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Mollie Maguires, Civil War And Irish Veteran's Unrest

Discussion in 'Immigrants During the Civil War' started by JPK Huson 1863, Apr 24, 2016.

  1. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    We grew up hearing stories of The Mollie Maguires, the famous/infamous Irish' gang' of reactionaries who played their half in a frequently bloody war between coal mine owners and money interests, on one side, and the workers they really did keep in subjugation ( I grew up around here, nobody yell at me please ) on the other. " No Irish Need Apply? " Or need eat much. Or worry about it when underground pillars of coal needed to hold up a mine's ceiling were ordered scraped too thin by greedy owners and mines caved in. Memorials all over this part of Pennsylvania dedicated to victims of mine disasters. Guess why.

    mm 1877 reading1.JPG
    Reading paper, June, 1877. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians is the group supposedly like the Mason- which of course allowed no Irish, accused of being a cover for the Mollie Maguires.

    It may seem trivial. Dad's favorite dog was named 'Maguire ', short for M. Maguire. She was not named ' Pinkerton'.

    Of necessity, an awfully long thread. It would deserve to be. Over a couple of days. I'm suspecting quite a few of our Civil War veterans, some from our fearsome Irish regiments may have been amongst those prosecuted, found guilty and hung on the charge of murder in June, 1877. They were implicated as being part of the Mollie Maguires. At least one was not guilty of the his direct charges. He was probably a member of the group, who wasn't?

    If I sound biased, well, we're also related to one of the Molly's victims, too, besides a few Molly Maguires. Benjamin Yost, the policeman shot as he made a duty stop at a gas light is a quivering leaf on Ancestry. He was part of the flip side, the side which waged the kind of war on citizens we tend to accuse ' savages ' of. The front page of the Reading Times, 1870 through 1877 is dotted with quivering leaves. The towns, Tamaqua, Mauch Chaunk, Port Clinton, Schuylkill Haven- Civil War veterans returned there. Mine did. 50th Pennsylvania, 6th US Cavalry, 93rd Pennsylvania- I could go on but you get the picture. It's a deep history on Dad's side.

    Pinkerton was handed the job of infiltrating the Mollie Maguires. That he achieved this with a deep undercover agent who was deeply Irish is either to his credit or he is still explaining the decision to God- who I suspect may be Irish.

    And let's remember Gowan, the mine owner? Was kin equal op oppressor of poor people. Google ' The Shamokin Uprising '. Having dispatched the Irish, he did a pretty good job of squishing anyone else who wanted to eat, too- I mean after working.

    And it was funny- as in odd, Dad struggled to keep the story straight, that the Molly Maguires were ruthless and on the wrong side of something called The Law. Why? Because he grew up during the Great Depression in a town where he had Irish relatives and the coal mines were a chief source of income. It was also Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, where Benjamen Yost was killed. There were ' shanty ' Irish and ' lace curtain ' Irish. The mine owners never lost control after demoralizing workers in 1877. Cave ins continued until the veins played out. Innocent men had been hung in the town's memory, when Dad was a boy. Gone but not forgotten, The Mollie Maguires had tried.

    Also funny- as in odd. Article after article avoids Civil War service on the part of any of the men hung that infamous June day in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, as if this were not post-Civil War America. Maybe there is one. I could not find it. Census after census in 1870, there they are- my ancestors living and working in all these towns scant years after returning home. The Mollie Maguires were making themselves known and in their midsts. Looked up company members, most are there. ( My grgrgrandparents, one set on Dad's side, inexplicably living in the same household with a grgrgrandmother who would marry another grgrgrandfather- no one told us that- the children who would later marry not yet born? Story there somewhere! )

    Have not researched it extensively. I have found the names of men hung as Mollie Maguires June, 1877 in Pottsville, PA who served in regiments either mustered in Schuylkill County or a company was. OR for some bizarre reason- that person was, looking at the enlistment papers. One I almost tossed because it is a Phiily regiment. Looked up the handwritten enlistment, there amongst the ' Philadelphias ' is that name with ' Pottsville ' in the correct line. Pottsville would have been the largest town nearby, the town where recruiters would have set up camp- and where a jail would hold public executions over a decade later.

    Posting them as I found them, correct or not, they are as correct as I can ascertain via census, age and place.

    Bu no means is this ' IT ' for the thread. History, events, more History- yet to come. The war is actually a not inconsiderable player in these terrific towns- yet not a word in the papers of the era OR articles.

    Civil War veterans went away to much fanfare, came home hoping to only find jobs, raise families and have Peace. Many had a terrible time making ends meet, My grgrgrandfather worked while fighting effects of a wound received at Spotsylvania. He was a one-armed fireman for the railroads. Little difficult. The pension boards were at the other end, not being helpful. The Mollie Maguires were increasingly inevitable, just an opinion.

