Friday, November 19, 2010

Awesome Historical Figures You've Never Heard Of: Joe Mulliner

Put the words "New Jersey" and "outlaw" together and most people today will think of The Sopranos or possible whoever is currently governor, but back in 1779 the most famous outlaw in Jersey was a man named Joe Mulliner.
Mulliner remained loyal to the British crown during the revolution. Because his political views carried the threat of arrest or worse, he left his farm, which overlooked the Mullica River near modern-day Pleasant Mills, and took to the woods, in the hopes that his wife would be able to live unmolested if he was not around.
He set up camp on an island about half a mile down the river from his home, and gradually attracted a following of other outlaws.
What ensured Mulliner's status as a local celebrity was that, in spite of his large stature, he was a rather nonviolent, and even friendly, robber. In the three years he was active, Mulliners gang of "Refugees" never killed or seriously injured any of their victims, and he was even known to entertain his victims with jokes and stories while his men rifled through their belongings. He was also reputed to have only robbed those who could afford it, leaving poorer travelers to go about their business. One story also has him leaving an anonymous bag of cash for a woman whose house was destroyed by his overenthusiastic henchmen, by way of apology for their actions.
His main weakness, which would cost him his life in the end, was his love of a good party. He would crash local celebrations, dancing with all the prettiest girls, and slip back into the night. His flamboyance attracted a number of Robin-Hood like legends, including that he once rescued a young woman from an unwanted marriage.
In the summer of 1781, however, the famous party-crasher was captured in Nesco after cutting in on the wrong couple. The irate beau rushed to get the local militia captain and Mulliner was arrested. He was taken to Burlington and hung for high treason on August 8. His body was returned to his wife and buried at the family farm.
For years after, travelers through that area would report hearing Mulliner's laughter or see a tall man walking by the river. Nowadays, that part of New Jersey has been largely reclaimed by the forest, and Mulliners ghost, if it's still there, walks by itself in the pines.

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