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The Lost Colony Research Group

Genealogy ~ DNA ~ Archaeology


February 2001


Letter from William Evans Regarding Henry Berry Lowery Family

William McKee Evans wrote the book "To Die Game: The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction (Iroquois & Their Neighbors)" after many years of research. The book is available at the link below: 

In our August 2011 issue, Sandy Lowery contributed a great deal of information about her grandfather, Aleck (Alex) Lowery who, on his death bed, confessed to being Henry Berry Lowery to his surprised family. As Sandy and her family continue their search for more information, both genealogically and genetically, her cousin Shirley continues to search through her records and find additional information. Sandy and Shirley did not know each other before their genealogy brought them together. We want to thank both Sandy and Shirley for permission to print this letter.

Below is a letter written to Shirley Cozo, Sandy's cousin, in 1980 from William Evans. Sandy says that many of the things that William Evans wrote about in "To Die Game" were already known within the family. This letter is on California State Polytechnic University letterhead, dated Sept. 2, 1980, and the handwriting is beautiful.

Dear Ms. Cozo,

Sorry to be so slow in answering your letter. I just returned from an history meeting in the Near East. I just got to the office today. I was digging in my files for something on the Lowery family when your letter of August 28 came.

There are a lot of conflicts and disagreements in the source materials on the Lowery family. In the first place the spelling of the name: over a period of years the same individual may be referred to as "Lowry", "Lowery" or "Lowrie". News papers in 1870-1872 often speak of "the 10 sons of Allen Lowry" of whom Henry Berry was said to be the youngest. Yet when people started naming these children there are usually some daughters mentioned and the sons named don't always add up to 10. There is sometimes disagreement about what the names were.

Henry Berry's mother is sometimes called "Mary" and this name appears on her gravestone, which I have seen. Btu she is also referred to as "Polly", "Polly Cumbo" (which may have been her maiden name) and "Purt."

A census taker interviewing Henry Berry's father, Allen Lowry in 1860 described the family as follows: Allen Lowry was a farmer with $1670 in real property and $650 in personal property. (Therefore in terms of the value of money at the time the family neither rich nor super poor.) Allen was 63 and his wife "Mary" was 52. The children he records are Stephen 18, "Henry B.", 15, Purline, 16, Sally J. 9. He also mentions as a part of the household one "Anith Locklear", 5 months and a "Frances Carter", 3 months. So he does not seem to have recorded all the Lowery children, which was not unusual for a census taker to do. And as was often the case in census reports, there were other people living in the home that were not a part of the immediate family. Both Locklear and Carter are common Lumbee names, Locklear being the name that occurs more often than any other.

In a court case which occurred in 1864, and which involved the Lowry family, the children of Allen Lowry are named as follows: Patrick, Purdie, Sinclair, Mary Ann (Mrs. William Locklear), James, Orra (Mrs. Zion Lowery) (The name Lowry with different spellings occurs so frequently among the Lumbee that Orra's husband could be a very distant relative), Calvin, Thomas, Stephen, Caroline (Mrs. Griffin Oxendine), Henry Berry, Sally Jane and Elizabeth.

In neither of these lists is William Lowry mentioned. He was one of the older children and many have been long living out of the home. He was executed along with his father by the Home Guard in 1865. So as you see I don't have a very reliable list of Henry Berry's brothers. With some more digging I think I could find other lists. But there are often disagreements about numbers and names.

On a trip I made to Pembroke, since "To Die Game" was published, someone told me that Henry Delaney Lowry had gone to Mississippi and had been killed there in a "shoot out." He may have been taken there by his mother as there is some evidence that Rhoda Strong Lowry lived for a time in Mississippi after the death of disappearance of Henry Berry in 1872.

The subsequent history of Rhoda after 1872 is not clear. The Wilmington Daily Journal (Mach 20, 1874) reported that she "told a gentleman on the train that she had married John Chavis." Chavis is another common Lumbee name. But I (sic) not sure that we can have much confidence in such a value report. They don't say what gentlemen, which train, etc. And the Journal had a history of getting things wrong when they reported on the Lowrys. The Reverend D. F. Lowry, a son of Calvin and hence a nephew of Henry Berry, told me in 1967 that she married (Hezekiah) Locklear. Reverend Lowry did not think his uncle had died in 1872. He though that with the cooperation and secret help of General Gorman, he had made good his escape. But he had escaped to a place where Rhoda and the children could not join him. So after an appropriate time had passed, his aunt Rhoda had remarried. I have more confidence in him than in the Journal.

Rhoda was interviewed by the Robesonian the year before her death in 1909. The reporter said she was then almost 60 (but he apparently didn't actually ask her her age), but that she looked 20 years younger and that her "face bearing all the traces of the good looks" of her youth.

The reporter said there were living in her home several attractive little girls, 8 or 9 years old, that Rhoda said she had "brought with her from Mississippi." The reporter got nothing out of her about Henry Berry except that "he was the handsomest man she had ever seen." This all was published in the Lumberton, NC, Robesonian, June 25, 1908. I have never found out where Rhoda was buried.

When Henry berry was hiding out Rhoda sometimes would secretly join him. Once she was reported to have visited him on an island in the Cape Fear River. After his death or disappearance in 1872, she was closely watched. Some people thought that if he were still living she might lead them to a man with a heavy price on his head. It would be interesting to know if she spread the story around that she had remarried as that she would be less closely watched and might be able to slip away and join him. That could explain the years in which she supposedly lived in Mississippi. But of course, this is nothing but speculation and there has been too much of that already. What you need is facts.

I hope you are able to reconstruct your family tree. I hope you can take a vacation in Robeson County, NC and find out if there is any connection between your family and the hundreds of Indian Lowerys and Lowrys there. I'm afraid what I've written will not be too much good to you. Please don't give up and let me know if you discover any more interesting facts suggesting a connection between your family and the family of the great outlaw.


William Evans


Polly Lowery Oxendine

For a short minute, I got quite excited. It seemed from this death certificate that we might have found the first real evidence that Henry Berry Lowery did not die in 1872.


The 1880 census for Robeson County, NC, shows Rhoda (Rhodie) with her children in the 1880 census. Note that none were born after 1872.

Nellie Ann Molly Polly Lowery was apparently called by many first names at various times and by different people. This isn't terribly unusual. Nellie was born in 1870 and 1871, not 1881.

She married (as Mollie Strong), age 18, Dec. 24, 1888 to Iron (Oran) Oxendine (age 21) and the marriage is recorded in the Robeson County marriage records, male, page 66. The columns are Surname of male, first name and residence, surname of female, first name and residence, age of male (above) and female (below), date license issued (above) and date of marriage (below), marriage performed by whom and where, witnesses

Clearly, Nellie Ann Mollie Polly Lowery was not born in 1881 as her death certificate implied. Furthermore, it's interesting that a tidbit of Native maternal ancestry has slipped into this record. Even though Henry Berry Lower and Rhoda Strong were clearly married, Mollie used her mother's maiden name in her marriage record, a very typical Native American custom. 


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