    Of those who went to the scaffold ( story next ),a few names so far.


    Thomas Duffy

    abt 1835 26 Oct 1863 Private Infantry 52nd Pennsylvania C ( Philly regiment, found they recruited in Pottsville )


    Hugh McGahan

    abt 1835 5 May 1863 Private Artillery Independent Light Artillery Pennsylvania Volunteers F


    James Boyle

    5 Oct 1861 Private Infantry 96th Pennsylvania

    James Carroll

    abt 1839 13 Sep 1861 Private Infantry 96th Pennsylvania H

    Recruited in Schuylkill county, Dauphin county, Berks county, Luzerne County, PA

    Out of time. TBC.
     

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  3. Bruce Vail

    Bruce Vail First Sergeant

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    Mollie McGuires have a connection to the rise of organized labor in Baltimore.

    Baltimore was a major entrepot for Irish immigrants in the 1840s-1850s, with Irish neighborhoods established in the city and a number of these immigrants moving on to the coal fields of Pennsylvania, creating kinship networks between Baltimore and the Pennsylvania mining districts.

    Economic depression and labor agitation created the conditions for the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, which began among the Irish workers on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. The strike spread rapidly, especially to Pennsylvania, and violence rocked Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Reading, and Shamokin.

    The lack of broad-based labor unions at this time in American history have led some analysts to the conclusion that secret societies, especially the Mollie McGuires, were instrumental in organizing and sustaining the strikes. The lack of any documentation of Mollie activities causes historians to be wary about broad conclusions, but it a fascinating avenue of historical inquiry.
     
  4. kevikens

    kevikens Sergeant Major

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    One of the very best written sources of the activities of the Molly McGuires is the Philadelphia newspaper known as the Catholic Standard and Times, as the anthracite fields were in the Roman Catholic (arch) diocese of the city. Despite the Mollies being mostly Irish Catholics the paper did a pretty fair job of reporting their activities. I doubt, though, that the Irish were treated any worse than the other ethnic groups flooding the country after, not just the famine of the early 1840's, but the failed revolutions of 1848 as well. The lot of these workers in the Ante Bellum period was not one most of us would have put up with. I recall, though I cannot remember where, reading an account of a visitor in New Orleans watching a vessel being loaded at a wharf and observing that very heavy sacks were being tossed into the hold in which were workers gathering and stacking them. The visitor noted to the foreman that this looked like dangerous work and asked why slaves were not given this task . The foreman replied that it, indeed, was dangerous work but that if somebody's back was going to get broken it was not going to that of a valuable piece of property.
    I think that although the Irish were not treated worse than other European immigrants in terms of dangerous work (like coal mining and railroad work) what allowed the Mollies to become a notorious, if not effective, protest movement was that the Irish were less likely to accept the terrible working conditions than others. Why? Because the Irish came from a land of constant opposition to British rule, frequent uprisings and a long tradition of discovering that the meek really were not inheriting the earth. Though, as the above writer pointed out, the lack of documentation of the Mollies, especially during the Civil War itself where they were lumped together with anti war Democrats and Copperheads (especially after the NYC draft riots), they are an interesting, even intriguing, study of how an oppressed minority can be driven to defending their interests by resorting to violence. Believe it or not, in the old anthracite fields of Carbon and Schuylkill Counties their cause to this day is not considered to be ancient history.
     
  5. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    I believe it. Grew up around here, well, Schuylkill County. Gowan was considered a double traitor really because he'd served with so many in the war- then came back and helped kill quite a few veterans. And their families. I'm not sure I agree they the Irish did not have it worse than others. What no one hears in all the coverage would be things like this- with our ' famous hero ', that scumbag Pinkerton in the mix. It wasn't a singular event. The newspapers regularly reported ' shot into crowd, killed 12 ', and ' Mrs. Y given 4 months in jail for giving false statements to police '. This would have been something like " The policeman hit me. " Several of the men hung were innocent and the town knew it as well as Pinkerton, the informant and Gowan. That kind of event leaves a mark. It was funny- just a few months ago my uncle, aunt and I had to park somewhere facing the old prison. We just looked at it for awhile. No one had been talking about the Mollies- but just seeing it, we all could not help it. It's not ancient history. Beyond the Mollies Gowan went for ( and got ) every, other working person in the coal regions. Germans too. Saw a line in an article which summed it up. " Some families ate their pets. " Dad was born in Tamaqua, as was his father- and his, and his before him was born in Pottsville.


