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


Chapter 13 - Other Witnesses 

During Daniel Shepp’s testimony, the following is taken from the trial,: Shepp was asked: “You said that Yost and Kerrigan had considerable difficulty, and Yost arrested him several times. How often do you know that he arrested him? I cannot mention the number of times, but I think half a dozen at least. Do you know that Yost was in apprehension that Kerrigan would take his life? Yost always told me, in connection with this, that he was afraid of those two – Kerrigan and Duffy; he always put them together; he told me that six or eight times” (Bimba, page 95). Additionally, Mr. Shepp testified that he asked his dying brother-in-law, “Might you not be mistaken?”, but Mr. Yost was very emphatic in saying that Duffy and Kerrigan were not the men. He returned to the subject, and said, “May you not be mistaken, and was it not Duffy and Kerrigan who did this?” and Yost answered, “No, I am not mistaken, the men were strangers, but I had seen them before.” Lastly, Shepp had said that Officer Yost removed that impression when he said they were strangers, and he described one as a large man and the other not so large (West, page 17).

Barney McCarron stated on the stand, that he had heard two shots, fired and saw the figures of two men retreating, one a large man and the other not so large. They ran in the direction of the cemetery (West, page 15).

Mr. Schindel testified that he heard a portion of the dying declaration of Officer Yost, as follows,:  “…when two men approached and shot him; that he did not know the men; they were strangers, but he had seen them before; one was a large man than the other” (West, page 15). Officer Yost had also told Squire Lebo, that one man was larger than the other (West, page 16).

Pat Nolan testified that James Kerrigan, “…came into my saloon on July 5th, at about 10:30 p.m. He called me into the back room and asked me if I would lend him a pistol (Barrett, page 122).  Edward Gillespie, born in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, about 1846, said that he was on his way home on July 5th, and “Kerrigan called over to me and asked me for a revolver. He said he was going to shoot a cop. I assured him, I had no gun.” (Barrett, page 135). Thomas Trainer, born in England in 1843 and a neighbor of Kerrigan’s, said that, “Kerrigan turned to me and said – Tom, you know Yost made a hellish roar when he was shot.” (Barrett, page 127).

Patrick Duffy testified that Kerrigan was once sent to jail after a fist fight. Duffy swore that Kerrigan said, “When I get out, I’ll kill Yost the first chance I get.” (Barriett, page 127).  Patrick Duffy also said he was not a Molly Maguire and knew no secrets, “I was with Kerrigan the night and heard Kerrigan say he would kill Yost when he got a chance.” Gowen then asked Duffy, “You are a brother of Thomas Duffy?” His answer, “I am sir.” Gowen retorted, “That is all.” (Barrett, page 210).

William H. Evans, a mine foreman, provided testimony that James Boyle worked on July 6th. He and his buddy, Pat Dawson, loaded six mine cars on a sixty-eight degree pitch (Barrett page 123).  Pat Dawson, of Summit Hill, swore he saw James Boyle at work on July 6th. “I loaded coal from his mine breast. He worked all day. We started at 7:00 a.m., and quit sometime between 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. We didn’t work less that day than any other day.” (Barrett, page 128).

Mrs. Alex Campbell swore that Kerrigan was not in her home on July 6th, as he had stated, and the black pistol admitted as evidence, “Looks like the one he gave me to keep for him on December 13th, 1874” (Barrett, page 127). “It was black and resembles that revolver there.” She was asked, “You know that McGeehan was charged with shooting Yost with that gun?” She answered, “ I heard Kerrigan say so.” (Barrett, page 213).


Chapter 14 - Buying Witnesses

Allen Pinkerton insisted, that the detectives within his employ, must recognize that secrecy is the prime condition for success – “It is the chief strength which the detective possesses beyond the ordinary man.” Indeed, he went on, “It frequently becomes necessary for the detective, when brought in contact with criminals, to pretend to be a criminal; in other words, for the time being to assume the garb of crime.” Pinkerton recognized that this was one of the most sensitive of all his principles. He said it is “unfortunately necessary to resort to these deceptions.” He explained that “the detective has to act his part, and in order to do so, he has, at times, to depart from the strict line of truth, and to resort to deception, so as to carry his assumed character through.” Moralists may question whether this be strictly right,” he continued, “but it is a necessity in the detection of crime, and it is held by the Agency that the ends being for the accomplishment of justice, they justify the means used.” The operative, when the ends of justice were accomplished, would “return, of course, unblemished by the fiery ordeal through which he has passed, and take his place once more in society (Broehl, Page 136). This meant that any tactic could be used, including false testimony, would be tolerated, as long as the conviction of the accused was certain.

James McParland had boasted that the railroad had the money to buy any witness it needed in order to convict the Mollies, and would do that if necessary (Campbell, page 50). It is important to note that General Albright was the legal advisor of the coal company and participated in the prosecution of the defendants, has said the prosecution was openly backed with the money, the power, and the influence of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company (Bimba, page 87).

