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


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.