Horse thieving


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April 25, 2024

When ‘thieving scoundrels’ stole their horses, these locals organized to find them.

Article Author: Abigail Koontz (This article originally appeared on The Herald-Mail April, 2024) The American West between from 1865 to 1895 is often painted as the untamed, lawless domain of bandits and cowboys. But did you know that Western Maryland had its own bandits during that time? Across Washington County, residents of local towns, villages and farms were plagued by the relentless and crafty schemes of horse thieves. Western Maryland in the early 19th century saw the emergence of turnpikes, railroads and canals, but the most common means of transportation was by foot, horse or horse-drawn transport. Horsepower touched many aspects of daily life, from individual transport to income. Horses pulled barges, fire engines, mail coaches, farm equipment and hearses; they hauled resources and powered wars. Because horses were such a necessity, thieves saw a lucrative opportunity, especially in areas like Washington County that still were part of the frontier. Between 1790 and 1804, Washington County newspapers such as The Washington Spy and its successor, The Maryland Herald and Elizabeth-Town Advertiser, published more than 110 notices of horse theft (not counting lost horses). Victims during this time offered a range of monetary rewards for their horses and the capture of […]