Greenwood Colliery, Minooka

Greenwood Colliery, Minooka

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Dr. Joe Lydon's Musings - Part 3

Minooka Musings – Part 2 – by Dr. Joseph Lydon (1922-2008) of the Sharkey Lydon Clan

Michael Lydon, Dr. Joe’s father, moved to Minooka in 1883 from Joyce Country. His wife was Mary Kerrigan of Upper Cloughbrack, Galway. These are Dr. Joe’s reminiscences.

“Apparently, there were a dozen or so of his [Mike Lydon’s] old Galway neighbors in town. I do not think there were any of my grandmother’s people in the area. Despite her illiteracy and lack of English, she did make a few friends, old ladies around the neighborhood who spoke Irish. (The Fahertys, my great grandparents were Irish speakers and lived two doors down.) They were known as “shawlies” as they were called for the black wool outer garments they seemed to wear in all seasons. From the time she landed in Minooka, until we buried her in 1928, I doubt my grandmother had ever been more than a few miles from her new home in this vast land.
“Back to “Daddeh” and “Maime,” as they were called by their children, which Gaelic corrupted into the “Daddy and Mommy” of the next generation.
“Anthracite is a coal like no other. It is practically pure carbon, sometimes brittle as glass and as shiny as diamonds. It gives off tremendous heat per weight and is almost smokeless in its burning.
“The breakers where the raw mine product was processed dotted the lower hills along the river, many of them giving rise to surrounding “patches” where the miners’ families lived, sometimes giving the name to what eventually became towns: Bellevue, Pine, Taylor, Greenwood, etc.
“The actual mining was a difficult, back-breaking, dangerous job with an injury and death rate second to none in the country. This is not to mention the longer-term effects of Black Lung disease as well as the sharply increased incidence of lung cancer. Accumulations of gas pockets did occur in Anthracite mining, they were not nearly so common as in the soft-coal fields. The specific geology, peculiar to the hard-coal fields, made the “fall of roof” the biggest hazard. It took a certain amount of training before a man could get his “mining papers,” which certified him to be a real contract miner responsible for the laborer who worked along with him. Compared with bituminous mining, the anthracite miner was a skilled tradesman. It was also more dangerous.
“My grandfather bought three lots on the northeast corner of Davis Street and Pittston Avenue which gave him a ringside view of all funeral processions. He was one of the town’s leading funeral marchers. I can still picture him, Mikey Faherty, Pat Mullen, Tom Kelly, Wet Joyce, and a few other regulars in the same black hats, “Connie Mack” white collars, black suits, vests, and watch chains pumping their shiny shoes up what we called “Symmetry Hill,” in their procession from the church to the graveyard. The latter was on a low ridge to the east that paralleled the town. Coincidentally or not, this ridge contained six or seven denominational or ethnically different peoples: a large Polish cemetery (Sacred Heart), a Russian Orthodox, an Italian, a German, and a much larger Polish National.”

Michael Lydon’s brother John emigrated at the same time as his brother and lived in Hyde Park.