Robert Breslin, who testified at the trial, that early in the morning of July 6th, he had met McGeehan and Boyle, on an out of the way path near his father’s house, and that they had told him they were returning from a ball at Mauch Chunk. His evidence, which hardly seems very conclusive on its face, was, however, discredited when the defense charged, and he himself admitted, that it was being paid for, by the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company, with the promise of a position, as mine boss (Bimba, page 96).

Another witness statement was given by a man named Fenton Cooney. Emigrating from Ireland to New York City, on June 23, 1865, aboard the ship, Hibernia, 22-year-old Fenton Cooney set out to create a new life in America. Cooney had married 17-year-old, Elizabeth O’Haren, daughter of Thomas and Catherine (nee Knowles) O’Haren of New York City, in 1870. Settling in Shenandoah, Schuylkill County, Cooney supported his family by becoming a laborer within the mines. By 1875, the Cooney’s had three children. During this time, Detective McParland had boarded with the Cooney family during the tumultuous years of the violence in the coal region.

In a letter, dated September 17th, 1876, Mr. J. H. Butler writes to Franklin Gowen, the following correspondence, “Dear Sir, John W. Ryon asked James Kerrigan last Friday did not he tell Fenton Cooney, that he was the man that shot (Yost). Kerrigan, I will give an idea with respect to that question before the first Yost trial. Fenton Cooney made his statement in Mr. Ryon’s office, in my presence. It was that, at the time Bull Doolan died at Schuylkill Haven. He was taken to Tamaqua for burial. He, Cooney, went to the funeral, when it was over, he put up his horse and walked down town. He met and was introduced to James Kerrigan.”

The letter continues, “He, Cooney, talked about Tamaqua and about the killing of Yost. Kerrigan asked him was it not a good job? Cooney said it was. Then Kerrigan said, I am the man that shot Yost. I can’t see how Pat Duffy can have money to hire Ryan & Bartholomew at the last Yost trial. He did not have money to pay Cooney’s fare to Pottsville. Cooney was to swear that McParland called him out doors and told him he would give him fifty dollars……(text is missing, because of tear in original letter)…his family, if he…..that he.”

The end of this correspondence appears to suggest that Detective McParland is actually committing witness tampering and/or bribing the witness, Cooney.


Chapter 15 - The Weapon

            When James Kerrigan was arrested in the Odd Fellows Cemetery, located in the West end of the borough of Tamaqua, a hidden cache of weapons were confiscated. Among the pistols found, a Smith & Wesson .32 caliber pistol was found to be the murder weapon of both mine boss, John Jones and Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost. The revolver was a single action, Smith & Wesson model 1 ½, that chambered .32 rimfire cartridges within a five shot cylinder. The Model 1 ½ had three issues, with the first two having a “tip-up” barrel, with the release catch located in front of the trigger. The second issue can be identified by its fluted barrel and the round shape of the butt grip. The murder weapon was blued steel and having a 3 ½ inch barrel.


            According to statements made by Fannie Kerrigan and her sister, Mary Ann Higgins, James Kerrigan had obtained the pistol, from a man named Charles Mulhearn and that, Mulhearn would swear that he had sold it to James Kerrigan many months before. Kerrigan’s wife also said, she would ascertain a few cartridges belonging to the revolver from James Kerrigan’s drawer, since she was positive that they would correspond with the one found in Yost’s body (Broehl, page 277-278). The gun was one supposed, at some previous time, to have been given to a man named E. B. Whitenight for repair. Whitenight indeed testified that he had repaired one which he thought resembled that shown in court (Bimba, page 97). In the present day, the pistol is in the possession of the District Attorney George Ringgold Kaercher’s descendants and currently on loan for display to the Schuylkill County Historical Society.


Chapter 16 - Height of the Murderer(s)

            In James Kerrigan’s initial confession to Daniel Schepp, he had stated that he was not present at the shooting of Officer Yost, but had learned of the events from the accused murderers, Hugh McGeehan and James Boyle, personally. He also stated that James Boyle is “a man not much taller than I am.”  Later, during the trial against the defendants, the prosecution witnesses had testified that before Officer Yost expired, he had stated that the men that shot him were described as one being larger than the other. Yost’s partner, Officer Barney McCarron had testified to seeing two men shoot Yost, one being larger than the other one, then running away toward the Odd Fellows Cemetery.

            However, the defense witness, James Duffy swore under oath, that he had seen James Kerrigan at the crime scene, heard the shooting, wherein, both he and Kerrigan ran westward toward the cemetery. James Kerrigan’s official height, according to the U.S. Army records, is recorded at 4 foot, 11 inches. James Duffy’s official height, according to the U.S. Army records, is recorded at 5 foot, 7 inches.

            What was the height of the accused, McGeehan and Boyle? In Pottsville, the undertaker, Herman Raudenbush Kline owned Kline’s Funeral Parlor on Market Street. Kline was given permission from the Schuylkill County Sheriff, John Frank Werner, to measure all of the prisoners for their coffins.

