Mollie Maguires

Who killed Police Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost? A Mollie Maguire Story



    I was born and raised in the Roxborough-Manayunk section of the City of Philadelphia, with a certain identity of a proud German heritage. My family attended to a traditional ethnic German Catholic Church, with German traditions and food. When I answered my nation’s call to service in the military, I was given service orders to Germany, wherein I spent the rest of my three and a half years of my military career. I had a penchant for bratwurst on brotchen, with hot German potato salad. Still do. I eat French fries with mayonnaise, for God’s sake. I had visited the Hessian home of my Great, Great, Great Grandfather, in the small village of Hosenfeld, to understand the background of his emigration to America, in 1847.

    I was always interested in my family’s genealogy. Recent advances in DNA testing allows anyone to test their own DNA with millions of other results, to provide ethnic clarity. I was interested in testing my own DNA to see what genetic makeup was given to me. To my surprise, my results came back as: 66% from Connacht and Donegal, Ireland; 18% Germanic Europe; 14% England & Northwestern Europe; and 2% Scotland.

    Irish! Most of my DNA is Irish! Who knew?!

    That test was taken two years ago. In the meantime, I have delved into my family’s history from the Emerald Island. I knew that a part of my father’s family left from the parish of Killasser, County Mayo in 1889. There are a number of my father’s relatives still living in the same townsland. I have visited them every chance I can get and exchange holiday cards during the Christmas season. But, Donegal. Who from my line was from Donegal?

    In my mother’s family, there is an Irish side. My Great, Grandmother was born into an Irish family. Her name was Mary Boyle. In all of my genealogical research, no one within my family knew anything about her branch of the family tree. Absolutely nothing.

    I am retired, now. Previously, I had worked in the Northampton County (PA) Sheriff’s Department. My last position within the Sheriff’s Department was the Sergeant of the Criminal Division. My responsibilities included finding absconded defendants that the Court of Common Pleas had issued a bench warrant. I was good at tracking people down and arresting them, so that they would have their day in court. I transferred those skillsets to my hobby of genealogy.

    Through due diligence and tenacity, I traced my Great, Grandmother, Mary Boyle’s family, not from Philadelphia, but to a small borough in the coal region of Pennsylvania. My Great, Grandmother was born May 7th, 1863 in Lansford, Carbon County, Pennsylvania. Her immigrant parents, Frank Boyle and Mary Givens lived with Frank’s widowed mother, Margaret Boyle on West Bertsch Street, within the Borough of Lansford. This was known as the Storm Hill section of Lansford, before the borough was incorporated. My Great, Great, Great Grandmother, Margaret Boyle maintained a boarding house to make ends meet during the rough years between the 1860’s and 1870’s. Her husband, Patrick had died shortly after arriving in America, leaving her to raise my Great, Great Grandfather, Frank and his younger brother, Patrick.

    Margaret had rented the house from her brother-in-law, Dennis Boyle, who had lived next door. The progenitor of the Boyle family, my 4th Great Grandparents, Patrick and Hannah (nee Sharpe) Boyle lived on the opposite side, next door to their son, Dennis. An additional sister to Dennis, her name was Ann (nee Boyle), married Charles O’Donnell and lived next to Patrick and Hannah Boyle. So, within four contiguous homes, the Boyle’s from County Donegal had settled.

                        West Bertsch Street near the intersection of Sharpe Street in 1875 (Beers)

    Dennis Boyle married Margaret Gallagher and begot five children: Bridget, John, James, Mary and Anna. Researching these children began my current quest and the reason for this investigation. Dennis and Margaret’s third child was James Boyle. Born in the Storm Hill section of Lansford in 1856, I found out that James died on June 21, 1877, from the hangman’s noose in Schuylkill County Prison. He was convicted of the murder of a police officer in the Borough of Tamaqua, five and a half miles from his homestead. I later understood, that this murder was one of many alleged crimes designed and perpetrated by the Molly Maguires.

    This fascinated my imagination. A member within my family, convicted of murder, given the death sentence and forever labeled a Molly Maguire. I needed to know more. I grabbed every source of information that I could find on the Molly Maguires. However, the more I read of the confrontation between the Molly Maguires and the Coal Companies, that ran daily life in the coal region, the more I found inconsistencies within the evidence provided at the trial of James Boyle and others that were convicted alongside him. These inconsistencies needed to be explored and vetted, so that a complete picture of the murder of Officer Yost can be put into perspective.

    The story of the murder was first told by the local newspapers that were under the influence of Franklin Gowen, Asa Packer and Charles Parrish. Each of these men where the oligarchs of the coal region of Pennsylvania. Franklin Gowen had owned the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad which also included mine operations in the region. Asa Packer owned the Lehigh Valley Railroad along with vast coal mine operations. Lastly, Charles Parrish was the owner of Lehigh Valley & Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, among other coal operation assets. The social/political influence of these three monopolists upon the daily lives and thoughts of thousands of mine workers was exasperated by the journalists who campaigned for the coal companies against the mine workers.

    Finding contemporary accounts of the murder was difficult, if not impossible, for many original sources were missing. Original court proceedings are missing within the confines of the archives of Schuylkill County. I had to rely upon other sources to understand, what had actually occurred on the corner of Lehigh and Broad Streets of Tamaqua on that fateful night of July 6th, 1875, when Officer Yost lost his life. As a former law enforcement officer, I had come to suspect the narrative set forth by the prosecution in the case, because of inconsistencies in the evidence presented.

    That is the journey, I would like to take in the succeeding pages. I would not allow the contemporary narrative dictate the events of that night, nearly 140 years ago. I would collect whatever evidence I could, to piece together a more truthful and accurate portrayal of that murder. If the evidence was consistent with the conviction of James Boyle being one of the murderers, then so be it. If the evidence pointed in another direction, than who killed Officer Yost?


Chapter 1 - Initial Pinkerton Story

            Allan Pinkerton, the owner of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency, entered into a contract with Franklin B. Gowen, the president of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad to investigate mine workers union activities against Gowen’s company’s mining interests in Pennsylvania’s anthracite region. Pinkerton had hired an undercover detective, James McParland to uncover the crimes and damage to collieries. The following account was published by Pinkerton just before the “Day of the Rope”. This is only an excerpt of the story regarding the murder of Police Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost of the Tamaqua Police Department.