“John’s daughter Mamie married Petey Walsh, a fine man, just as subdued as Mamie was uproarious. Petey, had grown up in Minooka with my father, whose father, Ould Petey, was a friend of my grandfather in Galway.
“Of the three lots my grandfather bought, it was on the middle one that he built his house. The homes of this time and type were all about the same: L-shaped with three small rooms down and the same up. Some would add a small attached “buttery,” an auxiliary kitchen which was used in the warmer weather away from the hot cook-stove. There was no electricity until about 1920 although there was a centralized water system. Indoor plumbing was unheard of and the little backhouse took care of the more natural necessities.
“There was a barn near the rear of the lot where my grandmother kept her cow. Like all peasants, the cow was a part of daily existence. The cow gave milk for food and for churning butter. For the latter, I think she used the ancient up-and-down pole in a tub method, but the time I was a small boy, she had gotten one of the hand the with beveled gears for churning.
“The lot closer to Davis Street contained a small single-room house which my grandfather supplied to the town band for its practices. It was known by one and all as the “band shanty.” I suppose some of the old times were reasonably good musicians and my father fondly recalled how many nights he fell asleep to one of Sousa’s Marchers.
“The houses were built mostly by the miners themselves with the less able being helped by people like my grandfather, a talented woodworker. I think the lumber was supplied at a very cut-rate price by the coal companies.
“It was a tough life. The miner worked a ten or more hour day for about $1.25. From this, he supplied his tools, blasting powder, oil, and later carbide for his lamp. He was paid on the basis of production. A skilled miner in a good vein (“seam”) had to “sound his roof” with his drill and make a careful decision as to where he should stand his props (“timber”). Misjudgments would send him home early and forever, and he would be “slid under his door,” as the saying went. When he died, there was no compensation, the widow getting only the take of the raffling off of his watch. If she was young enough, she might remarry, or if the kids were old enough to be productive in lesser jobs (picking slate, driving mules, gate-tending for airflow control, etc.), she might make it until the kids grew up.*
“They were a hardy lot, and there was a great sense of interdependence which made life bearable. My father often told me about the procedures after the arrival of another “greenhorn” family. His father would load his barrow with a couple heads of cabbage and a sack of potatoes while he and Mikey Faherty would carry the flour and milk and deliver it to the “greenies” door. Other people would do the same until the newcomers got on their feet.
Generally, the miner ended his day by sending one of his boys for a bucket of beer. This was usually the handled part of the lunch pail and held about a quart which cost a dime. (It was known as “rushing the duck” or “rushing the growler.”) My father told me often of how, if the kid presented a quarter, the 15 cents were dropped into the beer by the bartender. Naturally, this led to many an over-indulgence by the miner.
“I remember as a young boy I would follow after Daddy. He made me his helper, giving me little things to do and always patiently answering my childish questions with “Yes, Ashthorr” or “No Ashthorr.” Ashthorr is an absolutely beautiful term of endearment which defies translation.
“With my grandmother, it was a somewhat different story. I was only in my sixth year when she died, and my recall of her is that she wore the same black dress that I swear she brought from Ireland and always smelled of her damned cow which she called Bossy. Her life was one of chronic peasant drudgery, and as it came, she accepted it.
“She was the first person I ever saw “laid out” after death. I remember the large crowd of people who “sat up” with her all night. In those days, it was considered very bad form to leave the dead unattended. Some were old friends who rocked back and forth producing a weird sound under their shawls which is known as keening. She was one of those mute inglorious heroes who contributed what she could to the broad fabric of this great land.

*Two of my great-grandfathers, Tom Lydon and John Mahady, were killed in roof falls.


Dr. Joe Lydon's Musings - Part 2

Well God Bless All You Sentimental
Choristers of the Old Days

1920s

I suppose if the Negroes can have their spirituals and the Jews their holy chants of Egyptian bondage, I suppose we can have title to a few that helped us through our days of captivity in Minooka where we spent so many happy years successfully disguised as “poor people.”

This is by no means a complete list of treasured ditties. Mine is just a gathering of sound and memory that covers the years between 1925 and 1932. I am sure each of us has a recollection of similar tunes that have equal degrees of poignancy and schlock, such as “The Day Poor Benny Died” and “The Baggage Coach Ahead.”

Then there were the great ones from the Biggie—WWII! “I’ll Be Seeing You” may be the best. “Now Is The Hour,” Lili Marlene,” … many more … some sensored for tender ears.

Charley Lydon, Aunt Katie’s   (Hefferen)son, who bought the farm at Chateau Thierry in 1918, Lavina’s favorite – “Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland”

How about the one Pat Gibbons always sang to Kathleen Donnelly back in their courting days: “Wonderful One.”

When, as a boy, I would go to town with Lavina, we always ate at the best… Kresge’s or Woolworth’s counter… the best root beer and hot dogs ever made!