                                                    Sheriff John Frank Werner

Prior to the executions, Kline had displayed the coffins in the window of his showroom. Each coffin had a little sign with the recipient’s name and measurements: Hugh McGeehan, 6’0”; Thomas Duffy, 5’6”; James Carroll, 5’10”; Thomas Munley, 5’8”; James Roarity, 5’10”; and James Boyle, 6’0”. The coffins, according to a large poster which hung above the windows, were donated to the families of the condemned men, “through the generosity of Herman Raudenbush Kline, prop.” Except for its public relations value, Mr. Kline’s benevolence was wasted; the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided sturdier, if less ornate, coffins built of rough pine (Lewis, page 288). Interesting, that the two accused murderers of Officer Yost were both 6 foot even.


Chapter 17 - Officer McCarron Went to Carroll’s Tavern after the Assassination

            Early in the evening of July 5th, 1877, Officers Yost and McCarron, while patrolling the streets of Tamaqua, stopped at Carroll’s Tavern. Inside, James Kerrigan admitted that he was present and had interacted with both officers. Through Charles Albright’s closing arguments, we find that after McCarron summoned a doctor for his dying partner, McCarron immediately tries to pursue the murderer(s). His actions reflect his thinking that the murderer returned to Carroll’s Tavern. Albright states:

                                                            Charles Albright, Esq.

            “But the fact has come out in this case that after Yost was shot, Barney McCarron went to James Carroll’s house; of all houses, of all saloons in the town, that is the place he went to; he went into an alley way, or into the back yard, and tried to see or listen if he could discover the assassins of Yost, for Yost had seen these men; had made some remarks which, after Yost was shot, came back to McCarron’s mind, and he no doubt thought he might apprehend the men at Carroll’s who killed Yost. Why then did McCarron go to Carroll’s?” (Albright’s closing arguments, West, page 12).

            The prosecution tried, but failed to explain this behavior of Officer McCarron. Several witnesses were present that could testify to the fact that both Yost and McCarron were in Carroll’s Tavern early in the evening of July 5th. Again, several witnesses could present evidence that McCarron returned after Yost was shot. Definitive evidence and was admitted by the prosecution, that Kerrigan was present. Kerrigan’s statements that he was present only to assist McGeehan and Boyle fails to be proven, in that no other witness states that McGeehan and Boyle were present.


Chapter 18 - James McParland’s Reports

            Before continuing with the story as I know it, there is a final observation to be made about McFarland’s reports for July, 1875. Although the covering letter under which they were sent to Mr. Gowen expressly states that they cover the period from July 1 through July 24, 1875, the reports for the five days during which McFarland went to the Tamaqua area to investigate the Yost murder are all missing. The expense accounts for those five days, July 15 through July 19, are included in detail. Only the results of the detective’s investigation are missing. The question of why the notes of activities for those days are missing is a valid inquiry. Their absence casts doubt upon the reliability of the reports as a systemic recording of events at, or near the time, they occurred. Much later, the Pinkertons supplied the District Attorney with a narrative for those days, to be used in obtaining convictions against those whom the Pinkertons accused of the murder of officer Yost and a related murder. However, that the five days were not included in the original report summary to Mr. Gowen permits the inference that their original content differed from what was later given to the District Attorney (Burke, page 141).

I now know after reading McFarland’s expense reports that his testimony in the Yost case was full of other lies. He swore that on July 15, he went to Campbell’s saloon to find out who had shot Yost. His expense report shows he had not gone to Campbell’s; rather he had actually gone to a different saloon. He further swore that on July 17, he went to Campbell’s and got information from his son. The expense account shows he actually went to a different saloon and got information from that saloonkeeper’s son. He testified that after the party to celebrate the opening of McGeehan’s saloon, he went back to Campbell’s place. The expense report shows he went to a different bar entirely (Burke, page 179).


Chapter 19 - Anti-Monopoly Convention

About the 4th of March, 1875, an Anti-Monopoly Convention was appointed to take place at Harrisburg, having for its principal purpose a movement against the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, by individual and other large operators. Among them was Muff Lawler, who reported, on his return, that there were nearly three hundred representatives present, and it was decided to ask the Legislature, by resolution, to cause an investigation to be made, by committee, of the officers of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, and say why their charter should not be rescinded. 

Proceedings at Harrisburg Yesterday – Speeches and Resolutions – New York Times

Harrisburg, PA, March 3 – The Anti-Monopoly Convention contains representatives from all the labor organizations in New York and Pennsylvania, including the Grangers and retail coal dealers. An address was read by Horace H. Day, of New York, representing the Industrial Congress of the United States, who received a vote of thanks. E.M. Davis, of Philadelphia, also delivered an address on the moneyed power of the country, and its tendency to foster monopolies. The Convention adopted resolutions condemning the passage by the Legislature of any bill which will not hold the employer responsible for the competency of the apprentice when he becomes a master mechanic, urging the passage of some law which will restrain the large corporations from charging excessive rates of transportation, condemning the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company for discharging those of its employees who are members of corporate labor organizations, and recommending the enactment of a law by the Legislature appointing a commission to examine into the causes of the difficulties existing between labor and capital, which shall report the testimony taken and the conclusion arrived at to the Legislature at the next session.

