America's First Known Serial Killers: The Harps, Big and Little

Oct 13, 2009 - by Doris Lane - 0 Comments

Big Harp Little Harp Sign

Big Harp Little Harp Sign

The first known serial killers in American history were the Harp boys. During the years of the Revolutionary War, the two cousins went on an indiscriminate killing rampage, killing anyone who got in their way. They killed infants, including their own, children, women and numerous men. They killed for the sake of killing.

by Doris Lane

Harp's Hill is near the Pond River in western Muhlenberg County, Ky., not far from Highway 62. There is a crossing in the road near Dixon named Harp's Head and one of the crossing roads is named Harp's Head Road. Some miles away, the precise location lost to time, there is a cave known as Harp's House. To tell how these places earned their names is to tell the story of Micajah (Big) and Wiley (Little) Harp, America's first known serial killers.

They passed for brothers, but were cousins, sons of brothers John and William Harpe, Scottish immigrants to Orange County, N.C. The boys were named William (Micajah/Big), son of John, and Joshua (Wiley/Little), son of William. Big Harp and Little Harp left home as young men in 1775, aiming to become overseers of slaves in Virginia. Career plans diverted by the American Revolution, the Harps instead became Tory outlaws in a gang that roved the North Carolina countryside, raping farmers' daughters, pillaging livestock and crops, and burning farmhouses. In the attempted kidnapping of one young girl by a Tory rape gang, Little Harp was shot and wounded by local Patriot Captain James Wood.

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