Hidden History: Wash Loomis, Part 1

Leader of Notorious Mid-19th Century Loomis Gang

UTICA - In the late 18th century, George Washington Loomis, the eventual patriarch of the Mohawk Valley gang, was chased from his native Vermont because of his proclivity for horse rustling.

He settled in southern Oneida County in 1802, buying nearly 400 acres of land just south of where Route 20 runs today.

George Loomis met a young lady named Rhoda, and she made an impression on him by hitting the county sheriff one day as he attempted to arrest her father.

They married and had ten children, whom Rhoda educated in the ways of the family's business.

From among the children, George Washington Loomis, Jr. -- or, as he was known, Wash Loomis -- emerged as the gang's leader. He was intelligent, charming and ruthless, and we'll deal with the craft of the Loomis Gang in a future Hidden History installment.

Wash Loomis's death led to the dissolution of the gang, and it occurred 152 years ago tomorrow.

At 2:00 a.m. on Halloween, 1865, four men approached the Loomis home in Sangerfield. They were members of the Sangerfield Vigilante Committee, newly formed to bring their own justice to the gang -- justice that Wash had helped them avoid.

James Filkins, a blacksmith and former sheriff's deputy, led the visitors. Filkins entered the house and took Wash from a bedroom.

Exactly what happened between them isn't clear, but Wash was found semi-conscious, bleeding from his head. George Washington Loomis, Jr. died a few hours later.

A coroner's inquest concluded that a crime had been committed and that Filkins had been involved.

For Rhoda Loomis, the death of her son presented an opportunity to get revenge on Filkins by getting him behind bars so that the gang could get back in business.

But -- unbeknownst to the survivors of Wash Loomis -- the die had already been cast when it came to the future of the Loomis Gang.

Next week: revenge is served on a different player.


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