The Columbian County Republican


January 10, 1878


            On Tuesday afternoon the Mollie prisoners confined in the jail, were informed of the decision of the Supreme Court, in their cases.  A letter containing the information was handed to them, which was eagerly read by Hester.  His countenance dropped and without uttering a word, the other prisoners were able to read the solemn news from the expression of his face.  They undoubtedly place some hope in the Board of Pardons, but in this we think they err; for it is unlikely that they would disturb the opinion of the supreme court.  The three prisoners alike exhibit an amount of stoicism that is truly wonderful under the circumstances.



January 24, 1878

            ATTEMPTED ESCAPE. - On Tuesday night McHugh attempted to make his escape from jail.  The facts seem to be as follows: last week the "mollie" prisoners were put in separate cells.  McHugh was left in the old cell which they had occupied from the first, on the first floor to the right as you enter.  This was always thought to be the most secure as it is lined with sheet iron.  A few nights ago from a remark dropped by McHugh the police began to suspect that something was up.  McHugh had hung up a blanket against his window on the north side of the cell and gave as his reason when it was observed, that the moon shone in so brightly that he could not sleep.  From this time forth close watch was maintained.  On Tuesday night a little after twelve as officers Rowbottom and Titus went on their round of observation they found McHugh's cell empty.  Rowbottom pulled out the bed when his revolver which he held in his hand was accidentally discharged and the prisoner called out, "Don't shoot, I'll come out." On examination it was found that McHugh had cut a hole about twenty inches square out of the floor with a gimlet or bit that some one had undoubtedly taken to him, and had then by using a case knife begun to dig down with the intention of going under the wall to the rear of the kitchen of the dwelling part.  The prisoner was down under the floor, had a lighted candle and had covered the hole in the floor by a blanket and newspaper so that no sound could be heard from above.  He had taken his hopples off and thrown them upon his bed.  How he succeeded in unlocking these is a mystery.  They are one of three pair that were brought up from below to use on the Mollies, as they were thought to be safer.  McHugh is now not only hoppled but chained, too.  It was only account of the vigilance of the Coal and Iron police in charge that this attempt was frustrated.



March 28, 1878




 The Majesty of the Law Vindicated at last.



Hester, Tully and McHugh Atone for their Crime upon the Gallows.



            It might not be out of place to give our readers a short history of this case so that they may the better connect the punishment with the perpetration of this foul deed which has for nearly ten years continued to awaken the liveliest interest in our usually quiet county.

            Alexander W. Rea, a prominent citizen and Superintendent of the Coal Ridge Improvement Company near Centralia, was murdered October 17, 1868, upon the public road between Centralia and Mt. Carmel.  About a month after the murder: Thomas Donohue, John Duffy and Michael Pryor were arrested for the offense.  They were brought here and confined in jail, and Hester about the same time took quick leave for the west.  Near the close of January, 1869 he was arrested and was indicted jointly with the others for the murder of Rea.  Their cases were brought up at the February term and acquitted.  This consumed nearly the whole term.  At the next term, in May, John Duffy, and Michael Pryor were tried and acquitted, but as these cases consumed the whole of May term by leave of the Court the District Attorney was allowed to enter a nolle prosequi as to Hester and he was discharged.  This course proved to have been exceedingly wise as subsequent events have proven.  About the first of January, 1877 upon information lodged by Manu Cull (Kelley the Bum) warrants were issued and Patrick Hester, Patrick Tully and Peter McHugh  were arrested, the former as being an accessory before the fact and the others as principals in the murder of Rea.  They were indicted and brought to trial at February term, 1877.  They were jointly tried and on the 24th of February, after a trial of 17 days, were found guilty.  The Commonwealth prosecuted the case upon the theory that the murder of Mr. Rea had been planned a long time before as was sworn to on the Donohue trial but for some unaccountable reason the plan was not carried out.  That this time Hester having been frustrated in his attempt to rob Claude White by having missed the train returned to Ashland and then and there the arrangements were renewed to kill and rob Rea, as they did not wish to be wholly frustrated in their intention to commit robbery.  Immediately upon conviction the counsel for prisoners made a motion for a new trial assigning ten reasons.  These were argued and May 10, 1877 Judge Elwell read an opinion overruling the motion for a new trial.  The case was then carried to the Supreme Court upon nine assignments of error at their next sitting in which Judge Woodward delivered the opinion affirming the (illegible) of the jury and denying the prisoners' application for a new trial.  The case was carried before the Board of Pardons upon an application of sentence.  This application after a continuance from the February meeting and finally decided on Tuesday the 19th inst. against the prisoners.  This removed the last hope left and all three of the doomed men began to make preparation for death.


