in conspicuous places. One of them, he observed, was
picked up by a prominent jeweler of the town, who showed it to several
people near him. The words on the slip were:
"Get a spyglass; go to the monument in the Devil's
Cemetery and cover the Bloomingdale Mountain."
The purpose was to give people familiar with the neighboring
country a hint that would put them on the trail which McKenna knew the
guilty men would take on their way from the scene of the crime. Continuing
to watch the jeweler and his neighbors, McKenna saw them provide themselves
with field glasses and a number of rifles, and start for the Devil's Cemetery.
Then he knew that they had understood the hint, as was really the case,
the result being that later in the day Kelly, Doyle, and a third man, Carrigan,
were captured in the mountains while they were eating their lunch and drinking
whiskey beside a spring. Kelly and Doyle were subsequently hanged, and
Carrigan turned State's evidence.
THE MURDER OF THOMAS SANGER AND WILLIAM UREN.
A few days after the murder of Jones, McKenna woke up
one morning at his home in Shenandoah, and discovered a notorious Molly
Maguire, named Mike Doyle, lying on the bed beside him. After the free
and easy manner of the fraternity, Doyle had come in quietly during the
night, and thrown himself on the bed without undressing. McKenna discovered,
also, a thirty-two caliber Smith and Wesson revolver lying on the table,
and asked what it was for. Doyle told him that he had borrowed it from
the constable of Shenandoah, Ed Monagan, and that he was going to Raven
Run to "do a job" with Tom Munley, Jim McAllister, and Charlie
and Jim O'Donnell.
"Who are you going to kill?" asked McKenna.
"I don't know yet," answered Doyle.
Going down into the street, they met O'Donnell, and McKenna
repeated the question to him. But O'Donnell also said he did not know yet.
A few hours later McKenna heard from boasting Mollys that Thomas Sanger
and William Uren, two prominent citizens of Raven Run, had been murdered.
In a trial that followed ultimately, Mr. Gowen, who was
one of the attorneys for the prosecution, gave the following description
of the murder of Sanger:
"What is this case ? On the 1st of September, 1875,
Thomas Sanger, a young English ' boss ' miner, a man between thirty and
forty years of age, left his house in the morning to go to his daily work.
Going forward in the performance of his duty, this man was confronted by
an armed band of five assassins. He was shot in the arm. He turned, stumbled;
and fell hen the foremost of this band came up to him as he lay upon the
ground and discharged his revolver into him. Then another turned him, as
he lay upon his face, over upon his back, so that he could expose a deadly
part for his aim, and with calm deliberation selected a vital spot, and
shot him as he lay prostrate upon the ground. His wife from whom he had
just parted, hearing his cries, rushed out and reached her husband only
in time to hear his last faltering accents:' Kiss me, Sarah, for I am dying."'
Under the indignation aroused by this double murder, a
vigilance committee attacked Charles O'Donnell in his house, shot him,
and hanged his dead body to a tree. By accident they also killed O'Donnell's
sister, who was near her confinement. Later, under the disclosures made
by the detective, Munley and James O'Donnell were arrested, tried, convicted,
MCPARLAND SUSPECTED AND THREATENED BY BOTH SIDES.
Toward the end of 1875, the strain under which McParland
had been working for eighteen months began to tell upon him and he appealed
to Allan Pinkerton to be allowed to strike the final blow. "I am sick
and tired of this work," he said in one of his reports. "I hear
of murder and bloodshed in all directions. The very sun to me looks crimson;
the air is polluted, and the rivers seem running red with human blood.
Something must be done to stop it."
Allan Pinkerton and his assistants, Mr. Franklin and Captain
Linden, had already concluded that the evidence McParland had secured was
sufficient, and steps were forthwith taken to close in on the murderers.
McParland had still, however; many dangers to face; first from fellow members
of he order who were beginning to believe he had played them false, and
then from outraged citizens, who regarded him as a monster of crime whose
unceremonious killing would be a service to the State. One night, in Tamaqua,
bands of armed men searched for him from house to house until morning,
and would certainly have discovered and lynched him, had he not, by pretending
to fall into a drunken sleep, succeeded in remaining all night in the house
of a respectable citizen who was not suspected of harboring him. All the
next day he remained in concealment. But at night he was about to board
a coal train bound for Pottsville, when the pangs of hunger drove him into
a little restaurant near the station to get a cup of coffee. There, as
fate would have it, he came face to face with the man of all others in
Tamaqua most eager for his life, a brother-in-law of the John P. Jones
who had been assassinated shortly before. This man had spent the whole
of the previous night with the party that was searching for him. He recognized
McKenna at once.
"Have a drink," he said gruffly.
