Moses Doan, Sr.
|Birthplace:||Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Death:||Died in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, United States|
|Managed by:||Shanda Morgan|
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About Moses Doan, Sr.
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.
Inscription of Stone
"Moses Doan's head stone lay in a hedgerow in Plumstead Township. Deteriorating. It reads:
HERE LIES THE FAMOUS TORY AND OUTLAW MOSES DOAN HUNTED DOWN CAPTURED AND KILLED AFTER HE HAD SURRENDERED ON TOHICKON CREEK AUGUST 23, 1783 VI ET ARMIS
Note: The white marble slab is 66 inches in length and 27 inches in width. Located on the farmstead of his uncle Israel Doane later called the High Farm in Plumstead Township, Bucks Co, PA.
Son of Hester Vickers and Joseph Doan, Sr.(5), Israel(4), Daniel(3), Daniel(2), Deacon John Doane(1). Married to Rachel Tomlinson c. 1780.
Moses was a weaver. He was shot on the floor of Halsey's Tavern after his capture. Moses was called an "Eagle Spy" by General Howe for his skill in spying against the Yankees. His information to General Rahl, if acted upon, might have changed the results of the surprise attack of General Washington on Trenton.
From "The History of the Hart Family" Author: W. W. H. Davis Bibliographic Information: Davis, W.W.H. History of the Hart Family of Warminster, Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Printed Privately, 1867.
The 22d of October, 1781, while Mr. Hart was treasurer of Bucks county, he was robbed of a considerable amount of public money. This event created great commotion at the time. The county-seat was then at Newtown, where the office was kept, and where Mr. Hart resided. The perpetrators of this outrage were notorious characters of the county, some of them known Tories and declared outlaws. The active men were said to be Ned Connard, Robert Steel, George Burns, two Woodwards, one named Paul; Aaron and Moses Doan, and Jesse and Solomon Vickers. Other persons who were not present, but assisted in laying the plans for accomplishing the robbery, received part of the money. It took place on a Monday night. Before the attempt was made, Moses Doan rode through the village to see if the situation was favorable and to call on an accomplice. They came into town about ten o'clock and surrounded the dwelling of Mr. Hart, who lived in the house formerly owned and occupied by Abraham Bond, and which we believe still belongs to his family. Jesse Vickers was placed sentinel at the gate at the back of the house, while Steel, the Doans, Woodwards, and Paul went into the house. They compelled Mr. Hart and his family to remain quiet by threats, while they went up stairs and got what money was there. They then went up to the office, at the court house, which they broke open, and obtained considerable more. On the way they met a citizen in the street whom they made a prisoner and took with them, and Solomon Vickers was placed over him as guard at the corner of the jail. It is said the robbers went to the Wrightstown school house, where they divided the spoils. The money was divided into fourteen or fifteen shares, each one receiving about $140 in specie, and some sixty in Pennsylvania currency. The Doans were at the head of the affair, and one John Tombleson or Tomlinson, living near Newtown, harbored them while making their arrangements. A few years ago Mrs. Elizabeth Hough, daughter of Mr. Hart, who was about seven years of age at that time, related to the author her recollections of the event. The money at the house was in the room where herself and the rest of the children were sleeping. When the robbers entered the room some of the children began to cry, when one of them said, "Don't be afraid, children, we will not hurt you, we are only going to take the money up to the office to your father." Several men came into the room. Mrs. Hough thinks they took a pillow case from the bed to put the money in. She also thinks they wore her father's great-coat up to the office, so that the people whom they might meet would believe it was the treasurer himself. When they entered the house Robert Thomas, a neighbor, was sitting talking with Mr. Hart, and raised up to go, but the latter pulled him down into his seat again and kept him there. Three years afterward Mr. Hart applied to the legislature for the passage of a law relieving him from the payment of the amount of money stolen. The State appointed Francis Murray, John Carr, and Alexander Hughes commissioners, who were joined with Joseph Thomas, a member of the House, who were authorized to investigate the matter and make report.