On Taylor pay nights in the winter, Sharkey would take me or Jack to the Vaudeville show at the old Capitol. He would fold his overcoat under me so I would not miss a thing. It was all very tame despite such billings as “Sophie Tucker, The Last of the Red Hot Mamas!” Sophie was an aging Yenta at this point who moved around somewhat like Queenie the elephant. There was always a kid act or two, a dog that did tricks and a clown with baggy pants—the whole schtik!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Murderer's County - An Update on Minooka Connections

When I published A Murderer’s Country, I knew of one connection to Minooka with the regard to the murders of bailiff Joseph Huddy and his grandson on January 3, 1882 in Upper Cloughbrack, Galway: Sharkey Lydon’s grandmother, Mary Kerrigan Lydon, had witnessed the murders, and Mary’s father, Mathias Kerrigan, had testified for the prosecution. Before turning Queen's evidence, Mathias had been detained, without charge, for nine months because the murders had been committed in his yard. It was Mathias who had named the three men found guilty of the murders.
After the trials, Mary married Michael Lydon in Dooras (we think) in 1883. After immigrating to America, they built a house in the 3000 block of Pittston Avenue. Sharkey and Dr. Joe Lydon lived in the same house as their Irish-speaking grandmother until her death in 1928. The Huddy murders were a part of family lore. As it turns out, Mary is not the only Minooka connection.
Three men were convicted and executed for the Huddy murders: Michael Flynn and Thomas Higgins of Middle Cloughbrack, also known as America, and Patrick Higgins of Upper Cloughbrack, an adjacent village. Patrick Higgins was first cousin to Bridget Kerrigan Kerrigan, Mathias’s wife and Mary’s mother, and, therefore, related to the Sharkey Lydons.
The investigation into the Huddy murders was conducted between January and September, 1882. During that time, 211 people were questioned. One of those interviewed was Julia “Judy” Higgins Holleran, the sister of Thomas Higgins. She stated that she had been at her brother’s house on the day of the murders and that he had not been out of her sight for longer than fifteen minutes; that is, not enough time to kill the Huddys. At the trial of Thomas Higgins, her testimony was vigorously challenged by the prosecution, and the jurors did not believe her.
Julia Higgins had married Michael Holleran from Glenlusk in 1874. Their daughter, Bridgit Holleran, moved to Minooka and married Thomas F. Kearney and lived at 2707 Cedar Avenue where they raised twelve children.
Michael Flynn’s widow, Bridgit Higgins, was the sister of Thomas Higgins. A few years after his execution, Bridgit and at least six of her seven children moved to Minooka. Most of their children moved on to Pittsburgh and Ohio, but Catherine and Michael stayed in Minooka. Catherine married Patrick Laffey, son of James Laffey and Peggy Mulroe. In 1920, the Laffeys lived at 2901 Cedar Avenue. Michael married Mary Coyne, and in 1920, lived at 2718 Colliery Avenue. They had at least five children. Tragically, Bridgit Higgins Flynn was killed by a train in 1911. She and her daughter Catherine “Kate” Laffey had visited friends in Taylor. On the way home, they had been caught in a heavy rainstorm, and Bridget sought shelter under a train. When the car started to move, she was killed in front of Kate.

In summary, all three men who were found guilty of the Huddy murders have direct connections to Minooka. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle. See the links below.


Friday, October 27, 2017

New Release - A Murderer's Country, Joyce Country, Galway during Ireland's Land War - 1879-1882

Available from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

My book, A Murderer’s Country, Joyce Country, Galway, during Ireland’s Land War, looks at a number of murders that took place in the West of Ireland, beginning with the assassination of the Earl of Leitrim in 1879. Leitrim’s murder was a harbinger of the violence that would descend on Galway during the Land War of 1879-1882.

As I stated in the  book, this is an on-going project, and in the months since it was first released, I have made a number of changes, most of which are a result of descendants of those involved contacting me. Here are a few updates:

Correction: The prosecution presented its case first, not the defense.

Correction: At the sentencing of Patrick Higgins, Justice O'Brien did not don the black cap. In doing so, he signaled to defense that they should petition the Lord Lieutenant for mercy, a petition that was denied.

