Resembling a fortress standing guard over the town of Jim Thorpe (formerly known as Mauch Chunk), the historic Old Jail Museum is a beautiful two-story stone structure. 1995 when it was purchased by Tom McBride and his wife, Betty Lou, of Jim Thorpe.
Containing approximately 72 rooms, this magnificent structure shouts to all "Be good"! The building has 27 cells, plus basement dungeon cells used as solitary confinement until 1980, women's cells on the 2nd floor, and the warden's living quarters across the front of the building. The warden's apartment has a large living room, dining room, 2 bedrooms, and a sitting room. The kitchen for the prisoners was the same kitchen used by the warden's family. In fact, for many years the warden's wife did the cooking not only for her family but also for the prisoners using the same kitchen for both.
The building is best known as the site of the hanging of seven Irish coal miners known as Molly Maguires in the 1800s. On June 21, 1877, today known as the Day of the Rope, Alexander Campbell, Edward Kelly, Michael Doyle and John Donohue were hanged at the same time on gallows erected inside the Old Jail Museum cell block. On March 28, 1878, Thomas P. Fisher was hanged here, and on January 14, 1879, James McDonnell and Charles Sharp were hanged on the same gallows.
Historians today feel the Molly Maguire trials were a surrender of state sovereignty. A private corporation (a coal/railroad company) initiated an investigation through a private detective agency (Pinkerton Detectives), a private police force (the Coal & Iron Police) arrested the alleged offenders, and private attorneys (employees of the coal companies) prosecuted these men. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania provided only the courtroom and the gallows.
Before their hanging, the men proclaimed their innocence and today historians believe many of the condemned men were falsely accused of murder. Before his hanging one of the man, thought to be Alexander Campbell, put his hand on the dirty floor of his cell and then placed it firmly on the wall proclaiming, " This handprint will remain as proof of my innocence." That handprint is visible today for everyone to view even though past wardens tried to eradicate it by washing it, painting it, and even taking down part of the wall and replastering it.
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