canada africa partner reservation The rogues, rogues, outlaws and outlaws who once hunted Maine travelers

The rogues, rogues, outlaws and outlaws who once hunted Maine travelers


Thomas Rowlandson’s 1809 painting entitled “Dr. Syntax Stopped by Highwaymen’ captures a scene where criminals stop a passing traveler in the English woods. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Somewhere along the way, Mainers have largely forgotten an old scourge of travel: the dangerous criminals who once lurked along the way.

Today they are only vaguely remembered as highwaymen, outlaws or outlaws who serve as stock characters in old movies, bad television and bad novels.

That has not always been the case.

During the 19th century, treading the road in the Pine Tree State posed at least a small risk of encounters with men bent on theft – or worse.

A magazine called Forest and Stream, which dealt mainly with hunting and fishing, complained in 1887 that “certain parts of the State of Maine are cursed with a lot of downright scoundrels, who do not hesitate to defy the law and the officers of the State . the law.”

“These men are willing to commit murder, arson and a hundred petty crimes in furtherance of their illegal activities,” the magazine said. “They seem to think the community only exists for them.”

Forest and Stream said Maine had more than enough “rogues and scoundrels, murderers and arsonists,” in part because officials had done too little to make the state safe.


For example, consider Monday, October 5, 1896.

That evening, Henry Bowley, a resident of Union Street in Auburn, was plodding home at dusk in his wagon from a business trip to Greene, when suddenly, while passing through a patch of woods, his horse “threw up his head” and began to run . as The Portland Daily Press reported.

“Then a man grabbed the horse by the bit, while a second man grabbed the carriage,” the newspaper said.

Bowley, no slouch, hit the second man with his whip.

“The highwayman then fired a revolver,” the report said. Bowley told a reporter that “he heard the bullet as it passed him.”

Then he struck his horse with the whip with two or three sharp cuts, it said, and the animal broke away.

An illustration for ‘Highway Robbery’, from ‘Mysteries of Police and Crime’ by Arthur Griffiths, published in 1898.

That same evening, Dr. W. S. Norcross of Lewiston, who ran a sanitarium in Poland, along a remote road from Farmington to New Portland to visit a cancer patient.

As Norcross approached Pratt Corner in New Vineyard, the press reported, he saw a buggy on the road ahead.

“As he passed by, two men got out, shouted at him to stop and tried to grab the horse by the bridle,” the newspaper said.

The doctor whipped his horse and jumped away from the strangers.

“The highwaymen fired three shots at him as he left, some of which whistled dangerously close to the doctor’s head,” the newspaper reported.

The Lewiston Daily Sun said authorities had “no idea” who the highwaymen were.


At least Norcross and Bowley escaped with some trepidation.

In Patten in 1884, a peddler named William Hunt was attacked on the roadside by four highwaymen, the Kennebec Journal reported. They robbed him of at least $400, it said, and also shot his horse.

In 1885, not far from Fryeburg, several masked men “sprang an ambush” in a patch of woods to stop a carriage coming from nearby Glen Station in New Hampshire. One grabbed the horses, while another pointed a revolver at a family, the Lewiston Evening Journal reported.

The bandits collected $300 in cash, gold watches and some jewelry before slipping away.

They also tried to rob the regular stagecoach, but the driver remained “cool as a cucumber” and “putting on the whip” to his horses, managed to flee the scene.

In the autumn of 1880, Moses French of Norway was wandering in his carriage in Waterford when highwaymen ambushed him.

According to news reports, the men threw him from his carriage. One threw a bag over French’s head, while another searched his pockets.

The bandits made off with $80, reports said.

An illustration from Half-Hours With the Highwaymen, a 1908 book.An illustration from Half-Hours With the Highwaymen, a 1908 book.

An illustration from ‘Half-Hours With the Highwaymen’, a 1908 book.


In 1882, the Boston Weekly Globe told the story of Fred Ange of Milo, robbed of $480 while traveling the Levant road to Bangor. He had only recently returned from a trip out West and brought home his savings from the trip.

Just above Six-Mile Falls in Glenburn, the Globe reported, Ange saw “a tall, dark man with a mustache on the road ahead” in a tree-lined area.

As he approached Ange, the man asked, “Say, Captain, can you give us change for a $10 bill?”

Ange told him he couldn’t help.

Then another man, “red-faced and fat,” emerged from the woods with a revolver in his hand.