    " Wiggans Patch Massacre

    On December 10, 1875, 20 year old pregnant Ellen O'Donnell McAllister was awakened by a strange noise at 3 a.m. She woke up her husband telling him of the noise. At this time, around 20 masked men kicked in the door and started firing in the house. As Ellen walked down the steps, she was shot at point blank range. She and her unborn baby were murdered, along with her brother, Charles O'Donell. The matriarch of the house, Margaret O'Donnell, was pistol whipped by the assailants and they roughed up the boarders Mrs. O'Donnell kept. Ellen's husband, Charles McAllister, managed to escape, as did James O'Donnell, another O'Donnell sibling, and James McAllister, brother of Ellen's husband, Charles. It was said the attack occurred because the The O'Donnell family were suspected members of the Molly Maguires. Ellen's body and that of her brother were taken to Tamaqua by train. Upon arrival, the corpses were packed in ice and stored overnight in the train station to await burial at old St. Jerome's Cemetery. Ellen's sister, Mary Ann, was married to the John "Black Jack" Kehoe, who history dubbed "The King of the Molly Maguires".



    In recent years, documents and communications have emerged between Franklin Gowen, Allan Pinkerton, and the captain of the Coal and Iron Police, Captain Linden, which strongly suggest that this tragic event was not only premeditated but executed with precision. Furthermore, documents show that funding for the massacre was paid for by coal and railroad money and some sources say that billionaire Asa Packer may have fronted a good portion of the financial backing. "

    Wiki

    The GAR was extremely strong post war. There were posts in these areas. What you do not read in any papers is anything but GAR news attached to them. Their members were entirely composed of veterans whose jobs depended on coal and the RR. Some, for awhile, the canals.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  6. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    You would hope there would be a connection. If Gowan was typical they were needed- and he seems to have been. It's just that growing up in anthracite country the old mine cave ins are still pretty fresh- even today. Really- cannot think of one which was not caused by greed. Owners could just not resist insisting on finally taking the pillars holding up the whole thing. That's like pulling out your supporting beams, in your house. Pillars had to be massive- owners would just keep having them chipped away. So cold blooded it should have been considered murder. They never bothered to support families left without a father and husband. It was just insanity, in the middle of so much wealth.

    You'd have to guess certainly, the Mollie Maguires would have been wherever the Irish were in the area- Baltimore isn't far. Did not know they had come up from there to PA, thank you! Wherever the Irish were working, they were treated like that. Pinkerton just did not pick Baltimore to infiltrate or he would not have been able to name names in Schuylkill County, either. The only documentation he had were coffin notes, hardly signed evidence, until they obtained confessions. His book was largely nonsense ( there's a few sources on that, please do not take my word on it. It's Pinkerton, can never figure out why he is taken so seriously during the war years. ) Love to see someone do research or a book on Baltimore and oh, The Ancient Order of the Hibernians.

    That RR strike was horrendous! Holy heck, strikers killed, citizens killed. Didn't Gowan reduce wages by 50%, setting it off in the first place? Then kept reducing them. I think he was the richest man in the country by then. It's extremely hard reading, putting the pieces of the strike together. Starving workers finally having enough and being shot at for it. It's such a crazy story from beginning to end you wonder where on earth the movie has been. And where it was in school I have no idea- not a peep.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2017
  7. donna

    donna Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Interesting thread. I always have enjoyed movie, "The Molly Maguires" with Sean Connery and Richard Harris. If you haven't seen it, it worth viewing.
     
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  8. kevikens

    kevikens Sergeant Major

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    I was just about to mention that. The movie is entertaining but on another level it is very disturbing. Like all worthwhile historical movies it is very good at establishing the ambiance of the time and place, a pretty depressing one. The character of McParlan, the Pinkerton informer, was as well presented as the actual documentation permitted but it is not a feel good movie. They did not all live happily ever after and the power of the Coal and Iron police is frightening. We can thank our lucky stars (and men like Powderly and Gompers) that for most of us this troubling time is ancient history.
     
  9. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA Corporal

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    Unfortunately, this was always a threat - especially when you are under the Susquehanna River.

    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knox_Mine_disaster

    I lived in Pottsville back in the late '60s.

    USS ALASKA
     
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  10. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    @USS ALASKA, I also lived near Pottsvile (Orwigsburg) in the late 1960s. I worked in the Pottsville Library for two years and quickly learned that even at that late date, nobody would talk about the Mollie Maguires!

    I wish I still had the author/title of what I was told in confidence by the assistant librarian (who had been there for many years and was on the verge of retirement) was the best history of the Mollie Maguires. It, and other books on the Mollies, was not kept on the open shelves but back in her office, to keep it from disappearing. As a library employee, I was allowed to take it home, but normally it was for use only in the library. Unfortunately, there was a lot of romanticism connected with the whole movement, expecially after A. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes story, The Valley of Fear and, later, the movie.

