An evolving theory
SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS/COURTESY WILLIAM MORGANS In the only known photo of Morgan Morgans, he is seen standing in the rear, fourth from the left, wearing a white football uniform.
William Morgans, grandson of slain Officer Morgan Morgans, has studied the tragedy for years. He believes the reputed Molly Maguires had a direct hand in his grandfather's death. The Mollies were Irish immigrant coal miners accused in a string of murders and assaults throughout the southern coalfields beginning about the time of the Civil War.
The Mollies can be traced to 1843 Ireland where they were alleged to have battled landlords on behalf of tenants. In a sense, they fought oppression. In America, the Mollies had a presence in northeastern Pennsylvania, supposedly using violence and threats against mine bosses. The Molly story is contentious, and Mollies are viewed as either a band of outlaws or a group of heroes, depending on personal perspective.
As it turned out, Officer Morgans was hot on the trail of two such men during the latter days of alleged Molly activity.
"He was about to arrest two Molly Maguires. He was set up," claims his grandson.
Twenty alleged Mollies were hanged in connection with several murders in the 1870s. On what is called the Day of the Rope, June 21, 1877, one of the largest official mass executions in American history took place in Carbon and Schuylkill counties with the hanging of ten Mollies in Mauch Chunk and Pottsville. Some claim the men were framed and the trials, a travesty.
If Morgans was murdered by Mollies, the tragedy would represent yet another cop killing allegedly at the hands of that organization. Just seven miles away, Officer Benjamin Yost of Tamaqua was murdered, supposedly by Mollies, in the darkness of night on July 5, 1875. That killing resulted in the hiring of Pinkerton detectives, a move that marked the beginning of the end of the Mollies and the reign of terror that paralyzed eastern Pennsylvania's coal regions.