The Convention reassembled this afternoon at 2 o’clock in Barr’s Hall, President John F. Walsh, of Schuylkill County, in the chair. A number of resolutions were adopted tending to oppose monopoly, among them the following:

Resolved, That the action of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company in procuring by fraud and deception the charter known originally as the Laurel Run Improvement Company, and now called the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, whereby special privileges of great value to them and danger to the community were granted, and their abuse of said privileges, demand immediate attention. Upon the Legislature of the State we urge the appointment of a joint committee of both Houses to investigate the affairs of both corporations with instructions to report an act repealing all or so much of their charters as may be detrimental or dangerous to the public welfare.

A discussion of one hour took place on the subject of uniting the laboring classes of the United States. Senator Staunton, of Luzerne, addressed the convention on a bill before the Legislature in the interests of the miners and laborers in the coal fields.

An evening session was held for the further discussion of the question of uniting the mechanics, miners, and laboring men of the country. Several delegates from New York addressed the convention.

James McParland Report March 11, 1875

The operative remarks today, that the miners seem to have a great deal of determination and say they will not succumb to the Reading Rail Road Co., under any circumstances. The operative made some quiet inquiry among the Molly Maguires today, in regard to the affairs at Ashton and learned that the Molly Maguires are very numerous in that section. Thomas Fisher of Summit Hill is County Delegate for Carbon County and Pat McKenna of Storm Hill is the Bodymaster, and it is generally thought by the Molly Maguires of Shenandoah City, that the parties who created the disturbance at Ashton, are not only Molly Maguires, but was more belonging to the various secret organizations.

The Legislature of Pennsylvania, listening to the repeated demands of the Anti-Monopoly Convention, appointed a committee to investigate the affairs of the Philadelphia and Reading Company. That commission convened and heard testimony as the complainants could bring before it, as well as the pleadings of the attorneys for the Philadelphia and Reading Company. Mr. Gowen, the President of the Philadelphia and Reading Railway Company, personally appeared before the committee and made answer to the charges. 

It was the sixth of July that the committee was in Pottsville. Franklin Gowen alluded to troubles in the coal region: “It will not do to say that these troubles result from the inadequacy of the price paid for labor, because, without exception, the rates paid are the highest in the world. The high rates have had the effect of attracting to the coal region a surplus of labor, more than sufficient to do the work required; and it is the effort of this surplus to receive an employment which it cannot really get that has led to all these disturbances. I have had printed for your use a statement, from the daily reports coming to me during the strike, of the outrages in the coal region. Here I want to correct an impression that goes out to the public, that these outrages are intended to injure the property of the employer. They are not. We do not believe that they are. They are perpetrated for no other purpose than to intimidate the workingmen themselves and to prevent them from going to work. I shall not read the list; it is at your service; and you can look over it and see the position we have occupied for months. But let me mention a few of the glaring instances of tyranny and oppression. At a colliery, called the Ben Franklin Colliery, the employees of which were perfectly satisfied with their wages, had accepted the reduction early in the season, and were working peacefully and contentedly, the torch of the incendiary was applied to the breaker at night. These men, having families to support, working there contentedly and peacefully, were driven out of employment by a few dangerous men, simply for the purpose of preventing them from earning their daily bread. I had some interest in the subject of the amount of their wages, and I asked the owner of the colliery what his miners were actually earning at the time when they were prevented from working by the burning of the structure in which they were employed, and he told me that the lowest miner on his pay-list earned sixty dollars a month, and the highest one hundred and thirty dollars; and yet, although these men were peaceful, law-abiding men, they were driven out of employment by an incendiary fire. At another colliery, within five or six miles of this, a band of twenty or thirty men, in the evening – almost in broad daylight – went to the breaker, and by force drove the men away and burnt the structure down. It belonged to a poor man. It was a small operation. The savings of his lifetime were probably gone, and his own employees, who had nothing against him, and who were perfectly willing to work, were thrown out of employment, and probably remain out of employment to this day.”

When Franklin Gowen concluded, the committee made its report, showing that there was no ground of action, and that was the last heard of Legislative investigating the Company. In the meantime, Gowen pressed McParland to investigate and report on the officers and members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, believing that they were the same as the Molly Maguires.

James McParland Report July 8, 1875

            Operative J. Mc.F. reports that the Molly Maguires appear to take but little interest in the investigating committee. There are men in Pottsville from all parts of the County, and they all agree in saying that it is impossible for an Irishman to get a job at present.

James McParland Report July 9, 1875

            The Molly Maguires declare that the investigation was a humbug and say there was nothing in it. They all complain of hard times. At 11AM the investigating committee left Pottsville.

