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Statement of Rev. C.M. Pepper, Mary Norment, 1909

Title

Statement of Rev. C.M. Pepper, Mary Norment, 1909

Description

In this part of her history of the Lowry family, Mary Norment wrote a firsthand account of a raid that occurred on the plantation of Mrs. Nash,the widow of Dr. Nash. In this account, we are told of the murder of the “excellent citizen” J.P. Barnes, who was hunted down by the Lowrys for the murder of several of their relatives. This was soon followed by several raids to the Nash plantation, and concluded with the execution of Allen and William Lowry. Thoguhrout the piece, the actions of the Lowry clan is seen as a perfect reason for the Home Guard to detain and then execute the patriarch and son of the Lowrys. Furthermore, it is important to note that the drive of vengeance with Henry Berry is not seen as an honorable trait, but one that is derived from his “Indian” blood.

Creator

Mary Norment

Source

Norment, Mary, The Lowrie History, As Acted in Part by Henry Berry Lowry, (Lumberton, NC; Lumbee Publishing Company, 1909) 34-41

Date

1909-XX-XX

Type

Document

Coverage

Lumberton, NC
Robeson County, NC

Original Format

Book

Text

This chapter comprises the statement of Rev. C. M. Pepper, of the North Carolina Conference, giving a correct account of the state of affairs during his sojourn in Robeson county. He says: I resided in the neighborhood in which the Lowries lived in the year 1865. I was well acquainted with Allen Lowrie, the father of Henry Berry, and have, I suppose, often seen the latter, as I knew several of the old man's sons, though not well enough to distinguish all of them by name.

Allen Lowrie was a sort of chief in the community in which he lived. He attended church every Sabbath. He was perhaps the wealthiest, and most intelligent and respectable of all the free people in that community. He was a tall, fine looking Indian, with straight hair, and a physiognomy that indicated Indian blood greatly predominant in his extraction. He lived in a comfortable frame building, had a farm, and made a good living. He was respected by the whites of the community and looked up to by the colored.

I do not know so much about his sons, but if I remember correctly they were all of them like their father in complexion, and hair indicating a large mixture of Indian blood.

I found when I reached the neighborhood of that settlement that this race had been in some excitement, the cause of which was an attempt on the part of the authorities to put them in the army. Some of them were skulking in the bushes and swamps, and among these were some of the sons of Lowrie. I was startled at the account they gave me of the murder of a good man, an excellent citizen (J. P. Barnes) of that community, whom I had known for years. This was about the first of the long list of outrages which have been psrpetrated in that community since that time; this was the beginning, I may say, of a reign of terror.

Soon after the murder of James Barnes the people were almost petrified with fear at the intelligence of the fact that there was an organized band of marauders, of how great a number no one knew. "We had been informed, or did afterwards learn, that this band was composed of Yankee prisoners, escaped from the Florence prison in South Carolina, of Indians, and, as we supposed, of some few mean white men and slaves.

The community was terror-stricken as they heard of new depredations and outrages committed each night; almost every day we heard that the robbers had entered a house the night before, ransacked and taken whatever they wanted, caroused, insulted or attacked some of the family, and producing terror and consternation. In every instance they took all the ammunition and liquor they could find, and generally seized or broke the fire-arms. There was a panic in the community; so great was the fear that persons were afraid to step out into the yard after dark —everything was done before night. The doors were bolted securely; the inmates would gather around the fire and sit with hearts palpitating at every sound they heard, momentarily expecting the appearance of the dreaded band of desperadoes. No one knew how many were in the gang, or who belonged to it, except a few who had been recognized. They went in the dark, and on entering a house extinguished the lights, or only those entered who were strangers to the household. The gang had been estimated as high as fifty m number, and we were satisfied that the Lowries had in it a prominent place. The evidence was satisfactory that one of them killed Mr. Barnes, and some of them had been identified amongst the clan.

I was boarding at that time at Mrs. Nash's, widow of Dr. Nash, who was a son of Judge Nash. Her house was right on the border of Lumber River. It was on an island in that river, as we afterwards learned, and in a quarter of a mile of Mrs. Nash's, that the robbers rendezvoused during the day, and from this den sallied forth at night. They visited Mrs. Nash's house on
several occasions, but did her no damage in any way. "We had prepared for them, or at least made out our plan of receiving them. I advised Mrs. Nash if they should come to treat them with as much kindness as possible. They came the first time when I was from home, and although there was not a white man on the premises, and the three ladies were almost paralyzed
with fear, Mrs. Nash went out and spoke to them in the yard. The first intimation the ladies had of their presence was from the servant girl, who came in hurriedly and told them that the robbers were there, and had sent her to tell, the ladies to send out all the keys at once. Mrs. McCormick, a sister of Mrs. Nash, handed the key basket to the girl, and told her to tell them, if they pleased, not to enter the house, that they could have anything they wanted. The man who seemed to be leader, and who was an escaped Yankee prisoner, was completely disarmed and tamed by the eloquence of her tongue and blandness of her manners. In the case of their leader, "the lion seemed changed into the lamb," and he said. "Madam, we are obliged to have something to eat." "Certainly," said Mrs. Nash, "walk into the house and be seated, and I will have supper prepared." Two strange white men came in, filthy and ragged, well armed with double-barreled shot guns, &c.

