Were the Molly Maguires ever active in the West?

Margaret-Anne Moore
Wilmington, California

I don’t know of any evidence that this secret society of Irish-American miners ever expanded its operations out West. Major strife between mine owners and unions didn’t appear on the frontier until the late 1880s, a decade past when the group ceased its battles, which mainly took place in Pennyslvania and West Virginia. Yet some radical union groups in places like Cripple Creek, Colorado, were sometimes referred to as the Molly Maguires.

Historians disagree on whether the group even existed. The Maguires allegedly committed acts of terrorism against mine owners and their employees in response to terrible labor conditions, bad pay and so forth.

Pinkerton detectives supposedly broke up the group in the mid-1870s. Agent James McParland had infiltrated it. His investigation led authorities to hang 10 alleged members of the Maguires, who had been convicted of murder.

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