Update: Bridget Higgins Flynn, the widow of Michael Flynn, who was convicted of the Huddy murders, moved to Minooka in 1887 with her six sons and one daughter. Daughter Catherine ("Kate") married Patrick Laffey, son of James Laffey and Margaret "Peggy" Mulroe, and died in 1959. Michael Flynn, Jr. married Mary Coyne and died in South Scranton in 1952. The other five Flynn children moved out of Minooka. Thomas Flynn settled in Youngstown, Ohio. I do not know what happened to the other four Flynn sons. Tragically, Bridget Higgins Flynn was killed in 1911 after sheltering from the rain under a freight car. When the train began to move, she was crushed in view of her daughter Kate.

Update: Thomas Higgins, who was convicted of the Huddy murders, was the brother of Bridget Higgins, wife of Michael Flynn. The two brothers-in-law conspired to kill bailiff Joseph Huddy.

Update: Patrick Sweeney, the herd for Lord Ardiluan, died in Galway sometime between 1901-1904. His son Patrick immigrated to Pittsburgh.

The Murder of William Sydney Clements, 3rd Earl of Leitrim

Family Names: Fitzhenry, Joyce, Holleran, O’Neill, Spellman, Walsh
Locations: Milford, Donegal; Fanad Peninsula, Donegal; Maam Valley and Joyce Country, Galway

William Sydney Clements,
3rd Earl of Leitrim
If anyone made a case for the advancement of tenant rights in Ireland in the second half of the 19th century, it was the 3rd Earl of Leitrim, possibly the worst landlord in Ireland. Before the 1870 Land Act, an act that provided some tenant relief, those farmers who held their leases from Leitrim were without protection of any kind and subject to eviction with little notice. In order to keep his tenants in a perpetual state of unease, every eleven months, Leitrim’s tenants were served with notices to quit before new leases were signed.
When approached by a tenant to appeal an eviction, Leitrim’s favorite phrase was: “Go to hell or America.” This was a problem for many of our ancestors as Leitrim owned vast properties in Galway, including the Maam Valley, parts of the Rosshill estate near Clonbur, Claggan, Glenlusk, Boocaun, and Rusheen, to name a few. Shortly before his murder, Leitrim had signaled to his Galway tenants that it was his intention to “cast a rod on Lough Mask,” and while he was fishing, his bailiffs would be “evicting twenty tenants in the Maam Valley.” It is possible that Michael O’Neill, the father of the O’Neill brothers of baseball fame, was one of those tenants who was evicted by Leitrim’s successor as Michael left the Maam Valley in 1879 for Minooka. His family followed in 1880. It may be why my great-grandmother, Bridgit Walsh Lydon, went to America as well as her brother Richard Walsh and sister Mary Walsh Lydon, all settling in Minooka.
There was another reason for the exodus to Minooka. Between 1878 and 1880, a mini-famine struck Galway, and with fears of a recurrence of the Great Hunger, many chose to leave Galway forever. For those who stayed behind, there was real resentment that “landlordism” had resulted in emigration and starvation, and there were those who decided that violence was the only thing that would bring about change.

* * *
Murder of William Browne Montmorency, Lord Mountmorres

Family Names: Burke, Corbett, Fallon, Hennelly, Kearney, Mulroe, Murphy, Sweeney
Locations: Ebor Hall; Dooroy and Clonbur, Galway; Cong, Mayo

Lord Mountmorres

The second murder was that of William Browne Montmorency, Lord Mountmorres, who was assassinated near his home, Ebor Hall, near Dooroy on September 25, 1880. Mountmorres owned 300 acres near Tumneenaun Bay on the shores of Lough Corrib. His crime was not so much that he was a bad landlord—he only had ten tenants—but that he was a spy for the British Government and that he reported on Land League activities in the Clonbur area. The murder was planned at the publichouse of Patrick Kearney in the village of Clonbur and executed on the road between Clonbur, where Mountmorres had spent the evening in his role as magistrate, and Ebor Hall.

