Austin Roe

Austin Roe (1749-1830)

Austin Roe was born in 1749 in Setauket. The tavern he owned and operated was a home he bought from the Woodhull family, very close to Caleb Brewster's childhood home. Roe, like everyone else Tallmadge recruited, knew the other members of the ring before the war, and shared their background, including family ties. Roe's job as Culper courier required him to ride some 55 miles to New York City to visit Townsend at his store. Townsend's business ledgers record some of Roe's early visits. Roe used the excuse of buying supplies for his tavern as his excuse for his frequent trips to Manhattan. He frequently carried Townsend's reports as part of a blank package of paper.

The trip between New York and Setauket was dangerous at best. Long Islanders were constantly harrassed by British raiding parties, and numerous guerrilla-like groups foraged, since there were never enough supplies for the British Army. Any civilian traveling was viewed with suspicion and subject to attack. Roe rarely seemed to have problems though, perhaps because of his experience dealing with rowdy patrons in his tavern.

Regardless, Roe initially shared duties with Jonas Hawkins, but Hawkins had a bad streak of several trips where he was attacked or felt threatened and gave up the job, leaving the courier duties solely to Roe.

Since both armies had access to invisible ink, this did not make Roe's job any safer. Roe had one of the most dangerous jobs in the ring, since he had messages on him, proof of being involved in spying, in enemy territory.

Roe remained with the ring throughout the war. He was married before the war to a woman whose first name was Catherine. After the war, he continued to operate his tavern. Washington stayed in Roe's tavern during his 1790 tour of Long Island. In 1798, he moved to Patchogue, where he ran a reincarnation of his former business, now Roe's Hotel. Roe died in 1830, after many years of service in the Suffolk County militia and fathering eight children.