To Die Game
Lumbee American Indians


To Die Game is subtitled "The Story of the Lowry Band, Indian Guerrillas of Reconstruction". This tells the tale of the Lowry Band of the 1860s - 1880s. Many Oxendines were members of this mixed-race "Robin Hood" style band that was front page news of the New York Times.


South Carolina Oxendines mentioned in this book:
Solomon Oxendine, 1870s
Hector Oxendine, 1870s
Calvin Oxendine, band member
Henderson Oxendine, band member (brother to Calvin)
Forney "Pop" Oxendine, non-band member but brother to Calvin and Henderson
Mary Catherine Oxendine, local town resident
Jesse Oxendine, coffin maker
James "Big Jim" Oxendine, a government official





This is a GREAT book. The title is a bit strange, but it refers to an exchange where the bandits are talking to law officials. The bandits in essence are saying that they won't outright murder people, but if they are assaulted, they will put up a good fight "to die game" - i.e. to die fighting. To see what life was like in this era, rent the movie Cold Mountain. It shows how the "Home Guard" could cause trouble for local residents of the south.

The first mention of an Oxendine comes on Page 48 when the book is talking about how those in South Carolina might sympathize with the Union soldiers. Even so, the Union soldiers were not exactly kind to the locals while tromping through their grounds.

"Like many Indians, Solomon Oxendine had been conscripted for a time into a labor battalion at Fort Fisher, and had come to sympathize with the cause of the Union. One of his kinsman, in fact, had volunteered as a guide for the Sherman forces. [Lisa's note - this was probably Hector Oxendine] Yet the foragers came also to his own yard and seized his only draft animal. 'I and my wife begged for the mule', he later reported, but the Yankees 'said they were good in this low country ... and they were obliged to have good teams to get out. They took my mule and ... I have not seen him since' (US treasury dept records of the accounting office southern claims, record group 217). "

Once the Civil War was over, many local whites hated the Indians who had helped the Union soldiers, even against their will. From Page 51. "On May 1, 1865, two Indians, William Locklear and Hector Oxendine, were on their way to the house of a white neighbor, who they thought might help them recover some horses "the rebels took from us". But before reaching their destination they were arrested by William Humphreys and some other hostile whites." Hector had helped lead Sherman's men, and the next day William and a few friends killed Hector and buried him. These are depositions on Aug 23 1867 from various people. Hector Oxendine

On page 66 there are great descriptions of what the average house was like - tiny, wood plank, dirt floor. Then it says "The Oxendines lived in better style and in much more comfortable dwellings, in fact, were well-to-do citizens, whilst the old set of the Lowrie family lived in good, comfortable houses, several of them being good mechanics, or house carpenters." This comes from The Lowery History by Norment.

Page 73 has images of Calvin Oxendine and Henderson Oxendine - they're the same photos we have here on this site.

Page 90 says that in 1868 "... there were also some brown Indian faces that had never been seen on the county court of the old regime. James Oxendine, known as "Big Jim," a prosperous Indian merchant and farmer, had been elected one of the county commissioners."

Page 119 is now in 1870 and says that prisoners "were transferred to the solid brick jail in Wilmington, where they were incarcerated with Calvin and Henderson Oxendine, first cousins of Stephen Lowry, both still awaiting trial there." The group escaped. The book goes on to describe the escape. "'We didn't get much to eat,' Henderson Oxendine later remarked, though they had 'knocked over a pig once and cooked it up over a fire - had no bread. It was over four weeks before we got to Scuffletown.'"

A spy, Saunders, tried to infiltrate the outlaws and was caught. Henderson Oxendine was on the "council" to decide what to do with the spy. The spy tried to commit suicide and failed. Page 131 recounts Henderson saying "He got a knife one time and cut a vein in his wrist so he could bleed to death. But it didn't bleed a great deal." (from the Wilmington Carolina Farmer and Weekly Star, Mar 24, 1871).

A raid on the bandit camp on Oct 4 1870 wounded but did not kill the group. The book says on page 139, "In the tall grass they found pools of blood where the outlaw chiefs, George Applewhite, Boss Strong, and Henderson Oxendine, all wounded in the first skirmish, had lain waiting for their enemies to walk into the ambush". (from The Swamp outlaws, Townsend and the Wilmington Star, Oct 6 1870).

By Oct 1870 the government had had enough. Page 154 reports "the legislature offered two thousands dollars for the 'delivery, dead or alive" of Henry Berry as well as one thousand dollars each for Stephen Lowry, Thomas Lowry, Boss Strong, Henderson Oxendine and George Applewhite". This from the NC Public Laws, 1870-1871, chap 68. By 1871-2 this was raised for 12 thousand for Henry and 6 thousand for each of the rest.

By 1871 they were getting desperate. Page 165 shows how Mrs. Apple white was the sister of a Forney Oxendine, and Forney was arrested simply because of that relationship. On May 10, 1871, the gang showed up and freed Forney. Later in 1871, the militia were harassing the locals in their quest to find the criminals. Mary Catherine Oxendine says that the commander "struck her a violent blow on the side of her head with the stock of his gun" (from State vs John S McNeill, Superior Court Robeson Cty, Fall 1872).

On page 223 it reports "only one member of the Lowry band, Henderson Oxendine, was ever captured and executed." It talks about how he'd escaped from jail, been wounded in 1870, and was trapped on Feb 26 1871. He was there with his brother Forney Oxendine, also called "Pop". This came from the Wilmington Carolina Farmer and Weekly Star, Mar 24, 1871. When he was hung, he sang Amazing Grace and died with dignity.

Page 231 talks about the trial of Calvin Oxendine, Henderson's brother. Calvin was set free.

Finally, page 249 talks about the supposed death of Henry Berry that was rigged with a dummy and rabbit entrails. Jesse Oxendine was listed as the person who built the coffin for this ruse.

Definitely a book to get for any Oxendine family member!!

Buy To Die Game from Amazon.com.




FROM A VISITOR:

The newspaper articles were interesting, but the continued reference to my ancestors as negroes is insulting. There are no witnesses to any murder that members of the HB gang supposedly committed. John Oxendine being labeled as Afro descent becuase he was bound as a servant until he was 31. well, he was not the only Indian bound as a servant. There were more Indian slaves in N.C. at one time than African. In Virginia the Indians were slaves, servants and fair game for killing. According to Jewish history the surname Oxendine is Jewish. I read where Sir Frances Drake left 100+ men on Roanoke Island in the 1500's many being Portugese and Jewish.That could explain surnames from Jewish heritage in N.C. Also, John Oxendine was said to have received a land grant and listed as an Indian. Henderson Oxendine was the last man to be hung in Robeson County, and he was innocent. He and his brother Calvin were accused of the same murder. Calvin was freed because witnesses testified that both he and Henderson were together at a bootleggers camp site for the entire week-end. I have seen John's wife listed as Elizabeth. Is it Sarah Elizabeth? Why do you list the Oxendines as living in S.C.? Every bit of info I have seen list them in N.C. and Robeson Co.?

dor1248 *AT* aol.com

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