Arthur G. Burgoyne_

Eighteen and Ninety Three_

Homestead_ A Complete History_


The feeling of ownership had a place in the reasoning of these simple people. Many of them had bought and paid for their homes and were pillars of the borough government. Some were still paying for their dwellings—paying off the mortgages held by the Carnegie Company, which had been in the habit of helping those who cared to build, and which even did a regular banking business for the advantage of its employees.


The Nineteenth of Chapters_

An Epidemic Investigated—Detectives Charge Poisoning and Arrests are Made—Gallagher and Davidson Turn Informers—Dempsey and Beatty are Indicted—Hearings and Trials—A Tangled Mass of Medical Testimony—Mr. Brennen's Little Hibernicism—Defendants are Convicted and Heavy Sentences Imposed—Gallagher Recants and Then Reconsiders—Clemency Refused by the Pardon Board.

The prevalence of disease among the non-union men in the Carnegie mill, and the alarming increase of mortality in the months of September and October were touched upon in an earlier chapter. It was not until December that the first intimation of the existence of a criminal cause for the species of epidemic which struck down man after man and baffled expert physicians and chemists reached the public. The Carnegie Company had concealed the truth as far as possible, endeavoring from the first to counteract the statements sent abroad by the Amalgamated Association to the effect that bad food, bad water, and bad sanitary arrangements were killing off the "blacksheep" like cattle stricken with a murrain.

The malady was a virulent form of diarrhœa or cholera morbus, for which the medical men employed to treat the sufferers were unable to account. All sorts of remedial measures were tried by the firm. Only the purest food was used. Notices were posted warning the men not to drink from the water plugs ordinarily serving as a source of supply, and chemically pure water was provided. Still the plague did not abate. Suspecting foul play, the firm set Pinkerton detectives to work, distributing them among the cooks and waiters as assistants, and in this way evidence was secured of a wholesale poisoning conspiracy, and the identity of the conspirators was believed to be established by confessions obtained from two accessories.

On December 5, J.H. Ford, a Pinkerton detective, made information before Alderman McMasters against Robert J. Beatty, a cook in the mill, on a charge of felonious assault and battery, in administering poison to the non-union men at Homestead. It was learned that Beatty was about to start for Cincinnati on the steamboat Nellie Hudson and an officer boarded the boat to apprehend him, but was not permitted to make the arrest. Beatty was subsequently arrested in Louisville and brought back to Pittsburgh on requisition papers issued by Governor Pattison.

The confession on which the Carnegie Company based its charge against Beatty was made by Patrick Gallagher, a cook in restaurant No. 1 in the Homestead mill. Its publication, which followed immediately on the arrest of Beatty, caused a tremendous sensation, inasmuch as it named as the arch-conspirator, the designer and executive head of the plot, no less a personage than Hugh F. Dempsey, master workman of D. A. 3, K. of L.

Gallagher deposed that late in August, he was approached by Beatty with a proposition to put in the tea and coffee made by him for the Carnegie Company's men, something which would render the men sick and unfit for work; that Beatty took him, in company with J. M. Davidson, to see Hugh F. Dempsey, who was to furnish the preparation to be used; that about the 7th or 8th of September affiant received from Dempsey a bottle containing a yellow powder, which, Dempsey said, contained three doses, each being sufficient for a pot of tea or coffee containing thirty gallons; that affiant used the powder with the result of making workmen sick and unable to work; that additional powders were given him by Dempsey and Beatty and administered by him to the workmen, and that affiant received for his services $3 from Beatty and $25 from Dempsey, with the assurance of $23.85 more from the latter.

Despite the plausibility and coherency of the charges and the prima facie evidence in support of them, the Amalgamated men unanimously set down this new move of the company as a scheme devised in order to prejudice their cause. It was urged, in particular, that the relations between the Association and the K. of L. were not such as to render it probable that Dempsey would jeopardize his liberty and perhaps his life by engaging in a villainous plot in the interest of the former. Dempsey himself stoutly denied the charges, and his denial was supported by Beatty.

