(2015) Today I rode not as myself, but as Colonel William Hart of Bucks County. Why the name? Because 232 years prior to the day, he played a pivotal role in the history of not just the area, but of the country. You see, during the Revolutionary War, this area was deeply divided. It’s why some historians state that the Revolutionary War was America’s first civil war. According to the Washington’s Crossing Museum, southeast Pennsylvania was especially divided. Also according the museum, Washington hesitated to move out into Pennsylvania countryside because of the Quaker presence. Among that Quaker population was a family who would personify the term outlaw.
The Doan family of Bucks County pledged allegiance to the Crown and set out to make life difficult (and possibly short) for those who sympathized with the Continental Congress. The Doan brothers themselves would be excommunicated from the Quaker population for their quarreling approach. This only inflamed their cause; without a religious label, the Doans would replace it with an outlaw label. They would very nearly change the outcome of the war. What followed was the stuff of legend.
My ride departed the Plumsteadville Inn for the reason that it’s the story’s epicenter. It was once known as Fisherville, though no one knows why. The inn was there during the Revolutionary War times serving as a coach road inn for those seeking shelter and safety.
I began by turning toward Dublin. That is where the posse began putting the squeeze on the Doan brothers. Colonel George Piper made it his mission to nab the Doans on the account that they returned to robbing farmers after the War. Joseph Doan would be shot and captured in this town as he tried to rob Colonel Robinson’s Tavern. He was sent to Philadelphia for imprisonment.
The ride turned back toward Plumsteadville. I passed the porch of the old inn and proceeded down Valley Park Road. No doubt the Doans had crossed this area of land centuries ago. These roads either crossed or were used by the Doans at some point. And that is a humbling thing to think about.
The next stop was a sordid one: directly at the terminus of Valley Park Road is the actual Quaker Friends Meeting House the Doans were expelled from. Curiously two Doan brothers are buried here, but they are not buried in traditional manner. One can find the Doan headstones on the other side of the stonewall surrounding the cemetery. That’s right, they are interred outside because of their path in life. There is one other gravestone of a man who fought in the Civil War and received the same treatment.
Today I could not find the headstones. I did find the Civil War headstone. Unfortunately the back wall was heavily overgrown which is apparently where they are located. The Meetinghouse itself is still as it was in the 1700s, heated by only one wood stove. The wood was stacked smartly in the shed near the entrance.
Begrudgingly I made a right away from the Meetinghouse and passed the Gardenville Hotel. It is still a tavern, so one can still get a drink and sit in the same spot where Colonel William Hart raised a small posse (perhaps because people were afraid of Doan retribution, they refused to take part) and turned his sights toward a farm above Carversville. The ride followed that direction via Point Pleasant Pike.
It is in the general area that Hart found Moses Doan holed up in a farmhouse known for hiding them. Hart was the only man who had stood up the Doan brothers. What followed is a matter of conjecture. Some say this is where Captain Gibson shot Moses Doan as he lay prostrate. It was at this moment two other Doan brothers, Abraham and Levi, jumped out of hiding and fired off a shot that would fatally wound Major Kennedy. He would die two days later and be buried at Presbyterian Church of Deep Run. The two brothers would be pursued for some time and ultimately captured and hanged.
Instead of Moses Doan being shot and killed, a more romantic story has been told that he fled from the Halsey farm and, in refusal to give up, rode his horse off the cliff overlooking Fleecydale Road.
This was the event I chose to follow. I did the closest action to Moses; I rode down the extremely steep road of Fretz Mill Road making sure my brake pads were nice and toasty by the time I reached the stop sign. (Pennsylvania, by the way, loves putting stop signs at the bottom of extremely steep roads.)
I rode up Fleecydale into the town of Carversville. This is where I did what any posse leader would do; I stopped for coffee at the Carversville General Store. What’s interesting about this stop is the seating. From where patrons sit, one can’t help but see the giant Roll Call sign on the side of the Carversville Inn.
Now that the posse has done its job, I turned my route up Wismer Road. This hill is quite welcoming with its initial punchiness followed by a polite lull. The remainder of the Wismer climb is directly in front for one to contemplate as he approaches. The consolation is the fact that it’s slightly downhill on the backside.
At this point I headed toward home while thinking of the calamity that occurred in this county over two centuries ago. Spending such a short ride on the bike was the best way to commemorate the ruckus back in 1783. If anyone wants to form a posse and ride some of their haunts more toward the south such as Washington’s Crossing or Newtown, one may find me sitting in the corner of the Gardenville Hotel, awaiting word that a group is trying to form again.