Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Did McParlan Lie?

This illustration from Allan Pinkerton’s novel about the so-called "Molly Maguires" gives a likeness of John Kehoe and James McParlan. Kehoe, dressed in a dark suit and topcoat, holds a top hat in his hands. McParlan, standing to Kehoe’s right, wears the clothes of a workingman.


John Kehoe, alleged “King of the Mollies,” held clearly defined views on the Pinkerton operative, James McParlan, who helped hang 21 Hibernians in five Pennsylvania coal counties.

Kehoe expressed these views in an interview given from Pottsville Prison a week after the mass hanging of six Hibernians there. They hanged the Irishmen in pairs, two at a time.

Prison officials hanged one of Kehoe’s in-laws at Pottsville on June 21, 1877.  James Carroll, an Ancient Order secretary and the father of four small children, was married to Anne O’Donnell, a cousin to Kehoe’s wife Mary Ann.

Kehoe rarely gave interviews. The shock of the recent executions may have shaken his reserve. He spoke in this instance with a reporter from the Philadelphia Times. The reporter noted of Kehoe’s interview that his “closeness and cohesiveness of stating his views … would do credit to a lawyer’s brief.”

“Before McParlan came,” Kehoe said, “they tried to make the detectives keep taverns among us. But they couldn’t find out anything because there was nothing to find out. And then they sent McParlan, who was an Irishman and perhaps a Catholic, and they instructed him to join the society and encourage and commit crime, and when he should get enough into the snare he was to begin hanging them on his own evidence and that of others whom he threatened to hang, and who, to save their necks, would lie on their fellows. After he came among us there were several murders committed, some of which he encouraged, and all of which, if he had been a true man, he could have prevented.”

Kehoe went on at length. As to McParlan’s purpose, the Hibernian said: “it served [McParlan’s] purpose to let murder go on, so that he could more readily arouse the prejudices of the community and thus break up the organization by hanging a lot of innocent men.”

By “the organization,” Kehoe meant the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Kehoe blamed McParlan for the region’s so-called “Reign of Terror.” “I could fill your paper five times over,” he said, “telling of the actual participation of this man in the crimes for which he now condemns others. He even went through the county in carriages looking for men to go and shoot other men. This I have from those who were in the carriages with him.”

The reporter evidently questioned Kehoe about McParlan’s motive. Kehoe’s response? “His motive must have been pride in his ability to ferret out crime and the well-greased purse-strings of Franklin B. Gowen.”

AOH defense attorney Martin L'Velle echoed Kehoe's convictions about Allan Pinkerton's star operative. During the "Molly Maguire" trials, L'Velle told a jury: "from 1865 to 1873 there was no such thing as a murder case in Schuylkill County, not until the emissary of death, James McParlan, made his advent into this county, and crime since then has been in the ascendant."

Note to readers: all quotes (including spelling discrepancies, misspellings, grammatical errors) are verbatim.

Coming Next: The Enduring Power of Prejudice

This post, first published on May 8, 2013, was the fourth in a series of six offered in support of a lecture series given by A. Flaherty through the OLLI program at UMass, Boston.

1 comment:

  1. McParlan suborned perjury in the trial of William Dudley (Big Bill) Haywood in1906 in Idaho. The witness influenced by McParlan was Harry Orchard /Albert Horsely. Makes you wonder about the truthfulness of his Molly Maguire testimony.