The following is a copy of the statement of Mr. Hart, made under oath and subscribed before the commissioners, viz:-- "The examination of John Hart, treasurer of the county of Bucks, respecting the robbery of the treasury on the night of the 22d of October, 1781, taken the 9th day of January, 1784: "Who saith: That about 10 o'clock of the evening of the 22d day of October, 1781, as he was sitting at supper by his kitchen fire, in company only with his housekeeper Mary Bellings, and Robert Thomas, one of his neighbors, the door (which had been shut and latched) was unceremoniously opened, and a number of men, unknown, armed with various weapons, instantly intruded themselves into the house, forming a semicircle around the examinant and those with him. Their first salutation (on seeing the latter rise at the first opening of the door) was, "Keep your seats, good people." They now pointed a pistol at this examinant, accompanying the same with other menaces, and a variety of hasty questions respecting who lived there, what arms were in the house, and where, and whether the examinant had not charge of the public money. This they said they were come for, and were resolved to have. A spare candle lying on the table, one of them took it up and lighting it ran with several others into the parlor, and thence up stairs (leaving a guard of two men behind them). There they broke sundry locks in search of the money, which having found, they bore or sent all away, together with some money and other articles private property. That having completed the robbery thus far, they came to the examinant and demanded the key to the office, questioned him closely whether he had not any gold, and whether it was at the house or office, or under lock and key. To all which he thought himself obliged to answer, that he had gold at the office, and that it was not under lock and key. A party now went off, taking a lanthorn and candle with them, and as it afterward appeared to examinant, entered the office, where having broken open a desk, they robbed it of a quantity of money it contained, both paper and silver, leaving only a few small pieces; but that the gold about which they had been so particular, with a considerable sum of State money, escaped their search. This being done, and after having kept the examinant and associates under guard, as he thinks upward of three hours, they left his house, but in so cautious a manner, that he could not know the time of their final departure, as some of them were heard loitering out of doors, on both sides of the house, a considerable time after they had all gone out of it. This examinant further saith, that at the time of said robbery, he had good reason to believe the perpetrators were between twelve and twenty in number, as he frequently saw five or six of them together, and at the same time heard others of them, both in doors and without, who were not in sight, and further, that by the said robbery the said examinant was deprived of the precise sum of œ735.17.9 1/2 in hand money which belonged to the effective supplies for the year 1781; and that as to the time during which he had the same on hand, he begs leave to refer to a copy of his cash account, for that tax, which he says exhibits the true date of all his receipts and payments on account thereof to the night of the robbery (which copy is hereunto subjoined). That with respect to the State money list, (which belonged to the public,) this examinant further saith, that it amounted to about œ1307 according to the best estimation in his power to make, and wholly appertained to the several taxes levied in continental money, but chiefly to the first class and 2d and 8th monthly, one-third whereof was received by him in September preceding the robbery, and about two-thirds whereof within the month of October when the robbery was committed; and further this examinant saith not. (Signed) "JOHN HART."
From a collection of historical tales called "The Cuttlelossa and its Historical Associations: The Doanes an Incident in their history"
A bill was subsequently passed for his relief, though I believe it was not done until after his death. The affair caused great trouble to himself and family. Some of the parties engaged in this robbery were afterward arrested and brought to punishment. I believe that Tombleson was subsequently hanged for a graver offence.
"Prior to the Revolutionary war, there lived in the township of Plumstead, in the county of Bucks, a family by the name of Doane, consisting of father, mother and some five or six sons, and two or three daughters. In the immediate neighborhood resided another family of nearly the same number, six boys and two girls, by the name of Hart. These children attended the same school; and as the athletic exercises, such as wrestling and boxing, rough and tumble, were more the custom than at the present day, the boys frequently engaged in this sport. Many hard and fiercely contested engagements took place, among them as in most wars, victory sometimes fell on one side, sometimes to the other. After this manner these boys attained to men's years, about the commencement of the Revolution, in which the Doanes ranged themselves on the side of the King, the Harts on that of Congress. Having taken opposite sides, there arose an inveterate hostility between them, increased perhaps by the recollection of former contests. The Whigs of the neighborhood being the strongest party, it became necessary that the others should use circumspection in their movements. The Doanes, in company with some others, commenced nocturnal excursions in disguise, which sometimes terminated in plundering and insulting the neighbors, and kept them all in constant alarm. They were able to pounce upon those most obnoxious to them when least prepared for the visit, and consequently it became a general concern to force them out of the country.