"I'm not drinking anything now," said McKenna
"but I'll have a cup of coffee and a sandwich."
"I'm feeling badly," said the man, looking hard
into the detective's face, "and I've made up my mind to kill the first
Irish scoundrel I meet."
"I'm not an Irish scoundrel," said McKenna,
"but I think, to prevent trouble, I'd better kill you right here;"
and into the face of the man who was not feeling well he pushed a revolver.
The invalid dashed into the street, McKenna following. But McKenna soon
returned and finished his coffee, and then by the next coal train went
Jack Kehoe, the county delegate whose influence in the
order was very great, was now busily reporting his suspicion that "James
McKenna" was a detective. To meet this danger McParland boldly went
straight to Kehoe, accused him of treachery and demanded an immediate investigation.
As county delegate, Kehoe instructed McKenna, who was at that time county
secretary, to write notices to all the body-masters in the county to meet
at Shenandoah at a given date, to conduct the investigation. He was writing
the notices in a room over Kehoe's saloon, where Mrs. Kehoe was sewing,
when Kehoe came in suddenly with a glass of soda for his wife, and a hot
whiskey for McKenna. Having placed the two glasses on the table, he left
the room, his manner showing an unusual constraint As soon as he had gone,
Mrs. Kehoe, who was a good woman at heart, and devoted to McKenna, took
up the hot whiskey, threw it into the stove, and then burst into tears.
"What's the matter ? " asked McKenna.
"Don't ask me," said the trembling woman. It
is certain that the whiskey was poisoned. A second attempt to poison McKenna
was made the day before his trial at Shenandoah. He was lifting the drugged
glass to his lips when an instinctive suspicion moved him to set it down.
On the day of the trial Jack Kehoe did not appear. He
was expecting that there would be no trial; for he had engaged sixteen
men to murder McKenna, and had even advanced several of them twenty-five
dollars each for the service. McKenna's life was probably saved by the
personal devotion of a Molly Maguire named Frank McAndrew, who told him
of the plot to kill him, and swore to stand true to him, which he did.
By McAndrew's aid he stole away and returned to Philadelphia, where he
was warmly welcomed by Allan Pinkerton and the president of the Philadelphia
and Reading Railroad, Mr. Gowen, who had entertained grave fears for his
life. And here the services of McParland (alias McKenna) as a detective
in the Molly Maguire cases ended; but he had still a most important service
to render as a witness. At the beginning of his employment it had been
agreed that he was not to be called on to testify in court; not his own
safety only, but the continuation of his work, clearly requiring that he
should not. And for a time the impossibility of getting other testimony
to the crimes which to him were known perfectly, prevented prosecutions.
But now that his real character had been discovered by the desperadoes,
and he could hope no longer to hold their confidence, there remained no
reason why he should not testify.
ARRESTS AND CONVICTIONS.
All being in readiness, on May 6, 1876 a number of arrests
were made, the trials that followed were highly dramatic. Held as they
were at the very centre of the lawless district, there was more or less
danger at persons engaged in them would themselves suffer the fraternity's
vengeance. Under a sense of this danger Mr. Gowen, who himself conducted
the prosecutions, said in one of his speeches to the jury:
"Is there a man in this audience, looking at me now,
and hearing me denounce this association, who longs to point his pistol
at me ? I tell him that he has as good chance here as he will ever have
again. . . . I tell him that if there is another murder in this county,
committed by this organization, every one of the five hundred members of
the order in this county or out of it. who connives at it, will be guilty
of murder in the first degree, and can be hanged by the neck until he is
dead. . . . I tell him that if there is another murder in this county by
this society, there will be an inquisition for blood with which nothing
that has been known in the annals of criminal jurist prudence can compare."
And here he added a cordial tribute to the faithfulness and skill of Detective McParland and
his employer the Pinkerton Agency:
"And to whom are we indebted for this security, of
which I now boast? To whom do we owe all this ? Under the divine providence
of God, to whom be all the honor and all the glory, we owe this safety
to James McParland; and if there ever was a man to whom the people of this
county should erect a monument, it is James McParland the detective. .
. . It is simply a question between the Molly Maguires on the one
side, and Pinkerton's Detective Agency on the other; and I know too well
that Pinkerton's Detective Agency will win. There is not a place on the
habitable globe where these men can find refuge and in which they will
not be tracked down."
The result of the trials—which is to say the result of
McParland's dangerous investigations and subsequent testimony— was the
complete extermination of the order of Molly Maguires. A score or more
of the desperadoes were condemned to longer or shorter terms in the penitentiary.
Nineteen were hanged. Among the latter was Jack Kehoe, who had been among
the first to suspect McParland of being a detective, and had expended all
his power and ingenuity to get him killed and well out of the way.