Molly McGuire Memorial – Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Molly McGuire Memorial

Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania

A monument to an Irish secret society thought to be responsible for a string of violent attacks in Pennsylvania coal mines. 


Hidden behind a wall, which feels like a prison yard, a striking memorial attempts to commemorate and give a brief timeline of the events leading up to 19 men being hanged as Molly Maguires between 1877 and 1879 in the Pennsylvania coal region.

The bronze statue was created by Zenos Frudakis and erected in 2009 in Mahanoy City, Pennsylvania. The imagery of the statue is of an anonymous man with his hands and feet both bound by rope and a hood over his head, as he waits for the gallows.

Molly Maguires were Irish immigrants that worked in the anthracite mines in Schuylkill, Carbon, Luzerne, Columbia, and Northumberland Counties in Pennsylvania. At least 19 miners were hanged between 1877 and 1879 for crimes associated with the Molly Maguires group, who were fighting with mine owners for basic living rights. The miners at the time were treated poorly, with low wages and awful working conditions. The miners felt they were being taken advantage of and exploited by the mine owners, and formed the Molly McGuires. (The name comes from early 19th-century Ireland, when a woman named Molly Maguire protested against English landlords who tried to steal people’s land.) Both sides during this conflict resorted to violence, with many people dying on both sides from murders to suspicious deaths to dynamiting of mines to close the mines so that the mine owners lost money. Both sides blamed the other side whenever anything went wrong, and would fight back with violence. Chronologically, the trials of the Molly McGuires ended on January 14, 1879, when Martin Bergin, the 19th Molly was executed and hung in Pottsville for the murder of Patrick Burns. The monument pays tribute to all the miners that lost their lives during this time, there is a black plaque dedicated to them with their names inscribed. The dedication marker lists “Sir Sean Connery” as chairman of the advisory committee. Connery played the lead role in the fictional movie, The Molly Maguires.

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