Micajah "Big" Harpe, born Joshua Harper (before 1768 – 1799), and Wiley "Little" Harpe, born William Harper (before 1770 – 1804). Murderers, highwaymen, and river pirates who operated in Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and Mississippi. They are often considered the earliest documented serial killers in the United States, reckoned from the colonial era forward.
Loyal to the British Crown during the American Revolution, the Harpes became outlaws after the war and began robbing
and killing settlers in the remote frontier west of the Appalachian
Mountains. They are believed to have killed thirty-nine people, and
possibly as many as fifty. As the Harpes' crimes gained notoriety,
vigilante groups formed to avenge their victims, and they were
eventually tracked down and executed around the turn of the century.
Their legendary savagery has since entered American folklore, appearing
to have been motivated more by blood lust than financial gain.
Though many historical accounts identify them as brothers, it is also
possible they were actually first cousins named Joshua and William
Harper who emigrated from Scotland in 1759 or 1760.
Their hair colour is disputed. According to the description given by
Kentucky Governor James Garrard, they both had black hair, while other
sources describe one or the other as red-haired.
- "He was described as typically being "diry and shabby," the darkness of the grime offset by a thatch of "fiery red hair." https://www.findadeathforum.com/showthread.php…
- "He wore no covering on his head, so the natural protection of thick,
coarse hair, of a fiery red, uncombed and matted, gave evidence of the
rudest exposure." http://hendersonkyhistory.com/HarpeBros.htm
- "His description of Little Harpe was similar, except he had red hair and "bore a look of cunning and treachery." http://www.thepastwhispers.com/ALHN_Harpes.html
- "Big Micajah, described as bony and muscular, was the brawn to the brains of red-haired Wiley..." https://www.scotsman.com/…/the-harpe-brothers-scots-who-bec…
- "Wiley, or Little Harpe, was at times described as having black hair, but in fact he seems to have been red-headed." http://helenroulston.com/whoweretheharpes.html
- "Red hair was the particular mark of Little Harpe." https://books.google.it/books…
- "Little Harpe was small and wiry, with fox-red hair." https://books.google.it/books…
- "Wiley had flaming red hair, was sllightly smaller in stature and went by Little Harpe." https://books.google.it/books…