“Then give us what you have,” the robber said.

“I won’t do that,” Ange replied.

At that moment, the tall man grabbed the horse by the reins as his armed companion took aim and fired two shots at Ange.

One shattered his left jaw. The other hit his left pinky finger.

The highwayman kept shooting.

But it turned out that Ange was also armed and started shooting back. Several shots rang out on each side, but no other bullets hit the house.

However, Ange decided to give up the fight. He jumped out of his buggy and handed over his wallet, which contained $480.

The highwaymen seized it and disappeared into the trees.

Ange ran on to Bangor to find a surgeon who could care for his wounds.

A painting by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya titled “Asalto de ladrones” (literally: “thieves’ attack”) from 1786. It is currently kept in a private collection.


In July 1885, the Lewiston Evening Journal headlined “The End of Maine’s Most Notorious Highwayman,” a man named Bub Bean who usually lurked in the lawless woods near the Canadian border.

The newspaper said French Canadians traveling along the Moose River to Maine encountered thugs who robbed them after throwing rocks and firing shots.

According to the story, Bean told a group to hand over all the liquor in their possession. They told him they didn’t have one. Bean then ordered them to hand over their belongings.

A Frenchman named Roderick reached into his cart and grabbed an ax they normally used for kindling and quickly threw it at Bean, the Journal reported.

“It struck despair in the head,” the newspaper said, splitting his skull and killing him instantly.

“The French Canadians of Farmington rejoice exceedingly at the death of Bean,” the message continued, “and think that the notorious gang of which he was the head has been broken up forever.”

However, the Journal got the story wrong.

The Portland Advertiser said it suspected “more rum than blood has been spilled in the recent alleged tragedy at the Forks of the Kennebec.”

“There has been no mention of a funeral and no one appears to be out to claim a body,” the Rockland Gazette said.

A writer for the Somerset Reporter soon met Bean in Bingham, where the colorful character insisted the press had been ‘particularly harsh’ on him. Bean said he was on good terms with the whole world.

The writer said the 25-year-old seemed “as quiet and polite as you could wish to see.”

But a year after his supposed death, Bean made it clear that he was not yet completely reformed.

The Portland Daily Press said “the bad man in the bad family” had attacked someone at John Turner’s Carrying Place camp and left his victim seriously injured.

“It was a terrible row,” the newspaper said, and Bean and his followers were likely to be prosecuted.

An illustration from the 1908 book ‘Half-Hours With the Highwaymen’.

Three years later, the Portland newspaper revived the story of Bean’s alleged death, dismissing it as “largely a Kanuck fable” from which Bean “gained a wild reputation.”

It said that the editor of the Fairfield Journal had recently met Bean, “a quiet-looking man with piercing black eyes” and learned that the man was working steadily and “enjoying life much better than when he was the terror of all the townships on the Moose. Riverline.”

Maybe it was true, since Bean seems to have stayed out of the news forever after that.


Anyone who has heard the story of Robin Hood knows that robbers have been around for a long time. Many liked to take from the rich. Few ever handed over the loot to the poor.

The heyday of banditry was probably between about 1600 and 1800 in England, where the practice was so common that the raiders’ slogan – “your money or your life” – took hold in our language.

Also known as “knights of the road,” they became such a plague as “road agents” among pioneers in the American West that some became celebrities.

Although data are scarce, there is a general view among editors of the time that there was an increase in highway banditry in the United States in the decades following the Civil War, perhaps related to the trauma of war. It’s hard to know for sure.

But the problem faced by travelers in sparsely populated areas was real.

For example, California historians have documented at least 450 times when highwaymen stopped a stagecoach on the state’s roads in the 1800s. That’s likely just a fraction of the crimes committed at a time when police were scarce and reports were even more unusual.

When trains and automobiles began to replace the old carriages and carriages, highway banditry was no longer a useful venture for criminals.


Before the 19th century was over, people realized that the days of stopping stagecoaches and travelers were over.

The Portland Daily Press noted in 1893 that highwaymen had mostly turned to stopping trains from the west. There was more money in it.

Still, they thought that preying on travelers would somehow continue into the future.

“When our descendants will have mastered the art of flying, in days to come there will undoubtedly be airy highwaymen who will leave them standing and deliver supplies along the way, as the fish hawk robs the seagull.”

Anyway, so far we’ve avoided that fate.

But you never know.