            The county authorities immediately began to make preparations for the execution.  Commissioners Herner and Sands went to Mauch Chunk on Wednesday morning and secured the gallows which had been used for executing the Mollies there, and had it shipped up arriving here on Friday morning.  It was taken to the jail and stowed away in the cellar until Monday morning.  It is composed of some twenty-six pieces of hard well-seasoned wood and shows the use to which it has already been put by its beam being indented by the rope from which each of the Carbon county men were swung.


            Patrick Hester is the oldest of the three prisoners, having been born in 1825 in Roscommon, North Ireland.  He has a wife and four children, daughters, three of whom are married.  The single one is about sixteen years old, is now teaching school, which all three of the others have done.  He is short in stature but of heavy build, weighing about 250 pounds.  On Saturday afternoon his wife and one of the daughters and his brother Barney arrived.  His daughter took a final farewell and departed.  On Saturday night about ten o'clock the rest of the family came on and spent Sunday in paying their father a final visit on earth.  Hester has endured his year's confinement very well and shows no signs of its having worn upon him.

            Patrick Tully was born in Caven, Ireland in 1830 and has a wife.  He was married but a short time before he was arrested.  His wife is in very indigent circumstances.  She was unable to pay her railroad fare here from Planes, Luzerne county, where she resides, and it was at first thought she would not be enabled to give her husband good-bye.  Through the exertion of Detective Gilchrist she was provided with the means and arrived on the Saturday evening train, bringing with her a young son by her former husband, about six years old.  They visited Tully immediately on their arrival, and a request having been made by the father to have the little fellow sleep with him the request was granted.  The boy utterly unconscious of the fate awaiting his father slept in his arms during the night, and on awaking and noticing the shackles by which Tully was bound asked "where the shackles were for little folks."  Tully we should judge weighs about 160 pounds.  He has shown the greatest amount of penitence for his crime and appears to have become fully resigned to his fate.

            Peter McHugh was born in Donegal, Ireland, in 1834.  He is a single man, and we believe has only one relative, a nephew, in this country.  He probably weighs no more than 140, and during his whole confinement manifested a great deal of indifference, and has shown but little softening in his nature.

            To guard against any possible disturbance the guard of Coal and Iron police was increased to 21 on Saturday night and a few more additions were made on Sunday.  During Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights the town authorities had a patrol of twenty police upon the streets, to preserve order and quiet.  Well did they do their duty.  We noticed but little excitement and had it not been that men were talking about the executions of Monday we would scarcely have known that anything unusual was about to take place.  The public was on the outlook for news, but taking into consideration the fact that these were the first executions at Bloomsburg in a period of thirty years or since this has been the county seat, the town was unusually quiet.  The coffins were delivered to the jail on Saturday evening by Elias Furman who had received the orders to make them.  Since the confinement of the prisoners their religious instruction had been attended to by Father Schluter of Danville, all of them being or having been members of the Catholic Church.  Father Koch, of Shamokin, who had received instructions from the Bishop, arrived on Sunday afternoon to attend them during their last hours.  Hester's daughters took final leave of their father on Sunday evening.  The prisoners slept some during the night, and next morning Father Koch assisted by Father Schluter celebrated High Mass for the doomed men about 7 o'clock.  As soon as this had been finished work was begun on the scaffold, and the erection was soon completed as the different parts are all put together by bolts.  The other prisoners confined in the jail were taken out and put in the lock-up for safe keeping while the executions took place.