* * *


Bailiff Joseph Huddy and his grandson, John Huddy 

Family Names: Comer, Conroy, Coyne, Flynn, Higgins, Holleran, Joyce, Kerrigan, Laffey, Sharkey Lydon, Macken, Mannion, Moran, Mulroe, Walsh
Locations: Upper and Middle (America) Cloughbrack; Crumlin; Claggan

Arthur Guinness,
1st Lord Ardilaun
On the morning of January 3, 1882, Joseph Huddy, bailiff for Arthur Guinness, the 1st Lord Ardilaun, and his grandson, went to the villages of Upper and Middle Cloughbrack on the shores of Lough Mask to serve eviction notices to twelve families. Two men, Michael Flynn and Thomas Higgins, followed the process servers into the yard of Mathias (Matthew) Kerrigan in Upper Cloughbrack. The elder Huddy was killed in Kerrigan’s yard, and the boy was pursued down a lane (called a boreen) and murdered. Their bodies were then thrown into Lough Mask. (The death of the Huddys became known as the “Lough Mask Murders.”). After a search of the surrounding area, a crew from the HMS Banterer dragged the lake, and three weeks after their murders, the bodies were recovered. In addition to Michael Flynn and Thomas Higgins, Patrick Higgins (Long) was charged with the Huddy murders, and Patrick Higgins (Sarah) was charged with being an accessory. A witness to the murders was Mathias Kerrigan’s daughter, Mary Kerrigan, who was the grandmother of Sharkey Lydon.

Police Hut housing Royal Irish Constabulary
Mathias Kerrigan and
 wife, Bridgit Kerrigan

These murders had a tremendous impact on all of Joyce Country. For ten months, police and Crown investigators interviewed and re-interviewed as many as 211 people, including children, in their efforts to find the murderers of the bailiff and his grandson. Due to a threat of further violence, a police hut was erected in Middle Cloughbrack (also known as America because so many people had emigrated to the States from the village). In order to protect witness Mathias Kerrigan (Sharkey Lydon’s great-grandfather), a second police hut was erected in Kerrigan’s yard and would remain there until his death in 1898.



Greenstreet Courthouse, Dublin
Site of Four Huddy Murder Trials

* * *
Murders of John Joyce; Bridgit Casey O’Brien Joyce, John’s wife; Margaret, John’s mother; Peggy, a daughter from John’s first marriage; and Michael, John’s son.

Families Names: Casey, , Cusick, Joyce, Philbin
Locations: Maamtrasna, Cappanachrea, and Bunachrick, Galway; Tourmakeady (Cappaduff) Mayo

On August 18, 1882, in the mountains of Maamtrasna, north of Lough Mask, five members of the John Joyce family were murdered in their home. Although attempts were made by the British government to tie the murders to the Land League, these killings were tribal rather than political. John Joyce, a known sheep thief, and his family, were victims of angry neighbors who wanted to be rid of a man who stole anything he set eyes on. The murders were particularly savage, and for many, confirmed that Ireland had become ungovernable.
In an act of revenge, three members of another Joyce family from a nearby village made up a story entirely out of whole cloth about witnessing the actual murders. Of the ten men named by the fabricating Joyces, only two were actually guilty of the crime, and their participation in the murders had been a matter of guesswork on the part of their accusers.

Myles Joyce, Executed; Tom Casey, Informer
As a result of the false testimony of the Joyce informers, two men, who had nothing to do with the murders, turned Queen’s evidence, naming five innocent men as participating in the murders. The names had been fed to the informers during their interrogations by Crown Prosecutor George Bolton. Four of those men, after pleading guilty on the advice of their priest, were found guilty of murder and were given sentences of twenty years of hard labor, and the fifth, Myles Joyce of Cappanachrea, was hanged, protesting his innocence with his last breath. The actual killers, members of the clan of Big John Casey of Bunachrick, went free.

As a result of these murders, the area between Lough Mask and Lough Corrib, aka Joyce Country, became known as a Murderer’s Country.

If anyone has any information on any of these murders, I can be contacted at quailcreekpub@hotmail.com.

A Murderer’s Country is available on Kindle and in paperback from Amazon. I would suggest the paperback because of notes and footnotes, and there’s a bonus: more pictures.


