The Chicago Tribune
March 26, 1878
Execution of Tully, Hester, and McHugh at Bloomsburg Pa.
Their Crime the Murder of a Superintendent of a Colliery.
The Nearly-Successful Attempt of McHugh to Escape Last January.
The Triple Execution.
Special Dispatch to the Tribune.
Bloomsburg, Pa., March 25, - To the last there was some fear that there would be an attempt to rescue the condemned men. Large bodies of men representing the Mollie-Maguire locality of Hester's home, Locust Gap, Centralia, and Mount Carmel, were present, but if they intended a demonstration, a large police forced armed with sixteen shooters showed the folly of such an attempt. All three of the condemned arose with the sun. Tully went from his bed to his knees for prayer. After the usual morning devotion of a good Catholic, he prepared his toilet, and then for a half hour paced the cell. Every now and then he would stop at his window, that overlooks the jail-yard in which the scaffold was being erected. His breakfast was brought to him by his immediate friends, who were admitted to his cell. Those present were his wife, three daughters, two sons-in- law, and his brother. He took occasion to remark that an innocent man was about to be murdered.
McHugh prayed long in silence, but showed no excitement.
At half-past 6 Fathers Schlueter and McGovern, of Danville, and Roche, of Shamokin, were announced at the outward gate, and immediately admitted to the inclosure. A few moments later the prisoners Hester and Tully, together with their friends, went to McHugh's cell, where the religious formulae of the Catholic Church were gone through with, including the observance of High Mass.
These services and the light repast for breakfast occupied a long time. The spiritual advisers did not leave them, but occasionally spoke encouraging words to nerve up the men, and held out to them the hope of a glorious existence in the future.
The crowds encircling the Sheriff's residence and the jail were immense, but no serious outbreak occurred. The grounds were well policed by a heavily armed detail of the coal and iron men.
During the few minutes between the time of the admission of the reporters to the guardroom and their entering the jail-yard the New York Sun correspondent took occasion to criticise its management in a mild manner, and, for his temerity, was ejected. In about eight minutes after the entrance of the spectators the announcement was made that entire quietness was desired, and in a moment thereafter the procession of death appeared at the door leading from the Jail into the yard.
Peter McHugh appeared first, preceded by the Sheriff. His spiritual adviser walked with him, repeating the prayers for the occasion. His eyes were steadfastly fixed on the cross, which he held firmly in his hands. He ascended the stairway with a steady step, nor did his eyes wander from the cross in his ascent to the trap. No one could detect upon his face the least concern about what was taking place.
Next in the procession was Patrick Hester, the well-known Mollie of Locust Gap, who has all along asserted his innocence of the crime for which he was deprived of life to-day. He walked steadily, but his eyes wandered all around the yard, seeming to pay no attention to the words of the reverend father beside him. When he put his foot on the top step of the gallows he looked into the face of the Sheriff and made a faint attempt to smile. His features bore all through the ordeal an anxious expression. His heart was still yearning for interposition from Harrisburg.
Patrick Tully and his spiritual friend brought up the rear. He was the only man among the number who manifested emotion. He had been weeping, and his eyes were filled with water as he gazed upon the crowd. When all were arranged upon the scaffolding, the clergymen repeated a short prayer for each and the men, holding the cross in their hands, made responses.
They were then given the opportunity to make a few remarks. McHugh raised the cross a little, to bring it opposite his eyes, and then said that he forgave all his enemies, and as he was going to his God, he expected mercy at His hands. He said nothing of the murder of Rea, but added that if he had done as his best friends just advised him he would not be where he was then.
Tully then was given an opportunity to speak. He failed to enlighten anybody upon any of the mysteries still unraveled. He spoke in low and broken tones.
McHugh intended that he should say something about his innocence, but he (Hester) did not respond to the request.
When Hester's turn came he threw his chest forward, head back, and clasping his hands across his body in front, he simply remarked: "As God is my witness I am innocent."
The drop fell immediately afterwards. There was no bungling nor much apparent suffering by the men. Hester neck was probably broken, and he died in nine minutes. Tully breathed his last in eleven minutes, and McHugh his last in twelve minutes. Hester's body will be taken to his home for internment, and the bodies of McHugh and Tully will be conveyed to Wilkesbarre for burial.
