Miners' Weekly Journal


March 1, 1978





Of Hester, Tully, McHugh, Kehoe and Donnelly.


            A special dispatch to the JOURNAL from Harrisburg, under date of February 22, say: "Governor Hartranft has issued the death warrants of the Columbia and Schuylkill county Mollie Maguires.  The date of the death warrants of Hester, Tully and McHugh, convicted of the murder of Alex W. Rea, is March of the 25th; of Kehoe, convicted of the murder of F. W. Langdon, April 18th, and of Dennis, alias "Bucky" Donnelly, convicted of the murder of Thos. Sanger, also April 18th."  Donnelly's case will be taken to the Supreme Court next month.  The cases of the others, have been reviewed by that body and their last hope now lies in the Board of Pardons.



March 22, 1878

Doomed to Die.


Hester, Tully and McHugh will be hung on Monday next, unless unforeseen circumstances occur.  A special dispatch from Harrisburg to the JOURNAL, under the date of Tuesday evening, says "the Board of Pardons decided this afternoon not to interfere with the decision of the Courts in the case of Hester, Tully and McHugh, the Columbia county ‘Mollie Maguires,' who have been sentenced to die on Monday next."  This news will be a severe shock to Hester and his friends, who entertained strong hopes that his sentence would be at least commuted to imprisonment for life.  The murderers of Alex. Rea were convicted in Bloomsburg in February, 1877.  Their case was carried to the Supreme Court, where the decision of the lower Court was affirmed.  At the last regular meeting of the Board of Pardons, the case was laid before that body, which postponed a decision until last evening, when as our dispatches state, the members of the Board declined to interfere with the decision of the Courts.  The hanging of Hester, Tully and McHugh is fixed for Monday next, between the hours of 10 and 3 o'clock.



March 22, 1878





Matters in Columbia County.


            A special dispatch from Bloomsburg, under date of Thursday evening says: "Monday will be a never to be forgotten day in the memory of Columbia county.  The county is yet innocent of a hanging, and eighteen months ago it would have been a difficult matter to convince our people that the stringing up of three men for the crime of murder, would within that space of time be an accomplished fact.  When this county was formed a mistake was made in placing Centralia, or Conyngham township, within its borders.  That corner of the coal field should have been adopted by Northumberland county.  Its people differ in character from those of every other part of the county, just as much as does coal from turnips.  Conyngham township is turbulent as the majority of coal towns are.  Here everything is different.  The surrounding country is a farming district.  There are some iron mines in Columbia and other minerals are by no means scarce, yet the class of men employed in working them seem to differ very materially from the average coal miner.  A year ago our people could have said, had it not been for the coal region Columbia county soil would not have been stained with murder.  Since that time, however, murder has been committed in the farming district, but its commission is placed to the credit of the example set by our coal-bearing neighbors.  Bloomsburg is comfortably filled with outsiders.  Many of these are attending court.  Many are here for curiosity.  It is thought that the place will be overrun on Sunday and Monday.  The farming districts will send immense delegations on Monday morning.  Farmers are proverbially fond of a hanging, though few of them will catch a glimpse of the coming execution.  Luzerne county will send a large quota and may be not of very pleasant composition.  Northumberland county will be very largely represented and in all probability Schuylkill will not be far behind.  A great many people will be disappointed, for this reason.  The jail yard, in which the execution will take place, is very small.  The scaffold and its adjuncts will occupy probably half of it, therefore but very few people will be able to gain admission thereto or obtain standing room.  The jail itself is a miserable affair, with only four cells.  In each cell is a window, each window might be compelled to accommodate from four to six sightseers, certainly not more, so that probably not more than one person out of every hundred visiting Bloomsburg on Monday will obtain admission to the jail.  Sheriff Hoffman will do his duty in a proper way and it is thought will admit none but his jury and the representatives of the press.  Everything is now in readiness for the execution.  Two of our Commissioners went to Mauch Chunk yesterday for the purpose of borrowing the gallows upon which Kelly, Doyle, Donohoe and Campbell were hung.  They were successful in their errand and the unpleasant machine is now in Bloomsburg.  The three unfortunates who are to be hung on Monday have been described so often as to render anything of the kind unnecessary but as a report had gained circulation that Hester has fallen away in flesh since his confinement it might be as well to state that such is not the case.  Among other nourishing things he takes a quart of milk for breakfast every morning, and had thrived upon prison diet so well that he now weighs 250 pounds.  This is an immense weight for a man who does not stand more than five feet five inches in height.  Horrible as the subject is you will hear on every hand the query, "I wonder will his neck break," and, the general opinion appears to be that it will, and that the rope will follow suit unless it be of very stout make.  Tully and McHugh are medium sized men, and no troubles will be experienced with them.  It is the present intention of the sheriff to hang the three men at once, but whether the intention will be carried out, cannot be stated with any degree of certainty, as Hester might be indulged in his wish to be hung after his companions have taken their departure for another world.  Hester intimates that he will be exculpated by his companions and for this reason desires to prolong his life after theirs has been taken, laboring under the impression that if they say he is innocent in every way of the murder, that his life will be spared.  Should Tully and McHugh make such a statement, it is impossible to state at this time what its effect upon Hester's case would be.  Probably it wouldn't affect it at all.  The jail is heavily guarded as usual and a constant watch kept upon the doomed men, who spend a great deal of their time in prayer."



March 29, 1878








The Murder of Alexander Rea Avenged – One of the Criminals Confesses His Guilt – Columbia County's First Hanging.



