Henry Berry Lowrie was born in present day Pembroke, North Carolina. It is believed he was a ruthless gang leader amongst the Lumbee Tribe in North Carolina during the Civil War. Lowrie was a mixture of Scottish and Native American descent and was the youngest of 10 children. The story of the outlaw Henry Berry Lowrie is one of the most powerful Lumbee legends in history. It is believed that the name Henry Berry can be traced back to the Lost Colony’s ship roster at Roanoke. Dare)
According to the legend, Lowrie and his Lumbee gang members acted in the same manner as Robin Hood, hiding in the swamps stealing food from the white who had plenty and gave it out to the poor. Lowrie’s grandparents were large landholders, but throughout a series of lawsuits and land suits, most of their possessions were taken away. It is believed that they suffered these losses because of their support of the Whigs during the American Revolution and would become targeted for generations to come by their Tory neighbors.
Another theory of the loss of their land is that they were just caught in a time where whites had become hostile towards Indians. Unfortunately during these times, most basic Indian liberties were taken away and the chance for a real education for the natives and growth was very difficult. The civil war was the height of these tensions, it was also the time that Henry Berry Lowrie was born. Once Henry was old enough, he joined a group of bushwhackers, known as “The Lowry Gang” led by Henry’s rother, William.
At first the group hid out in the swamps to make sure they were not caught by the Confederate Conscription Officers who would force them into their camps. The Lowrie gang started recruiting soldiers and officers who were POWs in the conscription camps located in Florence, South Carolina. The group was very successful while battling the Confederate Home Guard, using guerrilla warfare tactics. Even though Lowrie was one of the youngest in the group, he was quick to gain respect for his peers.
The initial tension between the Lowries and the White Southerners began when Brant Harris show two Lowrie brothers were shot on their way home from the conscription camps. At their funeral, they father stated, ‘We have always been friends of white me. We were a free people long before the white men came to our land. Our tribe lived in Roanoke, Virginia… ” This was essentially the end of peaceful living amongst the Lumbee Indians and the white colonists. (Dare One day Lowrie’s father’s house was searched and firearms were found.
These firearms were owned by freed slaves, but were illegal. A kangaroo court was then formed and Lowrie’s father and brother were both executed as Henry watched from bushes nearby. To retaliate, Henry murdered the Confederate postmaster who was on duty, as well as the sheriff who were responsible for the death of his father and brother. Henry was then promoted to the new leader of the Lowry clan. To retaliate, they imprisoned his wife Rhoda and other gang member wives.
This “Lowrie War” continued until the entire Lowrie gang was killed, but Henry Berry Lowrie’s body was never found. Dare) In 1871, while Henry was on his canoe on the banks of the Lumber River, he was attacked by 18 militiamen. Using his canoe as a shield he escaped the bullets and jumped into the river and counterattacked with his rifle. Somehow, he managed to force them to run. In 1872, news circulated that Lowrie had been murdered; however no corpse was ever recovered. (The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography) The story of the outlaw Henry Berry Lowrie is one of the most powerful Lumbee legends in history.
Henry Berry Lowrie has always been an Indian to the Lumbee Tribes, but according to several NY Times articles dating back to 1870 and 1872, the outside world believed he was a Negro because of the gang he was part of. (Lumbeeweb) On July 22, 1871, The New York Times ran a story called “Robin Hood Come Again”. Henry Lowrie is the name of the robber and his stronghold is an island at the center of the swamp in Robeson County, North Carolina. “He dwells in a 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”.
The terror imposed by this gang left Robeson County in the state of terror. “Such a state of things, however picturesque, is simply disgraceful to any civilized community … ” (NYT) John Godwin, an old Lumbee man, said that Henry “had been trying to shoot the load off his gun for a long time, and when it went off, it glowed the top of his head off”. Another ninety-six year old Lumbee man, Mabe Sampson, believed that Henry Berry escaped the militia. Mr. Sampson stated “Berry left and was sent off by a white man, loaded right here at Moss Neck. He was never killed”. (New York Herald)