Notorious Doan Outlaws leave behind $2 million in Berks County

With Uncharted Lancaster’s real-life treasure hunt coming later this spring, I thought you might enjoy some tales of buried riches here in the region. According to Michael Paul Henson, author of A Guide to Treasure in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth is filled with many both lost and hidden. 

One of the largest can be found near Wernersville, west of Reading, and is worth upwards of $2 million. It belonged to the notorious gang of brothers known as the Doan Outlaws, also known as the “Doan Boys” and “Plumstead Cowboys.” These brothers from a Quaker family became British spies during the American Revolutionary War.

In fact, on August 27, 1776, the leader of the gang Moses Doan informed General Howe of the unprotected Jamaica Pass (an area of East New York, Brooklyn), which helped Howe defeat Washington at the Battle of Long Island.

No known portraits of the Doan brothers from life exist but only from woodcut images. Woodcut of Abraham Doan, as recorded as “One of the Doans shooting a British officer,” from The Pennsylvania New Jersey Delaware Almanac 1849.

The Doan gang’s principal occupation was robbing tax collectors and stealing horses. The gang stole over 200 horses from their neighbors in Bucks County that they sold to the Red Coats in Philadelphia and Baltimore. Their crimes include robbing the Bucks County Treasury in Newton of 1,300 pounds sterling. In 1782, the Doan gang robbed nine tax collectors. The following year they robbed “several” more while in their homes.

Here’s what Henson says about the Doan Outlaws’ treasure:

For years the Doan Gang of Tories had looted and terrorized the Pennsylvania countryside. Finally, farmers of Berks, Lancaster, and Lebanon Counties revolted, surrounded the gang in Indian Gap near Wernersville, and practically wiped them out. The gang’s vast treasure, resulting from years of looting, is believed buried near the scene of the last stand.

This wasn’t the only supposed treasure cache belonging to the Doan Outlaws. There’s another story involving the gang but in Bucks County. Henson says:

The Doans were a family of Tories who went outlaw during the Revolutionary War, attacking and robbing their Bucks County neighbors. A reward of $800 in gold was offered for the capture of this gang. Most were eventually captured but without the stolen money. Some of the loot, believed to have been $19,000 in gold, was said to have been buried in a cave on the Delaware River near Point Pleasant. This cave had a small opening, easy to hide, and led to a larger cavern several years from the entrance.

At today’s prices, that $19,000 in 1780s gold would be worth close to $1.9 million.

Henson says there are at least two more caches belonging to the Doans.

One is on the Tohickon Creek. The third is a hoard of silver coins believed buried on the Schuykill River outside colonial Philadelphia, along the rock wall of a potter’s field graveyard. 

Secret Treasure Hunt Adventure

Click here to learn more about Uncharted Lancaster’s real-life treasure hunt. This adventure ends with a loot crate filled with over a thousand dollars in $1 coins. Coming Spring 2021.

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