At this crisis, a boy went to a mill in the vicinity since known by the name of Hard Times, now Lumberton, to get a grist ground. The miller objected to doing so immediately; the boy insisted and as a final and conclusive argument said he must have it for the Doanes were at their house. The miller ground the grist, sent the boy away with it, and went to a public sale which happened to be near and spread the alarm. A party consisting of about thirty men organized and dispersed to their homes to arm themselves, it being well understood that they would be resisted to desperation. They were to rendezvous at a time and place agreed upon, near the house where the Doanes were at Cabin Run, a small stream which passes into the west side of Tohikon Creek near Mearns Ford.
The arrangement was that the party should divide into small squads, surround the houses at a distance, advance at a concerted signal and by closing as they advanced, come together at the house and prevent the possibility of escape. The squad who were to approach the front and only door consisted of Major William Kennedy, Samuel Hart and William Hart, the two oldest of the family above mentioned. William Hart, who was a powerful man, said he could see between the logs when approaching the house, three of the Doanes sitting on a bench near the fire eating beans from off a trencher. Being between his companions, he opened the door, stepped in and ordered them to surrender, stating that the house was surrounded and escape was impossible. Without saying a word they arose, seized their guns and fired at him. He also fired two horse pistols at them and in the midst of the smoke sprang forward and grappled with one of them, by chance Moses Doane, the captain of the band. A short scuffle ended by Moses lying on the floor, with William's knee on his breast. As soon as Moses found himself overpowered, he ceased to resist and called for quarter, which was granted. The two other Doanes ran up a ladder and escaped from a small window in the end of the house. Major Kennedy and Samuel Hart had remained outside to guard the doorway when William Hart entered. The charge of one of the guns fired passed between the logs of the house, cut off the barrel of Samuel Hart's gun above the first thimble, and a splinter or scale from the barrel lodged in Major Kennedy's back, inflicting a mortal wound of which he died in a few days, the only shot that took effect. After the prisoner had craved and received quarter, and all danger was over, one of the surrounding party, Robert Gibson of Plumstead, ran into the house, put the muzzle of his gun to Doane's breast while William Hart was holding him on the floor and he lying passively, and shot him through the heart. It appeared on investigation that none of the surrounding party, excepting the three above named, had arrived at the house until the danger was over, and consequently the other Doanes both escaped.
The next morning a message was sent to Joseph Doane, father of Moses, who was quiet, civil and inoffensive man, who then came to the house, took him and buried him. Joseph Doane, another brother, narrowly escaped capture subsequently. He retreated from a house and after running some sixty or eighty yards, he leaped a fence. As he passed over, he turned his head to squint at his pursuers, and while he was looking over his shoulder, a rifle was fired at him the ball of which drew his front teeth. He escaped, notwithstanding, and fled to Canada, where he was appointed Justice of the Peace and died peaceably at a good old age. Two of the brothers were captured, tried and convicted of robbery at Newtown, then the seat of Justice for the County of Bucks. They were removed to Philadelphia for safekeeping and executed in that place.
The boy who came to the mill with the grist at Lumberton was a son of Nathan Horsley, residing some four or five miles off. For harboring the Doanes, knowing that they were attainted for outlaws, he was brought to trial, convicted and sentenced to be 'burned in the hand' and to six months imprisonment. The capture and death of Moses Doane and Major Kennedy occurred on the 28th day of August, 1783. The mill was then owned by George Warne, of Sussex County, New Jersey, but who the miller was I have been unable to ascertain. Owing to the committal of so many robberies and other flagrant crimes, the Legislature of the State passed an Act April 8th, 1783, offering a reward of 100 pounds for the capture of eighteen persons, among them were Aaron, Mahlon, Joseph and Levi Doane. It was provided that should anyone be wounded he should be entitled to 150 pounds, if killed his family was to received 300 pounds. It was the effect of this that, as soon as the tidings were received from the boy, led to the organization of the company and to the consequence that followed. From this account, the death of William Kennedy was a matter of accident, and not done purposely by the robbers, as is generally supposed. The sum of 300 pounds, about $800.00 of our present currency, was awarded to be equally divided for the use of his wife and five children. In this account as in many others, we see how from a trivial occurrence, important events may spring. The going of that boy with a grist to the old mill by the Cuttelossa at the present Lumberton, led to the breaking up of the predatory Doanes.