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Born on March 4, 1790, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, USA, David 'Robber' Lewis is a popular folk hero in Cumberland County. Known as the 'Robin Hood of Pennsylvania', Lewis' exploits are still talked about 180-plus years after his death... and some of his hidden loot is among the lost treasures still being searched for by legions of metal detector-wielding booty hunters across the state.
After deserting from the US Army at the start of the War of 18121, Lewis made a fortune counterfeiting bank notes and acting as a highwayman in New York and the New England states. The law eventually caught up with him and imprisoned him in Troy, New York. Promptly escaping from jail, he returned to Pennsylvania's Cumberland County.
It was in Cumberland County that he earned his reputation as 'Pennsylvania's Robin Hood'. There are many folk tales of Lewis robbing wealthy landowners, tax collectors and merchants, and helping poor farmers. Instead of Sherwood Forest2, Lewis preferred to hide out in caves scattered along the banks of streams and rivers. People exploring some of the caves along the Conodoguinet Creek near Carlisle, Pennsylvania, have found gold coins reputed to be part of Lewis' ill-gotten earnings.
One classic Robin Hood style tale involves Lewis providing a poor farming family with a counterfeit $20 note to pay the tax collector with. As the tax collector left the farm he robbed the man, getting back his own money and splitting the profit with the family. Many poor families in the area warned him of the authorities' efforts to bring him to justice and secretly helped to cover his tracks. Lewis is even said to have referred to himself as an 'equaliser'.
Death By Gangrene
His final heist was of a $13,000 payroll, taken during the robbery of a stagecoach near Bellefonte. Wounded in an ensuing gun battle, Lewis was captured by a posse a short time later. He was subsequently locked up in Bellefonte Jail where he eventually died of gangrene. A 'hero' to the end, Lewis turned down the option of having his arm amputated in a last-ditch effort to save his life.
On his deathbed, he confessed to all his crimes and told his jailers of three caches of gold he had hidden in Pennsylvania:
None of these caches has ever been recovered. Ladies and gentlemen, 'start your metal detectors'.
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