Robeson County, North Carolina
Biography of
Henry Berry Lowrie
Henry B. Lowrie

Henry Berry Lowrie
Born: circa (1844-1847)
Robeson County, North Carolina, USA
Died: disappeared in 1872

Henry Berry Lowrie or "Henry Berry Lowry" (born c. 1844 - 1847-disappeared 1872) led an outlaw gang in North Carolina during and after the American Civil War. Many locals remember him as a Robin Hood figure, particularly the Tuscarora and Lumbee people, who consider him one of their tribe and a pioneer in the fight for their civil rights, personal freedom, and tribal self-determination. At the height of his fame, Lowrie was described by George Alfred Townsend, a late 19th century New York Herald correspondent, as “one of those remarkable executive spirits that arises now and then in a raw community without advantages other than those given by nature."

Early life

Lowrie was born in the Hopewell Community, Robeson County, North Carolina. Born to Allen and Mary (Polly) Cumbo Lowrie, Henry was one of twelve children born to Allen's two wives. As head of one of the most affluent non-white families in Robeson County, Allen Lowrie owned and operated a very successful 200 acre mixed-use farm in Robeson County.

Rise to power

During the Civil War years, several Lowrie cousins, like many free men of color, had been forcibly conscripted to work on behalf of the Confederacy in building Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. Many resorted to "lying out" or hiding in Robeson County's swamps to avoid being harassed and rounded up by the Home Guard. Two of Henry Berry Lowrie's cousins were killed by James Harris after returning from their brothers' funeral. Henry Lowrie and his gang then killed Harris.

After Allen Lowrie's neighbor, James Barnes, accused the Lowries of stealing food and harboring escaped Union prisoners of war, the Lowrie gang killed him. The Confederate Home Guard convened a kangaroo court, and then executed Henry Berry's father and brother. The Lowrie gang then embarked on a series of robberies and murders with political overtones that continued on-and-off until 1872, a conflagration that would come to be known in North Carolina as The Lowry War. Lowrie's gang continued its actions after the end of the war. Republican governor William Woods Holden outlawed them in 1869, and offered a large reward for their capture, dead or alive. The band responded with more revenge killings.

Henry Berry Lowrie's band of guerillas had became a powerful force opposing the Conservative Democratic power structure, who were pro-white supremacy. The Lowrie gang stole from, sabotaged, and killed many Conservatives. Moreover, they recognized the plight of the non-white popultion of Robeson County. Despite their best efforts, law enforcement was unable to stop, or even hinder the Lowrie gang, largely due to their popular support. However, shortly after one of his most daring raids, in which he robbed the local train depot/general store safe of the $100,000 reward for his capture dead or alive, Henry Berry Lowrie disappeared. Shortly thereafter, every member of his gang, save two, were captured and killed. As for Henry himself its said that he accidently shot himself while cleaning his gun but for many years after his disappearance his wife was known to take frequent "random" trips somewhere out West.

Legend and significance

Henry Berry Lowrie's fame is unhindered by the relatively short amount of time he spent directly influencing the history of Robeson County. While there is no direct evidence that any member of the Lowrie gang self-identified as Indian there were numerous accounts describing Henry as being a mixed blood Tuscarora, there was one (listing nine witnesses) that stated that his grandfather claimed to be of Tuscarora heritage and another that went so far as to say that Pop Oxendine (another member of the gang) had the Tuscarora Indian blood in him just like the rest. As a consequence of these outsiders' descriptions of Lowrie as Indian, he has become one of the most notable figures in North Carolina Indian history. Paul Sant Cassia observed of Mediterranean bandits that they "are often romanticized afterward through nationalistic rhetoric and texts which circulate and have a life of their own, giving them a permanence and potency which transcends their localized domain and transitory nature." The same can be said of Henry Berry Lowrie.

Since 1976, Lowrie's legend has been presented every summer in the outdoor drama Strike at the Wind!. Set during the critical Civil War and Reconstruction years of Lowrie's career as outlaw-hero, the play portrays Lowrie as a Tuscarora culture hero who flouts the South's racialized power structure by fighting for his people's self-determination and allying with the county's downtrodden citizens, the blacks and poor whites.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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