Monday, June 28, 2010

Schuylkill County Prison and The Mollie Maguires.

Not too far from the Yuengling brewery in Pottsville lies a castle of solitude. The Schuylkill county prison was originally built in Orwigsburg in 1814. After some expansions and renovations it became too small and was changed into a school house. In 1851 the prison moved to it's current location in Pottsville. Completed with a castle facade, it was surely meant to intimidate.

The prison consisted of 38 cells, each cell holding 2 inmates. In 1876 a new addition was added to the fortress. A total of 86 new cells along with 6 solitary confinement cells in the basement were added. The following year the prison would gain much of it's infamy. On June 21, 1877 the largest mass execution in Pennsylvania history would take place. Six Mollie Maguires were hung at the prison, while another four were executed at the prison in Mauch Chunk. All ten men proclaimed their innocence. The whole history of the Mollie Maguires is shrouded in much doubt and full of conspiracies through large coal companies. In order to accommodate the hangings the Schuylkill county prison had a six man gallow built, though they opted to hang the men two at a time instead of all six at once. On the night of the executions miners and their families gathered outside the prison in silence to claim the innocence of the lives that would be lost here.

The county of Schuylkill executed a total of sixteen people by 1911, including nine Mollie Maguires. The state took control over all executions in 1911, though none remain as controversial as the ones that took place on that early summer evening in 1877.