At the hearing before Alderman McMasters, Beatty was defended by William J. Brennen, Esq. Captain Breck appeared for the prosecution. J. M. Davidson was the first witness examined. A summary of his testimony is appended:

"I am 50 years of age, reside in the Seventeenth ward, Pittsburgh, and have been a river cook nearly all my life. I have known Beatty two or three years. In the latter part of August, Patrick Gallagher and I met Beatty on Wood street, and Beatty recognized me as "Jimmy" Davidson. I have known Gallagher for fifteen years. It was understood that we were all to go to Homestead as cooks and that we were to take something with us to put in the food given the non-union men in order to make them sick and unfit for work. When we met Beatty he took us to the office of the K. of L., on Third Avenue. There we met Hugh Dempsey, who, I understand, is master workman for this district. I am not a member of the K. of L. While we were in the office, Gallagher and Dempsey did most of the talking. Beatty suggested that it would be well for us to dose the men at Homestead with croton oil. He said croton oil could be used safely; that we could carry bottles of it in our pockets and when we were at work in the cook-houses we could put it on our fingers and rub it on the inside of the soup bowls and coffee cups. I objected to the use of croton oil on the ground that it was a deadly drug, and I did not want to run the risk of killing any one. Dempsey said he could furnish us with powders that would do the work effectively and safely; that the powders had been used on non-union men in Chicago, and that by their use a strike had been broken in four days. He said that while it would make the men sick, it was not dangerous. Dempsey said that if we would go to Homestead and administer these powders he would guarantee us $50 each and our expenses. We did not get any powders from Dempsey that day. Gallagher, Beatty and myself then left Dempsey's office. We took a walk about town discussing our plans and the contract we had undertaken. Beatty told us that if we did the work well there would be a gold watch and chain in it for each of us in addition to the money we were to receive. I did not go to Homestead until September 30. Gallagher, who had been there for some time, left the day before I arrived. Two days later he returned and worked about the restaurant in the mill. Before Gallagher went to Homestead the first time we called on Mr. Dempsey. He gave us a small jar of some kind of powder. He said there was enough of the stuff in the jar for three powders, each one sufficient to 'fix' thirty gallons of tea or coffee. I suppose there was nine or ten teaspoonsful of the stuff in the bottle. Dempsey told Gallagher to divide it into three equal parts. This Gallagher took with him to Homestead. The day before I went to Homestead Beatty gave me some powders to deliver to Gallagher. This was in Dempsey's office, or K. of L. hall. I met Gallagher on the street and gave him the package. He opened it and told me there were nine powders in the package. The bottle containing some of the stuff was given to Gallagher by Dempsey in my presence. This was in K. of L. hall and Beatty was present. Gallagher was to use his own discretion whether he put it in the tea or coffee. I next saw Beatty about September 30.

"Some time in September Gallagher came back, and Beatty and I went to the K. of L. hall. Dempsey asked him how the powders worked. He said successfully, and wanted more and Dempsey said he would get more. After I came back I again met Beatty. We talked about the success the powders had, and Beatty seemed pleased. I had quit work on October 15. About December 1, I met Beatty at Cavanaugh's saloon. Gallagher was with us and we then went to Gallagher's room, where we discussed the powders, and I asked Beatty what was in the powders. He said rhubarb and snuff and other things. He didn't say who furnished them. While we were talking he mentioned Lynch, Crawford and Dr. Purman. Gallagher presented his bill of expenses to Dempsey and he asked me where mine was, and I made it out and gave it to Dempsey. Dempsey said the money was exhausted and we would have to wait. Beatty said the powders didn't seem to be a success. Gallagher told Dempsey that the powders had been used in cook house No. 1. I saw Beatty again two weeks later on Wood street. We talked over Gallagher's success in administering the powders. Met him again a week later; that was after I had quit work in Homestead."

On cross-examination witness said that Beatty gave him $2 and Dempsey $12. Mr. Brennen was unable to shake his testimony.

Pinkerton Detective Ford deposed to having overheard a conversation carried on by Beatty, Gallagher and Davidson concerning the powders used at Homestead. Witness hired adjoining rooms for Gallagher and himself, and induced Gallagher to entertain the other two men in his quarters, he (Ford) furnishing liquor for the party. He kept a man stationed in the room next Gallagher's and received daily reports of what took place. On confronting Davidson with proof of his guilt, Davidson made a full confession.

