ACIS Logo Pennsylvania’s Alleged Molly Maguires: “You Sons of Liberty Awake”

Several Hibernians charged as Pennsylvania’s “Molly Maguires” in the 1870s operated taverns. As with Boston’s Green Dragon Tavern, which hosted Boston’s “Sons of Liberty,” Pennsylvania’s Hibernian taverns encouraged revolutionary appeals.

The Hibernians distrusted British policies that had helped starve one million in Ireland and displace two million more. In Pennsylvania’s coal region and nationwide, they organized under Ancient Order of Hibernian charters and embraced Greenback Labor Reform tenets that included, during the centennial of the Revolutionary War, the exclusion of British capital from U.S. industry.

“You sons of liberty awake,” anti-monopoly delegate Jack O’Brien wrote from Schuylkill County in 1875. “Your hearths and altars are at stake; / Arise, arise, for freedom’s sake, / And strike against monopoly.”

This paper discusses alleged “Molly Maguire” tavern keepers, including: James Carroll’s hosting of a Labor Reform nominating convention; Hugh McGehan’s parade of miners during the Long Strike and his brokering, at age twenty, of an agreement with local coal operators; Patrick Hester’s involvement with Richard Trevellick’s National Labor Union; Thomas Fisher’s advocacy, with his parish priest Father Brehony, on behalf of the mineworkers’ wage; John Kehoe’s friendship with Congressman John Killinger, and Killinger’s legislative efforts to challenge “the Railroad Monopolies of the land”; and Bernard Dolan’s discussion of the aims of coal region Hibernians to elect candidates to “assuage the sufferings of the poor laboring class, who they consider their brothers in toil.”

The paper concludes with declarations of innocence made by six Hibernian tavern keepers who died on the gallows.