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


Chapter 4 - The Accused and the AOH

            On February 4, 1876, nearly six months after the murder of Officer Yost, Captain Robert Linden and a contingent of the coal and iron police arrested Hugh McGeehan of Summit Hill, James Boyle of Lansford, James Roarty of Coaldale, James Carroll of Tamaqua and Thomas Duffy of Reevesdale. McGeehan and Boyle were accused of the shooting, while Roarty, Carroll and Duffy were charged with accessories to the murder.

            Hugh McGeehan was born in 1852 to his parents, James and Mary McGeehan of Glenfin, Donegal, Ireland. His younger sister, Margaret, was born October, 5 1858. He and his sister, both left Donegal, sometime after 1870, to later settle in the boarding home of Margaret Boyle, on West Bertsch Street, in the Storm Hill section of Lansford, Pennsylvania. He had initially worked in the coal mines of the Lehigh and Wilkes-Barre Coal Company before the long strike of 1875. McGeehan had become a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians during this time, becoming an outspoken member, often leading the marches of the striking coal miners. This labor activism is what eventually got him blacklisted, wherein, he could no longer work as a miner.

            Robert Linden had described Hugh McGeehan to Allan Pinkerton in a report in 1875, as being:  about 24 years of age, well, but not stout built, weighs about 178 pounds, light complexion, light hair, smooth face, blue eyes, broad flat nose, large white teeth, which he shows plainly in laughing, looks like a Scotchman, wore a Scotch cap, blue sack coat, black vest, light drab pants, white shirt, wears a society badge on left lapel of vest, has a long scar on left hand running diagonally towards the wrist.

            On August 9th, 1875, not being able to ascertain work in the coal mines, Pinkerton Detective James McParland joins McGeehan and Alex Campbell at Ambrosher’s Saloon for a drink. Campbell tell McParland that he is there to help McGeehan get a liquor license to open a saloon. On August 14th, 1875, Hugh McGeehan opens a tavern in Summit Hill, in a building leased from Nathan Clouse. On January 9th, 1876, Hugh McGeehan marries Maria Duggan, in St. Joseph’s Church, in Summit Hill, witnessed by James Walsh and Maria McGee. Unfortunately, not long after, McGeehan is arrested for the murder of Yost. His wife, Maria does not outlive her husband for too long, for in September, of 1879, she dies from Consumption (Tuberculosis) in Lansford, leaving no issue. Hugh McGeehan’s sister, Margaret, had married the widow Margaret Boyle’s son, Patrick F. Boyle in 1875. They had five children: Ellen, James, Mary, Sarah and Margaret.

            James Boyle was born in Lansford, Pennsylvania, in 1856, of two immigrant parents from Donegal, Ireland, Dennis Boyle and Margaret Gallagher. Both he and his older brother, John (Jack) were listed as active members of the AOH in Storm Hill. Jack was listed as the Secretary to the Storm Hill AOH, which would have required his ability to both read and write. James Boyle was twenty-one years of age when arrested for the murder of Yost and single. Neighbors were astonished by his arrest. He was the best looking prisoner in the County Jail (Barrett, page 63).

            When the murder trial was in session, a newspaper reporter wrote, “Looking at Boyle as he sat facing Kerrigan testify against Boyle, we wondered that if it were possible that such a manly, handsome-looking specimen of manhood could possibly be guilty of the terrible crime of murder, and we concluded in our own mind that if the evidence against him was not simply conclusive, that we would be induced mentally to give him the benefit of the doubt, for a more happily innocent-looking face we never saw occupy such an unfortunate position.” (Barrett, page 63).

                                                                        James Boyle

James Roarity

Thomas Duffy