Joseph Chanosky

In the now defunct mining town of Milesville,* in the remote southern tip of Allegheny County, Polish-immigrant miner Joseph Chanosky killed his wife, Mary, on Wednesday, January 7, 1903. She was sexually mutilated, beaten, and kicked to death; a killing “almost without precedent for barbarism.”


The beating, which reportedly started as a quarrel about doing the dishes, was heard by fellow miners who boarded with the Chanoskys but were too afraid to intervene. The men worked at the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company’s Ella Mines.

Jones & Laughlin Coal Tipple

With the boarders testifying for the prosecution and no resources to support a vigorous defense, the case proceeded quickly and without complications. Chanosky’s defense that his wife was an alcoholic and unfaithful failed to persuade the jury to find a lesser degree of murder.


Chanosky was convicted of first-degree murder on June 30, 1903. After his motion for a new trial was rejected, he was sentenced to death on July 15.

Pittsburgh Press, June 29, 1903

After a routine appeal, Joseph Chanosky was hanged on December 3, 1903.

image001Chanosky’s was the first case since Mamachtaga’s execution in 1785 in which the murder, conviction, and execution occurred within a single calendar year.

Map of Forward Township, 1900

* Though official and newspaper accounts of the case usually referred to the location as Minersville, maps from that era and histories of Forward Township refer to the location as Milesville. The error is likely attributable to the remote location and small size of the company town. Whatever the name, the town and the coal mines that brought it into existence are defunct.

Author: Bill Lofquist

I am a sociologist and death penalty scholar at the State University of New York at Geneseo. I am also a Pittsburgh native. My present research focuses on the history of the death penalty in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Pa. This website is dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and sharing information about all Allegheny County cases in which a death sentence was imposed. Please share any questions or comments, errors or omissions, or other matters of interest related to these cases or to the broader history of the death penalty in Allegheny County.

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