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


Chapter 12 - Alibi Witnesses – Family Members

Since the defendants were unable to testify on their own behalf, alibi witnesses and eyewitnesses were only used for the defense. Several witnesses have been examined on the subject of the alibi in relation to James Boyle. One of the first alibi witnesses to take the stand, was a cousin of James Boyle. Kate Boyle was born in July of 1859 to John W. and Mary Boyle in County Donegal, Ireland. She had emigrated, with her parents and siblings, to America on April 5, 1864. Kate was called to the stand and said that on the 5th of July, 1875, she lived at No. 5 with her parents. She said that morning between 9 and 11 o’clock, she was working at a hog pen and she saw John Boyle there. The material portion of her evidence is that she saw the prisoner, James Boyle, that evening at her Uncle Barney P. Boyle’s house in Ashton. She stated that she was going for water and stopped in Barney P. Boyle’s tavern. Her uncle, aunt and James Boyle were there, and it was then dark. She stated that she was about sixteen years old and at 1 o’clock in the evening was coming home. She remembered the time because she saw the clock at the post office. She said she walked about three quarters of a mile from their home with John Mulhearn and her sister Bridget; and that John Mulhearn left shortly after.

James Boyle’s uncle was next called to give testimony on his behalf. Barney N. Boyle had married Hannah Boyle about 1865. Barney N. Boyle stated that he saw James Boyle on the night of the 5th of July at Barney P. Boyle’s house and tavern. He testified that John Mulhearn came in afterward, and remained a couple of minutes. The witness says that he remained in the house in company with the prisoner and Barney P. Boyle’s wife. Barney N. Boyle left his brother-in-law’s tavern and went to work at half past 10 o’clock as he was on the 11 o’clock shift. He also said that James Boyle was drunk and that the witness went with him to his own house and his wife opened the door. The witness went in and pulled off the prisoner’s boots and put him to bed, and then left. On cross-examination, he said that he came to this country in 1873. He stated that Kate Boyle was not present in Barney P. Boyle’s house while he was there. He says that Barney P. Boyle is now hunting work, and that he saw him last on the 4th of July of this year, at home. He cannot give the date of any other time he was at Barney P. Boyle’s house, but he met James Boyle frequently before and since. He took James Boyle home drunk pretty often, and has taken him home drunk since that date.

Hannah Boyle was born in August, 1846 in County Donegal, Ireland. She was the wife of Barney N. Boyle, and had testified, as to her husband going to work on the night shift, before Barney N. Boyle and James Boyle left their house on the night of the 5th of July, 1875. She says that the two went together. She said, “When I heard James was arrested, I said that it couldn’t be for he was at our house.” She called Barney McCarron “a dirty deserter.” (Barrett, page 210).

            Another family member was called to the stand, that of Margaret Boyle. Born around 1824 in County Donegal, Ireland, she had married Patrick Boyle around 1842. They had two sons, Frank and Patrick. The family immigrated to New York City, arriving on November 13, 1849 aboard the ship “Houghton”. Her husband, Patrick Boyle died in Lansford around 1859, leaving the widow, Margaret to run a boarding house to make ends meet. In 1875, Hugh McGeehan had resided in the boarding house, which was situate next to the residence of James Boyle.

During the second trial, Margaret states that the last time she was Hugh McGeehan on the 5th of July was about 6 o’clock, in the evening. She next saw him the next morning between 5 and 6 o’clock, when she unlocked the door to let him in. McGeehan then told her that he had been at a ball in Summit Hill, and had left there at 10 o’clock to go to Nesquehoning. Margaret had testified that it was her habit to go to bed at 10 o’clock and that John Burns, to which she is now married, and Patrick Breslin, another boarder, went to bed before she did. Con Shovlin, a third boarder, was still out, and she left the back door open for him. She also said that there was but one key to the two doors, and that she locked the front door with the key and placed it in the back door which was left open in order that Shovlin could get in. She stated that in the morning when she got up, she found the door locked and McGeehan outside. Shovlin told her he had locked the door. Burns and McGeehan usually slept in the same room. Margaret stated that after McGeehan came from Mauch Chunk, he went to Summit Hill, came back about six o’clock and that after supper she saw him go on through the woods, in the neighborhood of Summit Hill, and that was the last she saw of him until the next morning. Margaret admitted on her cross-examination that she had made statements contradictory in what she had stated on the stand in the first trial, and admitted that she had said that McGeehan was in that night.

                                                                    Bernard P. Boyle

Barney P. Boyle, another uncle of James Boyle, was called as the last witness on the defense. He testified that he lived in Ashton on the 6th of July, nearly a mile from Summit Hill, and the same distance from No. 5 colliery. He stated that he saw him first on the 6th of July, 1875, from 12 to 4 o’clock, in the afternoon, and he stopped all that time in his house. The witness stated that he drank to the prisoner’s – four times. Barney P. Boyle stated that he left James Boyle in his own house and did not see him after that.

After the alibi witnesses had left the courtroom, Kate Boyle and Barney N. Boyle were immediately arrested for perjury. On September of 1876, the case of the Commonwealth vs. Bridget Hyland, et al., the case against Kate and Barney, as defendants, accused of perjuring themselves in testimony delivered on behalf of the men already convicted of the murder of Officer Yost. Mrs. Hyland was arraigned for perjury in the Munley trial; sixteen-year old Kate Boyle and her uncle, Barney N. Boyle were arraigned for perjury in the Yost trial, along with James Duffy. The defendants were quickly found guilty. On October 16 they received their sentences, along with fifteen other Molly Maguires who had been convicted in the Thomas and Major conspiracy cases. All nineteen convicts were brought into Pottsville courtroom chained together, for a single, mass sentencing. It was a remarkable show of power by the authorities, a spectacle that was not to be surpassed until the following June 21, when ten Molly Maguires were executed on a single day (Kenny, page 224-225). Kate Boyle, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison (Kenny, page 289). Nearly a year and a half later, the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons met and recommended a pardon for Kate (Philadelphia Inquirer). Barney N. Boyle received three years of confinement. This paved the way, in other Molly Maguire trials, for the suppression of any witness to provide an alibi for any defendant.

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