two solemn traditions that I’ve observed each year as part of
the St. Patrick’s celebrations in Jim Thorpe. On Sunday
to the start of the parade Sheila O’Neil gathers family and friends
together in the front parlor of the Gilded Cupid. All present take one
shot of Irish whiskey from a silver tray. With glass in hand each
person takes the time to remember loved ones who are now among the
departed. When the last tongue has uttered its final remembrance all
pass the golden spirit over their lips.
From here many of us will head uptown to the former Carbon
The prevailing sounds of chatter and laughter that have been in the air
since early morning will take reverent pause. Outside a lone piper
plays “Amazing Grace,” and on the steps of this formidable structure,
members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians will read aloud the names of
those who died on the gallows here on June 21, 1877 – the infamous “Day
of the Rope.”
Alexander Campbell along with Michael Doyle, Edward Kelly and John
Donahue were hung at the jail. Six other men, James Boyle, Thomas
Duffy, James Roarity, Thomas Munley, James Carroll, and Hugh McGheehan
were put to death in similar fashion on the same day in Pottsville. Of
these ten men, and the additional ten that would fall prey to judicial
dispatch over the next two years for their alleged affiliation with the
Molly Maguires, none have achieved more notoriety than the “King
the Mollies,” John “Black Jack” Kehoe and Alexander Campbell.
Kehoe will be best remembered for his adept political skills as both
the county delegate for Schuylkill County and as leader and organizer
of the Hibernians.
Campbell may be more remembered for his activities after death.
Although some keepers of local lore attribute the act to another
convicted Molly, Thomas Fisher – most agree that the mysterious image
on the wall of cell 17 is the ghostly hand print of Alexander Campbell.
Popular accounts state that before being taken to the gallows Campbell
rubbed his hand on the dirt floor of his cell, and then placing his
palm and fingers firmly against the wall proclaimed, “There is proof of
my words. That mark of mine will never be wiped out. It will remain
forever to shame the county for hanging an innocent man.”
years the wall has been painted, plastered over and totally
rebuilt; but each time the image reappears. Scientists have been unable
to define the phenomena other than to come to the conclusion that we
can see something that theoretically doesn’t exist.
In life both Campbell and Kehoe had several things in common. They were
both honorable publicans – men who owned taverns. Both men shared a
deep concern for the plight of the coal miners, and both sought to
expose and alleviate the injustice suffered by the Irish worker. Their
establishments became safe havens where men could gather to discuss and
plan ways to deal with their common tribulations. These facts alone
would be cause enough for Campbell and Kehoe to be targeted for
Those questions concerning guilt and innocence, or to what degree
justice was served remain unresolved. The recorded facts of the events
leading to these executions have been rendered untrustworthy by the
prejudice, bias and clandestine behavior of the accused and their
OLD JAIL MUSEUM IN JIM
only thing that can be stated with any certainty is that men and
children labored under conditions that were deplorable and inhumane. In
many instances the black slaves on antebellum plantations fared better
than the Irish Catholics that toiled underground in the anthracite
deposits of eastern Pennsylvania. These workers and their families were
powerless against self-serving men who had the advantage of money,
power, education and the cooperation of government and judicial
authorities that aided in the prosecution of labor dissidents.
While it is not my intention to condone the bloodshed, those social and
moral conditions which may have driven a number of coalminers to engage
in activities that were conspiratorial, illegal and violent probably
would have been deemed acceptable and necessary by the men who founded
So each year on this day we remember family and friends, and we toast
honorable publicans everywhere!