[Special Dispatch to the Miners' Journal]

            Bloomsburg, March 25. – Prior to Monday the death penalty was never inflicted in Columbia county and the fact that a triple execution was to occur within its boundaries drew to the county seat an immense assemblage.  Every hamlet in the county was probably represented in Bloomsburg to-day and scarcely a town in the coal region failed to send a delegation to view the last act in Patrick Hester's life, his death.  The crime for which Hester, Tully and McHugh were hung was probably the most cold blooded ever committed in a region that for many years was the paradise of criminals of the most ferocious character.  The murder of Alexander Rea caused, at the time of its commission, the most intense excitement throughout the Schuylkill coal field, and the interest felt in it has been kept alive by the hope ever entertained by the family of the murdered man, that the assassins would in good time be brought to justice.  There is another reason why the murder of Rea has not faded into oblivion as many other crimes of scarcely less magnitude have.  Though proof was lacking the suspicion that the murder was either committed or instigated by Patrick Hester, "the king of the Mollies," as he has been called, was ever uppermost in the minds of Northumberland county's most respectable citizens, and this suspicion was in the end the cause of to-day's work.  Hester, in Northumberland county, had been a power for evil almost since his arrival in Mt. Carmel.  He was known as the chief delegate of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, and as a man whose good will was to be sought and ill will feared.  His influence over men of his class was unbounded.  He ruled the members of the society of which he was chief, with an iron hand.  At his bidding they never hesitated to perpetrate crime, which in years gone by ran riot in Northumberland county.  Possessed of the hope that this man would at length reach the end of his tether, the law-abiding portion of the community have ever considered it a necessity to keep before the general public the assassination of an inoffensive and reputable citizen.


As it is known in the coal region, differs in one respect from what is understood as a Mollie Maguire outrage, inasmuch as greed for gold was the motive with which it was committed.  As a general thing the members of this once dreaded society performed their "clean jobs," either for the purpose of removing from their path, a man who neither feared nor favored them, or for some real or fancied injury of a petty character, such as discharging one of their members for disobedience of orders or inattention to or unfitness for work undertaken.  To strike terror into the respectable portion of the community appeared to be the one crime of the "Mollie Maguires," and their mode of procedure was to murder the unfortunate supposed to be inimical to their interests in such a manner as to confound by its rapidity of execution and apparently reckless openness even the dearest friends of the murdered persons.  It has often been said that in the commission of some of their crimes these misguided and heartless men showed courage of at least the bulldog nature.  This is a mistake never made by those possessed of a knowledge of the men or their society.  There is nothing courageous on the part of from three to half a dozen well armed men making a premeditated attack upon an unsuspecting person, especially when those men are firmly impressed with the idea that their detection and conviction as assassins was an utter impossibility on account of preconcerted alibis skillfully manufactured by perjurers with the fear of neither God nor man before their eyes.  Firm in the belief that the very name of their society would prevent unpleasant consequences resulting from their misdeeds, the "Mollies" of the coal region committed a murder with as much coolness as the average mortal would undertake any of the common tasks of life.  The murder of Mr. Rea, as has been said, was committed through greed.  There is no reason to suppose that any ill will existed between the murdered man and his assassins.  The majority of them in fact were not even acquainted with his personal appearance, therefore as Daniel Kelly, or Manus Kull, or Kelly "The Bum," as he is variously designated, testified upon the witness stand Alexander Rea was


            The murder of Rea, occurring as it did upon the 17th of October 1868, may be ascribed to an accident.  On the afternoon of the 16th of October, of the above mentioned year, three desperados, named Daniel Kelly, Patrick Tully and Edward Skiffington met at the saloon of Bernard, better known as Barney Dolan, at Big Mine Run, Schuylkill county.  After indulging in several social glasses there were joined by Patrick Hester, ex-county delegate and body master of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, or Mollie Maguires of Northumberland county.  Hester was a man of higher grade in the social scale than the three Mollies referred to.  He was a man of property and influence; was a local politician of some note and a very important individual at county conventions.  Remaining in the saloon until a coal train hove in sight, Hester attempted to board it, but failed.  Returning to the saloon he joined Kelly and his companions, the entire party taking the road to Ashland.  Arrived at that point, the saloon of Tom Donahue was sought.  There another carouse was indulged in.  When everybody was good-humored Hester confidentially remarked, "I lost a good thing to-day down the mountain, but I've got a good thing on hand.  There's Rea going to make the pay at Bell's tunnel to-morrow, and there's money in it if the job is done clean."  The "good thing" referred to was the robbery of Claude White in the vicinity of Pottsville.  The proposition to make


