In late winter 1875, John Shanahan, a Northumberland County union man, spoke out against the British stockholders of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad. "They pay their presiding officer $25,000 per year, and that man, once poor and penniless, says [less than] $1.25 per day is too much for labor!," Shanahan said of railroad president Franklin Gowen, who later conducted the "Molly" trials. Of the newsmen’s ongoing hostility toward mineworkers, Shanahan said: "They forget we are men; that we are only resisting powerful corporations and a moneyed aristocracy."
Shanahan aired his protests in New York's Irish World in advance of his attendance at the Anti-Monopoly Convention held that March in Harrisburg. He wrote from Mount Carmel, where Ancient Order of Hibernian (AOH) officer and alleged "Molly" Patrick Hester kept a home, and a few miles from Locust Gap, site of Hester's Junction House. Like many alleged "Mollies" who kept hotels or taverns, Hester served in political office—as tax collector, township supervisor, school director, and overseer of the poor—for many years.
America's "sons of liberty" hailed back to 1765 and debates over the Stamp Act. British parliamentarian Isaac Barré used the term to describe colonists who opposed British rule. Barré, an Irish soldier and politician of French descent, declared that British oppression had "planted" the revolutionaries in America.
In Boston, the group gathered at the Green Dragon Tavern. On the night of December 16, 1773, "Sons of Liberty" under Samuel Adams walked into the annals of history when they dumped a cargo of British tea into Boston Harbor.
Less than four years after the miners held their Harrisburg convention, a Roman Catholic cemetery in Tamaqua served as the burial site for John Kehoe, alleged "King of the Mollies." During the attendant trauma of twenty-one "Molly" executions in five counties in two years, anti-monopoly fervor died, along with the rhetoric that roused a hundred thousand voters.
Of Carroll's execution, Kehoe said from Pottsville Jail: "'I'm sorrier for Carroll than any man I ever knew. He was a decent man and was raised up to decency and ought not to have been hung on such men's evidence."
From Pottsville Jail, Kehoe carried forward the "sons of liberty" theme. "'British gold was poured into his coffers,'" Kehoe told a reporter of Gowen's efforts to monopolize the hard coal trade. Of Gowen's character, Kehoe said, "'His whole course as president of the Reading road has shown him to be a man of such grasping tendencies that no obstacle, however sacred, was ever allowed to interpose between him and his end.'"
This post was revised on September 1, 2017.