The Doans in Bucks Country - History of Black Leg Ranch

THE DOANS in Bucks County
The Life and Times of the
Plumstead Cowboys

According to an Act passed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1783 the Doans were “robbers, felons, burglars and traitors” to the American cause whose reign of terror throughout Bucks County had to cease. To Major John Andre, the director of the British Intelligence Service under General Howe, Moses Doan was the “Eagle Spy” whose efforts had resulted in the defeat of Washington’s army on Long Island. To the Doans many friends and supporters, they were Revolutionary era Robin Hoods who covered vast areas from Baltimore to Easton and from Long Island to Lancaster in their quest to lighten rich Whigs of their burden of wealth. Unfortunately, unlike Robin Hood, the Doans seldom gave their spoils to the poor, yet unlike their characterization in the Proclamation of 1783, they were not simply ruthless outlaws. At times they exhibited moments of striking compassion, humility and an unfailing sense of humor although their capacity for violence grew as they prospered and finally brought their downfall. The truth concerning the Doans lies somewhere between the two extremes of their legend and like all people who become larger than life, the truth has not always been easy to find.

The Doan family first came to America in 1629 and branches of it sprang up throughout Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Levi and Abraham Doan

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By 1696 the first of the Doans had moved into Bucks County from Sandwich, Massachusetts and prior to 1726 Israel Doan, the grandfather of the infamous Doan Boys, was squatting on Indian land in Plumstead. At the time this area was deeply forested with great distances between cleared farms. Settlers found the Indians who frequented the area friendly for the most part and there was an abundance of deer and bear to hunt.

Bread was made from the Indian corn and when grain was carried to market it was done on long caravans of horses tied head to tail, which snaked through the trees on the Indian paths that crisscrossed the area. Men dressed in deerskins and women wore linsey and linen. Every month they would attend the Friends Meeting with the men carrying their weapons because of the strong likelihood of encountering a wolf or bear along the way.

Joseph Doan, Sr., the Father of the outlaw Moses, lived on a farm on what is now Route 611 just south of Plumsteadville. He and his wife Hester had the dubious honor of fathering five of the six Doan outlaws: Joseph, Jr., Moses, Aaron, Levi and Mahlon. Abraham, their first cousin, was the sixth member of the band. Although at various times other outlaws and highwaymen joined up with them, these six were largely responsible for what became the Doan legend.

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After over 150 years of the Doans being Outlaws, they fled to Canada where they remained until the late 1800s. George Doan would be the first to come back into the United States and homestead the Great Plains of The Dakota Territory. He homesteaded in 1882 and would later found the Black Leg Ranch; however, North Dakota wouldn’t become a state until 1889. Black Leg Ranch would ultimately decide to go into the cattle business bringing the first Black Angus cattle into the region. Running a cattle ranch was tough work but it gave the Doans an honest sense of building a life. Five generations later and privately owning over 10,000 acres the Black Leg Ranch is still owned and operated by the Doan family. The Black Leg Ranch is one of the oldest working cattle ranches still in operation today.
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Original Homestead and sod houses of the Black Leg Ranch – About 1889

Pictured on back left is George Doan

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Photo was taken in 1911 at a Doan Reunion in Georgetown, Ottawa County, Michigan.

Back Row: Harden Smith, David Israel Doan, Anna Bell Sawyer, George Doan, William Doan, Maria (Byer) Doan Smith, and Abraham Doan.

American Timeline

Black Leg Ranch Timeline

American GenerationNameRanch GenerationYear
9th GenerationGeorge Doan1st Generation1856-1932
10th GenerationJewell Doan Sr.2nd Generation1893-1967
11th GenerationJewell Doan Jr.3rd Generation1921-2002
12th GenerationJerry Doan4th Generation1953-
13th GenerationJeremy Doan5th Generation1979-
Jay Doan1982-
Jayce Doan1993-
14th GenerationJaxton Doan6th Generation2014-
Jayston Doan2016-
Jordy Doan2021-

Black Leg Ranch

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Photo of Black Leg Ranch in 1953

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