Louis Wolfe, of Anapolis, Md., said that he had served as steward of restaurants Nos 1, 4 and 5 in the Carnegie mill. Witness hired Gallagher as cook and had seen Beatty in the mill. On September 7, witness' wife came on from Anapolis and he invited thirty or forty friends to supper in honor of her arrival. Many of the guests were taken ill and Mrs. Wolfe suffered terribly from cramps and vomited a great deal. Her weight was soon reduced from 120 to 66 pounds. Witness himself fell ill and lost 38 pounds.

J. O. Nesbitt swore that he had attended the supper given by Wolfe, fell ill immediately afterwards, was in bed five weeks and had not yet fully recovered.

W. E. Bullock, pay roll clerk in the Carnegie office at Homestead, had also been at the supper, sickened, lost sixteen pounds in eight days and was still ailing.

Mr. Brennen made a long argument for his client, alleging that the two informers were "miserable, contemptible rascals who had put up a job on an innocent man in order to shield themselves." The magistrate, however, believing a good prima facie case to have been made out, held Beatty for court in $5,000 bail.

As if to accentuate the force of the poisoning charge several more deaths from sickness contracted in the mill now occurred, the symptoms being identical in all cases.

District Attorney Burleigh proceeded without loss of time against Dempsey and Davidson, the information against the men being lodged by County Detective Beltzhoover. Dempsey surrendered himself and was released on $2,500 bail. Gallagher, against whom an information had been made by William E. Griffith, one of the workmen who had been poisoned, was arrested and sent to jail in default of $5,000 bail. Davidson was also arrested, but was released on $3,000 bail.

Hugh F. Dempsey was the first of the accused men to stand trial, being arraigned before Judge Stowe on January 12, 1893. The indictment against him contained four counts, 2 charging felonious assault and battery with intent to murder, and two felonious assault and battery with intent to "make sick." The defendant was represented by Messrs. Marshall, Montooth, Brennen and L. K. Porter. District Attorney Burleigh, Captain Breck and John S. Robb appeared for the Commonwealth. The jury selected was composed as follows: Harry T. Anderson, L. P. Boyer, Michael Brown, David Duff, Charles H. Kretzer and William G. Murray, all farmers; Daniel Bohannon, painter; Louis Blumenschein, gardener; David C. Brickell, gent; Alex. D. Guy, merchant; Edward Letzkus, clerk, and John H. Wilson, manufacturer.

Captain Breck, in his opening speech, admitted that no man could be convicted of crime on the evidence of an accomplice, but promised to furnish ample testimony corroborative of the confessions made by Gallagher and Davidson. He laid special stress on the reports of the physicians who had treated the men supposed to have been poisoned at Homestead.

A numerous array of witnesses was brought forward by the prosecution. Attorney L. K. Porter conducted most of the cross-examinations for the defense.

Dr. Weible, surgeon for the Carnegie Company, submitted a tabulated report of the cases treated by him in the mill.

Louis Wolfe repeated the testimony which he gave at the Beatty hearing.

George W. Amy, Henry P. Thompson and Louis H. Craig, all of Chicora, Butler County, deposed to having worked in the Homestead mill and being stricken with disease, from which none of them had fully recovered. Dr. J. L. Campbell, of Chicora, had treated these men and described their symptoms, which, he said, he had ascribed to mineral poisoning. He was certain that antimony had been given.

Stephen Loveless, of Butler, William H. Johnston, a watchman in the mill; Benjamin Weaver, a steelworker residing at Homestead, and Wilmot Herr, a watchman, deposed to having been attacked by the prevailing malady.

Dr. McGeary, of Homestead, had treated William H. Johnston and was convinced that his patient suffered from arsenical poisoning. In his opinion, impure water, spoiled meat or climatic conditions could not have caused the sickness which occurred in the mill.

Charles H. Smith, an engineer in the Carnegie works, said that he had fallen ill twice and lost 55 pounds. Three doctors were unable to restore his health fully.

William E. Griffith, the man named in the indictment as the victim of the poisoning plot, said that he had been serving in restaurant No. 6 as head waiter. On September 11 or 12, after eating supper in the restaurant, he was seized with diarrhœa and vomiting and was then laid up for a week. On October 6, after drinking some coffee, witness took sick again. This time he was prostrated for eight weeks. Dr. A. P. Vogleman, of Homestead, had treated Griffith and thought that the patient might have been made ill by drinking bad water.