“On the night of the 5th, or rather the morning of the 6th of July, 1875, one of the most atrocious crimes committed by this crime-dyed organization was perpetrated at Tamaqua, in the killing of Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost, while at his post of duty, by a couple of hired assassins accompanied by and under the guidance of one of the most notorious of the Molly Maguires, the now, widely-known and generally despised “Squealer, Jimmy Kerrigan.

            The facts of the case as nearly as they can be gotten at in the light of evidence given at the trial of the Yost murderers, are though condensed as much as possible in this narrative, substantially as follows:

            James Kerrigan, a resident of Tamaqua, and what is called a “Body Master” or presiding officer in the Molly Maguires, as became his office was a habitual brawler, a drunken vagabond who by virtue of the position he filled, though small in stature and naturally a coward, was withal a terror to the citizens of the town. He was continually getting into trouble, and his presence as a consequence graced the police court more frequently than did that of any other man in the borough. Officer Yost had arrested Kerrigan so often that he became tired of the job and often so expressed himself, but Jimmy remained the same inexplicable enigma. No sooner would he be out of one trouble than he would slip into another. At length one evening he and a man named Duffy, another sweet-scented scoundrel who was a resident of Reevesdale, a small mining village about two miles west of Tamaqua, met in Tamaqua and a drinking bout, in which they became intoxicated, ensued. While making their devious tour of the town they came across an inoffensive young man named Flynn, and as was their custom, first grossly insulted him and then assaulted him; the assailed man hurried away in the direction of his boarding place, the United States Hotel, followed by his assailants. Upon reaching the porch of the hotel his pursuers caught up to him and commenced an unmerciful attack upon him.

            Flynn being a lithe, wiry man defended himself to the best advantage possible with his hands for a time, but at last being knocked down, he drew a small pen-knife from his pocket and inflicted pretty severe punishment in the shape of stab wounds upon the face of Kerrigan. While this was going on Officer Yost appeared upon the scene and arrested Duffy, in making the arrest striking him over the head with his baton or club. Officer McCarron of the same force arrived immediately afterward and arrested Kerrigan, and the two desperados were marched away to the lockup, where they were confined until next morning, when they were released upon payment of costs.

            This was the beginning of the end. Duffy swore vengeance against Yost, and the preliminaries for his murder were entered into between Duffy, Kerrigan, a saloon-keeper named Carroll and a man named Roarty. The plot thickened rapidly, parties were chosen to commit the crime and the price offered and accepted by the contracting party, ($10.00 being the amount offered for the taking of a human life) and all things made in readiness for the commission of the outrage when the opportunity should offer.

            Yost was a doomed man, and though all unconscious of his impending fate it was as certain as he was a living man, for the edicts of the Body Master of the Mollies are as fixed and unalterable as were the laws of the Medes and Persians.

            The 5th of July arrived. A picnic was held outside of the borough, and a day of hilarity and pleasure was followed by the inevitable knockdown and drag-out manner of the Mollies in settling difficulties. In this afterwards learned, was to assassinate Yost, melee a man named McGeehan, who, it was one of the participants. The trouble at the grounds was finally settled and the whole party returned to Tamaqua, the conspirators repairing to the saloon of Carroll and commenced comparing notes as to the best plan to pursue in carrying out the details of their nefarious scheme. McGeehan and Boyle were to be the assassins. Roarty’s pistol, a most murderous looking weapon and warranted sure was given to McGeehan, and Carroll presented Boyle with a single barreled pistol which was not considered reliable, but would suit in a pinch. The parties then continued carousing in Carroll’s saloon until about 1 o’clock in the morning, when, under the lead of Kerrigan, they sought the appointed spot near the Cemetery, and then seated themselves to await the approach of their victim, who they knew would be obliged to come there for the purpose of extinguishing a street lamp, the last on his route, before retiring to his home, which was about seventy-five yards away.

            Time wore on until somewhere about 2 o’clock in the morning, when the conspirators heard the footsteps of Yost and his brother officer McCarron, approaching the fatal lamp, McCarron, turned down the street and Yost crossed over to the lamppost and placed his ladder against it. While this was being done, the murderers stealthily approached under cover of the shade trees which lined the sidewalk at that point, to about two yards of the victim, the wily Kerrigan remaining about thirty yards behind, and as the officer stepped upon the ladder, they fired simultaneously and Yost fell to the ground mortally wounded, while the cowardly wretches turned and fled back toward the cemetery accompanied in their flight by the Body Master Kerrigan, and all three made their escape, though Officer McCarron, when he heard the shots fired at Yost, turned and pursued the murderers, firing two shots after them, one of which was returned by the fugitives, none of them taking effect. McCarron seeing that pursuit unaccompanied by help would be useless, returned to his wounded comrade whom he found lying on the sidewalk, and who said, “My God, my wife, I’m shot.” Mrs. Yost, the wife of the officer, having by this time arrived, she assisted Mr. McCarron to take him to the house, but the wounded man pleading for a physician, they laid him on the sidewalk and McCarron hurried for medical attendance which was promptly rendered by Dr. Solliday.

                                            Tamaqua Police Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost

            The wounded man lingered in great pain for several hours, and then expired in the arms of the wife he had left in the full vigor of manhood such a short time before.

            Though he described the men as one being large and the other not so large, he could not identify either of them, and another case of murder most foul was involved in mystery; but “though the mills of the gods grind slowly they grind exceedingly fine,” and as the sequel will show, in due course the assassins were arrested.

            Of course the town, next morning, was thrown into the greatest excitement; everybody suspected Kerrigan, but so carefully had he matured his plans, and so adroitly had he managed the escape of his co-conspirators that nothing definite could be effected, and the community, contented to wait and hope for deliverance from the baneful effects of the Society which they knew to be in their midst and which, like the Upas which poisons and blights all which comes in contact with it, was working death and desolation and misery all around them, settled down to their wonted inactivity.

