Monadnock Moments No. 91: Robbery in the Dark Valley
Before route 12 was widened to its current width between Keene and Troy, it was considered a dark and forbidding pass between tall ledges and steep hills. It was on this lonely stretch of highway that George Ryan, armed with a knife and pistol, attempted his hand at highway robbery one night in the early 1800s.
Young Ryan, a resident of Canada, had been travelling through the states on horseback. He stopped off at Keene for a few days, drinking and gambling, and spent the last of his money. As a result, he went out to the narrow valley to replenish his purse.
The first man he met was a poor teamster in his sleigh. The teamster surrendered all of his money, four cents, and Ryan escaped into the woods. The teamster went for help and came back after the robber. Ryan left his horse and fled into the forest. A search was organized along the roadside and Ryan was soon driven onto the highway where he was confronted by a young physician who was posted there to watch for him. Ryan drew his gun and aimed it at the chest of the young man. The gun misfired, however, and Ryan drew his knife. The weapon had a delicate blade and was rendered useless in the ensuing struggle. The young physician cried for help and Ryan the robber was finally captured.
Ryan was soon brought to trial, and although he was not sent to jail for his crimes, the story of highway robbery in the dark valley became a legend along the road to Troy.