This week's challenge is easier than last week's. In the past, I've reflected on the changes the Boyd family (or at least my Grandpa's branch) experienced in the twentieth century. Just today, I was scanning some of my Grandpa's letters to Grandma during World War II and came across one passage where he was looking forward to their married life and what he wanted for his future family. He wrote, "so if ever we do have kids then we get the very best any one could give them a colledge education a good home when there little and the things I wanted and never had." (spelling, formatting, etc. preserved)
Fast forward to this year. Grandpa and Grandma have two sons and five living grandchildren. Each have at least attended college. One son and four grandchildren have earned Bachelors and the other grandchild is working his way to his degree. Three granddaughters, including myself, have Masters. We grew up in nice little houses - nothing extravagant but all good, stable places for children. There are other differences in our upbringing too - in religion and in the, ahem, civil behavior of the adults in our lives.
And this brings me to the ancestors who made different choices than I would have: my great-grandfather William Henry Richardson alias Boyd and his father Squire Freeman Richardson. Let me tell you the main way in which we are different: They made money. Nope, they didn't have fabulous jobs with hefty salaries. They literally made money. Squire actually earned the moniker in some newspapers of "the Cassadaga counterfeiter."
Now, I've made lots of things - drawings, paintings, crocheted scarves, so on. But I've yet to make anything that could get me arrested and I don't intend to start. However, I did laugh myself silly when I did a Google search for "Squire Richardson Cassadaga" and pulled up this newspaper article from the New York Times archive:
|From the New York Times, 25 Nov 1888|
I knew that great-grandpa had been arrested for counterfeiting, so I've learned from an early age to not be ruffled by ancestors misbehaving. But it was still quite a surprise finding my ancestor showing up in a major newspaper for his misdeeds.
When this family tradition started, I don't know. Before Squire, the family seems to have been respectable farmers. Before 1888, Squire was a farmer or farm laborer and I have seen no evidence that he had started making illegal coins before then. By his admission, he had only been in business for seven or eight months before he was caught in 1888.
|A Morgan dollar, one kind of coin in circulation in 1888|
Photo by Brandon Grossardt
What I do know about his activities come from newspapers.
I know something of the nature of the coins he made. The false silver coins were “dollars and half dollars of a kind that was almost impossible to detect and of which large quantities have been circulated in Erie, Warren, Oil City and Jamestown. Some of the stuff also reached Buffalo.” They were made mostly of plate tin with some copper and antimony and were molded in plaster of paris dies. Some contained a little silver but most had been plated with it
They had been made by him in the woods near his home in Cassadaga with a hollow tree as his workshop. Squire had a “decent” reputation and had been “traveling a great deal, on and off.”
During one such trip, to attend the Republican convention in Chicago, as he later admitted, he had passed bad money. He had several accomplices, including one Henry “Hank” Mellon, who helped him pass off the money, including during the night of a Democratic parade in Fredonia. His son, William Henry, a brakeman on the D.A.V. & P. railroad, passed a quantity of the money, which was traced back to him. Apparently, he disappeared before he could be pursued. It was later rumored that Squire was also engaged in making moonshine and that detectives were investigating his illegal still when they found the clues that led to a counterfeiting investigation by the Secret Service.
Detective Patrick Lyons, who had been “hanging about saloons” in order to get close to the gang members, managed to “ingratiate himself into Mellon’s favor.” While on board a train between Warren and Cassadaga, Lyons persuaded Mellon to give him an order for Squire to give him $100. Mellon subsequently became suspicious and attempted to throw some counterfeit coins in his pockets from the moving train. A bystander tried to stop him, thinking he had gone mad, and Lyons arrested Mellon. The latter attempted an escape but was recaptured.
|The Cassadaga train station, circa 1900|
Meanwhile, Lyons gave the order to Edward Bennett, who was working undercover with Lyons. On 20 November 1888, Bennett presented the order to Squire, who showed him his tools and metal and told him that he did not have that quantity but would make it. He began to work on the coins while Bennett witnessed, when Lyons arrived to conduct a raid on Richardson, in which dies were found in his house. Squire and Bennett were arrested. Lyons took them to Buffalo that night and Squire discovered that Bennett was undercover, apparently arrested only nominally in an attempt to keep certain details secret from other members of the counterfeiting gang. A reported seven gang members, including Squire and Mellon, were arrested that day.
Squire spent that evening in the Erie County jail. On 21 November, he “was taken before Assistant United States District Attorney Hoyt and vigorously pumped” and made a full confession that night. He later spoke well of his treatment by officers but in spite of reports that he would “squeal” on his accomplices, it was later reported that he did not implicate any of them. Squire was arraigned and allowed to see his wife Carrie (Caroline E. Devol) and “his two adult daughters” (even though other records indicate that he only had one daughter, Julia, and a son, William Henry) the next morning before being taken to Auburn, Cayuga, New York, that night, where he was to be taken before a grand jury.