            Poor Yost was buried, followed to the grave by sorrowing relatives and sympathetic friends, and as the grave closed over the remains, many a prayer for his eternal happiness was offered up to the throne of Grace, and many a malediction was heaped upon the cowardly wretches who compassed his taking off.

            There was one, however, who was not inactive in the general inactivity. Mr. Shepp, a merchant of Tamaqua and a brother-in-law of Yost, at once visited Philadelphia and arranged for the services of a detective who was at once dispatched to the Coal regions, and who so thoroughly performed his work that he may be called the Nemesis of the Mollies, and to his untowered and untiring exertions are we indebted for the details which will follow in the evidence on the different cases submitted to the reader at the close of this volume.”

            Daniel Shepp had lived next door to his brother-in-law, Benjamin and Henrietta (nee Wertman) Yost, on South Lehigh Street. He was one of the leading businessmen, the wealthiest and most prominent citizen in the Borough of Tamaqua, having acquired a colliery and presiding as the President of the Tamaqua Banking and Trust Company. Just prior to the assassination of Officer Yost, Shepp had lost a coal breaker from arson, allegedly set on fire by the Molly Maguires during the long strike of 1875. This egregious crime angered Shepp and would sway his opinion of the Molly Maguires to come. Ironically, one of Daniel Shepp’s friends was none other than James Kerrigan. This relationship will have consequences later and make an impact on Kerrigan’s confession to authorities.

            Daniel Shepp visited the Philadelphia Office of Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency. There, he spoke with the Superintendent of that office, Benjamin Franklin. He was there to obtain the services of the Detective Agency. Fortuitously, for Superintendent Franklin and the Pinkertons, Shepp asked for assistance in solving the crimes in Tamaqua that also paralleled their investigations in the alleged crimes of the Molly Maguires. Mr. Shepp will be further examined because of his leadership in the Tamaqua Vigilance Committee, as well as his relationship with James Kerrigan, which has never been fully reconciled.


Chapter 2 - The Long Strike of 1875

            In the month of December, 1874, Franklin Gowen and the other mine owners collaborated in offering to the newly formed miner’s union, the Workingmen’s Benevolent Association, a drastic cut in pay. The coal miners denounced the cut in pay, deciding to strike against the mine owners instead. The strike, lasting until June the following year, had devastating effects upon the miners and their families. Many families went without food, for months. There were also riots and demonstrations, by the miners, against the mine owner’s operations. Strikebreakers were often assaulted by the striking miners, in order to induce a uniform strategy of shutting down all coal mining operations.

            During the murder trial, the prosecution brought into evidence that Hugh McGeehan was in Tamaqua at the head of a parade. He was the leader of a procession who came to that town when there was a strike of the laboring men, and it is not improbable that Mr. Yost, as a policeman, saw McGeehan (West, page 18).

A contemporary newspaper described the demonstration on April 6th, 1875:  “At noon today a large body of miners from Summit Hill collieries arrived in Tamaqua and made a street demonstration. They were headed by a solitary drummer and a man carrying an American flag. Every person carried a heavy cudgel and looked as if prepared for business. The object of the display was to induce the men working at Colonel Cake’s Philadelphia breaker to strike. The appearance of the strikers made considerable excitement in the town, and the Lehigh men were greeted in a loyal manner by the Schuylkill brethren. Four hundred miners paraded the streets today at Tamaqua. They went to the mines located near this town and found that the men had all quit work. They fired their revolvers in the air and informed the proprietors that they had no objection to coal being mined for the town’s own consumption, but none should be shipped abroad, which was agreed to. They made no disturbance and conducted themselves quietly.”

            So, herein, we have evidence that definitively, Hugh McGeehan, and most probably, James Boyle, participated as leaders of demonstrations against the collieries in the Tamaqua area, including that of Shepp’s colliery. In some demonstrations, Robert Linden, Pinkerton Supervisor, Detective McParland’s secret contact and Captain of the Coal and Iron Police, utilized the Coal and Iron Police to protect collieries from such demonstrations and riots. The identification of the leaders of the demonstrations, reinforced the Coal Companies’ theory that these Irishmen were part of the Molly Maguires conspiracy. During some of these riots, colliery guards were severely beaten and injured. Strikebreakers or scabs were dealt with accordingly, as well.

This violence cannot be denied. But does this retribution to perceived injustice to the coal miners relate to the prosecution of the murder of this police officer? There is no evidence, presented from either side, that the murder of Officer Yost is related to coal operations or the long strike.


Chapter 3 - The Deceased Officer

            Benjamin Franklin Yost was born on May 24, 1841, one of six children of his parents, Benjamin and Mary (nee Stamm) Yost. His siblings were Sarah, Mary, Caroline, Amanda and Catharine. He had recently married his young wife, Henrietta Wertmann, the daughter of Elias and Catherine (nee Boyer) Wertmann, who became a widow at the age of fourteen.

            The funeral of Officer Yost is described by the newspaper The Tamaqua Item, with the following account:  The funeral of the late officer B. F. Yost took place this afternoon and was one of the most largely attended and most solemn and impressive ceremonies of the kind that have taken place in our city in a long time. Business was entirely suspended during the afternoon, and our citizens seemed anxious to testify in every way possible their respect for the deceased and their sorrow and indignation at the brutal manner in which he was hurried into eternity. The deceased had served honorably through the war in Company I, 48th P.V., and the ex-soldiers of our city turned out in strong force to pay the last sad honors to their departed comrade. A meeting of the soldiers was held at the U.S. Hotel last evening, at which a firing squad was detailed, and all arrangements made to carry out the military portion of the ceremonies properly. Accordingly at one o’clock the soldiers formed at the U.S. Hotel, and headed by the Pennsylvania Silver Cornet Band, the services of which had been very kindly volunteered for the occasion, marched to the late residence of the deceased on South Lehigh Street.

