Andruss Library Special Collections


The Murder of Alexander W. Rea and the Trial  and Execution of Patrick Hester, Patrick Tully and Peter McHugh: The Columbia County Mollie Maguires

A Full-text Primary Resource on 19th Century Pennsylvania History


    On the 17th of October 1868 Alexander Rea was on his way to Centralia when he was ambushed and murdered by a group of men who would later be identified as Mollie Maguires.  Rea was murdered for a large sum of money that he was thought to have in his possession at the time of the attack.  The guilty party escaped detection for a short time, but three persons were arrested, along with a fourth shortly after the first and the first three were tried and acquitted, the fourth let go.  The murder remained a mystery until 1876, when a man nicknamed Kelly "the Bum" confessed to the crime and implicated Patrick Hester, Patrick Tully and Peter McHugh.  The trial was quickly labeled a Mollie Maguire trial and the public was enthralled.  The three men were convicted of the murder of Rea and sentenced to death by hanging.  Over a year later on March 25, 1878, Hester, Tully and McHugh met their fate on the gallows in Bloomsburg Pennsylvania.  The event was not only covered by local papers, but by national papers from cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and New York.  This was the only Mollie Maguire trial and execution in Columbia county.

    This is but a brief history of this series of events in Columbia County and the town of Bloomsburg's history.  Presented here are articles from the collections of newspapers on microfilm from the Andruss Library of Bloomsburg University.  The articles have been transcribed as faithfully as possible so that the reader and researcher can come to their own conclusions regarding this historic event in the town's history.  Some of the microfilm collection contained articles that are extremely difficult to decipher or completely illegible, notes on this are present where necessary.  The articles are grouped by paper and then grouped according to the three major periods surrounding the murder of Rea; the murder and first trial, the second trial and the execution.


The Murder of Alexander W. Rea and the First Trial

The Second Trial for the Murder of Alexander W. Rea

The Execution of the Columbia County Mollie Maguires

Created in 2006 by Willard Cilvik, Bloomsburg University Archives Intern


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Updated 3/8/07