May 14, 2012
Franklin Benjamin Gowen
Patrick H. Campbell makes the case that the death of industrialist Franklin Gowen was a murder, not a suicide. His long investigation into this case was detailed in his book Who Killed Franklin Gowen? Copies of that book may be purchased by sending $20 to P.H. Campbell, 82 Bentley Avenue, Jersey City, NJ 07304 ($25 in Canada, $30 for any other country).
On June 21, 1877, a group of 10 Irish union activists named the Molly Maguires (Mollies) were executed in Pennsylvania in a mass execution of trade union members and their sympathizers. One of those executed was Alec Campbell, the author’s grand uncle.
These executions were organized by Franklin Gowen, president of the Reading Railroad and Coal Company. Gowen sent 10 more union members to the gallows in the two years that followed. All of the Molly Maguires were members of the Workers Benevolent Society (WBA), the miners’ union.
After publishing a book entitled A Molly Maguire Story, which focused on Gowen’s war on the Workers Benevolent Association, I decided to investigate the death of Franklin Gowen, who was found dead in 1889 in a Washington D.C. hotel bedroom with a bullet in his head and a gun by his side. The investigation was published in a book entitled Who Killed Franklin Gowen? The following is an excerpt from this book.
Who Killed Franklin Gowen is an analysis of the death of Franklin Gowen, whose death in a Washington D.C. hotel room in December 1889 was characterized by James Wormley, owner of Wormley’s Hotel where the body was found, as a suicide. Robert Linden, the manager of the Pinkerton Detective Agency who investigated the death of Gowen, agreed with him, and so did Francis Innes Gowen, Franklin’s nephew and business partner. William Patterson, the Washington coroner, who had been out of town when the death was discovered and had not examined the body at the scene of the death, went along with the conclusion of the other three men and pronounced Gowen’s death a suicide.
But Gowen’s wife and daughter claimed that Franklin Gowen would never have committed suicide, and the deputy coroner and senior members of the Washington Police Department stated that the circumstantial evidence clearly pointed to murder, and demanded a full investigation. The coroner, however, still insisted that the death was suicide, and the suicide verdict stood in spite of the public dispute with the police and the huge media coverage which was claiming that the Molly Maguires had got even with Franklin Gowen.