            After appropriate religious services at the house the remains were brought out and the funeral cortege formed in the following order: Detachments of Police Force of Pottsville, Mahanoy City, Tamaqua, and the Coal and Iron Police; Pennsylvania Silver Cornet Band; Firing Squad of Returned Soldiers in Uniform; Returned Soldiers in a body, carrying Stars and Stripes and Battle-torn Flags of 48th P.V.; Washington Camp No. 100, Patriotic Order Sons of America; Washington Camp No. 57, Patriotic Order Sons of America; Town Council; Detachment of City Fire Department; Clergymen; Hearse, with Coffin – Draped with American Flag, and flanked by six pall bearers; Comrades of the deceased in the 48th P.V.; Family and Relatives; Friends and citizens generally.

            The procession, which was a very large one, moved in this order to Odd Fellows’ Cemetery, where appropriate religious services were held, followed by the beautiful and touching burial service of the Patriotic Order Sons of America, after which the soldiers fired their three volleys over the grave of their departed comrade, and all that was mortal of the martyred officer was laid to its final rest.

The procession then again formed in the same order and proceeded down Broad Street to the M.E. church, where the customary services were held, and solemn and affecting funeral discourses were delivered by Rev. Mr. Kline, of Schuylkill Haven, in German, and Rev. G. Oram, of this city, in English.

            On February 12, 1880, Henrietta Yost married William Bailey, a photographer, who had worked at his father’s studio in Tamaqua. They were quick to start a family, with children – Herbert (1880), Estella (1882) and Earl (1886). Sometime prior to 1892, William and Henrietta Bailey relocated to Columbia, Lancaster County. Henrietta passed away in 1924, at the age of 64.


Chapter 4 - The Accused and the AOH

            On February 4, 1876, nearly six months after the murder of Officer Yost, Captain Robert Linden and a contingent of the coal and iron police arrested Hugh McGeehan of Summit Hill, James Boyle of Lansford, James Roarty of Coaldale, James Carroll of Tamaqua and Thomas Duffy of Reevesdale. McGeehan and Boyle were accused of the shooting, while Roarty, Carroll and Duffy were charged with accessories to the murder.

            Hugh McGeehan was born in 1852 to his parents, James and Mary McGeehan of Glenfin, Donegal, Ireland. His younger sister, Margaret, was born October, 5 1858. He and his sister, both left Donegal, sometime after 1870, to later settle in the boarding home of Margaret Boyle, on West Bertsch Street, in the Storm Hill section of Lansford, Pennsylvania. He had initially worked in the coal mines of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company before the long strike of 1875. McGeehan had become a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians during this time, becoming an outspoken member, often leading the marches of the striking coal miners. This labor activism is what eventually got him blacklisted, wherein, he could no longer work as a miner.

            Robert Linden had described Hugh McGeehan to Allan Pinkerton in a report in 1875, as being:  about 24 years of age, well, but not stout built, weighs about 178 pounds, light complexion, light hair, smooth face, blue eyes, broad flat nose, large white teeth, which he shows plainly in laughing, looks like a Scotchman, wore a Scotch cap, blue sack coat, black vest, light drab pants, white shirt, wears a society badge on left lapel of vest, has a long scar on left hand running diagonally towards the wrist.

            On August 9th, 1875, not being able to ascertain work in the coal mines, Pinkerton Detective James McParland joins McGeehan and Alex Campbell at Ambrosher’s Saloon for a drink. Campbell tell McParland that he is there to help McGeehan get a liquor license to open a saloon. On August 14th, 1875, Hugh McGeehan opens a tavern in Summit Hill, in a building leased from Nathan Clouse. On January 9th, 1876, Hugh McGeehan marries Maria Duggan, in St. Joseph’s Church, in Summit Hill, witnessed by James Walsh and Maria McGee. Unfortunately, not long after, McGeehan is arrested for the murder of Yost. His wife, Maria does not outlive her husband for too long, for in September, of 1879, she dies from Consumption (Tuberculosis) in Lansford, leaving no issue. Hugh McGeehan’s sister, Margaret, had married the widow Margaret Boyle’s son, Patrick F. Boyle in 1875. They had five children: Ellen, James, Mary, Sarah and Margaret.

            James Boyle was born in Lansford, Pennsylvania, in 1856, of two immigrant parents from Donegal, Ireland, Dennis Boyle and Margaret Gallagher. Both he and his older brother, John (Jack) were listed as active members of the AOH in Storm Hill. Jack was listed as the Secretary to the Storm Hill AOH, which would have required his ability to both read and write. James Boyle was twenty-one years of age when arrested for the murder of Yost and single. Neighbors were astonished by his arrest. He was the best looking prisoner in the County Jail (Barrett, page 63).

            When the murder trial was in session, a newspaper reporter wrote, “Looking at Boyle as he sat facing Kerrigan testify against Boyle, we wondered that if it were possible that such a manly, handsome-looking specimen of manhood could possibly be guilty of the terrible crime of murder, and we concluded in our own mind that if the evidence against him was not simply conclusive, that we would be induced mentally to give him the benefit of the doubt, for a more happily innocent-looking face we never saw occupy such an unfortunate position.” (Barrett, page 63).

                                                                        James Boyle

James Roarity

Thomas Duffy


Chapter 5 - Kerrigan’s Initial Confession

            According to the author, Arthur H. Lewis’ interview with Mrs. Isabelle Wilford, the granddaughter of Daniel Shepp, James McParland had visited her grandfather, at his residence, on or about, late evening, January 27, 1876. “My grandfather, Dan Shepp was used to all kinds of shocks. But he often told mother the biggest shock he ever got was the night he heard somebody banging on the front door and when he went down in his night clothes, lantern in one hand and pistol in the other, found ‘McKenna the Molly’ standing there.”

            “What the hell do you want, McKenna?” my grandfather asked.

            “I want to come in and talk to you,” he answered.

            “At this hour?” and when he nodded his head, my grandfather said, “All right. Put your hands over your head and walk in but don’t try any tricks. I’d just as soon shoot you as any other rat.”

            It took McParland a while to convince Shepp that he actually was a detective and not ‘McKenna the Molly’ (Lewis, page 206-207).

