The Doan gang were the scourge of Bucks County in the late 1700s.
Comprised of five brothers—Moses, Joseph, Levi, Mahlon, and Aaron—and a cousin, Abraham, the Doans were from a Quaker family and were loyal to the King during the Revolutionary War. They were also renowned horse thieves. The Doans would steal horses from residents of Bucks County and sell them to the Redcoats in Philadelphia and Baltimore during the war. It was said they stole over 200 horses. Sometimes, they would steal horses just for the sport of it. They would take a neighbor’s horse and then return it, only to take it again just to show that they could.
The Doans were tall, athletic, and reported to be good-looking. Once, Joseph Doan pretended to be a visiting dignitary, Lord Rawdon from England. He stayed with a prominent Philadelphia family and helped himself to their money and silverware during his stay. After he left he sent them a message inquiring how they enjoyed their visit with “Lord Rawdon.”
Aside from stealing horses, the gang also robbed the Newtown Treasury of 1,307 pounds. It was never found. Locals say that it may be hidden in one of several caves in Plumstead, Holicong, and Solebury that the gang used as hideouts from the law.
There is also a story that Moses Doan came very close to changing the course of the Revolutionary War. He was said to have noticed that George Washington’s troops had left their camp on Bowman’s Hill and were heading across the Delaware. He rode to Trenton and tried to pass a note to Colonel Rahl of the British Army. Unfortunately for the British, Colonel Rahl pocketed the note that told of Washington’s approach and never read it. And with that one of the greatest Colonial victories of the war was achieved.
Three of the six Doan members met tragic ends. Moses, the oldest of the group and its leader, was shot in an attack led by Colonel William Hart. The others managed to escape. Moses’ body was buried in a field in an unmarked grave in Fisherville. No one knows the exact location. Several years later, Abraham and Levi were captured and hung for their crimes. As Quakers, the Doan family wished to bury Levi and Abraham in the cemetery at the Plumstead Friends Meeting house, where local Quakers worshiped. The Quakers granted this request, but being pacifists they stipulated that the combative Doans could only be buried <i>outside</i> the cemetery walls.
To see the graves of Levi and Abraham—not the uninscribed originals, but later replacements that clearly label each of the cousins as “an outlaw”—enter the graveyard and go to the left side of the back wall. But lean over very slowly. Legend says never to sneak up on a Doan—dead or alive.
Know Before You Go
The cemetery is behind the Plumstead Friends Meeting house. Services are held every Sunday at 9:30 am, so be respectful if visiting at that time. There is a sliding wooden latch on the back of the cemetery gate. The graves can be seen by peering over the left side of the back wall.