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George McEliece arrived from Ireland about 1838 and he married Mary Ann Woodside in 1840. Through hard work and probably a considerable amount of schmoozing, he rose in prominence. His highest achievement lay in being elected as Northumberland County's treasurer in 1869. But something didn't seem quite right about his Horatio Alger story. This excerpt introduces the barn-burning chapter about George's undoing.

"What first made me consider that George McEliece’s rags-to-riches story might be incomplete was his testimony in the 1877 trial of a Molly Maguire, Patrick Hester, a resident of Locust Gap, Pennsylvania. Hester was on trial for the 1868 murder of Alexander Rea, superintendent of the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company and the Coal Ridge Improvement Company. You can probably imagine my surprise when I discovered that George McEliece; George’s son John McEliece; and his son-in-law, Anthony J. Gallagher, were all witnesses at the trial. George and Anthony were witnesses for the defense. John was a witness for both the prosecution and the defense. Anyway, what grabbed my attention was George’s response to a simple opening question by the prosecution’s counsel, namely: “What business have you been engaged in?” George’s reply was: “I have been in the flour and feed business.” Really? This reply contradicted the fact that George was engaged in the wholesale liquor business soon after the completion of his 1870–1871 term as county treasurer, and he continued in that business until his death. But then, considering that alcohol is made from grain and, for some at least, it is food for the soul, perhaps George was just stretching the truth a bit. While under oath! Still, I suspected that there may be a darker side to the story of George McEliece, the upright community leader."

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