The murder for which Patrick Tully, Patrick Hester, and Peter McHugh were hanged to-day, was the first committed by
or rather the first in which they appeared as an organization. Hester was Body-Master of the Centralia Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and McHugh was Secretary. Before this, the Buckshots – a society taken from Ireland and transplanted in wilding soil – had been held responsible for the lawlessness in the anthracite counties. The Buckshots resolved themselves into members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, of which they got full control. In this case justice has been slow, but her hand has fallen at last. The Mollies became more and more audacious and more reckless in their deeds of violence, until they had the whole anthracite district at their mercy. As President Gowen said, in his eloquent charge in one of these trials, They had life, liberty, and property at their mercy. They hired murderers: packed the juries to acquit them; elected the Commissioners who built the jails; were traded with for the election of a Governor; and narrowly escaped electing on their own number to sit on the Bench beside the Judge who sentenced them. But, when McParlan went in Schuylkill County, the fate of these murderers was sealed, and the rope, though they saw it not, began dangling over their heads.
was committed Oct. 17, 1868. Alexander W. Rea was the Superintendent of a colliery a few miles from Centralia. These me, with seven others, planned the murder the night before, in one of the Mollies' liquor-saloons. They expected that he would have about $16,000 on his person, with which to pay off the men; and six of them secreted themselves along the road leading to his colliery, and when he appeared, rushed out and attacked him. They compelled him to get out of his buggy, and found that he had paid his men the day before, and had only $60 in money with him. This they took, also his watch; and then Kelly turned to McHugh and said, "What shall we do with this man?" McHugh replied, "I don't want to be hunted around the world by any living man" and with that they fired upon him. He ran into the bushes, but fell exhausted from loss of blood. Tully followed him, and putting his pistol – loaned him by Hester the day before the purpose – close to his ear, shot him dead.
The crime was forgotten in the many that followed, but it came out with the rest; and last summer they were tried at Bloomsburg, and convicted, - Kelly "the Bum" turning State's evidence. They had all the manifold chances that the law allows in this State: two trials, an appeal, a writ of error, and last appeals to the Board of Pardons. All these were of no avail, except to postpone their execution, as in all the other Mollie trials, none having been hanged on the day originally set. Since then they have been confined in the venerable structure that serves Columbia County as a jail, but is a far safer place for chicken-thieves than for murderers like these.
On the night of the 23d of January the prison-officials were given a good scare by the
DISAPPEARANCE OF M'HUGH
He is only 35, about five feet seven inches high, dark and well-built. The keepers had put shackles upon his legs, and bored holes in the door so as to keep him in sight; but the wily villain hung his undershirt over the door at night, explaining that the moon shone in so that he could not sleep. At midnight they entered the cell, and found the shackles on his unused bed, but no McHugh. Hearing a scratching sound underneath, they took up a newspaper that lay upon the floor, and found at once where he had gone. With a gimlet and an old caseknife, he had cut a square trap in the floor, and gone below into a vacant space extending under the entire prison. And accidental discharge of a pistol was followed by a voice, "Don't shoot, - I'll come up." He appeared at the hole and jumped up into the cell. "You are a nice young man, aren't you?" said one of the officers. "What were you doing down in that hole?" Trying to escape?" "Yes" replied he; "and if any man was confined like I am, under sentence of death, and my life swore away by perjury, he would try to escape." Nothing more was then said, but the prisoner was conveyed to Tully's cell and reshackled. The officers tried hard to find out how McHugh managed to open up the shackles, but they only answer returned was, "They came open. I don't know how it happened, but that's all I know about it." In the morning McHugh appeared to have lost all his spirit and said to one of the officers, "Why didn't you shoot me last night?" "Couldn't be done," was the reply; "there's a death of another kind in store for you." "Well," replied the prisoner, "I'm ready to die any minute." Upon examining the damaged cell, the officers found that beneath the floor was an excavation four feet in depth, extending the breadth of the prison. This, of course had not been the work of McHugh, but had been dug, for what purpose is not known, when the prison was built. Upon making his way through the floor, he turned his attention to the wall, on the other side of which was liberty; but instead of attempting to cut his way through, began digging, with the intention of going below the foundation and then working his way to the surface. His best plan would have been to attack the wall.