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Eight documents relating to the Lowrie (also spelled Lowry) Gang, a group of outlaw men and women who resisted the Confederate Home Guard. Based in Robeson County, North Carolina, they lived off of the land and the succor of sympathetic neighbors, and defied local and state authorities. The first item, printed on Confederate necessity paper, appears to provide evidence on the origins of the dispute which began the “Lowry War.” The second item is a warrant for Lowrie’s arrest, and with its struck word, “Confederate,” shows the transition back to U.S. sovereignty in North Carolina. Several documents pertain to the trial of Thomas Brady, accused of murdering a local supporter of Lowry. [CIVIL WAR].
.01 “Seely Dial, Allen Lowrie, Martha Lowrie (free negroes) late of the County of Robeson [on November 10, 1863, stole] with force and arms … eight sides of leather of the value of one dollar each, one set of carpenter tools comprising chisels, files, rasps, brace and bracebits, … compasses, …hatchet &c. of the value of one hundred dollars … of one Dugald McDugald.”
Document Signed by the State Solicitor, a grand jury presentation against Seely Dial, Allen Lowrie, and Martha Lowrie in the Superior Court of Law. Robeson County, Fall term, 1864.
.02 “To the Sheriff of Robeson County … You are hereby commanded to take the body of Henry B Lowery … to answer the State of North Carolina upon a bill of indictment found against him for Murder…”
Document Signed by Hugh B. Regan, a warrant for the arrest of Henry B. Lowery. With the word “Confederate” struck, and “United” added. Robeson County, April 2, 1868.
.03 “You are hereby commanded to take the body of Henry Berry Lowry if to be found in your county … to be held for the County of Robeson … to answer unto the State of North Carolina, upon a Bill of Indictment, for Murder…”
Document Signed by a county clerk, a warrant to the Sheriff of Columbus County (N.C.) for the arrest of Henry Berry Lowry for murder. Robeson County, May 21, 1869.
.04 “...it would be difficult for the State to have a fair trial … in the County of Robeson, for that there exists in the County … a band of outlaws, known as the ‘Lowerie Outlaws’…”
John A. Richardson, Manuscript Document Signed, as prosecutor for the state. A motion for change of venue in trial of Thomas Brady, accused of murdering Stephen Locklier, who “was in sympathy” with the Lowery Gang. Robeson County, March 4, 1872.
.05-.08 Four documents, each signed by the Robeson County clerk, receipts for payment for services as witnesses in the aforementioned murder trial of Thomas Brady, issued to Mary Locklear, Charlotte Locklear, James McMillan and Peter Dial. Robeson County, February 28-March 4, 1872.
George Alfred Townsend’s ‘The Swamp Outlaws’ (1872), describes Lowrie as being of mixed Tuscarora, mulatto, and white blood: “The color of his skin is of a whitish yellow sort, with an admixture of copper—such a skin as, for the nature of its components, is in color indescribable, there being no negro blood in it except that of a far remote generation of mulatto, and the Indian still apparent.”
During the Civil War, Henry Berry Lowrie (sometimes spelled Lowry or Lowery) led a group of renegades in Robeson County who refused to abide the Home Guard’s orders to impress their labor for the construction of military fortifications, specifically at Fort Fisher, which protected the critical port city of Wilmington, North Carolina.
Many of the men associated with Lowrie were accused of thievery (of which the first item in this archive gives direct evidence), and of harboring escaped slaves and Confederate and Union deserters. After Berry’s apparent murder of two men in late December 1864, the details of which are unclear, the County arrested his father and brother on various charges and promptly executed both. This set off a decade-long guerilla war, during which members of the Lowry Gang were declared outlaws. Lowrie targeted those families who had been part of the Home Guard during the war, and conservative Democrats who espoused white supremacy during Reconstruction.
The New York Times ran a story, called “Robin Hood Come Again,” on July 22, 1871:
“LOWRY is the name of this robber baron of the period, and his stronghold is an island at the centre of an almost inaccessible swamp in Robeson County, North Carolina. There he dwells in state with his retainers, a motley crew of whites and blacks, runaway slaves of the war time, deserted soldiers of both armies, and miscellaneous outlaws …. His own color it is hard to fix with certainty, as some accounts make him a negro, while others assert, with no less positiveness, that he is a white man … From this secure fortress he is wont to sally forth armed to the teeth and ravage the surrounding farms … Of course the authorities have heard of all this, and they sometimes make feeble efforts to check his career. But he never hesitated to give them battle, and so far with invariable success …. These events, we learn, have plunged Robeson County into a state of terror …. Such a state of things, however picturesque, is simply disgraceful to any civilized community…”
On August 14, 1873, the New York Times excerpted and commented on a report from the Wilmington Journal that a young black man, Floyd Oxendine, had been “shot to death by some villain or villains unknown, but generally supposed to be Stephen, the last of the Lowreys.” In this article, John Locklear is mentioned as being someone who may have been sympathetic to the Lowrys. “It is asserted that Jim Dial, John Locklear. and Sinc. Locklear have been lying out for some months past with the avowed intention of taking his life.” The surname, Dial, likely marks kinship with “Seely Dial,” mentioned in the first document in this archive.
Henry B. Lowrie disappeared in 1872; according to local lore, he escaped to New Mexico, but some accounts say that he died accidentally while cleaning his own gun. Lowrie has become a popular icon in the area, especially to the region’s Tuscarora and Lumbee Indians, who view him as a hero and leader for the marginalized peoples of southeastern North Carolina.
“The Legend of Henry Berry Lowry: Strike at the Wind and the Lumbee Indians of North
Carolina,” The Mississippi Quarterly, Dec. 2006.
New York Times
Page, E. E. The Lowrie History, as acted in part by Henry Berry Lowrie, the Great North Carolina
Bandit, with biographical sketch of his associates. Lumberton: 1909. http://www.capefearclans.com/LowrieHistory.html
Through Native Eyes: The Henry Berry Lowrie Story, Library of Congress,
Townsend, George Alfred. The Swamp Outlaws. 1872.
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Berry_Lowrie. Accessed 1-4-10.