Monday, September 25, 2017

1902 District Elections - J. J. Coyne v. Martin Judge - Melee Ensues

The Scranton Tribune, June 11, 1902
Collision Was a Violent One
No Fatalities Result but Many Injured
Class of Warring Factions in the Third Legislative District Convention
Necessitates the Summoning of the Police – Blood Flowed Freely and
One Arrest Results

The Democrats of the Third Legislative district held a convention yesterday afternoon at the St. Charles hotel. The complete list of the injured could not be ascertained as many were hurried away by their friends at the approach of the police. The most seriously injured were: William Burke, postmaster at Minooka: cut on temple and cheek lacerations; Michael Lydon of Minooka: face cut and knuckles skinned; James Nolan, Lackawanna: cut on chin.
The convention was called to elect two delegates to the state convention at Erie, June 25. The warring Minooka factions headed, respectively, by John J. Coyne and Martin Judge, each wanted to get control of the district, and when they failed to settle the matter according to the rules and regulations of the Democratic party of the Third Legislative district, the rules compiled and edited by the illustrious Marquis of Queensbury were substituted. There were insinuations after adjournment that even the substituted rules were violated.
Delegates Must Register – Under the district rules, all delegates must register the day prior to the convention, and contests must be filed before 10 o’clock a.m. of convention day.
A lot of the Judge delegates arrived at the convention yesterday afternoon bearing what seemed to be duly attested credentials, but when these were presented, Chairman W. W. Baylor found it necessary to ignore them as others had registered from their districts in due time and proper form, and 10 o’clock a.m. having come and gone, it was too late to enter contests.
The scene that followed the announcement of this ruling would not, if transferred to canvas, be hung among studies of still life.
The 12 x 14 hotel sample room, in which the convention was being conducted was crowded from the walls to the very edge of the round table in the center of the room at which Chairman Baylor and Secretary Edward Jordan had their seats. The chairman’s ruling brought every man in the room to his feet and drew them into a compact mass about the table.
Everybody started to talk at once. Most of them contented themselves with calling Mr. Baylor names and accusing him of trying “to run over the people like a bull.”
Martin Judge alleged that the John Coyne delegates’ credentials from Lackawanna were forged. Mr. Coyne, in measured, deliberate terms, called Mr. Judge a liar.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tuke's Emigration Scheme - 1882-1885

Tuke’s Emigration Scheme

The following excerpts have been extracted from a memoir of James Hack Tuke (1819-1896) written by his friend, Sir Edward Fry, in 1909.
James Hack Tuke was born in York on September 13, 1819, the second son and seventh child of Quakers Samuel Tuke and Priscilla Hack. He was educated in York at a day school attended by North Country Quakers. When Tuke was nine years old, his mother died, and at the age of sixteen, he left school and joined his father at a counting-house, where his father was a senior partner in a firm of tea merchants.
“In August 1845, Tuke sailed for America. While on board the steamer, he met William Forster, the father of the future Chief Secretary of Ireland, William Edward ‘Buckshot’ Forster, a man who would have a major impact on Ireland during the years of the Land League.
“From New York, Tuke traveled by carriage to Philadelphia, Boston, Cincinnati, Louisville, and St. Louis. He crossed into Canada and visited Quebec, Montreal, and Toronto. During his travels, he made notes of all the people and places he had visited, including Louisville, and noted the evils of slavery.
“After his return to England, Tuke learned of the disaster that was taking place in Ireland. He traveled to Ireland with the elder William Forster for the purpose of providing famine relief. In Donegal, they contacted the local gentry and ministers of various denominations for the purpose of establishing soup kitchens and visited the cottages of those in greatest distress.”
“In 1847, the worst year of the Great Famine, James again returned to Ireland, travelling throughout Connaught where ‘we saw enough of misery and wretchedness to dispel all other visions. He entered homes where the inhabitants were dying from the ‘fever’ that claimed so many.’ He wrote of entire villages devoid of all human habitation because the people who once lived there had been evicted, their roofs pulled down about their heads. He also visited feeding stations where the Poor Law officers attempted to feed the starving. He counted 300 people at one such station, many of them in various stages of fever, starvation, and nakedness. He was so moved by what he saw that he published a pamphlet in England describing the plight of the Irish.
“Many Irish fled Ireland for England, some ending up living on the doorstep of Samuel Tuke, James’s father, in York, who offered a small field near his own home for the erection of a wooden building to serve as a fever hospital. It was there that James caught the fever—the effects of which stayed with him for the rest of his life. When the mini-famine of 1877-79 appeared to be a repeat of Black ’47, Tuke devised a plan that would save thousands from their wretched existence.”
In 1879, the second year of the mini-famine, Tuke returned to Ireland. Although there was hunger and want, there was not starvation. But it was on that visit that he became “strongly impressed with the necessity of assisting families to emigrate in order to lessen the fearful crowding of those who were attempting to live on small patches of land.”
Emigration was not a new idea. Hundreds of thousands of Irish had fled to America during the Famine and post-Famine years. Many landlords horrified by the scenes taking place on their estates had paid the passage money for their tenants. Other landlords, for less altruistic reasons, saw emigration as a way of clearing the land of impoverished tenants, thus reducing the amount of poor rates they had to remit to the Government to support local workhouses. The cleared land was almost always turned into pastureland.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Murder of Peter King, February 1902

