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…..
~Robin Hood Come Again: New York Times, July 22, 1871
The story of Henry B. Lowery began in 1863 when Confederate forces began to round up members of the Tuscarora and Lumbee Indian tribes of southwestern North Carolina and press them into service building Fort Fisher at the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Henry and a small band of his fellow tribesmen refused to go and slipped away into the swamps of Robeson County. Following reports that Henry had killed two men, (apparently associated with the Confederate Army) the local Confederate Home Guard arrested Henry’s father and brother and promptly executed both of them. This action sparked a decade long guerilla war that would have Henry Lowery and the “Lowery Gang” the single most sought after outlaws in America.
The gang, which consisted of runaway slaves, Tuscarora and Lumbee Indians, Union and Confederate deserters and several petty criminals, first targeted families of the Confederate Home Guard, their supporters and financiers. Robbing those that they felt had wronged them or pressed members of the tribe into service, Henry would divide the spoils that were taken during their nightly raids and use them to continue their reign of terror and feed the families of those that had been pressed into service. Following the war, the Lowery Gang fought feverishly against Reconstruction, targeting those that favored white supremacy over the freed blacks and the region’s Indian tribes.
By 1869 Henry Lowery and the Lowery Gang were the most sought after outlaws in America. They had gained more attention, warrants for arrest and had more news articles written about them than the James-Younger gang of Missouri. History and lore reveals that it all came to an end in 1872 when Henry B. Lowery disappeared. It is not known what became of Henry B. Lowery in that year. Some legends tell of Henry escaping to the New Mexico Territory while others say that he was accidentally killed while cleaning his rifle in the North Carolina swamps. The last of the Lowery Gang was captured or killed by 1874 and Henry B Lowery and the Lowery Gang would be much like Henry himself, lost in history.