|Early 20th century gypsy family|
Raising a teenage daughter can be a challenge, as Joseph Lucas of Diamondtown would have told you in the summer of 1908. That was the year his fourteen-year-old daughter, Mary, was kidnapped by gypsies. Described by newspapers as "incorrigible" and described by her father as a girl who "has not been a particularly dutiful daughter", it seemed only a matter of time until Mary Lucas-- renowned throughout the Mount Carmel area as a ravishing beauty-- found herself running with wrong crowd.
And there were plenty of wrong crowds to run with in those days-- from the highwaymen who robbed miners at gunpoint on payday to bootleggers, smugglers, and operators of "bawdy houses". There were plenty of ways for an impressionable and pretty girl to go astray, but the furthest thing from Joseph Lucas' mind was the prospect of gypsies.
At least not until July of that year, when a large gypsy caravan set up their encampment at Berry's, a mining patch near Shamokin. All week long, the gypsies wandered through the streets of Mount Carmel and surrounding communities, telling fortunes and reading palms. And, of course, fleecing the locals out of their hard-earned money.
Howard K. Archer, a photographer at Pichard's portrait studio, was one of the victims. When a raven-haired gypsy beauty offered to foretell Archer's future, he complied. The gypsy told him to hold out his hand and she stared intently at his palm. She then told him to take out his handkerchief and whatever money he had in his pockets. She wrapped up the money in the handkerchief-- four half dollars-- and deftly placed it into the photographer's trouser pocket. "Keep it there for one hour," she instructed, "and great luck you shall have." She then walked out of the shop. When the hour was up, Archer took his balled up handkerchief out of his pocket and discovered the money was gone. It was, to Archer's dismay, a two-dollar sleight-of-hand performance he would never forget.
It was the striking beauty of Mr. Lucas' daughter that caught the attention of one of these vagabonds, who enticed Mary to visit their camp. She failed to return home that evening and the worried father questioned Mary's friends until he discovered where she had gone.
The following day, Monday, July 21, a search of the gypsy camp was made but the girl could not be found. Most of the gypsies had disappeared, leaving in their wagons for parts unknown.
Justice Reed was notified and a charge of kidnapping was filed. The matter was placed in the hands of Constable David McDonald, who immediately set out to follow the trail of the gypsy caravan. He reported that the missing girl might have ended up in Passaic, New Jersey.
On Thursday, six stray gypsies were rounded up near the Lucas home in the Mount Carmel "suburb" of Diamondtown. They were charged with aiding and abetting in the abduction of Mary Lucas. They revealed that Mary was in the company of one of the swarthy gypsy princes somewhere near Mahanoy City.
Constable McDonald headed to Mahanoy City, but after he arrived there he was informed that the man he was looking for had fled to New York. McDonald obtained the address from one of the gypsies and on Friday morning he departed for New York City, where he located the missing girl and brought her back to Diamondtown.
On July 28, Mary Lucas was sent by Judge Auten to the House of the Good Shepherd, a home for wayward girls in Reading run by the Sisters of Charity. The Mount Carmel Item reported: Mary was anxious to go, as were her parents and friends to have her there. Judge Auten saying, that in complaince with the wishes of all concerned he thought it for the best.
Mount Carmel Item, July 21, 1908
Mount Carmel Item, July 24, 1908
Mount Carmel Item, July 28, 1908