Vol. 13


Outlaw Uncle

1870s; Robeson County, North Carolina, USA

Who would have thought that I had a real-life Robin Hood, or outlaw wanted by the law, in my family history — someone who is often written about in history books today?

I didn’t know much about my Lumbee Indian heritage until I interviewed my mom, Jamee Dickens. Due to my grandmother’s dementia, this story reflects what my mom remembers her mom and grandmother telling her about this wonderful Indian legend. My mom took out the family tree to show me how the story relates to our family.

My grandmother grew up in Robeson County, North Carolina. She is a Lumbee Indian. The Indians of Robeson County all know the local history of the Indian warrior named Henry Berry Lowry. He was known as a hero to the Indian people — just like the spectacular hero Daniel Boone. My mom reports that there are some restaurants and businesses in Robeson County that still portray his picture with his story today.

Henry Berry Lowry was known for his role in waging the war against slavery of the Indian people. He was born in 1845, and was my mother’s great-great-grandmother’s uncle. My mom showed me this on the family tree and discussed some of the challenges that the Indians faced. They experienced many differences from the white people. My grandmother was born in 1935. She had to sit separate from the whites and drink from different water fountains and attend Indian-only schools. My grandfather, who was white, was not even allowed to marry my grandmother in 1957 in North Carolina, because she was Indian. They had to go to South Carolina to marry.

I learned that slavery was an issue for the Indians of North Carolina. However, the Indian people were not thought of as “good” slaves like the African-Americans. My mom tells me that even the Tuscarora War of 1711 was about this very thing. Even as late as the hectic Civil War, attempts were made to try to enslave Indians. The Indians were often referred to as “Negro.”

It was Henry Berry Lowry who, after the Civil War, took a stand against slavery, becoming an outlaw with a price on his head, laying his life out on the line for his Indian people to have freedoms. It was shortly after one of his most daring raids, in which he robbed a local sheriff’s office safe of $28,000, that he disappeared. There are conflicting reports of how he truly died. It is thought that he accidentally shot and killed himself while cleaning his double-barrel shotgun.

Since 1976, Henry Berry Lowry’s magnificent adventure has been portrayed in the Robeson County musical outdoor play called Strike at the Wind! It presents Lowry’s legend during the Civil War and depicts Lowry as an outlaw hero fighting for his people’s rights.

I am proud to have learned of this wonderful piece of history that my family shares.

Rylan Dickens; North Carolina, USA



This copyrighted story may be copied and/or printed for limited classroom or personal use. To reprint this story in an article about The Grannie Annie, please contact The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration for permission.


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