            At ten o'clock the main entrance of the prison was opened and those showing passes from the Sheriff were admitted to the hall and guard room which were filled.  The prisoners were in consultation with their spiritual advisers, while the final preparations were being perfected.  At 10:50 the grated door leading through the jail to the yard was opened and the jury, physicians and deputy sheriffs were admitted and a few minutes afterward the cell doors were swung upon their hinges and the procession appeared with Sheriff Hoffman leading the way, then came Peter McHugh accompanied by Father Schluter, of Danville, his spiritual adviser; then came Patrick Hester attended by Father McGovern, of Danville; and lastly came Patrick Tully attended by Father Koch, of Shamokin.  Each of them carried a crucifix and ascended the scaffold with a firm step.  The priests and doomed men spent a few minutes in prayer when Sheriff Hoffman asked McHugh if he had anything to say.  He spoke in a very low tone and said among other things "I would not be here to day if I had taken the advice of my mother."  Hester made a few remarks but we could not understand him.  Tully spoke a few words saying that he had nothing against ay man and was going to meet his Maker.  The prisoners were then stationed on the platform and their arms bound behind them and their legs also bound.  The nooses were put around their necks, Sheriff Hoffman being assisted by officers Hampton, Heisler and Wynn of the Coal and Iron police.  The white caps were drawn down over their faces and in a moment the sheriff pulled the drop at 11:10 and their souls were ushered into eternity.  Hester and Tully were swung form one beam and McHugh from the other.  Hester's drop was 3 ft. 3 in., McHugh's 3 ft. 4 in. and Tully's 3 ft. 6 in.  Tully and McHugh died without a struggle but Hester breathed hard, shrugged his shoulders and drew up his legs.  In about twelve minutes all were pronounced dead.  The coffins were then brought into the yard and the bodies were cut down and put in and delivered to their friends.  The bodies of Tully and McHugh were taken to Luzerne on the 1:50 train and Hester was taken charge of by an undertaker from Pottsville who arranged for the funerals of the men hung in Schulykill.


            On or about January 24th, 1878, Tully sent word that he wanted to see Captain Alderson and had a conversation with him.  On Monday the 18th, on the return of the Captain, he gave him the following written statement which has been kindly furnished us for publication.  Our readers will see that justice has been meted out to the right parties:

                                    March 18th, 1878.

            Q. Patrick Tully when did you come to this country?  Answer. In 1863.  I joined the Mollie Maguires in Scotland, and the first place I joined in this country was at Centralia.  * * * * started the first lodge in that place and was body-master.

            Q. Were you at the Rea Murder?  Answer.  Yes I was and Peter McHugh, Brian Campbell, John Dalton, Daniel Kelly, and Bradley, I do not know his first name, were at the place of the murder.

            Patrick Hester and Skiverton went as far as the toll gate.  Peter McHugh told me as he was the last man that talked with Hester that he, McHugh, said he would not be hunted by any living man, and Hester said: Go ahead.  Hester gave Kelly a revolver.  Skiverton went home by the east end of Mt. Carmel and Hester went to the west end and down the railroad track, and us five (six) went over the mountain and killed Rea the same as was sworn to by Kelly.  [Here follows a statement in regard to the testimony on the trial alleging that two witnesses for the Commonwealth did not tell the truth and that much of the evidence on the part of the defense was false.]

            In regard to Kelly the statement says: And Kelly told the truth, except in going to Hester's in the morning.

            Hester and McHugh wanted me to plead guilty, provided they got the second trial, and clear them, for I had no money and no friends, and one was enough to die.

                        Signed, PATRICK TULLY.


            THOS. ALDERSON.