of Rea was received by the company assembled at Donohue's with satisfaction.  Not a man present objected to the scheme.  According to Daniel Kelly, the "squealer," there were present when Hester proposed to have a "clean job" made of Rea, McHugh, Tully, Jas. Bradley, Wm. Muldowney, Brian Campbell, Edward Skiffington, Alex. Lafferty and John Dalton, besides Kelly and Hester.  Lafferty to fill his part in the transaction left the saloon shortly after the robbery of Rea had been determined upon and purchased some powder and ball, with which all the pistol, in the party, unsupplied with cartridges, were loaded.  Everything being in readiness for their work the party indulged in a carouse that lasted till morning, when just at daylight the saloon was emptied of its human or rather inhuman crew.  Before reaching the toll gate Muldowney said that he was lame and would be of no use, and therefore he went his way.  Upon reaching the toll gate Hester told the gang that he was going to Shamokin to buy hair that he wanted to mix with some plaster, and that if he were in Shamokin when the murder was committed, suspicion would be directed into some other than the right direction.  The "boys," as their chief affectionately called them, coincided with him, probably because they were afraid to do otherwise, and intimated that they would make a very "clean job" indeed.  Before saying good-bye, Hester remarked to Kelly, according to the latter's testimony, "Here, Kelly is my pistol; you take it, it will be surer than yours."  Kelly took it, of course and gave his to Bradley.  Skiffington went with Hester, and the rest of the party be took themselves to the woods at the side of the road at a point known as the "Water Barrel."  This point located on the road leading from Centralia to Mt. Carmel.  After remaining secreted in the woods for some time.  Bradley said that he would go to Centralia and purchase some whisky and crackers.  He did so, and upon them the party made a hearty breakfast.


Rea had left his home at 8 o'clock in the morning, bidding his wife and children good-bye, as was his usual custom.  He drove from Mt. Carmel to Ashland, where he paid some bills, thence to Centralia, and from that point turned his face toward the works of the Locust Mountain and Coal Ridge Improvement Company, of which he was superintendent.  Upon reaching the "Water Barrel" Rea was surprised at the sudden appearance of a party of men who roughly demanded him to "get out of the wagon and deliver."  Understanding at once that discretion was the better part of valor the unfortunate man hastened to comply with the demand.  Upon reaching the ground he handed, his watch and pocket book to Kelly who took them, and said: "What will we do with this man?"  McHugh answered in his dogged way, "I don't want to be hunted round the world by any living man," "and then" in the words of Kelly "the firing began."  All appeared to be of one mind.  There was no hesitation on the part of a single one of the gang.  Rea was to be first robbed and then murdered, and not one of his assassins flinched in their inhuman task.  Tully and Kelly fired first, one of the balls taking effect in Rea's cheek.  The unfortunate man at once understood the character of men with whom he had to deal and made a desperate effort to escape his fate by running for the timber.  He might as well have stood up to be shot.  His assassins followed him into the brush and fired shot after shot at him, the last bullet fired entering his brain and causing, it is supposed, instant death.  He received two wounds in the stomach, either of which was fatal; one in the left cheek, one of the right side of the head behind the ear, one of the back of the neck and one in the head.


            Their object accomplished the assassins searched the pockets of their victim, but finding nothing of value in them departed with the pocket book and watch.  The former upon being opened was found to contain but $60 or $70.  This was a bitter disappointment to the murderers, who fully expected to make a big haul and when Hester was afterwards told of the small amount of money obtained through the murder, he is said to have expressed sorrow as well as surprise.  It was fully expected that Rea would have on his person from $18,000 to $19,000, but his murderers must have forgotten that he was in the habit of paying his employees on Monday instead of Saturday, the day upon which he was murdered.  Mr. Swain, the secretary of the company of which Rea was superintendent, testified at the trial of Hester, Tully and McHugh, that the general pay day of his company was Friday, and that two days previous to the murder he had brought to Ashland and handed to Mr. Rea over $10,000, but that $9,000 of the amount had been immediately expended in paying the men, and that the odd thousand was intended to settle small bills with.  Rea, it seems, had even settled the small bills before meeting his murderers, so that one of the most dastardly crimes ever committed in the coal region was perpetrated for paltry $60 and a gold watch.  The


immediate detection.  The people of Northumberland county seemed satisfied that Hester and his gang were the perpetrators, but the difficulty was to obtain sufficient evidence to convict.  In 1869 Tom Donahue, Roger Pryor and Duffy were arrested for the murder and confined in Bloomsburg jail. – Hester upon hearing the news of the arrests decamped.  He went to Illinois and there remained for some time, but receiving intelligence that it would be best for him to come home and stand his trial, as he would certainly be acquitted, he came back and was arrested in Bloomsburg.  Donahue, Duffy and Pryor were acquitted of the charge of murder and there not being sufficient evidence to convict Hester, a nol pros. was entered in his case by the district attorney, who was satisfied of Hester's guilt, but could not prove it.

            From 1869 until 1876, a period of seven years, Rea's murderers escaped detection, but through the efforts of Captain Linden, of Pinkerton's Detective Agency, a clue was at last obtained.  In the Schuylkill county jail, serving a sentence of a couple of years for larceny, was one Daniel Kelly, better known as Kelly "The Bum."  This man was a known desperate character and towards him Linden directed his attention.  Several interviews were held with Kelly and hints were dropped that the mystery of the Rea murder was about to be unravelled (sic).  For a time Kelly appeared to be innocently obtuse, but at length declared that he knew all about the murder and was one of the assassins.  Without the promise of reward, Kelly made a full confession, in which he implicated Hester, Tully and McHugh, the men who suffered death to-day, and others.  The three referred to were arrested.  On the 8th of February, 1877, they were placed upon their trial here.  All three pleaded not guilty.  Their trial lasted from the 8th until the 24th of February.  Upon the last mentioned day the jury in the case returned a verdict of "guilty of murder in the first degree."  The convicted men were defended by some of the best legal talent in the State, but the testimony of Kelly was so conclusive and was supported by other testimony in such a manner that the guilt of the defendants was clear.  They carried their case to the Supreme Court, where the decision of the lower court was affirmed.  The Board of Pardons was next importuned to interfere in their behalf, but on Tuesday last refused to do so, and to-day Alex. Rea was avenged by the ignominous (sic) death of at least three of his murderers.  The principal character in to-day's tragedy is so well, or rather badly, known as to deserve some mention.