Dr. McGeary (recalled) and Dr. E.W. Dean testified to the conditions attending the case of J.W. Van Winkle, who had died at the Homeopathic Hospital. They thought it safe to pronounce his death due to arsenical poisoning.

Numerous other witnesses gave testimony similar to the foregoing, nearly a week being occupied in listening to the stories of those who had been poisoned and to the diagnoses learnedly set forth by medical men.

On the fifth day of the trial, Gallagher, the informer, was placed on the witness stand and repeated the narrative embodied in his previously published confession, with some new embellishments. In describing his first interview with Dempsey, Gallagher said:

"When we entered Dempsey's office a lady who was present retired; the door was then locked; we sat down; Beatty said to Dempsey: 'These are the two men;' we talked about the weather for a few minutes after which Dempsey said to me and Mr. Davidson: 'I suppose you know what we want?' We said we knew a little about it. Dempsey then said: 'Well, we want to get the men in the Homestead mill on the trot.' Beatty then spoke about using croton oil. Davidson and I said we wouldn't use it. Dempsey then spoke about breaking a street car strike in Chicago—the State street strike. He said powders had been used; that if we would use these powders in the Homestead mill it would make the men sick and that we could break the strike in about ten days."

Gallagher also swore that Beatty's trip to Cincinnati was for the purpose of getting two more cooks to finish the poisoning job. Dempsey had subsequently shown him a dispatch from Cincinnati, which read, "Two good agents on the road." When witness went to work in the mill the second time two cooks came from Cincinnati. They were Tony Gilfoil and William Coleman. Witness took them to a hotel and paid their bills; but was warned by Dempsey not to let the new comers know of his (Dempsey's) connection with the plot.

Gallagher further deposed that, after leaving the mill finally, he had, in the presence of Davidson, presented a bill to Dempsey, which the latter O.K'd. He had also signed a receipt for $25, which Dempsey gave him in the dispatcher's office of the Citizens' Traction Line. The bill marked "O.K." was identified and offered in evidence.

Attorney Marshall subjected Gallagher to a trying cross-examination but without impairing his testimony.

J. M. Davidson repeated in court the evidence given by him at the Beatty hearing.

George W. Crail, dispatcher of the Citizens' Traction Line, corroborated Gallagher's statement as to the receipt of $25 from Dempsey. Dempsey, the witness claimed, came into his office and said: "Crail, if a man comes in here and asks if I left anything for him, give him this money."

The death of L. B. Hebron from sickness contracted in the mill was attested by the mother and brother of the deceased, and Captain A. E. Hunt, of the Pittsburgh Testing Laboratory, then stated the result of an analysis of sick bed accumulations furnished him by Mrs. Hebron. The analysis showed the presence of croton oil and arsenic.

J. D. Flynn, manager of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh, produced a copy of a telegram sent to Dempsey from Cincinnati, on September 26. It read: "Send me $20; in a pinch; two good agents on the road.—Beatty." It was shown by a messenger boy that the telegram was delivered to a man in Dempsey's office, who signed for it.

Thomas M. Marshall, Esq., made the opening speech for the defense, the principal points set forth in which were, (1) That the sickness in the Homestead mill was merely incident to an epidemic from which soldiers and others outside the mill were suffering, and (2) That the men sent into the mill by Dempsey and paid for their services were detailed by Dempsey as scouts.

Dr. George T. McCord, being sworn, stated that the conditions of life among the non-union men in the Homestead mill were very favorable to the development of diarrhœa, dysentery and kindred complaints. He had treated one man who was taken sick with diarrhœa in the mill and cured him.

Dr. John Purman, of Homestead, told of the filthy condition of City Farm lane, and said he had under treatment numerous cases of diarrhœa and dysentery not incurred in the mill.

Nine members of Battery B, Eighteenth regiment, N. G. P., swore that they were afflicted with precisely the same complaint that attacked the non-union workmen.

Other witnesses testified as to the impurity of the water supply in the mill and the invariable prevalence of diarrhœa and kindred diseases among the millworkers during the hot season.

E. W. Robertson, who occupied the cell next to Gallagher's in the county jail, said that Gallagher had told him that Dempsey was an innocent man.