    Of course the big scandal while we lived in PA was the murder of Jock Yablonski and his family--Yablonski was the leader of a reform movement within the United Mine Workers. This incident is, of course, far outside the scope of this forum. I mention it only to point out that the violence associated with the Mollies did not die out!
     
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  11. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    Last edited: Jun 9, 2016
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  12. USS ALASKA

    USS ALASKA Corporal

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    Oh great!?! Another book to add to the Amazon Wish List!

    Thank you!
    USS ALASKA
     
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  13. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    One thing that impressed me about the book was the photos of the 1870s landscape--the whole area was completely denuded of trees in one vast clearcut! Fortunately, the forest has since grown back and the area is now quite beautiful. Sorry, another thread hijacking here!

    The book I cited was rather resented in Schuylkill County because it was written by an "outsider." What was left out of that criticism was that, because local emotions were still high even in the 1960s, only an outsider could take even a somewhat objective view.
     
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  14. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Schuylkill County has suffered much over the decades from those taking advantage of wealth to be found there. Dad's family watched, Revolutionary War deep, as men like Gowen threw both railroad workers and miners under track and breaker for power's sake. Have a photo of my grgrgrandparents around the time all heck was breaking lose in Tamaqua- the Mollies were being hung, railroad workers murdered as they asked for living wages. Gowan vilified the Irish because it was easy. White, anglo saxon Protestant rr workers were tougher- he had that shushed. All these years later at least the Irish are vindicated.

    For St. Patrick's Day, it's was first been suspected Irishman Gowen was finally murdered by the Mollies in 1889- found dead and labeled a suicide - no one pursued it. He'd persecuted the little guy by the hundreds, vilified his own countrymen, terrorized entire counties. The Mollies did not have to. He had so many enemies, despite it being a poorly staged ' suicide ', no one made any attempt to find out who killed him.

    In memory of those who perished, and the Irish, whose struggles in Schuylkill County it is impossible to romanticize.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
  15. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    I agree! Only someone like A. Conan Doyle (far removed from the scene) could have romanticized it!
     
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  16. civilken

    civilken Sergeant Major

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    I grew up in a union home yes those boys were rough but let's remember the owners were no angels. And like you said I remember growing up and hearing the same stories probably I honestly cannot conceive the working conditions are forefathers had to deal with and thank God I never will but that is certainly a part of American history.
     
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  17. kevikens

    kevikens Sergeant Major

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    I imagine 150 years from now people will be wondering how Americans of the early Twenty-first Century managed to put up with working 40 hours a week, not having three day weekends all year long, not having 133 federal legal holidays on the calendar, not living an average life span of 120 years and having 'bosses' telling them what to do.
     
  18. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    These are conditions men died so we could achieve. No one died to wrestle 7 working days a week from mine owners or begged them to please allow coal pillars to be hacked away at, blood money profit when cave-ins both snuffed the life from miners and the Susquehanna to find underground passages. Or mine so close to the surface, those mine owners are still claiming lives today. Sink holes, old mines, here in Anthracite country- we still lose jeeps in them. Those scum buckets.

    I did a long, long research because two Civil War grgrgrandfathers, Dad's great grandfathers, lived smack in the middle of Anthracite country. I grew up within spitting distance of the first Anthracite mine active in the United States- back now, it's 5 minutes from my house. There's no marker. It's just an ungainly scoop in the mountains- strip mining was allowed when the coal went out. Shale lives with coal- also grew up with a bed room full of ancient History- ferns, grasses and bug fossils found up here, our weekends spent splitting our version of black gold. Dad knew where they could be found. His Dad did and his Dad. The next generation- among Tamaqua Civil War veterans, miners, railroad workers, boatmen. My vets were the last two- both lived from post war on in Tamaqua- except when in Vet hospitals. Our Irish branch lived with one, in Tamaqua. My grgrandmother just hated the stuffing out them- and she was Irish. Have always wondered if the backlash generated in the papers did ' something '.
     
  19. Legion Para

    Legion Para Brigadier General Moderator Forum Host

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    Even though I learned about the Mollie Maguires growing up, I spent time online refreshing my memory on them. After careful consideration, I decided to move this thread to the Immigration forum as per @Pat Young request. The Mollie Maguires were Irish Immigrants.
     
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  20. civilken

    civilken Sergeant Major

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    you are of course absolutely right funny how times change..
     
  21. MaryDee

    MaryDee Sergeant Major Trivia Game Winner

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    I remember my two elder sons coming home from Auburn school with fossils--fossil hunting was the main activity at recess. The biggest find would have been a trilobite, but my boys were never so fortunate.

    Anyone who survived the cave-ins, the flooding, etc., as described by @JPK Huson 1863 would spend what little, if any, was left of their later--or maybe not so later--years coughing up coal dust. One of our neighbors in the 1960s was badly disabled with "black lung"--he was only in his late 30s.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2017
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