James McParland Report July 20, 1875

            Austin Maley, the Borough Constable, this morning informed the operative, that Charles Haase wanted him, the operative, to try and get bail for him by next Thursday, if possible. He said the operative was the only man in the crowd who had any brains and he thought he could get bail for him if he tried. Operative J.Mc.F. mentioned the subject to McAndrews and Morris, the former said he thought he could get the bail.

James McParland Report July 21, 1875

            The operative had a talk with John Kehoe, County Delegate of Girardville today, he reports everything quiet in his County. Kehoe asked Reilly to go bail for Charles Haase. Reilly said he would, if he could be accepted. Kehoe then requested operative J.Mc.F. to go to Pottsville tomorrow, and take Reilly with him and see if they could get Haase out. Kehoe stands bail for some six or seven men, amounting in the aggregate to some $10,000. He does not own a foot of real estate.

James McParland Report July 22, 1875

            This morning Reilly told the operative that he could not possibly go to Pottsville today, as there was a liquor merchant in town, and he must remain and see him. He said he would willingly give bail for Haase if he could, but as he was not worth $1,000, he did not think there was any use in trying. The operative thought it would be a good plan to see Haase, as perhaps he might be able to gain some important information by him. Therefore he went to Pottsville and had an interview with him in the jail. He told Haase that he had done all in his power to obtain bail for him but had not yet succeeded; this made the prisoner feel very blue. He talked freely with the operative, but did not appear to know anything in particular of the doings of the Molly Maguires. After the operative’s return to Shenandoah, he was told by McAndrews that he would see Colihan, of Gilberton tomorrow, and see if he could obtain bail of him.

                                                                Charles Haase

Charles Haase, who was just from Summit (Hill), where he had gone to secure work and see some relatives, reported that the Laborer’s Union and the Mollies had made common cause in the fight on Summit Hill, headed by Tom Fisher, County Delegate, Pat McKenna, Bodymaster (of Storm Hill), and a prominent Mollie named (Daniel) Boyle, (Bodymaster of Summit Hill). They were determined that, unless the collieries submitted to the general demand, they should not have men to do their work. Now, McParland had testimony to link the officers of the AOH to the troubles of the Labor Union. McParland ascertained the names of some of the officers and members of the AOH, but did not know the first name of the Bodymaster of Summit Hill. McParland just knew the last name of Boyle.

James McParland Report July 24, 1875

            McAndrews and Reilly went to Gilberton yesterday, but failed to obtain the bail, as Colihan said he was not able to be bondsman for $1,000.

                                                     Chapter 20 - Hugh McGeehan

                   Hugh McGeehan was born on or about 1852 in Glenfin, County Donegal, Ireland. He emigrated with some of his family, to the United States sometime after 1870, for he is not listed in the census. He resided in the Storm Hill section of Lansford, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, at the boarding house of Margaret Boyle. Standing 6’ 0” tall, Hugh first made his living as a miner for the Lehigh and Wilkes Barre Coal Company. He had joined the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), Storm Hill chapter and became heavily involved in demonstrating for the rights of workers during the Long Strike of 1875.
       One of these demonstrations, McGeehan headed a parade of striking miners through the Borough of Tamaqua. A contemporary newspaper had this account: “
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.”

For his labor activities, he was blacklisted, supposedly by Landsford mine boss John P. Jones. However, William D. Zehner, Superintendent, testified at Hugh's trial that he discharged McGeehan "before we resumed work after the strike."
       On the night of July 5th, 1875, Officer Benjamin Yost is murdered in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. On August 9th, Pinkerton detective James McParland joins McGeehan and Alec Campbell at the Ambrosher's saloon for a drink. Campbell tells McParland he is there to help Hugh McGeehan get a liquor license to open a saloon. On August 14th, Hugh McGeehan opens a tavern in Summit Hill, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, in a building leased from Nathan Clouse and sponsored by Alex Campbell.
       The Vigilance Committee of Tamaqua or the Flying Squadron of the Reading Railroad Police used a more violent approach against those that were labeled ‘Molly Maguires’. Hugh McGeehan was identified on a “Strictly Confidential” handbill, as the murderer of Officer Yost. There were two attempts against his life, for he was shot at by vigilantes, once in late December, 1875, and then again while walking home early in January, 1876. Although he was not wounded, he could point to bullet holes in his clothes (Riffenburgh, page 112).

On January 9th, 1876, Hugh McGeehan marries Maria Duggan, in St. Joseph's Church, of Summit Hill, witnessed by James Walsh and Maria McGee. The honeymoon was short lived, for on February 5th, 1876, McGeehan was arrested for Yost’s murder. On July 24th, after two trials, he is found guilty, with others of the murder of Yost. On June 21, 1877, McGeehan is given capital punishment in the yard of the Schuylkill County prison. His body is taken back to Summit Hill, where he is buried alongside Alex Campbell and James Boyle in St. Joseph’s Cemetery behind the church.


Chapter 21 - John (Jack) Boyle is Killed

            Franklin Gowen’s plan of decimating the remnants of the Ancient Order of Hibernians was coming to fruition, especially at the expense of the Storm Hill Chapter. The Storm Hill AOH Chapter was in the forefront of the opposition to the coal barons in the Schuylkill and Carbon Counties. One by one, the leaders of the Storm Hill AOH Chapter were eliminated in one fashion or another.