            McParland was given a message by Mrs. Fannie Kerrigan, who had intimated that her husband would talk to Mr. Shepp. Kerrigan wanted to bargain for a confession. As for price, both McParland and Shepp agreed that what Kerrigan would want in payment was his life, whatever that might be worth once it became known he was an informer (Lewis, page 207). Shepp was summoned by Sheriff Breneiser to Carbon County Prison, in the early morning hours of January 28th,, 1876.

                                                                    James Kerrigan

            Kerrigan, in this first of many subsequent confessions, cleverly avoided direct involvement in any murder. His role, one which he never dropped, was that of an almost innocent bystander, drawn unwittingly into the Brotherhood, afraid for his life and that of his family if he should reveal secrets of the Molly Maguires or any of their crimes, or resign from the Order (Lewis, page 209). Shepp had promised Kerrigan nothing except his pledge to impress the district attorney with Kerrigan’s “sincerity” and perhaps “a return of the favor”. Shepp then called Sheriff Breneiser, who summoned the district attorney and Mr. Hughes, and handed them Kerrigan’s signed confession, a portion of which follows:

            I, James Carrigan voluntarily makes the following statement and says he will reveal all he knows in regard to the murder of B.F. Yost and John P. Jones and says Hugh McGeehan of Summit Hill and James Boyle works at No. 5 are the men that murdered B.F. Yost on the night of the 5th of July, 1875. James Boyle is a man not much taller than I am, wears a dark mustache. Hugh McGeehan keeps a saloon on Summit Hill. I did not see the shooting but those men told me themselves. Thomas Duffy was to pay Boyle and McGeehan for shooting B.F. Yost. James Carroll gave the pistol to shoot Yost with. Thomas Duffy stayed all night at James Carroll’s house. You mind the time B.F. Yost prosecuted Duffy, I told him I did. Well, John Slatty came to you to settle it, I told him, yes (Lewis, page 210).

            Once the Carbon County District Attorney Edward R. Siewers had Kerrigan’s initial confession, he instructed the Sheriff to keep Kerrigan in the warden’s quarters under twenty-four hour protection, instead of the general population of the jail. Kerrigan had stayed a guest in the warden’s quarters until he was released from jail.

                                                            Carbon County Prison

In the prosecution’s closing argument at the trial, Francis Hughes, Esq., submits to the court and addresses the inconsistencies of Kerrigan’s habeas corpus hearing to the criminal trial testimony, rather convolutedly. “My friend, Mr. Bartholomew says that when Kerrigan gave his testimony on the habeas corpus hearing, that he skipped over that part of the history of his connection with the murder of Yost that relate to what occurred between the time when he left Carroll’s house that night, and when he met the prisoners some time after this, when they narrated to him the history of the murder. That is true, he did. Kerrigan simply said that he left there that night, and the first he heard of the murder was some two or three weeks afterward, when he got the history of it from these prisoners.” (West, page 67).

Therefore, within one week of Kerrigan’s original habeas corpus hearing and the arrest of the defendants of the murder of Benjamin Yost, the sworn testimony of Kerrigan changes from being absent from the scene of the murder and hearing a confession from two of the defendants, two weeks later; to being present at the scene of the murder and assisting in the getaway of the murderers.


Chapter 6 - Kerrigan’s Testimony

            Kerrigan’s manner betrayed a great deal of nervousness, whether the result of his long sojourn in jail or arising from the position he found himself in. He was evidently anxious to screen himself and at the same time seemed to wish to damage the case of the prisoners. His testimony was very important in its corroboration of McParland, and undoubtedly did damage the case of the defense. Kerrigan interlaced his testimony at times rather copiously with profanity, and was rebuked by Judge Pershing. His queer language caused a good deal of laughter. He was escorted to and from jail by a large force of police, as a measure of precaution. He said, in substance:

            “I live in Tamaqua; have lived there between six and seven years, as near as I can think; I knew the defendants here, Hugh McGeehan, Thomas Duffy, James Boyle, James Roarity, and James Carroll; I knew Benjamin F. Yost between nine and ten months, I think; sometime in the Fall or Winter of 1874 (the Winter before Yost was killed) I was present when a difficulty occurred between him and Thomas Duffy. The first time I met Thomas Duffy at the corner between the United States Hotel and the Columbia House, and Thomas Duffy called Yost a Dutch son of a bitch. I was with him, and Yost said to me to take him away. Then Duffy and I started off, and I did the best I could to take him away, but Duffy ran around the Columbia House and came back again, and Yost said if I did not take him away he would hurt him, so we got him away that night. Another night I was taking Tom Pursell home, and he was tight. We got him home, and we were coming down the street, and Duffy was with me, and then a fellow by the name of Flynn was coming up from Frackville that way and he halloaed that he was “an Irish navigator,” and Duffy ran after him, and Barney McCarron and Yost was there. Then we all had some words, and so McCarron held me while Flynn was putting the knife to me. Then he searched me to see if I had any weapons, but did not get none. Then McCarron took Duffy to the lockup and then took me to Doctor Goulden that I might get sewed up. I did not know the next morning that Duffy was beat, or anything. I found that out by James Carroll, who came to my house.”

                            James Kerrigan after his release from Carbon County Prison

            “The next place I saw Duffy was in Squire Lebo’s office. He said: “Never mind; for what we have suffered we will make Yost’s head softer than his ass.” He showed me his forehead, where Yost had hit him; he had a large plaster on his head where he was beat. He said that Yost had done it. At another time he told me, down in Tom Carroll’s, that he had a notion to go and shoot Yost himself, him and Mickey Campbell, at the Run, and Jim Carroll said he had better leave it alone as he was well known, and as Mickey did not belong to the organization, it might not be safe to do it, and he said: “Never mind; we will pay a couple of strangers to do it.” Thomas Duffy told me that in Jim Carroll’s house in the presence of Carroll. This was somewhere about the first of June, 1875. I think about the middle of June, I came down on the street, and, as I was going down by the Columbia House, on Broad Street, in Tamaqua, I was going over past James Carroll’s, and Thomas Duffy and James Roarity was standing on James Carroll’s stoop, talking, - I mean Thomas Duffy and James Roarity, these prisoners. I came up and the words I says was: “Well, blackguards, how are yez making it?” That was just the words I said to them, and they said, “Good.” So I went on, and I said: “What are yez stopping at now?” and Duffy then told Roarity he would give him ten dollars to put Yost out of the road. “I will,” said Roarity, “and you can bet on that, and if I do not do it myself, I will get two men that will do it.” Then we went in there, and Duffy made the remark that he was working a night shift, and he would send good men who would come and do the work, and, he was going out, Duffy says: “Now you attend to that, and if I don’t do it myself, I will get somebody that will do it.”