            Patrick Hester was born in county Roscommon, Ireland, in 1825, and at the time of his death was therefore 53 years of age.  He left the "old country" in 1846; and upon the 18th of November of that year reached Minersville, Schuylkill county.  Having lived in Minersville for some little time, he concluded to change his quarters and removed to Mt. Carmel, and shortly afterwards to Locust Gap Junction, where he erected a house and informed the public that the Junction House would afford good entertainment to man and beast.  Before he had been a citizen of Northumberland county for any great length of time he became prominent in local politics.  He was elected to the office of school director and filled the office of tax collector for several years.  For some time previous to the murder of Rea, Hester's reputation as a reputable citizen was bad.  His house became known as a haunt of evil doers, and his own actions stamped him as a man devoid of all the fine feelings supposed to be possessed by mankind in general.  When Rea was murdered the finger of suspicion was directed at Hester and till the day of his death has never been withdrawn.  Around the fireside, in winter evenings, was told in whispers how Rea had met his assassins upon the road; how he had besought them, but especially Hester, to take all he owned in the world, but to spare his life for the sake of his wife and children, and how, in answer to the piteous prayer, Hester had placed a pistol against the victim's head and directing it had blown his brains out.  The manner of Rea's death was not such as this; but the fact that his actual killing was attributed to Hester's own hand proves the character of the man to have been at least questionable and time has shown that public opinion in his case, though incorrect in detail, has, in the main been terribly accurate.  In 1872, Hester was in the zenith of his power.  He was the head of the Mollies in his county and did not object to the public being aware of the fact.  Though tabooed of the church he, prior to this period, had never antagonized it.  A circumstance occurred, however, that showed Hester in a new and more dangerous light.  One of the members of his society, named John Gallagher, died.  Hester intimated, when he heard that Father Koch, of Shamokin, refused permission to allow the body to be buried in consecrated ground, that Gallagher should be buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery and nowhere else.  The day of the funeral arrived.  Father Koch took his station at the cemetery gate and forbade the procession to enter, at the same time requesting his people to retire to their homes.  The request was complied with by all but the assembled Mollies.  Hester, mounting a stump then said, "Your reverence, will you open the gate?  Say ye aye or nay."  Father Koch refused to open the gate, whereupon Hester jumped over it and opened it himself, in defiance of the priest.  For this affair he was tried and convicted on a charge of inciting a riot.  He was sentenced to 3 years in the Eastern Penitentiary and served his term in spite of the determined efforts of his friends to obtain for him a pardon.  Upon his release he became the Hester of old and so remained until his arrest on the 7th of November, 1876.


            Peter McHugh was also born in Ireland and at the time of his death was 44 years old.  He left his native land at a youthful age and went to England, where he remained until 1864, when he emigrated to this country and located in New York.  He had lived in our sister State but a short time when he removed to Pennsylvania, remaining in the coal region for the greater part of the time in Northumberland county, until the summer of 1872, when he went to Rhode Island.  Though uneasy in his mind on account of the part taken by him in the murder of Rea, he appeared to be unable to shun the scene of his crime and returned after an absence of eight months.  In personal appearance McHuhg is heavily built, with unprepossessing features, small, piercing looking eyes, very dark brown hair, and a heavy dark moustache.  In disposition he has ever been noted for moroseness and a reputation for never forgetting nor forgiving an injury.  McHugh was unmarried.  Of Patrick Tully, but little need be said here, as in another portion of this article he gives all necessary information regarding himself.  He leaves a wife, the mother of five children, by a former husband.  Tully had no children of his own.  He was rather a pleasant faced man and by far the most companionable of the trio.  Even during his imprisonment he continually indulged in harmless jokes and became very fond of his jailors. – During the last couple of days he seemed to desire continual presence of Mr. James Gilchrist, of Pinkerton's Detective Agency.  If either of the three men who died to-day was resigned to his fate, it was Tully.  Both he and McHugh made up their minds long since, that their death by hanging was a foregone conclusion.  Hester, until yesterday, entertained some hope of a reprieve, but upon receiving a visit from his counsel, the Hon. S. P. Wolverton, of Sunbury, he gained the unwelcome intelligence that all hopes of a further existence than had been allowed by the law might as well be given up.  During the afternoon Mrs. Hester and her daughters remained in the cell of the doomed man.  They cheered him while he partook of his evening meal, but when at 9 o'clock last night they were advised to say good-bye, their feelings overcame them and a heartrending scene was the consequence.  The daughters hung upon the neck of their father in an abandon of grief.  It's all right.  I'm prepared for whatever may happen."  Mrs. Hester bore herself nobly and cheered her husband to the last,  remarking to one of her sons-in-law, as they left the jail, "I'm satisfied now that he's going with a clear conscience.  I'm satisfied now."  In Tully's cell a similar scene of woe was enacted.  The wife of the unfortunate man, accompanied by one of her little children, spent the greater part of the day with her husband, who did all that lay in his power to comfort the weeping woman.  When bidding him good bye for the last time the wife hung upon Tully's neck in a paroxyism (sic) of grief and for a time refused to be taken from him.  Upon being left to their own reflections, the condemned retired to rest at an early hour and the jail was left free to the guard of the Coal and Iron Police.  During the evening the hotels were crowded with people, all discussing the coming execution.  Some expressed the opinion that something would happen to cause a postponement, at least as far as Hester was concerned, while the majority were satisfied that the execution would take place as ordered.  The question of confessions of course came in for its share of attention.  A rumor to the effect that Tully made a statement of his part in the murder appeared to be well founded and to-day was verified.  On Tuesday last Tully requested that Mr. George Elwell, one of his counsel, be asked to pay him a visit.  Mr. Elwell did so, and at Tully's request transcribed the following confession:



