About Moses Doan (Doane)
The Doan Outlaws were a notorious gang of brothers from a Quaker family most renowned for being British spies during the American Revolution.
The Doans were Loyalists from a Quaker family of good standing. The "Doan boys" reached manhood at the time of the American Revolutionary War. Growing up in Plumstead, Pennsylvania, the Doans excelled athletically. The Doan gang's principal occupation was robbing Whig tax collectors and horse theft. The gang stole over 200 horses from their neighbors in Bucks County that they sold to the Red Coats in Philadelphia and Baltimore. The Friends Meeting House's cemetery in Plumsteadville is protected by a field stone wall that runs around its perimeter. Levi and Abraham Doan were buried just outside this wall, because the two were not thought to merit burial in the sanctified ground of the cemetery, and their headstones were inscribed with the word "Outlaw".
Bucks County, Pennsylvania, an area sympathetic to the Doan Outlaws with a large loyalist population, grew out of William Penn's "holy experiment", and was guided more by Quaker "inner light" than by the traditional "rights of Englishmen". As a result of Penn's effort to create a "nation of nations," almost half of colonial Pennsylvania was non-English. In nearby Philadelphia, the elite Proper Philadelphians were rich, charming, tolerant, but had relinquished the role of governing the city. Philadelphia, by common agreement, was the largest, most cosmopolitan but also the most poorly governed city in the Colonies. Bucks County, when compared to Massachusetts in support for a war with England, was still "The Peaceable Kingdom". No doubt Pennsylvanians were outraged by the actions of the Crown, but they were more likely to express their discontent through resolutions than violent protests. Many Pennsylvanians remained skeptical about cutting ties with England right up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. To illustrate this, the fighting in "Penn's Woods" started seven years after the Boston Massacre. As for the non-English Pennsylvanian, King George III, even at his worst, was better than what they had known in their homeland. Fat Pennsylvania's legendary prosperity helped ease discord. Bucks County could boast rich farmland, a canal to the sheltered port of Philadelphia, large supplies of fresh water, timber, iron, fire clay, game, and their famous fieldstone for building. The common New Englander by contrast had to choose between hard-scrabble farming or dangerous fishing off rock-ribbed coasts.
In the fall of 1770, Moses Doan left his home in anger after an argument with his father Joseph Sr. A few days later he saved the family of the young girl he loved from an Indian attack, but his subsequent declaration of love for her was rebuffed. Around this time he joined a small band of local Indians of the Wolf tribe. It is believed that he stayed with them for several months, hunting and engaging in feats of strength with them which he always won.
In 1774 Moses enlisted his brothers, Aaron, Levi, Mahlon, Joseph and his cousin Abraham to his gang. A handwritten note by Etta Holloway, great-granddaughter of Joseph Doan, tells the story of the outlaws this way:
"They were all of the Quaker faith and did not believe in war. The new government levied a tax upon Joseph, Sr., the father of the Tory Doan boys, confiscated his farm, threw his wife, 3 daughters and youngest son off of the land, jailed Joseph Sr. for non payment of taxes and branded him on his hand as a criminal. This was the given reason for the start of the notorious group known as the Tory Doans"
In July 1776 Moses and Levi met with General William Howe and offered themselves as spies. Moses earns the nickname "Eagle Spy".
In July 1776, most able-bodied men marched off to war, leaving the area unprotected. On August 27, 1776, Moses Doan informed General Howe of the unprotected Jamaica Pass and helped Howe defeat Washington at the Battle of Long Island.
On December 25, 1776, Moses may have delivered this note to Colonel Rahl's headquarters: "Washington is coming on you down the river, he will be here afore long. Doan". Colonel Rahl never read this note, and Washington kept the element of surprise. He was able to cross the Delaware River with the Continental Army and handily win the pivotal Battle of Trenton.
On June 7, 1780, Abraham Doan killed a woman in her home with her nine fearful children huddled around her.
On October 22, 1781, the Doan gang robbed the Bucks County Treasury in Newtown of 1,307 pounds sterling. Three days later Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. The monies were never recovered.
On September 1, 1783, in confusion Moses Doan was shot and killed moments after he submitted to the authorities. Moses Doan's gravestone was moved by a farmer and currently lies in a hedgerow in Plumstead Township, badly weathered by the elements.
In 1783 Mahlon escaped from a Bedford, Pennsylvania jail and made his way to safety in New York City.
In 1784 Joseph Jr. escaped from a Newtown jail under sentence of death for murder. Joseph Jr. changed his name and posed as a New Jersey schoolteacher for nearly a year before his real identity was discovered. Joseph Jr. then fled to Canada.
In 178? Aaron, sentenced to hang for robbery, also escaped and fled to Canada.
On September 24, 1788, Levi Doan and his cousin Abraham confessed to aiding the British and were hanged in Philadelphia.
The Doan myth
Moses riding his horse off the cliffs of Fleesedale Road (today Fleecydale Rd. in Solebury Township, Pennsylvania).
Never sneak up on a Doan dead or alive.
Two million dollars in buried treasure.
The Doans were polarizing figures. Loyalists wrote of the Doan gang as if they were Robin Hood. Patriots referred to them as demons. No doubt their success as spies, horsemen, runners, jumpers, their bravery, and their numerous criminal exploits hardened both views.