            Well, on the 5th of July last, I was in Tamaqua. The band was playing upon the hill up where I lived, between 4 and 5 o’clock in the morning, and the cannon was firing off, and I got up between4 and 5 o’clock and went down to where the band was playing, and my two little boys was with me and I sat there, and when the band was done playing, I went down town and sent the two little boys home. I went down town before breakfast, and the two little fellows asked me if I would not bring them up some shooting crackers and I said that when I went down town, I would do it. So I went down town and staid around awhile, and went about the street, and the first drink that I had that day was with George Boyle and Barney McCarron; and I had it in the Columbia House. Me and Boyle was standing by the Columbia House and Barney McCarron came along and we had a drink. So from there I went over to James Carroll’s, and me and James Carroll had another drink. I treated, and he treated, and from there I went up home. I met a man named William Cresson. He was tight, and I went home and had breakfast, and sat outside on the porch, with the two little fellows, showing them how to fire off the shooting crackers. Then I laid down awhile on the floor. I got up then, and I took a walk by the cemetery over to the picnic. That was up toward Newkirk. I had a bit of a cane in my hand; I didn’t go into the picnic ground, but I staid under the shade of the trees, and after that I came away down again, and I met Roarity between the Columbia House and the United States Hotel, and he says to me: “Where have you been all the morning?” and I says, “I went down town early this morning, and went home and laid down, and so,” says I, “let’s go down to Carroll’s, and we will have a drink.” “All right,” says he, and we went down to Carroll’s and had a drink there. I think that night between eleven and twelve o’clock, or one, I would not be positive about the time, but it was somewhere about that neighborhood.

            So we had a drink. I treated, and he treated, and Jim Carroll treated, and Roarity says to me: “Come over to Storm Hill.” “Oh no,” says I, “it’s too hot, and I have got no money to spend to go over.” “Come to Campbell’s,” he says; “No, I won’t” says I. And says he, “If you will come over to Storm Hill,” says he, “I will be over tonight with you again.” Says I, “No, I have no money to spend.” And then Carroll says, “Go on with him, and there is two dollars for you to spend.” And he gave me the money. So I went on with Roarity, and we went to Alexander Campbell’s, and when we got to Alexander Campbell’s there was some other man in the bar-room; I can’t tell who it was. Roarity says, “Campbell, did you see Hugh McGeehan and Mulhall here today?” “No,” says Campbell, “very likely they’re in Chunk, or on the Hill.” Says Roarity: “I am going up to see them.” Roarity started off and left me in Campbell’s and before he got back there was word come to Aleck Campbell to tell Roarity that his wife was sick. He was not there when the word was left. He came back and went home when he heard it. That might be about 5 o’clock, or something like that – in the neighborhood of it.

            On the road going to Storm Hill, Roarity told me that he had Tom Mulhall and Hugh McGeehan to go and shoot Yost that night, and he was going to go along and show them the road.

            When he got to Campbell’s he inquired from Campbell whether Tom Mulhall and Hugh McGeehan had been there, and Campbell said they were not. After Campbell told him that the men were not there he went to find them. When he came back he said to Campbell that he had seen them on the Hill. Campbell gave him the word then, and he went home, and I did not see him after that.

            I think it was about half past five or so when I left Campbell’s, and I reached home about fifteen or twenty minutes after seven o’clock. Between 9 and 10 o’clock, I went down to Jim Carroll’s; Davy Davis and Owen James and some other men were in the bar-room. I could not recognize who they were, but they were sitting on the chairs, Davy Davis was drunk and Owen James was very drunk. They had their glasses set on the bar, and they were drinking, and some other men were sitting on the chairs, but I could not recognize who they were. The bar-room in Carroll’s and the kitchen is on the one floor, and both doors face one another; when there was nobody in the bar-room I used to go into the kitchen, and I walked into the kitchen this night and the door was half closed. Hugh McGeehan sat in the rocking chair in the kitchen and Thomas Duffy stood beside him and James Carroll and James Boyle were there, and I went in; I said: “How are you making out,” and they answered me: “All right;” and James Carroll got up and walked out. Then we all got up and walked out on the stoop, and they sat down; and Davy Davis was there when I passed out. We went on the stoop, and Jim Carroll came up to the stoop from the direction of Herron’s saloon and said he: “I can’t get none.” He said it to James Boyle and Hugh McGeehan and Thomas Duffy, and I was present there. He sat down on the stoop, put his hand into his vest pocket, took a quarter and says to me, “Jimmy, go over to Patrick Nolan’s and say that you want the loan of his pistol for a man that has to go over to Mauch Chunk. I went over to Nolan’s, and there was no one in Nolan’s but a man named Patrick Coleman, and Nolan and his wife. I called Nolan to one side, and asked him if he could loan me his revolver to give to a man who was going to Mauch Chunk or Summit Hill, and he said that he had none, for he had loaned his away. I came out from where I had called him aside and spent the quarter. I took beer and Coleman took something out of a bottle, whether whiskey or not, I do not know, and Nolan took a drink with me.

            I came back to them again at Carroll’s, and told them I could not get any from Nolan; that he had none.

            I says to them: “What are you going to do?” Duffy made some remark about they were going to get Yost “put out of the road.” I said to them: “You had better leave that alone. Now drop it. I might be blamed for that, for Barney McCarron and me had a fuss sometime before, and I think you had better drop that, or I will get blamed for it.” With that Hugh McGeehan and Boyle got up, and whether it was Boyle or Hugh McGeehan who said it, I could not say, but one of them said: “By their God, they come three times to Tamaqua to do the job and they were disappointed and by their God, they would not go home that night until they did do it.” Them was the words.

