Wednesday, November 12, 2008
43rd Anniversary of The Mollie Maguire Trials in Court
James McParlan..Alias James McKenna.. Pinkerton Detective.
Here is a great little article in reference to the Mollie Maguire Saga.
In May 1919 this article was published in the Pottsville Journal on the 43rd Anniversary of the Molly Maguire Trials.
Meredith, better known as “Tim” Davis, formerly identified with the Journal Staff, of this city, where he was born and reared, whose sister, Miss Claire, is still a resident here wrote entertainingly in Sunday’s North American of James McParlan, the famous Pinkerton detective, whose career is now ended.
In a signed article dated Denver, Colo. Where “Tim” holds a desk on one of the leading dailies of that western city, he says;
“It was just forty three years ago this month May, 1876 that the little courthouse in Pottsville, Pa. was besieged by such a throng as it never had known before and has never known since. Facing the three judges of the court were ringleaders of the notorious band of Mollie Maguire’s, men whose deeds of outlawry had shamed the name of Pennsylvania before the eyes of the rest of the country, and whose career was brought to an inglorious end by James McParlan, who is now dying in Denver.
“The case had barely got under headway when the most dramatic incident of all the trials that had taken place or that were to come was staged in this little room ion the courthouse. Presiding over the trial of the five Mollie Maguire’s was Judge Cyrus L. Pershing, an uncle if memory serves me right of General John J. Pershing, of the American Army; associated with him were Judges David B. Green and T.H. Walker. A son of Judge Walker, Lieutenant Douglas B. Green, was an officer in Pershing’s Army and was killed in action during one of the big battles of the Pennsylvania Iron Division in France.
“An array of legal talent hardly parallel in Pennsylvania jurisprudence was engaged on each side. For the Commonwealth there was George R. Kaercher, district attorney; Franklin B. Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Companies; F.W. Hughes, General Charles Albright, and Guy Farquhar; for the defense were Lin Bartholomew, John W. Ryon and Daniel Kalbfus.
“As the prosecution began to unfold its plan of attack this May in 76, District Attorney Kaercher called the names of “James McParlan,” A sturdy, ruddy complexioned young Irishman, with sandy hair and a twinkling eye, ascended the witness stand. A murmur of dissent arose from the table of the defense.
“That isn’t James McParlan, its Jim McKenna!” exclaimed some of the defendants. “It s Jim McKenna, one of our crowd. Has he turned state’s evidence now?”
“Then the cool questioning of District Attorney Kaercher began. “What is your full name,” he asked the witness.
“James McParlan, “said the witness.
“What name have you been going under for the last few years?” “James McKenna, “s the reply.
“What is your business?” was the next question.
“I am a Pinkerton Detective,” said McParlan.
“And with that revelation began the doom of the Mollie Maguire’s. Try as they might, the lawyers for the defense were unable to shake the young detective’s recital of the Mollies operations in the hard coal region of eastern Pennsylvania during the preceding four or five years. McParlan had names, dates, locations, murders, slayers-everything- at his fingers and tongue’s lips.
It was the most dramatic denouncement to the most tragic series of homicides and other deeds of violence that American criminology records can show, even the outburst of the Allen gang of mountain outlaws in southwestern Virginia in 1912 when half a dozen clansmen assassinated a judge, a commonwealth’s attorney, a sheriff, a juror and a witness in the Hillsville courtroom could not equal in cruelty and premeditation the outrages committed by the Mollies.
“The Allen’s whose trials I covered in Wytheville, Va. Right after the shootings, were men of the mountains who were brought up to that kind of feudal warfare, you read about John Fox Jr’s Novels. The Mollies were men who organized solely for the purpose of combating the constituted authorities and of wreaking there displeasure, even to the point of murder, upon any who crossed their path.
“But today there may be those who wonder why it was so difficult to break up this band of outlaws. I have had the story from McParlan’s own lips, out here in Denver as he chatted with me of the days around Pottsville, (Incidentally my birth place) and asked me on some of his old friends there whom he had not seen for thirty years or more.
“Of course I had been brought up on stories of the Mollie Maguire’s back home. I had saloons and house pointed out to me by my mother as places where the Mollies would hold rendezvous; I had in fact, witnessed, as a reporter for Pottsville papers, two hangings on the same scaffold on which were hanged the five Mollies into whose trial McParlan had thrown his verbal bombshell.
“But familiar as I was with the scenes and with many of the surviving lawyers and some of the surviving Mollies in Pottsville and surrounding towns of Schuylkill County, I never tired of hearing McParlan himself tell in picturesque brogue which he never lost, of those stirring days which he risked his life every minute of four or five years as a member of the Mollies, gathering evidence which later to convict almost 100 of the outlaws and send more than a score to the gallows.
“It is history how McParlan went to Pottsville in October, 1871 on the secret mission known only to Allen Pinkerton, head of the detective agency; Franklin B. Gowen, president of the P&R companies, and Superintendent Franklin of the Pinkerton Agency; of how he mingled among the Irish miners of Schuylkill , Carbon and adjoining counties; of how he finally worked his way into the confidence of some of the leading Mollies, whose reign of lawlessness had baffled local and state authorities for several years; on how at length was accepted as a member of the secret organization and came, in time to be regarded by the county and town police as one of the most desperate of the outlaws; of how he braved all manner of risks to send in a nightly report to Philadelphia HQ in secret code. Of course concerning his operations for the day.