Tim Redman

 

INLAWS AND OUTLAWS, A TALE OF TWO HOMESTEADS:

THE LOOMIS FAMILY IN AMERICA

(Dedicated to Walter Baumann, for all that he does)

 

In my talk I raised the question of why Ezra Loomis Pound, shortly after arriving at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, changed his name to Ezra Weston Pound. His father, Homer Loomis Pound, was justly proud of his Loomis family ancestors. Loomis family members endowed the Loomis School (now the Loomis Chaffee School) in Connecticut on the 300-acre family homestead and it still includes the family manor, built in 1640. The family included ministers, missionaries, physicians, mayors, jurists, judges, consuls, statesmen, an “army” of teachers, professors, artists, and inventors. Among the latter was Dr. Mahon Loomis, a Washington D.C. dentist, who filed a patent in 1872 for the invention of wireless telegraphy (radio). I circulated as a handout a copy of that patent application and a preliminary examination of its claims by a federally certified patent examiner, Mark Meloni.

The Loomis family included army and navy officers, engineers, and 31 authors (make that 32). Even black sheep were acknowledged. Charles Battell Loomis refers to the family members in Middle New York: “Who among us remember the Loomises who stole the sheep. Let us only remember that they knew their business and got away with the goods. What is a sheep among friends.” Therein lies the tale of the rise and fall of the Loomis Gang, which became the largest family crime syndicate in the United States. My talk focused on the Gang.

George Washington Loomis (George) married Rhoda Mallet Loomis and they purchased 400 acres on a high pinnacle adjacent to the Nine Mile Swamp, fourteen miles from Clinton, New York. After his death, his son, George Washington Loomis, Jr. (Wash) assumed leadership of the gang. Rhoda taught her children and young gang members to steal. Crime peaked. They specialized in stealing horses but also stole sheep, clothes, gold, silver, and anything that wasn’t nailed down. Their manor house and barns contained false floors, crawlspaces, and hiding places for stolen goods. They branched out into counterfeiting, stagecoach robbery, and bounty jumping. Arson and murder were used to punish citizens who stood up to them.

The Nine Mile Swamp was impassable except to members of the Gang, who used it to escape the law and as a protected corral for stolen horses. At its peak, the Gang had 400 members and its activities encompassed an area of 400 miles north and south and 400 miles east and west of the homestead. Rhoda taught the gang that everyone steals but only the stupid are caught. Citizens finally stood up to the Loomis Gang. In 1865 their house and barns were raided by over a hundred men and the house burned to the ground. More than 2,000 people visited the burnt-out manor in the two days after. A local constable murdered Wash but was acquitted.

I suggested that had Pound not renounced all his connection with the Loomis Gang, the thematic canto for the conference might have turned out as follows:

“Learn of the swamp world what can be thy place

In scaled deception or true larceny

Pull down thy honesty, Rhoda pull down!”

 

And that is why Ezra Loomis Pound became Ezra Weston Pound.