I was born in Ireland on December 17th, 1830, County of Cavan, Parish of Drughn.  I emigrated to Scotland in 1854, and came to this country in 1863.  I lived in Reading a while, and in Glen Carbon, Schuylkill county.  I went to Centralia in this county, in the fall of 1865.  I moved about a good bit, and there are a good many things that I do not care to say anything about.  I know there are many people who will believe what I am going to say is true, and there are others who will say it is false, but I am done with this world, now, and have to answer only to the Almighty, and I will tell nothing but the truth.

            Concerning this crime, I can't say I am innocent.  I can't say any of the party is innocent.  You can make Pat. Hester innocent if you like, but he was there.  He was there all the night at Tom. Donohue's saloon, and he gave his pistol to Kelly, and he was at the toll gate that morning.

            Question, Did Kelly tell the truth about the circumstances of the Rea murder?  Answer, He swore to some lies, but most he said was true.  Neither Hester nor McHugh told me to do the deed.  What I done was done of my own accord.  But Hester was Body-master, and McHugh was County Delegate, and if they had said the thing shouldn't be done, they could have stopped it.  It wasn't so much the Order (referring to the Ancient Order of the Hibernians) as it was whisky that led me into it.  If I had followed my early teachings I never would have got into this trouble.

            When the trial first began I would have plead guilty, but I had no lawyer, and no money to pay one, and I didn't know what to do, so I plead not guilty as the others did, when I knew it was a lie.

            I would have made a statement long ago, but I was in a cell with the other two and had no chance I never had a chance to talk to you alone or I would have told you this before, but I couldn't do it in the cell with the other two.

            On the trial some of the witnesses against us swore false, but most of what Kelly said was true.  He could have swore to a good deal more but I guess he didn't mind it at the time.

            I do say that Tom Donohue is innocent of this crime.  He knew nothing about it.  Most of the evidence for our defense was false and many of the witnesses were paid for their evidence.

*          *          *          *          *          *

            I knew of a man who would swear that I sat up with him when he had a broken leg; the night before Rea was murdered.  But when you asked me during the trial whether I had any witnesses I would not tell you of this man because I knew it was two nights before the murder that I sat up with, and I was not going to bring him here to swear to a lie, even to save my neck.

            I do not make this statement out of spite towards any one, or to injure any one's memory, but simply because I truly repent of my crime and will not die with a lie on my lips.

            This statement is given by me, of my own accord, to Geo. E. Elwell, one of my counsel, and written down by him at my request this 19th day of March 1878, to be published after my death.


            This statement will prove of great benefit to the people of the coal region.  It will satisfy them that is it possible for "squealers" to tell the truth.  Tully says that Kelly told some lies, but is it not a matter of wonder that the latter remembered so much of an affair that occurred some nine years ago?  To an ordinary man it might not be at all difficult to remember the most minute details of so horrible a murder, but to a man like Kelly, steeped in crime, it is perfectly natural that he should be unable to remember every incident connected with one of the many crimes in which he participated.  Tully says that in substance Kelly told the truth and that as far as his testimony related to Hester it was true.  Kelly, to-day, occupies a better position in the eyes of the public than he has for many a year.  In connection with Tully's statement it might  be proper to mention an incident that occurred on Saturday.  Tully was walking through the corridor when he met Kelly.  The men had not seen one another face to face sine the trial.  Kelly tried to escape notice, when Tully held out his hand and said "How are you Dan?  Dan you told the truth.  You made some errors, but in the main you told the truth and I forgive you."  Kelly began to cry and made an effort to escape, when Tully said, "Don't cry, Dan.  You told the truth and I forgive you."  In conversation with one of the Coal and Iron Police, a few days before his death, Tully said, "Hester expects me to say something for him when I go on the stand.  If he was innocent I could and would say so on the scaffold."  In continuation, Tully intimated that Hester was not innocent and that it was not customary for men of his faith, in his position, to say anything regarding their guilt upon the scaffold.  Regarding McHugh, the general opinion seemed to be that he would make no confession.  Public opinion was correct in this instance.  McHugh made no confession to any of his counsel or for publication.  What he may have said to his priest is unknown except to the latter.  That he was satisfied of the justness of the sentences of the law in his case was proven by a conversation held by him with a couple of friends but a few days ago.  One of his friends spoke rather better of Hester when McHugh said: "Don't say anything about the man above, (Hester who occupies the cell over McHugh's abode.)  I know what he had it (Rea's murder) done for, but I'm not going to say anything about it," and he was as good as his word.  So far as is known, Hester made no statement or confession, although it is probable that he stated his case to his religious adviser.  After enjoying a good night's rest, the condemned men awoke at an early hour in the morning. At half-past 6 mass was celebrated in the jail by Rev. Father Koch, of Shamokin, assisted by Fathers McGovern and Schluether, of Danville.  In addition to Hester, Tully and McHugh, there were present Mrs. Hester and daughters, Mrs. Tully and son, Detective Gilchrist and Capt. Alderson.  After the conclusion of this ceremony Hester's family remained with him for some time, but as the hour of death drew near were obliged to bid father and husband a last farewll.  The parting was inexpressibly sad.  The daughters moaned aloud in their awful grief, and the faithful wife clung to the neck of her husband as if wishing to part with him only in death.  In this scene Hester was the comforter.  In a cheery voice he said, "Don't cry, now – don't cry; I'm prepared and satisfied."  The last kiss imprinted on lips soon to be cold in death was still warm when Hester turned to his spiritual adviser and began preparing for death.  Tully, who had taken leave of his wife, was engaged in the same manner.  McHugh also.  From eight o'clock in the morning an anxious crowd hung around the jail, waiting for admittance.  About two hundred passes had been issued, but probably five times that number of persons desired to be present at the execution: To the favored few, among them the JOURNAL correspondent, admission at 9 o'clock had been promised.  Nine came and went.  The members of the press colony awaited the opening of the jail door.  Half past-nine became of the past and still the door of the jail remained closed.  The morning air was unpleasantly cool, but the sheriff was probably unaware of the fact, as the door was not unclosed until fifteen minutes to ten.  Even then the newspaper men were not allowed to enter the jail yard, but were penned in a room not large enough to hold a sixth of the number crowded into it.  At half-past ten o'clock, the iron door separating that part of the jail used as a dwelling from the prison proper was opened and the anxious assembly allowed to betake itself to the jail yard.  This enclosure is 36 feet square and is open to the view from any of the four cell windows fronting upon it.  About the centre stood the scaffold, a peculiarly constructed affair, the work of Mr. Josiah Sandell, of Mauch Chunk.  Relative to his work, Mr. Sandell said to the JOURNAL correspondent "The scaffold is an idea of my own.  I never saw another."  In spite of this fact the strange looking gallows performed its part well.  There were no accommodations for visitors in the jail yard.  All it contained was the scaffold and a square stone building of small size, the top of which was occupied by a wire rat trap of modern manufacture, and half a dozen males and females full of curiosity to witness what evidently, in their eyes, bore a strong resemblance to a show of anything but a solemn character.  While asll was expectation,