In jail for the murder of Officer Benjamin Yost were James Boyle and Hugh McGeehan, both organizers and leaders of the labor protestors in the region. Both were the first to die on the gallows on the “Day of the Rope”, June 21, 1877. Pat McKenna, the Body Master of the Storm Hill AOH Chapter, was arrested and charged with the murder of Morgan Powell. Additionally, Alex Campbell, the Treasurer of the Storm Hill AOH Chapter, was also arrested and charged with the murder of Morgan Powell. McKenna and Campbell were both hung in the Mauch Chunk prison on March 28, 1878.

James Boyle’s older brother, John (Jack) Boyle served the Storm Hill AOH Chapter as the Secretary. With this position, Jack had the ability to both read and write, for it was his responsibility to take minutes and produce official correspondence with other chapters. In the Schuylkill County archives, it appears that both James Boyle and Hugh McGeehan were unable to read and write for they had to affix their mark on all the legal documents and pleadings.

With the tumultuous affairs that surrounded John (Jack) Boyle, he found it unsafe to keep residence in Storm Hill. He left the employ of the coal mine of his family’s roots and went north to the town of Eckley, in Luzerne County. To escape the wrath of Franklin Gowen was not possible. On May 21, 1877, one month before James Boyle was to be hung in Pottsville, John (Jack) Boyle was killed near Stockton, Pennsylvania. According to a limited story in a contemporary newspaper, he was “thrown off” the No. 1 train on the Lehigh Valley railroad and fatally injured. He was taken to Hazleton, where he died about two o’clock in the afternoon.

I recently tried to ascertain the Luzerne County Coroner’s records in the investigation of John (Jack) Boyle’s death, but all of the Coroner’s records were lost in the flooding due to Hurricane Agnes in 1972. Allan Pinkerton later admits that, more than once, members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians were quietly murdered (Bimba, page 71).

                                             Chapter 22 - Kerrigan Is Freed From Jail

Kerrigan was in prison on murder charges for 18 months, but he was never brought to trial even though the law demanded a defendant be brought to trial within two terms of the court. It was during his 18 months in prison that Kerrigan testified as the primary prosecution witness against men accused of being Molly Maguires (McBride, Page 77). A motion to discharge Kerrigan from the custody of the court was subsequently made by the three attorneys prosecuting Campbell, Kelly, Doyle and Donohue. This, in and of itself, is astounding, since this motion is usually proffered by the defense attorneys against the prosecution. This is also evidence of a deal between the prosecution and James Kerrigan.

These prosecuting attorneys were also attorneys for the coal and railroad companies, each having a vested interest in finding the men of the Storm Hill AOH chapter guilty. Lead attorney Albright was an attorney for the Lehigh-Wilkes Barre Coal Company, Frank W. Hughes was an attorney for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and Coal Company (owned by Franklin B. Gowen), and Allen W. Craig was the attorney for the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company (owned by Asa Packer). Their argument for the motion to discharge was that District Attorney E. R. Siewers was not ready to prosecute Kerrigan. No reason was given why his case was not ready since Kerrigan had been in prison for at least 18 months. Judge Dreher concurred with this motion and Kerrigan was released from prison on April 10, 1877 (McBride, Page 78).

Kerrigan was given official recognition for services performed in a petition filed, which read: “And now, April 10, 1877, upon motion of Messrs. Hughes, Albright and Craig, it appearing that James Kerrigan, the defendant, having been indicted for the murder of John P. Jones, January 17, 1876, and more than two full terms having elapsed since the indictment, the said defendant is therefore discharged from the further custody of this court, upon said charge the District Attorney not being prepared to prosecute said defendant.” ”I have no objections to the above motion for discharge.” said E.R. Siewers, District Attorney (Bimba, page 282).

As usual, during the trials, there was a phalanx of reporters from around the country, delirious in appetite to report the news from the courtroom. As the reporters entered the courtroom, they were taken aback that James Kerrigan was seated at the prosecution table. At the time we entered the Courtroom, we were not a little astonished to perceive the famous “Little Squealer” occupying Gen. Charles Albright’s accustomed seat, right in front of the bench. But this was soon and fully explained to our satisfaction, when Gen. Albright, with the concurrence of the District Attorney, moved the discharge of Kerrigan, which was at once granted by the Court, and Mr. James Kerrigan left the Courtroom, a happier, if not a better man, than he’d been during the last 19 months or ever before. James was neatly if not nobly dressed, and as he departed from the seat of justice it was with the air of one conscious of having done the state some service (Carbon Advocate, page 4).

Within ten minutes after Kerrigan's discharge, he visited the Coal Gazette office and was interviewed with the following reported:

Reporter - Well Jimmy, I suppose you are happy on account of your release.

