I found a newspaper article for my 5x great grandfather, and was hoping someone could help provide some context. The article is from the 15 December 1790 issue of the Carlisle Gazette, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The article reads:

Three Pounds Reward

Strayed or stolen from the subscriber living in Berlin town, Glade, Bedford County, about the 8th of July last, a dapple dun MARE, with a ball face, white mane and tail, four years old last spring, a natural trotter, branded, thus, O, [op], the near shoulder and buttock, supposed if stolen she is taken to York County. Whoever takes up said Mare and brings her to the owner shall have the above reward and reasonable charged paid, by me.

Christian Rice

November 24, 1790

If his mare was stolen, why would he presume she was taken to York County, PA?

It struck me as a bit odd, and made me wonder if perhaps he thought he knew who took her, and that person was from York Co., or if there was something like a horse thief ring that took horses to York to sell.

1 Answer 1


The horse was likely stolen, as there had been an increase in horse theft during the Revolutionary War. Horses would be stolen in one locality and sold in another area (another county or state) to prevent capture.

An interesting account of the horse thievery of the Nugent Gang, The Valley Scourge, is posted on the Franklin County, Pennsylvania website. On one William Nugent the author writes:

While the nature of his crime in Virginia is never mentioned in the available record, it suggests that Nugent was arrested for theft, more specifically horse theft, as he was arrested and pardoned with a known horse thief and right afterwards he would be arrested in York County for horse theft. During the course of the war, there was a great increase in horse stealing all over America. It was common practice for thieves at the time to steal horses from one area, drive them down to a different area and sell the stolen property to an unsuspecting buyer in a completely new state, which accounts for his presence in Virginia.

I suspect that York County, Pennsylvania was a known hotbed for horse theft sales, which is why your ancestor may have suspected the horse went there. It would be worth examining other newspapers from around that time to see if there are other reports of horse theft, or if there are convictions for horse theft in York County.

Another possible avenue of research to pursue are court records. A description of some of those available for York County is available on FamilySearch, and records appear to be held variously at the local courthouse, county archives, and state archives. Even if you are unable to find details about a conviction for the theft of your ancestor's horse, you may be able to obtain a more detailed context on horse theft in that locality.

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