was seen wending its way through the corridor of the jail and approaching the door leading into the yard.  First came Peter McHugh, holding with both hands a crucifix, and accompanied by Father McGovern, while bringing up the rear were Patrick Tully and Father Koch.  McHugh was dressed in a black suit, with white shirt and collar and black tie.  Hester was dressed in the same fashion, but wore a soft broad brimmed black hat.  Tully also wore a hat.  The procession ascended the steps leading to the scaffold in the order mentioned.  Upon reaching the trap Hester and Tully doffed their hats.  Prayer was indulged in by the priests and the condemned for a space of less than five minutes.  Hester's attention appeared to wander.  His eyes at times left the face of his priest and scanned the uplifted countenances of the crowd surrounding the scaffold.  McHugh held his crucifix as if it would save him from death, while Tully also paid close attention to the words of the priest.  The service concluded, the reverend gentlemen descended the steps of the scaffold and stood facing its side, still praying, though inaudibly.  The three men who were about to offer up their lives in accordance with the mandate of the law looked at the men who were to prepare then for death and in response to the question


pulled themselves together and prepared to say their last words on earth.  McHugh was the first to speak.  His words were inaudible to the crowd, but were obtained by the JOURNAL correspondent, who stood almost beneath the scaffold and at the point nearest the speaker.  He said "I haven't got much to say.  I hope God will forgive me all my sins.  I forgive everybody that has done any harm to me and I hope they will do the same.  If I had followed the instructions of my pastor I wouldn't be here to-day. God forgive and bless all my enemies."  When McHugh had ceased speaking, Hester placed his right hand against one of the uprights of the scaffold and his left hand in his pants pocket, and in so low a tone that his voice was only audible to those who stood on the scaffold, said, "I've got nothing to say of any account.  If it hadn't been for my enemies I wouldn't have been here.  I forgive all my enemies and hope God will do the same."  While uttering above, Hester appeared as calm as if addressing some friends in his own house.  When Tully's turn came he said, "I don't intend to say anything.  I've forgiven all my enemies.  I hope God will do the same.  If I have done any harm to anybody in this world I ask their forgiveness here and I hope every one will do the same by me.  God forgive me."  McHugh kissed his crucifix and handed it to Hester, who also kissed it. – Tully did so too.  The sheriff's assistants then handcuffed the condemned men in the usual way, placing their hand behind their backs.  They also strapped their legs.