The Scranton Republican – February 17, 1902

Horrible Tragedy in Minooka
Constable Michael Davis [of Moosic] Shoots Peter King
Upon his Refusal to Quarrel with Him

Murderer in County Jail

“Peter King, 22, of Minooka, was shot by Michael Davis, 33, in the speakeasy of Patrick Sullivan, in that place, soon after 1 o’clock yesterday, and died a few minutes afterwards.
“The murder was cold blooded and has aroused most bitter feelings in that section. But for the prompt action of special officers who arrived a few moments after the affray. Lynching, it is said, would undoubtedly have been resorted to. Davis is now in the county jail. Sullivan’s speakeasy is but one mile from the city line on Main street, Minooka. The barroom is on the ground floor and at the time of the murder 14 men were present. All evening King had been in the place playing cards, but had not, it is said, taken a drop of liquor.
“From stories told by many eyewitnesses, the murder was precipitated by Davis’ remarks, which revived a feud of long standing. Two months ago, Davis subpoenaed King to appear as a witness in a case wherein Charles Deimuth was arrested on information of George Fassold, charged with selling liquor without a license.
“Davis’s reputation in that locality is bad, and King was a reluctant witness, knowing that Davis had investigated the case indirectly against Deimuth. The hearing was held before Alderman O’Neill of Minooka, and when King finally appeared, he refused to testify against Deimuth. The case was dismissed and the matter dropped.
“Davis, however, boasted of the manner in which he had forced King to accompany him to the alderman’s office. The boast was one of which he was evidently proud, as King is a man of remarkable physique, being 6 feet 3 inches in height and weighing 200 pounds. His strength was something unusual and he could easily have overcome the constable. Hence the proud boast of the latter.
“Saturday night, Davis, accompanied by a fellow officer, Harvey Decker of Moosic, visited this city and made the rounds of the saloons. According to Decker, Davis was not drunk when they left on an 11:40 D&H train for Minooka. Leaving the train, they proceeded to Sullivan’s place after stopping in two speakeasies on the way.”
Looking for Trouble
“Arriving at Sullivan’s place, they stood and chatted with several men in the barroom. King sat to one side quietly playing cards with a few friends.
“That Davis was looking for trouble was soon evident. Spying King, he remarked: ‘There’s that son _ _ ______ I arrested.’ King heard the remark, but made no reply. Advancing nearer, he repeated the sentence, adding other vile epithets.
“I could arrest him again if I had to,” said Davis.
“You or any other man wouldn’t arrest me, Davis, if I didn’t want to be,” said King, provoked at his insolence.
“The men became angrier. King remained in his chair while Davis swung his fist, threatening to attack John Ruane, who was standing at the bar… Sullivan, who stood behind the bar, told Davis to be quiet or he would put him out. This, however, added to the constable’s wrath.
“King, you’re a brute. You son _ _ ______. I could kill you. I’d blow your brains out,” shouted Davis as he placed his hand on his hip pocket. His move was a signal for an advance by the other men who rushed at him. Leaping aside and pulling his gun in a wild-west fashion, he backed to a corner and covered the crowd.