Caroline E. (Devol) Richardson
Squire appeared in court as “an honest farmer about sixty years of age. He was dressed in an old suit of cheap working clothes and wore a blue calico shirt and rubber boots.” He later admitted to a reporter that he had worn it “for effect” because he had been “afraid to spruce up because the judge might have thought he was younger, and given him a harder sentence.” He pled guilty and said “that I would ask the court to be lenient as possible and promise that when I get out I won’t engage in the business again, and will do all I can to suppress it.” Squire was sentenced to four years in the Erie County Penitentiary and a fine of $50 on 24 November 1888. Squire responded, “That’s tough.”
Afterwards, he spoke to a reporter and willingly and perhaps proudly shared his method for producing the coins and what he would do differently. He said told the reporter that he felt sorry for his wife, rather than for himself. While the reporter had seen a report that Squire was wealthy, he denied that Carrie had no property to fall back on but did have good friends. On 13 Dec 1888, the Olean Democrat reported that Lyons received a written order from Squire to Carrie to show Lyons some woodchuck holes in the orchard on the farm of Elijah Wood. There, Lyons found plaster of paris dies and other counterfeiting tools.
|A counterfeit coin from 1888 -|
Who knows who made this one
but it could be Squire's handiwork...hmm...
Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of Squire. Of all my great-great-grandparents, I'm missing photos only for him and of Maurice Hickey on my mother's side of the family. Maybe one day I'll track down his prison records. One could only hope that there's a mug shot in those records. That would make for one interesting family photo wall - faithful LDS pioneers, hardy immigrants, soldiers in uniform...and one prisoner in stripes. One can hope.
Squire passed his "trade" to his son. William Henry married and had a son Charlie in New York, then for reasons not entirely clear, he ran away, changed his name (not legally) from Richardson to Boyd, and started another family in Arkansas. The Boyds moved to Texas, Arizona, and finally California. In the 1930s, William Henry and much of the family had moved in his daughter Katie's house in San Francisco. It was there that William Henry and daughter Mary’s husband made their own counterfeit silver coins.
|William Henry Richardson Boyd|
My grandfather Frank came home from school one day and saw what was happening and learned a little bit about how the coins were made. William Henry's wife and Frank's mother Bertha became angry when she discovered that Frank was being exposed to the illegal activity. Frank stated in an interview, “She says, I’m not gonna let Frank see that no more, and she says, We have no business living there. She says, We’d rather starve,” Frank reported. She took Frank and moved out. She got a job working for one Mrs. Rothenberg, who gave them a place in which to live on Seventh Street. Bertha took in laundry for the Rothenbergs and for others in the neighborhood.
|A walking liberty half dollar, which was in circulation in 1933|
Photo by Heritage Auctions
At one point, William Henry decided to stop making the coins and he broke the molds. However, he kept a bag of the coins hidden in their wood stove. When Mary’s husband got caught burglarizing a house in about 1933, he reported what William Henry had done. William Henry, then about seventy-two years of age, was arrested and put in a minimum-security prison near the Puget Sound for a year. After leaving prison, the family was reunited and William and Bertha again lived under one roof.
|San Francisco, 1933|
Photo from Jeff , foundsf.org
|McNeil Island Penitentiary, 1937|
This was William Henry's home back in 1933
Grandpa ended up working with metals too but he did so legally. He was an ironworker and his specialty was handrails, not money. While his letters indicate that he had a rough patch in his younger years, his life took a decidedly different turn than his father and grandfather's. His mother had wanted him to become a preacher and while he didn't become one, he did have an interest in religion. He settled down and became a working class family man and eventually, his interest led him to speak to LDS missionaries. Better times, a desire to give his family what he didn't have, and an LDS belief in learning and education led to college for his descendants. A stable home and the values we learned in our homes and church led to a transformation, the transformation Grandpa wanted.
|Grandpa building a house with his eldest son|
Sometime we carry on traditions; sometimes we turn from them and change. Sometimes traditions are good; sometimes they are unhealthy. In my case, there are many good, healthy traditions that have been passed down from some of my ancestors. But there are those that seem foreign to me and that's okay. It means that I can be reasonably sure that if my portrait ever hangs on a wall, there won't be a set of numbers along the bottom and a scowl on my face.
|The closest I've come to a mugshot|
The photo taken for a directory in college that
I didn't want taken =)
Next week's challenge from No Story Too Small: "Week 14 (April 2-8) – Favorite Photo: Who is in a favorite photo of yours? Or tell the story of the photo itself — where was it taken, what was the event?" Time to dig through the photo folders...