THE DOANS in Bucks County
Deacon John Doan was the first Doan to come from England on a ship and land at Plymouth in 1629. He was a deacon of the Leyden/Plymouth Congregation and very respected and active in civic affairs in the colonial time. He was also a member of the General Court.
The Doan’s moved around and made their mark in those early years of colonial life.
In the 1700’s the Doan’s were active in Bucks County.
The Life and Times of the Plumstead Cowboys:
According to an act passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1783 the Doan’s were “robbers, felons, burglars, and traitors” to the American cause whose reign of terror throughout Bucks County had to cease. To Major John Andre, the director of the British Intelligence Service under General Howe, Moses Doan was the “Eagle Spy” whose efforts had resulted in the defeat of Washington’s army on Long Island. To the Doan’s many friends and supporters, they were Revolutionary era Robin Hoods who covered vast areas from Baltimore to Easton and from Long island to Lancaster in their quest to lighten rich Whigs of their burden of wealth. Unfortunately, unlike Robin Hood, the Doan’s seldom gave their spoils to the poor, yet unlike their characterization in the Proclamation of 1783, they were not simply ruthless outlaws. At times they exhibited moments of striking compassion, humility and an unfailing sense of humor although their capacity for violence grew as they prospered and finally brought their downfall. The truth concerning the Doan’s lies somewhere between the two extremes of their legend and like all people who become larger than life, the truth has not always been easy to find.
The Doan family first came to America in 1629 and branches of it sprang up throughout Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
By 1696 the first of the Doan’s had moved into Bucks County from Sandwich, Massachusetts and prior to 1726 Israel Doan, the grandfather of the infamous Doan Boys, was squatting on Indian land in Plumstead. At the time this area was deeply forested with great distances between cleared farms. Settlers found the Indians who frequented the area friendly for the most part and there was an abundance of deer and bear to hunt. Bread was made from the Indian corn and when grain was carried to market it was done on long caravans of horses tied head to tail, which snaked through the trees on the Indian paths that crisscrossed the area. Men dressed in deerskins and women wore linsey and linen. Every month they would attend the Friends Meeting with the men carrying their weapons because of the strong likelihood of encountering a wolf or bear along the way.
Joseph Doan, Sr., the Father of the outlaw Moses, lived on a farm on what is now Route 611 just south of Plumsteadville. He and his wife Hester had the dubious honor of fathering five of the six Doan outlaws: Joseph, Jr., Moses, Aaron, Levi and Mahlon. Abraham, their first cousin, was the sixth member of the band. Although at various times other outlaws and highwaymen joined up with them, these six were largely responsible for what became the Doan legend.
After over 150 years of the Doan’s being Outlaws, they fled to Canada where they remained until the late 1800’s. George Doan would be the first to come back into the United States and homestead the Great Plains of the Dakota Territory. He homesteaded in 1882 and would later found the Black Leg Ranch; however, North Dakota wouldn’t become a state until 1889. Black Leg Ranch would ultimately decide to go into the cattle business bringing the first Black Angus cattle into the region. Running a cattle ranch was tough work but it gave the Doan’s an honest sense of building a life. Six generations later and privately owning over 17,000 acres, the Black Leg Ranch is still owned and operated by the Doan family. The Black Leg Ranch is one of the oldest working cattle ranches still in operation today.
Original Homestead and sod houses of the Black Leg Ranch – About 1889
Pictured on back left is George Doan
Photo of Black Leg Ranch in 1953