Hugh F. Dempsey, being sworn in his own defense, stated that he had employed Gallagher and Davidson, on Beatty's recommendation, to get work in the Homestead mill and report to him how things were running. Nothing had ever been said about putting poison in food, and witness knew nothing of a poison plot. The $25 paid by him to Gallagher was a loan.

On cross-examination, Dempsey stated that it was through the Knights of Labor in New York, who were striving to procure a settlement of the Homestead trouble, that he became interested in the affair. He gave a synopsis of one of Davidson's reports to him on the number of men employed and the output, and said that Gallagher made reports of like tenor.

While Dempsey was giving his testimony, resolutions affirming implicit faith in his honesty and innocence of wrong-doing were being adopted by District Assembly No. 3, and on the evening of the same day he was reelected to the position of master workman by acclamation. This strong expression of confidence on the part of his fellow workmen might, it was thought, have some influence for good on the determination of Dempsey's case.

With the exception of Prof. George Hay, a chemist, who swore that Captain Hunt could not possibly have discovered traces of croton oil in nine drops of oleaginous liquid, all the remaining witnesses for the defense were called to prove Dempsey's good character.

Attorney L. K. Porter made the opening argument for the defense. He charged the prosecution with unfairness in having a chemical examination made without permitting the attendance of an expert on the part of the defense and dilated upon the reasons for presuming that an epidemic of stomach troubles would naturally occur in an establishment where 2,678 men were lodged and fed in close quarters and practically without outdoor exercise. The doctors disagreed and most of them had never treated poison cases. How could a man be convicted on such testimony? The men who claimed to have been poisoned had, for the most part, admitted that they had suffered from diarrhœa and vomiting before and why should it be surmised that the attacks which beset them in the mill arose from other than natural causes? The majority of the non-union men came from distant points and were liable to be affected by change of climate.

Gallagher, Mr. Porter said, being a self-confessed accomplice, was unworthy of credit. He was a spy, procured by Pinkerton Detective Ford, and the fact that he was left at large for five weeks after his confession indicated in what a questionable relation he stood to the prime movers in the prosecution of Dempsey. Dempsey, the speaker said, was the honored choice of 600,000 men for the chieftanship of the K. of L. in the Pittsburgh district. He was a frank and generous man, to whose kind heart no one ever appealed in vain. Was it humanly probable that this man would have bribed Gallagher to poison men? Would he, if such had been his purpose, have conferred with Gallagher and have given him money in broad daylight? The issue was between Gallagher, the hired informer, and Dempsey, the honorable citizen, whom it was proposed to take away from his wife and home on the testimony of strangers without title to belief.

Attorney Marshall followed his colleague with a telling analysis of the evidence for the commonwealth. He read from the report of the mill physician, Dr. Weible, figures showing that there was actually more sickness in the mill, in proportion to the number of men employed, before Gallagher went there than at any time afterwards. He also showed by Gallagher's testimony that on the day of the Wolfe family's supper, the coffee which Gallagher claimed to have dosed was all used up at dinner time and, as there was none left over, where, Mr. Marshall asked, did the poison come from by which the Wolfes' claimed to have been sickened. After commenting on the improbability of Dempsey's employing strangers to aid him in a poisoning plot, Mr. Marshall said in conclusion: "We ask you to put the stamp of your disapproval on these corruptionists and send Hugh Dempsey home to those who love him, a free man, with a character as spotless as it was before these two worthless, degraded creatures tried to ruin it."

Mr. Robb closed for the prosecution. His strongest point consisted in ridiculing the idea that if Dempsey wanted reports on the operations of the mill he would have sent cooks instead of steelworkers to secure them.

Judge Stowe charged the jury in a perfectly dispassionate and unbiased manner. This was on the morning of Friday, January 20, the seventh day of the trial. The jury remained out less than three hours and brought in a verdict of "Guilty as indicted." A demand for a new trial was promptly made and, pending the hearing of the application, Dempsey was liberated on $2,500 bail.

On January 24, Robert W. Beatty was placed on trial, charged with "felonious assault in administering, or employing persons to administer, poison" to the non-union men in the Carnegie steel plant. The same counsel appeared on both sides that figured in the Dempsey case, with the exception of District Attorney Burleigh, whose place was taken by his assistant, Harry Goehring. William M. Erwin, the "Western Cyclone" also appeared in court and joined the attorneys for the defense.