            So, then, James Carroll, when he said these words, was making for the bar-room door, and then all got up and they went in. McGeehan says: “I am all right, I have got a five shooter; I have got Roarity’s pistol.” I saw it in his hand; I knowed the pistol. Then we all went into the bar-room, and James Carroll went behind his bar, and he pulled out a drawer that he had there for putting his scraps in, or whatever it is, and pulled out a single barreled pistol, a breech loader; and he made the remark that he only had one ball. I seen him put the ball into the pistol, and he loaded it and gave it to Boyle, and Boyle put it in his pocket; and he made the remark to Boyle; “It is a poor thing to do a job like that with; if I had a good blackjack I would give it to you along with it. Then they allowed that Roarity could not come along, that he had to stay home because his wife was sick, and that Campbell told them that Carroll should get somebody to show them the road. McGeehan said that they wanted to know the old Mauch Chunk road, for they wanted to go that way after they would do it. So Carroll said he did not know who would show them the road except me, for he said that Duffy would have to stay there all night, so that he and his wife could swear that Duffy knew nothing about it. Says I: “If I go with them to show them the road I will be blamed for it.” Says Carroll: “It will be late, and nobody will know.” I said I did not care. I would show them the road after they would shoot him. Duffy took them up the railroad up by the depot, up by the back way to the head of town, and left them at the cemetery. I told them I would meet them at the cemetery, and after that I went up to the Columbia House, and left them there. I stood at the Columbia House and looked into the windows, and there was nobody in the bar-room, and, after that, I went up to the Broadway House, kept by Michaels. There I went in, and Barney McCarron was in there, and a large crowd. I had a drink with McCarron. He was treating, and, after we drank, Frank Yost came in from the back room; I was treating and I said: “Frank, take something?” He took a cigar on my treat, and I believe Barney McCarron took another.

            From there I turned down to the corner of Gas Jake’s, and from there I went down by Allen’s shop, and from there I went till my own house; and my woman asked me what time it was. It was going to 1 o’clock exactly. From there I got a bottle of whisky that was in my home, and went back across the hill and over to the cemetery and met Boyle and McGeehan. They were standing at the cemetery, where I told them I would meet them. We sat there a while talking and waiting for them to come and put the lights out, and while we were waiting for them to come and put the lights out, we seen them coming and they put the lights out down the road first.

            I could see Yost and Barney McCarron, and when we seen them coming up at that distance we walked down a piece toward the lamp with McGeehan and Boyle, and I stood in there between sixty and seventy yards, as near as I can think, where Roland Jones used to keep a store.

            McGeehan and Boyle went down to the lamp post. Barney McCarron stood across the railroad a piece, and Yost crossed over to Lehigh Street to put the light out there first, and came back. They went away some place else, I could not say where, and did not put out this light for some time; and McGeehan and Boyle stood in the shade of the trees waiting for them. They were there waiting some time, I could not say how long, and then Yost and McCarron came out, and McCarron stood at the corner of Squire Lebo’s house, across the railroad, and Yost went over to put the light out, and got up on the ladder, and McGeehan had to reach up and I seen him shoot him. He put his hand up and I seen the flash of the pistol, and they were just like you were doing, like this (clapping his hands twice, one after the other) that Boyle and McGeehan both shot at him.

            They might be within two yards of him when they fired. I might be within sixty or seventy yards on the upper side of the street, looking right across. Yost did not put out the light at all; the light burned. After they fired, Barney McCarron fired two shots, to the best of my knowledge, across the railroad after them. Then they ran to where I was and McGeehan fired another shot. He thought Barney McCarron was after him. McGeehan said “The buggar was done now,” and fired one shot. There was nobody else to fire, Boyle only had a one barrel pistol, and he had fired it, and I had no pistol.

            We ran up the road going to Newkirk. We ran across the railroad, and up by the spring where I was arrested. Down by Orwigsburg Street, down by the shaft, and I was running, and as the morning was quite dark, I fell down the big ash bank at the shaft, and tore the whole knee out of my pants. I have the pants down in the Mauch Chunk prison, and you can see them now. I went on then, and left them by the bridge, crossing the railroad by the shaft, and told them to go on down, and I left them down by Manus Boyle’s, and I told them to go on until they met a finger board and the first road they met beyond that they should turn off to the left hand, going towards Centreville. That would take them out to the White Bear.

            I came home, and got up to the door and got up on the porch, and pulled off my boots so that nobody would hear me, and I hid my pants under the banisters, under some clothes so that my wife would not see them. The door was not locked; I did not lock the door from the time I had been there before. My wife had went to bed” (Miner’s Journal).

            Here is verbatim testimony from the trial: Q. Did you ever have any conversation with Boyle as to what he had done the next day after the shooting? A. I had about the 14th or 15th of July. I had a conversation with him, Alex Campbell and James Roarity in Storm Hill one Sunday (the 14th and 15th of July in 1875, do not fall on a Sunday). Q. What did he say? A. Boyle stated that he was sick that day, but he started in the morning to go to work, and he had to quit work and he came home, and when he got home, his wife (Boyle was never married) had a bottle of grog for him. He said he did not work that day, but he went to work in the morning to make everything sure. (West, page 74).

            There are two, main inconsistencies, that anyone can see, between the statement used for the prima facie case, wherein, Kerrigan testifies that he was not present at the scene of the crime, but had learned of its development from the defendants. Yet, during the trial, Kerrigan has a long dissertation of his involvement and presence at the scene of the homicide. Secondarily, Kerrigan maintains that Boyle was married, when in fact, he was not.