Kerrigan - Yes, sir, I am. I had no knowledge that I was to be released until just before dinner. The whole thing was a complete surprise to me. I have spent a little over nineteen months in jail, and while I have no fault to find with the way I was treated there, I am very glad to get out.

Reporter - What do you propose to do?

Kerrigan - Well, I am going to Tamaqua tonight.

Reporter - Is there no some danger in your going back at this time?

Kerrigan - I think it is a duty I owe to my family to go to them at the earliest moment. I will start on the six o'clock train.

Reporter - Have you anything you wish to say through the columns of the Coal Gazette to the public?

Kerrigan - I want to say that I am very thankful to the Commonwealth's attorneys for their treatment of me, and especially General Albright. He always told me to tell nothing but the truth in my evidence, and gave me good advice not to drink and to attend well to my church duties.

Reporter - What do you intend to do?

Kerrigan - My plans are not matured. However, I intend to let drink alone and keep out of bad company...(Bimba, page 282).

                                                            Francis Wade Hughes, Esq.

                                                 Chapter 23 - Kerrigan Is Paid

Mrs. Fannie Kerrigan, James’ wife, was destitute during the trials. The newspapers bathed their columns in human interest stories on the Mollies. The Herald visited Mrs. Kerrigan, and found her in bitterly reduced straits. She and her children were down to “eating bread and water” and were to be evicted for failure to pay their rent. The poor woman mournfully reported that she was planning to sell her furniture, farm out the children, and “go out to service”. When the reporter asked her if she would “live with Jimmy again”, she said she would “if he promises to be kind to me, but if he is rough with me, I won’t stay with him a day.” But, she added, “I’m not sorry I testified, and I told Jimmy in jail…that I would go on the stand against him again if the court wanted me to.” (Broehl, Page 329).

When Benjamin F. Yost, the policeman, was assassinated, the Tamaqua council offered a reward of one thousand dollars for the arrest and conviction of the murderer. The Schuylkill County Commissioners had also offered five hundred dollars additional (Patriot, page 1). At the exact time, that James Kerrigan was released by the Carbon County Court and Jail, at a meeting of the Carbon County Commissioners, the official meeting minutes of April 10, 1877, showed Kerrigan was paid $1,000.00, but there was no indication as to the reason for the payment. This would be the equivalent, according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics, of $24,000.00 based on today’s currency. He was later paid, another $500.00, the equivalent of $12,000.00 in today’s currency.

This is the concurrence needed to prove that James Kerrigan was given leniency for his testimony against those convicted of murder. On September 15, 1877, the Carbon Advocate newspaper reported that, “Jimmy Kerrigan, the notorious Mollie Maguire, was in Pottsville the other day for his witness fees in the several murder trials. Frank Hughes gave him a letter recommending their payment.” (Carbon Advocate, September 15, 1877, page 4). I was unable to ascertain the amount given to Kerrigan from Schuylkill County, however, from Carbon County, he was given, at least, the total of $1,500.00 (the equivalent of $36,000.00 in today’s currency). The total average salary of a miner in 1877, was around $300 to $400 annually.

                                            Minutes from Carbon County Commissioners


Chapter 24 - Kerrigan Moves To Virginia

Despite his attempts to get a job via Gowen, Pleasants, and even Kaercher, James Kerrigan found himself, “in a reduced condition at present myself and family, and no prospect of any supper.” (Riffenburgh, page 163). Franklin Gowen, the President of the Reading Railroad Company, had offered a reward of ten thousand dollars (according to US Bureau of Labor Statistics the equivalent of $240,000.00) for information leading to the detection and conviction of the persons who committed crimes against his company, and “so certain is it that the informant would be murdered, that in addition to the reward, he offers protection to his person, and safe transport and expenses to another country” (Somerset Herald, Page 2). He and his family were eventually resettled in Virginia, where he held a position as a fireman with a railroad. (Riffenburgh, page 163). His residence was located at 15 East Third Street, Manchester (later annexed to the City of Richmond), Virginia.

In order to provide anonymity to his family and self, James Kerrigan changed his last name to Higgins, his wife’s maiden name. James Higgins (Kerrigan) would later add to his criminal record in Richmond, Virginia, in at least two separate incidents. The newspapers reported, “J.W. Moody and James Higgins fighting in the street. Fined $5.00 each” (Times, June 21, 1885). “James Higgins was required to give bond to keep the peace and be of good behavior for sixty days” (Times, September 1, 1892). James Higgins (Kerrigan) would later die, peacefully, at home on October 1, 1898 and was buried in Maury Cemetery, without a grave marker. His death would not have been known, except, that his widow applied for a pension. An investigation started, and it was learned that Kerrigan had been living in Virginia. He did all in his power to keep his past life a secret, and his widow followed until want forced her to apply for a pension. Kerrigan was a member of the Union Army during the Civil War (Denver Post, October 18, 1903).

