Henry Berry Lowrie bigraphy, stories - leader of Civil War and post-Civil War insurgent gang in North Carolina

Henry Berry Lowrie : biography

ca. 1845 - February 20, 1872

Henry Berry Lowrie or "Lowry" (c. 1845 – February 20, 1872?) led an insurgent gang in North Carolina during and after the American Civil War. He is sometimes viewed as a Robin Hood type figure, especially by the Lumbee and Tuscarora people, who consider him an ancestor and a pioneer in the fight for civil rights and tribal self-determination. Lowrie was described by George Alfred Townsend, a late 19th-century New York Herald correspondent, as “[o]ne of those remarkable executive spirits that arises now and then in a raw community without advantages other than those given by nature."Townsend, George Alfred (1872). The Swamp Outlaws: or, The North Carolina Bandits; Being a Complete History of the Modern Rob Roys and Robin Hoods, New York: Robert M. DeWitt.

Early life

Lowrie was born to Allen and Mary (Cumbo) Lowrie in the Hopewell Community, in Robeson County, North Carolina. His father owned a successful mixed-use farm in Robeson County. Henry Lowrie was one of 12 children. In 1872, George Alfred Townsend said of him: "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."

Known descendants

  • Polly Lowery (Daughter) Danny L Lowery Clarence Edward Lowery (Author of Lumbee Indians of North Carolina and the Invasion of America) Daisy Lowery.
  • Welton Lowry
  • Vester Mae Lowry Revels (wife to Hardy Ray Revels, co-founder of Revels BBQ)

Charlie Ray, Peggy Jean, David Michael, Dennis Mitchel, Brian Keith, Wanda Kaye, and Robert Wayne (children of Vester Mae)

  • Billy Jr. Lowry
  • Lamon Locklear, Leola Locklear (wife of Vermon "Yokes" Locklear), Polly Locklear Brayboy (wife of John D. Brayboy),Josephine "Lankie" Thompson, great grand children.Sider, Living Indian Histories, p. 269
  • Barbra Jean Lowrie
  • Mary Margaret Lowry

Gang leader

Early in the Civil War, North Carolina turned to forced labor to construct her defenses. Several Lowrie cousins, excluded from military service because they were free men of color (also called free blacks), had been conscripted to help build Fort Fisher, near Wilmington, North Carolina. Other non-whites resorted to "lying out" or hiding in Robeson County's swamps to avoid being rounded up by the Home Guard and forced to work for low wages.

On December 21, 1864, James P. Barnes, a neighbor of Allen Lowrie, accused him of stealing hogs. Henry Lowrie killed him. He also killed James Brantley Harris, a conscription officer, in January 1865 for allegedly mistreating the Lowrie family's women. In March 1865, the Home Guard searched Allen Lowrie's home and found firearms, which he was forbidden as a free person of color to own. The Home Guard convened a kangaroo court, convicted Allen Lowrie and his son William, and executed them. Henry Lowrie reportedly was watching from the bushes.

In revenge, his gang embarked on a series of robberies and murders against the white establishment, an insurgency that continued until 1872. It became known as the Lowry War. The Lowrie gang consisted of Henry Lowrie, his brothers Stephen and Thomas, two cousins (Calvin and Henderson Oxendine), two of his brothers-in-law, two black men who were escaped slaves, a white man, and two other men of unknown relation.

Lowrie's gang continued its actions into Reconstruction. Republican governor William Woods Holden outlawed Lowrie and his men in 1869, and offered a $12,000 reward for their capture: dead or alive. Lowrie responded with more revenge killings. On December 7, 1865, he married Rhoda Strong. Arrested at his wedding, Lowrie escaped from jail by filing his way through the jail's bars.

Lowrie's band became a powerful force opposing the postwar conservative Democratic power structure, which was pro-white supremacy. The Lowrie gang robbed and killed numerous people of the establishment. Because of this, they gained the sympathy of the non-white population of Robeson County. The authorities were unable to stop the Lowrie gang, largely because of this support.

In February 1872, shortly after a raid in which he robbed the local sheriff's safe of more than $28,000, Henry Berry Lowrie disappeared. It is claimed he accidentally shot himself while cleaning his double barrel shotgun. As with many folk heroes, the death of Lowrie was disputed, and he was reportedly seen at a funeral several years later. Without his leadership, every member except two were subsequently captured or killed.

Legend and significance

After the 1865 killing of William and Allen Lowry (Henry's brother and father), two local white ministers wrote a letter to the Freedmens Bureau describing the Lowry family's racial status (c. 1867). The ministers wrote, "We would premise, in the first place, that the Lowrys are free from the taint of negro blood. They are said to be descendants from the Tuscarora Indians. They have always claimed to be Indian & disdained the idea that they are in any way connected with the African race." Gerald Sider, Living Indian Histories of Lumbee and Tuscarora People, 2003, pg 170 An 1875 statement signed by nine witnesses said that Lowerie's grandfather was of Tuscarora descent, as were several of the women in the area. Another account said of Pop Oxendine (a member of the gang) that "like the rest......he had the Tuscarora Indian blood in him".George Townsend, The Swamp Outlaws, 1872 Lowrie has become a notable figure in more recent North Carolina Indian history.

Starting in 1976, Lowrie's legend has been presented each summer in an outdoor drama called Strike at the Wind!. Set during the Civil War and Reconstruction years, the play portrays Lowrie as an Indian culture hero who flouts the white power structure by fighting for his people and defending the county's downtrodden citizens.

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