Daniel Manley, Portland’s first bank robber
Died 1837 at age 63
Happy October, folks. It’s time for lovely leaves, pumpkin beer — if you’re into that kind of abomination — and stories that open the door between this world and the next. All this month, I’m resurrecting the memory of Portlanders who’ve crossed over to the other side. I’m posting a video each day, telling the tale of one, interesting “permanent Portlander.”
One August morning in 1818, the Cumberland Bank’s vault was found to be almost empty. Suspicion was directed to a store owner on Long Wharf named Daniel Manley. He was seen eying the vault lock while it was being repaired at a blacksmith’s shop in town.
Manley eventually got caught. He led city authorities to the stolen money totaling something like $200,000 — over 4 Million today.
One version of the story says he buried the money in the Scarborough marsh and some clam diggers found the loot first, but turned it in.
In any case, Manley was subsequently sentenced to 12 years in prison.
When he died in 1837, “Portland’s first bank robber” was supposedly carved on his tombstone in the Eastern Cemetery. That sounds like a dubious claim to me. But I can’t tell. Almost 200 years later, it’s eroded to the point of illegibility.
Disclaimer: I’m not a historian. I owe everything I know to the dedicated research of those who have come before me. These character sketches are assembled from multiple (often antique) sources and sprinkled with my own conjecture.