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Blood spilled in dispute

Kelayres, just south of Hazleton, has long been recognized as a quiet mining town.

But back in 1934, the village of about 600 in Kline Township carried a fiery political battle between Republicans and Democrats that had raged for years.

On Monday, Nov. 5, the eve of that year’s election, the battle reached its climax, when supporters of a powerful Republican family, the Brunos, unleashed a flurry of lead from pistols and rifles into a parade of rallying Democrats.

It left dozens of people shot – at least five of them fatally – and seven Bruno family members arrested in what was dubbed The Kelayres Massacre, according to past reports on the shooting.

All of them were convicted at some time, but the most notorious of them all, Kline Township Republican “boss” Joseph Bruno -- who was also a county detective -- ended up escaping from prison after a dubious trip to the dentist.

According to the Wilkes-Barre Evening News and a Web site dedicated to the massacre:

In the 1900s, the powerful Bruno family had been in control of the township for decades.

But in 1934, the Democrats finally saw a chance to knock the Brunos from their power pedestal and free the mining community from their grasp.

On the eve of the election, Democrats hoping to defeat the Bruno faction held a rally and marched down the town’s main street toward Joseph Bruno’s home.

Bruno was inside preparing poll watchers’ certificates for the election.

As the cheering crowd of men and women reached the Bruno homes, they began shouting.

Stones and other missiles, Bruno said, soon were hurled at his home by the marchers.

Then the shots started.

Bullets flew from the second floor of one Bruno home and the third floor of another Bruno residence across the street.

Some marchers stood frozen in their tracks, becoming easy targets.

Four of them soon died. Then, days later, a fifth. And, months later, a sixth, according to one publication.

Killed, according to the reports, were Frank Fiorella, 65; John Galosky, 28, William Forke, 35, Andrew Kotishion, 33; Dominick Perna, 35, and William Jacoby, 32.

Galosky suffered 21 bullet wounds to the front of his body and another set in the back. The entire side of Fiorella’s head was blown away.

Reports indicated at least 10 others were wounded, with some recording that 50 people were shot.

State police found a “young arsenal” of rifles, shotguns and revolvers in Bruno’s home and the residence of his nephew, Paul, who lived across the street.

Charged in the massacre were: Joseph Bruno; his brother, Philip; Joseph’s sons, Alfred and James; Joseph’s son-in-law, Tony Orlando; Joseph’s nephew, Paul; and Philip’s son, Arthur.

After three trials in 1935, all of them were convicted of at least some charges.

But in December 1936, Joseph Bruno was taken from the Pottsville Jail by a prison guard, Guy Irving, for a dental appointment six blocks away, according to a Web site about the massacre.

Irving dropped Bruno off and went to look for a parking space.

Bruno disappeared.

Irving waited hours before telling the prison. And another two hours before telling police.

Bruno was on the lam until April 1937, going to Hazleton, then Alabama, then Florida.

In March 1937, he sailed to Cuba and contemplated moving to South America. But, at age 54, he spent his last days on the run in New York City, where he was arrested, according to the Web site.

In 1947, Gov. James H. Duff paroled Bruno. He lived in Kelayres until he died in 1951 of natural causes at the age of 65.

Some reports have differing accounts of the outcome.

The Web site about the massacre said Arthur Bruno was paroled in 1938. Orlando was released in 1941. Alfred and James Bruno were paroled in 1942. Philip was paroled in the mid-1940s.

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