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Karen Palumbo

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Blogs by Karen Palumbo

On This Day 1/22/1779
1/19/2011 3:00:33 PM

Claudius Smith, "Cowboy of the Ramapos" hangs


Famed "Tory" outlaw, Claudius Smith" meets his end on the gallows in Goshen, New York. In the wake of his death, Patriot civilians hope for relief from guerilla warfare in upstate New York. Born in Brookhaven, New York in 1736, Claudius Smith moved with his family to Orange County, New York in 1741. Thought to have fought with Mohawk leader Chief Joseph Brandt as a Tory defender of the British Crown during the New York campaign of 1777.

Claudius Smith earned the label "Cowboy of the Ramapos" for his use of guerilla tactis against Patriot civilians. Claudius Smith and his cohorts stole livestock and ambushed travelers on the Orange Turnpike between Canada and New YOrk from the cave now memorialized as "Claudius Smith's Den" in Orange County's Harriman State Park.

Claudius Smith managed to escape justice until his gang murdered Patriot Major Nathaniel Strong in the course of a robbery. Patriot Governor George Clinton then issued a warrant for his arrest, offering a one thousand two hundred reward for the capture of Claudius Smith, who was described as "Seven feet tall" in his wanted poster.

Captured on British-controlled Long Island, New York by vigilantes in October, he and other members of his gang, including one of his sons, were returned to Patriot territory and hung near their home turf in Goshen, New York.

Despite his less than savory exploits, Claudius Smith eaerned a reputation as a "Robin Hood" because he targeted the wealthy but was said to be generous with the poor. Because his mother reputedly warned him that, unless he reformed, he would "die with his boots on", Claudius Smith removed his footwear before he was hanged.

Two of Claudius Smith's three sons belonged to his gang, one was hanged with his father, another took over the gang upon his death. Legend has it that Claudius Smith's skull was filled with mortar and included in the edifice of the Goshen, New York Court House.



(K) (HST)


Claudius Smith Tory outlaw
Joseph Brandt Chief and British supporter
Nathaniel Strong American Major
George Clinton Patriot Governor


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