Subject Area



On the evening of December 9, 1875, around forty masked men broke into the boardinghouse of the elderly widow Margaret O’Donnell in Wiggans Patch, a mining town outside of Mahanoy City, and killed her pregnant daughter and her son, an alleged Molly Maguire. The perpetrators of the Wiggans Patch Massacre literally got away with murder. One of the most brutal crimes of a particularly violent era was soon forgotten, especially when the Molly Maguire trials began the following month. How did this happen? Why was the Wiggans Patch Massacre forgotten when within the next few years (1876-1879) twenty men were hung for murders committed up to sixteen years before? In order to find the answers, we must first understand the entire Molly Maguire phenomenon and its place in labor versus capital relations of the rapidly industrializing United States of America. Firstly, they did not cause as much of an outrage as several of the other murders around the same time because the victims were the widely hated and feared Molly Maguires. Furthermore, to most of the United States, the perpetrators were also Molly Maguires. Finally, the Pinkertons and the Coal & Iron Police were the most effective bodies of justice in the anthracite region. They obviously did not want to pursue an investigation of the Wiggans Patch Massacre because that would ultimately incriminate them, and they enjoyed a stainless reputation in the anthracite region as the heroes who defeated the hated Molly Maguires.


Providence College

Academic Year



Fall 12-15-2018