Chapter 7 - McParland’s Testimony – Never Met Boyle

            On the stand he was cool, deliberate, careful, positive and powerful. He swore that he was sent to this county, in 1873, by Major Allan Pinkerton, of Chicago, to discover the membership and secrets of the Molly Maguire organization. He swore that he knew James Carroll, Thomas Duffy, James Roarity and Hugh McGeehan. Boyle he could not be positive about. On the 14th of July, McParland received instructions from his chief, at Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin, to go to Tamaqua and obtain information regarding the murder of Yost. He went to Tamaqua, Summit Hill and that vicinity, and, by reason of his connection with the Mollies and the confidence reposed in him, finally obtained the following confession from Hugh McGeehan, which is given in the detective’s own language:

                                                                James McParland

McGeehan’s Confession

            “On the 14th of August, 1875, I was at Storm Hill and went to Summit Hill. I went there to an opening. Hugh McGeehan was opening a saloon upon that evening, Saturday I think; I got there in the afternoon, and in the course of our conversation I asked McGeehan if he could not furnish me with a few number 32 cartridges. I stated I had got a revolver that carried a number 32 cartridge, and I wanted a few cartridges. I showed him the revolver. He took me aside to an ante room that was in his barroom where he kept in a basement at Summit Hill, beside the post office, and said, “I have no cartridges, Mac, that will fit that pistol. James Roarity has, and I guess you can get a few from him;” he says “Roarity is kind of cautious about purchasing any cartridges to fit his pistol, on account of it being the weapon I used to shoot Officer Yost, at Tamaqua.” I asked him how that thing was; I heard about it. Well, he stated that on the evening of the 5th of July, James Roarity and James Kerrigan came to him and asked him to go over to Tamaqua to shoot Yost, and that Roarity was to go along with them.”

            “Roarity stated that he would go; Roarity and Kerrigan then left, and as he supposed to go to Tamaqua. They were not to go together, and they were to meet at James Carroll’s, in Tamaqua. He stated that he went and had supper, and he met James Boyle, and he asked him to come along with him, and Boyle agreed, and they proceeded to Tamaqua, but on their way they called in at Campbell’s saloon, at Storm Hill, and Campbell stated that there had been a party there that had left a message for Roarity that his wife was sick, and consequently Roarity could not go, but that Roarity had sent his revolver to Tamaqua by James Kerrigan, and that they could get it at Carroll’s. He stated that he, McGeehan, and Boyle then proceeded to Tamaqua, and when they got there they got Roarity’s revolver, or at least the revolver purported to be Roarity’s, that had been sent by Kerrigan, and this one-shooter that James Carroll gave him. James Kerrigan was present, he stated, at the time, at Carroll’s; he did not say whether James Duffy was present or not; Carroll, after giving him the revolver, objected to them going to commit the murder and stated that trouble would arise from it.”

            “He, McGeehan, stated that it was the second or third time he came for a job of this kind, and he was not going away without doing his work, and that it was now or never. He stated tha he was not very well acquainted in Tamaqua, but Kerrigan took him and Boyle and placed them in a certain position on a street, under the shade of a tree, and told them to wait until Yost came to put out the lights – the lamps, at least, as he generally put the lamps out on this side of the city. Kerrigan, in the absence of having a revolver, as he stated, wanted to have a hand in the play, and stated that he would take two rocks after Yost fell, and he would knock his brains out. He, McGeehan, objected to this process upon the part of Kerrigan, and stated that if Kerrigan was there when the murder would be committed, that if either he or Boyle moved an inch, he, McGeehan, would shoot them both – that he had a revolver carrying five cartridges. The result was that Kerrigan placed them in this position and went down town. He stated that when Yost went up on the ladder to put out the lamp – I believe he stated a ladder – I know he did – that he stepped out from under the shade of this tree, the place they had been placed in by James Kerrigan, and Yost turned around and he shot him. He stated they then went, as it were, along the turnpike around by the Odd Fellows’ Cemetery, of Tamaqua; that officer McCarron kind of gave chase and fired one or two shots at them on their retreat; and that he returned the fire, but did not say how often he shot back. Kerrigan took them to a certain point on this turnpike, and then left the turnpike and crossed a creek or river that flows around there – a branch of the Schuylkill, I think – and took them on the mountain, and along the mountain toward Summit Hill, and fetched them out at a place that is called the White Bear Tavern. That is his statement – I am not very well acquainted with the place – and left them there, and they returned to their respective homes, as he stated, without being seen by a man.”

Other McParland Testimony

            “During the time I was connected with the Molly Maguires there were six murders committed by the organization and five or six attempted. Of the prisoners now on trial Carroll, Duffy, Roarity and McGeehan are Mollies to my knowledge. I do not know Boyle. I have talked with the others, and they knew that I was a member of the order and conversed freely with me on that account. Carroll told me that there was a boss named John P. Jones, at Lansford; that McGeehan and Boyle and several others who are not prisoners here came from Carbon County; that is McGeehan and Boyle came to Tamaqua and assassinated Yost, and in return they were to be furnished by men from that district, or from some other portion of Schuylkill County, to assassinate John P. Jones, of Lansford. This conversation took place on the evening of the 4th of August, 1875 (nearly a month before Jones was killed). Upon the first Sunday in September, 1875 I believe that was the 5th of September – I met Roarity and Carroll, and we discoursed then upon the murder of Jones. Roarity complained that he was very sorry that he had lost his pistol. He said that he had given his pistol to the parties that shot John P. Jones, at Lansford, and that in trying to make their escape they had lost those pistols or thrown them away, and he then understood that they were in the hands of the authorities, or at least this pistol.”

            “I had a conversation with Carroll about the killing of Yost. He said that Yost, in trying to make the arrest of Duffy, one of the prisoners, had abused and almost murdered him, and had also abused their division master at the time – the division master of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, or Molly Maguires, at Tamaqua. That was Jimmy Kerrigan, and I believe the substance of the statement was that he held him while somebody else cut him with a knife. I do not know who the other man was; I believe he was a tailor.”

            What is important about McParland's testimony, is that, the prosecution wanted to corroborate McParland's testimony with Kerrigan's testimony. McParland was very careful in detailing every story of each defendant to match the story that Kerrigan had told on the stand. He studied every defendant, except one. James Boyle. He had never met him. Neither did Robert Linden. They only knew that the Boyles' were heavily involved with the AOH and the miner labor movement.