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McGregor McDougle

Updated on March 8, 2015
McGregor McDougle tombstone
McGregor McDougle tombstone | Source

The village of Northport in Noble county was laid out in 1838. It once had two stores, a tavern, and a tannery When a planned canal never materialized and nearby Rome City started to grow more rapidly, the town withered and died. Today, all that remains of it is the Northport Cemetery. One of those buried there is McGregor McDougle (also known as Gregor McDougle). He belonged to a notorious gang known at the Blacklegs

The Blacklegs

The Blacklegs were involved in robbery, horse theft, counterfeiting, jailbreaks, and murder in five states and part of Canada. The notorious criminal Sile Doty described in his autobiography the group when he first came to Indiana in 1834:

This organization consisted of every possible grade of a mean rascal – thieves, counterfeiters, burglars and highwaymen – who were guilty of every act that could be called crime, under the law.

With his extensive criminal experience (He had committed crimes in England, Canada and the United States), Doty quickly became chief of the criminal enterprise. Their crimes were spread across Canada, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Doty stated that Noble County Indiana provided a central location with good hiding places due to the heavy forest. He also noted that "a very large percent of the population were tainted with the natural disposition to do wrong instead of right."

Noble County quickly developed a very bad reputation.throughout the nation. It was written that

"... the county of Noble had become so notorious, for being the citadel of all villains, that honest men traveling from Noble County to other sections of the country were ashamed to own from whence they came."

The situation was so bad that the Blacklegs infiltrated the county government. At one time the county sheriff was a Blackleg.

Sile Doty was the most notorious criminal of his time
Sile Doty was the most notorious criminal of his time | Source

The Noble County Invincibles

The state of Indiana authorized the formation of vigilante groups to apprehend felons in 1852. These groups were known as "regulators." There were two such groups in the general area: the Noble County Invincibles and the Lagrange County Rangers (Lagrange is the county north of Noble). In the charter for the Lagrange County Rangers it states:

"We, the undersigned, for the purpose of promoting the general good, for the protection of our property and families, and for the apprehension of horse thieves and other felons, do on this 20th day of September, A. D. 1856, organize ourselves into a society"

On January 9, 1858 citizens of Noble county and southern Lagrange county met to discuss the growing problem of horse theft. They came up with a plan of action and produced a document that was signed by 130 people. In the preamble is states:

"The counties of Lagrange and Noble are infested with blacklegs, burglars and petty thieves, to such a degree, that the property of our citizens is very insecure"

On January 17, 1858 James McConnel of the Noble County Invincibles and a posse of fifteen men arrested nine Blacklegs in Rome City, including McGregor McDougle. They were taken to the nearby town of Ligonier. Some of the men were turned over to authorities, and others were let go due to a lack of evidence. When it came to McDougle, on January 25, things were different. He was accused of committing two murders in Canada. One victim was a jailer's wife while busting his brother out of jail, and the other was a school teacher. McDougle denied committing murder, although he admitted to:

  • Stealing 34 horses the previous year
  • Breaking prisoners out of two jails
  • Robbing four stores
  • Robbing two tanneries
  • Robbing two peddlers
  • Passing a lot of counterfeit money

Based on the murder accusations, the Noble County Invincibles sentenced him to death. The next day he was hung on Diamond Hill, a couple miles southeast of Ligonier. After his hanging, many Blacklegs wisely left the area. In 1864 the Indiana legislature passed a bill that limited the power of the vigilante groups, and required them to be approved by county commissioners.

McGregor McDougle is featured on a mural in Ligonier
McGregor McDougle is featured on a mural in Ligonier | Source

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