            At five minutes past eleven o'clock the three men took their last look upon the bright and beautiful sky and the earth beneath.  They looked as composed as though engaged in the usual avocations of life and preserved their nerve as the ropes were adjusted around their necks and the terrible looking white caps pulled over their heads.  At seven minutes past eleven the drop fell.  The fall was three feet six inches.  For a few moments the three bodies swung in a circle and then swayed from side to side.  The drop had no sooner fallen that the crowd made a rush for the scaffold, some of the horribly curious ones almost brushing the swaying bodies in their eagerness to notice the death struggles.  The bodies had scarcely ceased twirling round before several representatives of the medical fraternity grasped the arms of the suspended men for the purpose of feeling their pulse.  The whole affair wore a rather unpleasant business appearance.  A stranger present would have imagined that it was customary to hang a man in Columbia county, upon each day of the year.  While the bodies were swaying and twitching a loud laugh from one of the cell windows grated harshly upon the ear and a moment afterwards a roar as from a thousand voices filled the air and caused those inside the jail walls to wonder what possessed those occupying an outside position.  Following a few moments of quiet came a crash and another roar of voices from the exterior of the jail.  A large shed, the roof of which was crowded with men and boys, had fallen beneath its weight, and in its fall injured several of those who used it as a place of vantage.  The crowd yelled again.  Its appetite for excitement was increasing every moment, and the injury of half a dozen people by the fall of a building was not sufficient to appease its appetite.  It wanted to view the scaffold and anything else that smoked of blood.  Meanwhile the bodies of Hester, Tully and McHugh swung gently to and fro, now examined by one physician, and again by another.  From the moment the drop fell, until within three minutes of his death, Hester's body twitched continually.  His limbs did not writhe but his entire muscular development contracted and expanded.  The others died easily.  Four minutes after the drop fell, Hester's respiration ceased.  His pulse ceased beating five minutes afterwards.  He died in nine minutes.  Tully died in eleven and McHugh in twelve minutes.  Dr. D. T. Krebs, who attended Tully said, "In the first quarter of a minute


His pulse ran up to 88; in the third quarter to 48; in the third minute respiration was nearly gone; in the fourth minute his pulse was 160, fifth minute 122, sixth minute 65, seventh minute 80, eighth minute 45, ninth minute 40, tenth 33, ten and one-half 21 and at the close of the eleventh minute we couldn't distinguish the pulse."  At the close of the first minute after the drop fell, McHugh's pulse was at 60, second minute at 41, third minute at 68, fourth minute at 63, fifth minute at 56.  Half a minute afterwards it was at 41, and then it disappeared.  McHugh's respiration ceased at the close of five minutes, Tully's at four minutes.  At twenty-three minutes to twelve o'clock the bodies were cut down and placed in coffins, which had been brought into the yard before the men had been sent on their journey to the unknown world.  The faces of all three looked natural.  None of their necks had been broken.  All had died form strangulation. 

            The bodies were placed in coffins by Mr. Thomas Waldron, of Pottsville, who was to have taken Hester's remains to Locust Gap, but a special train was placed at the disposal of the bereaved family by the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad Company, and in this mode the body was taken to the family home.  Tully's body was placed on board the cars for Wilkes-Barre and McHugh's for Kingston, Luzerne county.


            Upon the removal of the bodies the gates were opened and the crowd allowed to rush in and examine the gallows, which was the centre of attraction for the remained of the day.  Towards evening Bloomsburg regained its usual placid appearance.  A majority of the strangers attracted here by such an unusual occurrence as the execution of three men took their departure and to-morrow there will be little to tell of the excitement that reigned throughout this quiet and orderly town through the forepart of the day.  Thus ended the second act in the Rea tragedy.  Over nine years after the commission of a brutal murder three of the perpetrators pay the penalty of their crime upon the scaffold, and though convicted upon the testimony of an accomplice, the confession of Patrick Tully is sufficient to satisfy the public that justice, in the true sense of the term, has been done, in visiting upon the men who died ignominious deaths to-day the penalty which the laws of God and man have provided for those who premeditatedly shed the blood of a fellow creature.



March 29, 1878


Peter McHugh.

            The Coal and Iron Police who guarded the Bloomsburg jail spent a good deal of time in conjecturing how McHugh unlocked his shackles preparatory to making his attempt to escape from jail.  A majority of the guard possessed of the opinion that McHugh had made a key with which he could unlock his shackles at will, but a search of his cell revealed nothing.  Some days ago, when in good humor, McHugh asked one of the police if he knew how he (McHugh) had unlocked his shackles.  The officer answered in the negative, when the prisoner poked his finger under one of the legs of a stove that occupied a corner of the room and showed the officer a small wooden key, also a steel key.  "Where did you get ‘em?" inquired the officer.  "Made ‘em," was the answer, and to this McHugh held until the day of his death.  Prior to his imprisonment he was nothing of a mechanic, but a life of confinement such as he suffered probably sharpened his wits, and prompted him to devise this method of making a dash for liberty.  The shackles worn by him and his companions were handed over to Warden Beyerle yesterday.  Hester and Tully wore merely heavy handcuffs and chain upon their legs, while McHugh wore a couple of iron anklets and heavy chain.  The Schuylkill county jail collection of handcuffs and shackles is somewhat preponderous (sic).








Immense Attendance at His Funeral.

            The last act in the tragedy of Pat Hester's death had been finished.  The story of the life and death of this man is known throughout this and all the nighboring (sic) counties; and it was because of the manner in which that life was spent and finally brought to an ignominious end, that the funeral yesterday was attended by an immense crowd of people.  Of these some attended out of a lingering regard for the man himself and for old association's sake and some out of curiosity.  The funeral took place in the morning and the interment was in the Catholic cemetery at Beaver Dale, a small place about half way between Mt. Carmel and Alaska.  Rev. Father Koch, of Shamokin, officiated.

            A special dispatch to the JOURNAL from Locust Gap, under the date of last evening, gives the following particulars:

            "The funeral of Patrick Hester left his late residence at 11:15 o'clock this morning.  It was very largely attended, and no doubt was the largest funeral ever witnessed in this section of the country, the procession being over a mile long.  The remains were interred in Beaver Dale Cemetery, a small village about a mile west of Mt. Carmel.  The number of people who viewed the remains this morning is estimated at between two and three thousand.  The face of the corpse looked very natural, and was of a very white color.  It was very neatly laid out, and on the breast of the deceased was a very handsome wreath of flowers.  The Rev. Joseph Koch met the funeral at the cemetery."