Captain Breck opened the case for the commonwealth by reading the testimony brought out on his side in the Dempsey case. There were 67,000 words of this matter and, before the reading was concluded, most of the Captain's auditors sank into a gentle slumber. The array of medical men and diarrhœa victims previously examined was then marshaled into court and re-examined and cross-examined for the benefit of the jury which was supposed not to be cognizant of the evidence submitted when Dempsey was on trial. Not until Charles McKinnie was put on the stand was an element of interest infused into the proceedings. McKinnie said that he was a riverman, knew Beatty well, and had been approached by the prisoner with a proposition to go to Homestead and dose the men with croton oil. He had refused to have anything to do with such contemptible work. The witness testified in a straightforward manner and made a visible impression on the jury.

Gallagher and Davidson repeated their former testimony with some variations, Davidson in his efforts to shield himself managing to contradict Gallagher in many points.

Charles C. Comstock swore that he had met Beatty in the mill and been advised by the latter to get out or the powders would fix him.

Many other witnesses were called to bear testimony to having seen Beatty in the mill at various times.

Attorney Brennen opened the case for the defense and at one point in his address amazed his auditory by stating his ability to prove, with reference to the supper at Wolfe's house, that "the tea that was drank at this banquet was all consumed at the dinner the day before." Mr. Brennen's slip of the tongue was much enjoyed. Undismayed by the effect of his inadvertent Hibernicism, the doughty little attorney proceeded to set forth the strong points of the case for the defendant, laying special emphasis on the declaration that there was nothing suspicious in the employment of cooks as detectives, inasmuch as the cookhouses were the most convenient headquarters for the kind of espionage which Dempsey had instituted.

Many witnesses were called to testify to the occurrence among the soldiers of a similar epidemic to that which beset the non-union steelworkers, and to prove the bad character of Gallagher and Davidson. Borough officials from Homestead swore that City Farm lane, which is close to the Carnegie works, was in a filthy, disease-breeding condition and physicians corroborated this evidence and showed that much sickness resulted from this cause.

Hugh F. Dempsey was summoned to the stand and told his story in about the same terms as were used by him when he testified on his own trial. He explained that nobody had authorized or requested him to send spies to Homestead. He had acted simply "in the interest of labor organizations."

Professor Hay again rebutted Captain Hunt's claim of having detected traces of croton oil in material furnished him by the mother of L. B. Hebron, and Dr. C. C. Wiley, surgeon of the Eighteenth regiment, stated that the conditions at Homestead conduced strongly to the spread of diarrhoea, cholera morbus and kindred complaints.

Robert J. Beatty, being sworn in his own defense, said that he had worked in the water house and pump house at the Carnegie mills for nearly a year prior to the lock-out. He was a member of Boxmakers' Lodge No. 52, K. of L. Witness denied all parts of the testimony of Gallagher and Davidson which tended to incriminate him. His telegram concerning "two good agents on the road," referred, he said, to two men supplied by a labor organization in Cincinnati, of whom he knew no more than this. He had received for expenses $33 from Dempsey and some money from David Lynch, Thomas Crawford and other Homestead men.

The closing speeches on both sides and the judge's charge, being substantially identical with those delivered in the Dempsey case, need not be outlined here.

The jury evidently had its mind made up before withdrawing. After only nine minutes' consideration, a verdict of "guilty as indicted" was agreed upon.

A strong fight was made to secure a new trial for Dempsey, but without success, and on February 21, the convicted men were called up for sentence. Dempsey and Beatty were each sentenced to seven years' imprisonment in the penitentiary, and Gallagher and Davidson, who had pleaded guilty, were sentenced respectively to five and three years' imprisonment.

Dempsey's attorneys took an appeal to the supreme court, which was negatived, and later applied for a pardon for their client on the strength of a recantation made by Gallagher, but subsequently repudiated by him. Gallagher made affidavit that the story told by him in court was false and that he had been suborned to commit perjury by detectives and others in the service of the Carnegie Company. Hardly was the ink on the affidavit dry, however, until this paragon of mendacity made a third "confession," reaffirming his original testimony. The pardon board denied the application on Dempsey's behalf, and the ex-master workman was thus deprived of his last hope and doomed to serve his full term in prison.


X_ SECONDSIGHT