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

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.

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