They sat down, and while suppsr was being prepared Mrs. Nash entered into conversation with them, and entertained them as few ladies in North Carolina could have done under the circumstances. She told them of the gang of robbers in the neighborhood,, endeavored, and no doubt succeeded, in making the impression, on their mind that she did not even suspect
them of being connected with the gang, and begged their protection against their assault. While she was talking with these men, quite a number of their accomplices were stationed as- a guard outside, and standing in the yard awaiting orders. After a while they seemed to get impatient for booty, and began to complain, and several times one of the men walked out and cursed them. After supper they remained until a late hour; sang some for the ladies, and had Mrs. Nash to perform some pieces for them on the piano. They finally bade the ladies good night and went off, taking nothing except a case knife, to which the fingers of one of the company stuck, and which was afterwards returned.

In a few nights they came again, dressed in broadcloth and boots, shaved and washed, making really a genteel appearance. I was again from home, or rather I was off on duty. They remained as before until a late hour of the night, and left, doing no damage.

The third time they came I was at home. Hearing their heavy footfalls on the long piazza of the old mansion, the ladies insisted that Mr. D. M. McCormick (who was there also) and I should retire to another room, which I afterwards concluded Mr. McCormick was very willing to do. I wished to see them, but yielded to the entreaties of the ladies, and we walked out of the room just in time to avoid their knowledge of our presence. This time they were evidently very uneasy. The Home Guard, in considerable force, was stationed four miles up the river, and in search of the robbers. They seemed very restless, sat with their guns across their knees, and were not so pleasant and communicative as before. Presently they arose hurriedly, stepped out at the door, and were gone for a few minutes, when the silence was broken by several loud reports from shot guns, then all was quiet and still as death for half an hour. They then walked into the house again.

In our room we had two double-barreled shot guns, one six-shooter and one rifle. I proposed to Mr. Mc Cormick that we should take them, but he seemed rather nervous for the undertaking, and I then made the proposition to slip out at the window and go to where we knew the Home Guard were stationed. This seemed to him also to be rather perilous, so we let them slide. This time they did not stay long, and when they left, left not to return again. On the next morning, to our surprise, we were informed by the negroes that they had left one of their number in the negro cabin sick, and requested Mrs. Nash, through the servants, to let him stay there until he would get well. Mrs. Nash went out to see and speak with him. He told her that he had been with the robber gang only for concealment and sustenance; that he had never joined with them in their marauding operations, as he was taken sick the first night he reached Allen Lowrie's, and had been sick up to that time. He also told her that he was one of the escaped Yankee prisoners from Florence, and was with the band because he had nowhere else to go. He gave his name as Owen T. Wright. He had with him a Bible, which had the appearance of having been much used. His plausible story was received by Mrs. Nash, who began at once to sympathize with him. She had the negroes to wash and dress him in clean clothes, carry him into her dwelling house and put him in a comfortable bed. This was scarcely done before the house was surrounded by a company of armed men, who proved to be the Home Guard. I walked out and spoke to one of them in the yard. He asked me hurriedly about the Yankee. I stated to him the facts of the case, 'and others coming up and hearing my statement, rushed to the room where the invalid Yankee was, and I suppose would, but for the interposition of the kind lady, have put an end to his life without taking him out of sight of the house. Pocahontas-like, Mrs. Nash plead for his life and stood between him and destruction until
the excitement had subsided. They consented to take him and give the case an investigation. Putting him in a cart, they hurried him off towards their headquarters; from there he was sent to Lumberton and a comfortable room provided for him by Mrs. S. A. McQueen, where he remained for a few days. Sherman's men made a raid into Lumberton, and carried him off
with the rest of their booty.

The evening previous to their visit to Mrs. Nash's they went to the house of Allen Lowrie, where they found William Lowrie, his son, who was identified as one of the gang, mending or fixing his gun. They arrested him. They searched his father's house, and finding much of the stolen property concealed in his house, arrested him also. A brief court-martial was held. Allen and William Lowrie were both found guilty and sentenced to be shot. William attempted to make his escape, but a shot from one of the company brought him down, but did not kill him. They carried him to Mr. Robert McKinzie's, where they had several others, who had been also arrested and held in confinement by members of the same company for examination. Sufficient evidence was not obtained to criminate any of the party except Allen and William Lowrie; the others were released. According to the rules of war a certain number or men were detailed to execute the sentence. Allen requested time to pray, which was granted him. They were then led out and bound —a short pause—a loud report -and the prisoners fell lifeless to the earth. This trial and execution meted out summary justice to one of the notorious gang and an
accomplice in crime, who, though not yet recognized among the desperadoes, was as guilty as those who perpetrated the crimes.

The event of Lowries' death which I have just mentioned, it is thought, kindled afresh in the bosom of Henry Berry the fires of revenge, which are always so difficult to extinguish in the breasts of Indians. Nothing would quench that fire but blood.

But now for a time the robberies in the community ceased and for a while the minds of the people were comparatively quiet. The assault upon them by the Home Guard seemed to scatter the band and destroy their organization. Before that they had entered nearly every house in an area of six or ten miles square, the particulars of which, and the names of those robbed, will be given by one better acquainted with the facts than I am.

Henry Berry went to his home, and after a little time he became so bold that he did not pretend to conceal himself at all. The other negroes went home also. The people felt for several months that there was an end to trouble of this sort; and doubtless there would have been but few more outrages committed after that but for the remarkable turn which government matters
took at the close of the war. Emboldened by the policy of the dominant party, they commenced the work of revenge, in which they were so anxious to engage, such as robbing and murdering those in opposition to them.

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Mary Norment, Statement of Rev. C.M. Pepper, Mary Norment, 1909, Civil War Era NC, accessed May 28, 2017, https://cwnc.omeka.chass.ncsu.edu/items/show/241.