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


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.

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