Wednesday, June 7, 2017

American Highwaymen I

Folk Heroes: 

American Highwaymen I

Folklore is filled with legends, myths and fables about men and women who were known for their lawless deeds. Among them are the highwaymen. These real-life pirates of the land robbed travelers and left paths of destruction in their wake. This may well be what people remember most about them. 

The following three tales focus on American highwaymen whose thievery and cunning lived well on after they had died.

The Doan Brothers: Between 1781 and 1788, the Doan Brothers formed a gang of at least 30 men. Together they terrorized small eastern Pennsylvania towns. Robberies, shootouts and jailbreaks were common acts for them.  Historians have suggested that they do so as a form of retribution. This payback was meant to even the score and then some for land being taken from their family during the American Revolutionary War.  This retaliation led to a path of crime that death stopped.

Ben Kuhl: This man earned his fame by being a part of the last horse-drawn stage robbery in the United States. In 1916, Kuhl and a few friends attacked the driver of a first-class mail stage and shot him in the back of the head, leaving behind an overcoat and a bloody envelope. The culprits fled with over $4,000 in gold coins. They nearly got away with it. Witnesses helped the police identity Kuhl and the bloody envelope left behind with his palm prints on it was used in court as evidence.

David Lewis: “The Robin Hood of Pennsylvania” became a deserter soon after enlisting in the Army at the age of 17. From there he embarked on a new trade, counterfeiting. After Lewis had escaped prison (and the death sentence), he made his way to Vermont to work on a new scheme. He focused on robbing the city’s elites in order to garner the highest possible profit. After a string of successful attacks, Lewis was wounded and captured and put in jail, where he eventually died from gangrene infested wounds. 

The list of American Highwaymen continues next week with a brief look into the lives of James Ford, the Harpe Brothers, and others.

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