            A Pottsville gentleman who was present at the funeral, furnishes the following in addition to what has just been given: - The casket furnished by Thos. Waldron, was a fine specimen of the undertaker's art, and was mounted with a large and beautiful place, inscribed with the name, age and date of birth and death of Hester.  High Mass was celebrated in the Locust Gap Catholic Church at 9 A. M.  There were from 75 to 80 carriages in the line of procession.  There was no disturbance on any kind.






            Justice is often slow, but it has become terribly sure in its vengeance upon the murderous organization of Mollie Maguires that for years terrorized the coal regions.  Three of it prominent members suffered the extreme penalty of the law yesterday, for the crime of murder committed nearly ten years ago.  At that time there was such immunity from punishment that naturally desperate men grew reckless in the commission of crime.  Their victims were approached in broad daylight and shot to death, often in the presence of numerous witnesses.  If any arrests were made and the parties brought to trial, it was only necessary for a few members of the order to commit perjury, and the accused were permitted to walk out of court to pursue their infamous career, with additional feeling of security.  So numerous, sudden and appalling were these crimes, that the respectable portion of the community was paralyzed with fear, not knowing whom the next bullet would strike, and jurymen were only too willing to accept any testimony that would justify a verdict of acquittal, and thereby free themselves from incurring the dread vengeance of this secret order of open assassins.

            This terrible condition of society very naturally acted as a check to enterprise, and was one of the most potent causes that operated so disastrously upon the fortunes of men who had invested their money in the coal business.  No business regulations could be enforced, for if a superintendent attempted to manage the business of his colliery in a way objectionable to this murderous band, he was marked for slaughter, and the assassins were always at hand.

            The murder for which Hester, Tully, and McHugh were hanged yesterday, at Bloomsburg, had not, it is true, this motive of revenge to furnish pretext.  It was a highway robbery, and cool and deliberate murder of the victim after he had given them all the money and valuables in his possession.  It affords a fair illustration of the slight tenure upon which these superintendents held their lives, which, in the estimate of these ruffians, did not possess a feather's weight when interposed between themselves and their murderous schemes.

            But all this has changed.  The law that was trampled under foot for years has been again lifted to the seat of justice, and in the consciousness of its protecting power men no longer fear the consequences of duty honestly performed, and they fearlessly perform it.  It is under this new order of things that the Mollie Maguire organization has been visited with retributive justice that has consigned so many of its members to the gallows, to the penitentiary, or to perpetual banishment from the scene of their murderous exploits.

            The effect of these convictions has restored the region to a condition of comparative security.  Crime will always exist, everywhere, but for two years the coal region has been freer from its effects than any other place in the country of equal population.  There is absolutely noting in the condition of its society to interfere with business enterprises, and if a few judicial and judicious executions can bring about so desirable a result, surely no one out to object to capital punishment.



April 5, 1878


Admission of Guilt.

            Both Hester and McHugh up to Sunday insisted upon their innocence, the former saying that at the last moment he would proclaim his innocence before God and man.  They did not know that Tully had confessed.  Od (sic) Sunday night they were told that there was no longer any use in denying their guilt, that Tully had made a statement and the whole truth was known.  McHugh received the intelligence in his indifferent manner, but the announcement struck Hester like a thunderbolt.  For a few moments he was speechless, but at length they both admitted their guilt, Hester saying while he did not plot the murder, he was with the party and knew what was to be done.  This accounts for his sudden change of mind, and for his failure to deny his guilt on the scaffold as he said he would do.  It is said that Tully and Kelly had a reconciliation just before the execution took place last week.  They met in the hall of the jail and shook hands. – Bloomsburg Columbian.

            As both the editors of the above paper were counsel for Hester it is to be presumed that any statements, relative to Hester, Tully and McHugh, published by them are true.  It appears therefore that Hester admitted his participation in the murder of Mr. Rea and as the JOURNAL stated some time ago, Tully virtually did the same.




The Plan of Escape.

            Some time ago the JOURNAL contained an account of the manner in which McHugh, who was hung on Monday last with Hester and Tully for the murder of Rea, unlocked his shackles.  Relative to the same and other matters the Shamokin Times says:           "Tully informed Lieutenant Boughner that when the three condemned men were all occupying one cell yet they had matured a plan to escape, and that the plan would have been successful but Hester finally refused to join in the arrangement as he said he had a good show of getting clear at any rate, and an attempt to get out, if they were caught at it, would injure his chances.  Tully voluntarily surrendered an iron key, which was made to unlock his shackles, and informed the guards that the other two men each had a key of the same kind.  The keys, he admitted, had been smuggled into the jail by outside friends.  The keys had been kept concealed in the lining of the prisoners boots and the fact was not known until about three weeks before the execution.  A week last McHugh was found to have a wooden key.  This key was concealed behind a flat bar that holds the boiler iron against the chimney and it happened to drop on the floor one day when Lieut. Rowbottom was in the cell and was picked up by him.  Rowbottom then searched the cell to find if any tools were concealed.  Under the stove, in one of the slots that hold the feet, a small pair of scissors were found and with them, McHugh admitted, he had made the key.  The key was made of hickory wood and was so well constructed that it answered the purposes for which it was intended just as well as an iron key."