            James Kerrigan's residence at 15 East Third Street, Manchester (Richmond), Virginia


Chapter 25 - The Post Mortem Examination

E. J. Solliday, M.D., Sworn Testimony

Q.  What wounds did you find on him after you had examined him?

A.  I found a gunshot wound in the right side of the right hypochondriac region, between the eighth and ninth ribs.


Q.  Did Yost say anything, on that morning, about seeing the flash of the pistols and the men?

A.  Yes, sir; he saw only one flash; the flash of one pistol.

Q.  What else did he see?

A.  He saw two men running away from him; one man was kind of back of him, and wheeled around and ran away when he saw him, and the other man was just in the act of wheeling around.

Q. Which way did he see them wheel around?

A.  Up toward the cemetery, he said.

Q.  To whom did you give the bullet that you found at the post mortem examination of Mr. Yost?

A.  To John O’Brien, the County Coroner of Tamaqua.


Q.  Describe the wound that you found which had been inflicted on his person?

A.  I found the gunshot wound in the right hypochondriac region, the ball entering between the eighth and ninth ribs; it had passed through the abdominal walls, passed through the right lobe of the liver, and entered the stomach at the pylorus, passed out at the exterior surface of the stomach, and lodged over on the left side, and struck the eighth rib near the spinal column, and there I found the ball under that rib.

Q.  What was the cause of Mr. Yost’s death as developed by this post mortem examination?

A.  The primary cause was the gunshot wound. The immediate cause was hemorrhage.

Q.  Produced by what?

A.  Produced by the rupture of the hepatic splentic and superior mesenteric arteries.

Q.  And the immediate cause of his death was hemorrhage?

A.  Resulting from this wound.

Q.  State whether or not it was a mortal wound?

A.  Necessarily a mortal wound.

Q.  And he had no chance for recovery?

A.  None at all.

                                                    Post Mortem Bullet Trajectory - Front
                                                    Post Mortem Bullet Trajectory - Back

Daniel Schepp, Sworn Testimony

Q.  Did he make any statement to you after that, in reference to how he had been shot, or by whom?

A.  I asked him and he told me, as he was going on the ladder to outen the lamp, two men stepped up to him and shot him; both shot nearly at the same time; they were within two yards of him, about two yards.

Chapter 26 – Recreating the Crime

            On murder mystery television programs today, the public has an expectation, that within the confines of an hour show, the Police Department can recreate the crime scene and solve a murder by the end of the show. It is true, that the latest techniques in forensic sciences have contributed to more successful prosecutions than ever before in modern history. Is it even remotely possible that we can recreate the crime scene of the murder of Benjamin Franklin Yost in the early morning hours of July 6th, 1875? From an amateur sleuth’s point of view, let us give it try.

                In the re-imagined scene depicted below, that was drawn for Allan Pinkerton's story book, certain details can be alluded to and can be counted on as being correct. When Officer Yost left his abode and traveled north on Lehigh Street to the northwest corner of Broad Street in Tamaqua, he placed his ladder facing north against the gas lantern post to gain access to the lamp. He must have ascended the lamp to the third step, because in order to have access to extinguish the lamp, any person that was Officer Yost's five-foot, eleven inches in height would need to be able to be at that height, to have reached the controlling mechanisms, to put out the flame. Any higher, the officer would not be able to see what he was doing. Any lower, the ballistic evidence does not work.

            After reading the postmortem examination record, conducted by Doctor Solliday, we know that Benjamin Franklin Yost was killed by a single bullet, that entered his left side of his abdomen, between the eighth and ninth rib and was found at the eighth rib near the spinal column. We can recreate that trajectory and angle of the path of the fatal bullet. We also know, from the testimony of both Doctor Solliday and Daniel Schepp, that Officer Yost exclaimed, before his death, that the murderer stood six feet away and fired the pistol. The heights of the convicted men, James Boyle and Hugh McGeehan, were both six feet tall. The height of James Kerrigan was nearly five feet tall. Knowing these parameters, let us examine the two depictions below and pick which of the scenarios seems more probable.

            As can be seen from the rudimentary illustrations below, if you align the elbows where it intersects the trajectory of the bullet, the more natural stance of the shooter would be the second scenario of James Kerrigan being the shooter. In the first scenario, the shooter’s elbow would be pointing downward, in a very awkward position. Not definitive, but a very compelling case of James Kerrigan being the more likely murder suspect.





            After two years of investigating the circumstances of the death of Officer Benjamin Franklin Yost, I am certain, that from the preponderance of the evidence submitted, that the convictions of Hugh McGeehan, James Boyle, James Carroll, Thomas Duffy and James Roarity were wrongful. There is more than enough evidence provided, that James Kerrigan, and James Kerrigan alone, murdered Officer Yost. With the assistance of Daniel Schepp and Charles Albright, Kerrigan was offered a deal to save his life from the gallows. He testified against others that he knew were innocent of the crimes that he, alone committed.

            In 2006, the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, by both Senate and House Resolutions (SR 235 and HR 527 respectively), recognized the lack of due process in the 1876-1878 trials of several alleged members of the Molly Maguires and memorializing the Governor to issue an order acknowledging the same. To date, the Governor has not issued such a proclamation.