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Alec CampbellAlec Campbell was born in the village of Dungloe, County Donegal, Ireland in 1833. Having survived the great famine and having witnessed the devastation of his community brought on by the great hunger, he emigrated to the Pennsylvania coal fields in 1868. Campbell first found work as a mine laborer, but within 6 months he was able to purchase the position of miner. He remained in the mines for two years, and saving money he purchased the Columbia House Tavern in Tamaqua and catered to immigrant miners. Campbell sold the Tamaqua tavern to James Carroll and the establishment became known as the Union House. Campbell established the Columbia House in the Storm Hill section of Lansford and settled himself as a tavern keeper and wholesale liquor distributor. With the anthracite boom in the 1860’s and 1870’s many Irish found their way to the coal fields. The Irish compromised about 1/3 of the mine workers in the hard coal region. Not only were they despised because they were foreign and Catholic, they were also disdained for their frowned upon habit of aggressively asserting their rights. Campbell grew in prominence as a businessman and leader of the Irish community. He was active in local Irish organizations and became Treasurer of the Storm Hill AOH. When the mine and railroad interests including Franklin Gowen, Charles Parrish, and Asa Packer, colluded to break the back of growing organized labor, they targeted the Irish and specifically the AOH, equating the AOH with a violent organized movement they called the Molly Maguires. The Mollies were an anti-landlord movement in Ireland. The mine owners were successful in swaying public opinion in equating coal region violence with the secret society the Molly Maquires. When Edward Kelly, Michael Doyle, and James Kerrigan were arrested in September 1875 for the murder of mine boss John P. Jones, there was a great deal of newspaper publicity linking leaders of the AOH in a plot to murder mine bosses. Alec Campbell traveled throughout the coal region enlisting support for the defense fund of the accused. He actively supported candidates that fall that were running against the hand picked slate of the mine interests. Campbell traveled to New York City to solicit national AOH support for the accused. In February of 1876, when Alec Campbell was arrested as an accessory in the murder of John P. Jones, he initially construed that this was pure harassment against his activities. He did not realize his jeopardy as James Kerrigan had turned state’s evidence, and would say anything to save his own neck. The trial was a foregone conclusion. The jury wheel was tampered with. Irish and Catholics were dismissed as potential jurors. Motions for a change of venue in spite of a tidal wave of pretrial prejudicial publicity were denied. The puppet masters that controlled the private Coal and Iron Police as well as the Pinkerton Detectives, also connived to control the Court. The prosecution team was headed not by the district attorney, but by private high powered attorneys on the mine and railroad payrolls. Evidence presented was bought and perjured. Conviction under these circumstances was guaranteed. When Alec Campbell appealed his case, the mine interests fearing that the conviction would be overturned, charged him in the 1872 death of Morgan Powell. Despite the fact that there was strong evidence that Mr. Powell’s murder was the result of a domestic problem, the prosecution was hungry for a second conviction to guarantee an execution. The weak rationale linking Campbell to the murder was so outrageous, the defense called only one witness, Charles Powell the decedent’s cousin. Despite defense testimony from Mr. Powell that destroyed the prosecution’s case, Campbell was inexplicably convicted. The influence of the Mine bosses extended to the hierarchy of the Church. The southern anthracite region at the time was part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Archbishop Wood of Philadelphia, and Bishop O’Hara of Scranton, excommunicated all members of the AOH in the coal region. It is important to note that Bishop Michael Domenec of Pittsburgh refused to join in the condemnation, and the diocesan newspaper openly supported the AOH. Alec Campbell along with John Donahue, Michael Doyle, and Edward Kelly, were hung at the Carbon County Jail on June 21, 1877. Six more men, Thomas Duffy, James Carroll, James Roarity, James Boyle, Thomas Munley, and Hugh McGheehan were hung the same day in Pottsville, in what has become to be known as The Day of The Rope. All the condemned had a priest attend to their spiritual needs prior to the execution. Ten more Irish Americans were to be hung in the following 18 months under similar charges, until the insanity finally ended. The Carbon County Division #1 of the Ancient Order of Hibernians proudly bears the name of Alec Campbell.

Page last updated 01/02/01 by Robert Lee


Back in the 1870's, a group of mine workers from Carbon County were arrested, jailed, and hanged for murder and other crimes. In later years, it became apparent that these men, known collectively as the "Molly Maguires", had been framed in an attempt to crush the efforts of the mine workers' labor union. These men happened to belong to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. In 1877, the National Convention of the A.O.H., under pressure from the Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia, cut off the divisions in the counties of Northumberland, Columbia, Schuylkill, and Carbon. Although Carbon's division did restart shortly afterwards, the momentum was lost and by 1912 the A.O.H. had faded away. In 1996, Ned McGinley, then the A.O.H. National Director, local restauranteur Noel Behan, local resident Walter Boyle and a handful of others began looking into the possibility of starting up the Carbon County division again. In 1997, after an absence of over 80 years, the division received its official charter and a new slate of officers was sworn into office. The Alec Campbell, Mauch Chunk Division, Carbon County Division #1 was born and has since grown to over 100 members. The Ladies A.O.H., know as the "Molly Maguire Division" currently has over 70 members. Together these men and women have given tremendous momentum to the cause of the Irish in Carbon County. Both divisions have donated toys to the "Toys for Tots" program, participated in Communion Breakfasts, given scholarships to eighth-grade students who graduated and went on to Catholic high schools, and hosted Irish music concerts by the Irish Lads and Blackthorn. They also commemorate every June the "Day fo the Rope" with a special Mass and Benediction celebrated at the Old Jail Museum on Broadway. The biggest Division project to date is the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. 1998 marked a return of a Parade to honor St. Patrick that had been absent in Jim Thorpe for many years. The Parade was a tremendous success. This year's parade, again under the leadership of Chairman Ronald J. Sheehan and the rest of the Parade Committee, promises to be bigger and better. This Division is looking ahead to other ways to serve the community and our fellow Irish brothers and sisters. We plan to become involved in the Children's Friendship Project For Northern Ireland, a program that brings adolescents from Northern Ireland to America for a few weeks to learn about America and to enjoy peace and friendship. We also look forward to learning more about the immigration process and how to help the newly-arrived Irish in America. 2001 looks like it will be a great year. To all the men and women who have served the A.O.H. and the L.A.O.H., we thank you and my God bless you in Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity.

Submitted by James G. Logue, Jr., Public Relations

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