The swamp outlaws: a secret of twenty years

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Morris, Charles. “The swamp outlaws: a secret of twenty years.” Saturday Evening Post 1872. In nine installments: January 6, January 13, January 20, January 27, February 3, February 10, February 17, February 24, and March 2.


This adventure story uses Robeson County and the Lowry Band as a setting and minor backdrop to the romance and intrigue of wealthy white characters. The story has the same title and was published in the same year as George Alfred Townsend's The Swamp Outlaws (see The Lumbee Indians: an annotated bibliography, item 1078). Townsend’s book is a compilation of articles by New York Herald correspondents who were sent to Robeson County to cover the Lowry Band incidents. Like Townsend’s compilation, this story features a white woman who was captured by the outlaws.

This story devotes most of its attention to Nellie Brown; her spurned suitor, John Middleton (who devises a plot to have the Lowry Band—here called the Budds—kidnap her in order to force her marriage to him and help him get his father’s property, which had been willed to Nellie); and Nellie’s true love, Robert Howard. The Henry Berry Lowry character is named Jim Budd; his wife is Moll. The story makes several references to the beautiful Lumber River, turpentine distilleries and sloops, and fights and pursuits in the impenetrable swamps.

The following quotations illustrate Morris’s portrayal of the Lowry Band:

“The Budds are a set of bloody thieves and villains that haunt the swamp that lies off here afore us. There’s a desperate crew of them, half white and half nigger, that spend their time robbing and plundering, and they’ve killed a dozen men at different times . . . . Oh, the devil himself couldn't track them through the swamp . . . . Old Allen Budd and his son Bill were killed, but the rest got off, and they've been murdering and plundering ever since.” (January 6, 1872)

The following describes the outlaw's encampment in the swamp: “In the central portions of this space stood several low huts. No men were visible, but two women appeared; one engaged in domestic labors near the huts, the other walking down toward his side of the clearing. She was of the yellow hue of a mulatto, dressed in a garment, dirty now and ragged, but evidently of rich material, while her ears and fingers were adorned with jewels, little in keeping with her general aspect. He had plainly stumbled upon a headquarters of the outlaws, and this finery was the result of some of their forays.” (January 13, 1872)

In a discussion of how the outlaw band came to live in the swamp and carry on their crimes, the white characters explain: “You see it was mostly during the war. They were jined by a set of deserters, and some escaped Yankee prisoners, and there weren’t men enough left in the country to watch them. They had things pretty much their own way . . . . The father of the flock was a Portugee, and they was one time decent farmers, living on the edge of the swamp. But for a hundred years back they’ve been mixin’ with Injun and nigger till now they’re a reg’lar conglomeration. Old Allan Budd was more Injin than anything else, an’ there’sa nigger in the gang now, George Milkwhite, who’s as black as a coal, an’ is married to one of the Budd girls. So you see they’re a sweet set. During the war the people come together, and caught them outside their holes. It was a right smart fight we had. Joe an’ me had a hand in it. Old Budd an’ his oldest son was killed, but the rest got off. There’s been some of them hung since, but there’s seven or eight left, an’ that’s as good as fifty with the swamp to hide in.” (January 20, 1872)

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Full text available in ProQuest American Periodicals Series Online 1740-1900