Counterfeiting (sometimes referred to as the 2nd oldest profession) had a few early “entrepreneurs” right here in LP County

An 1842 counterfeit “seated Liberty dollar coin” (lower part of photo), compared with an authentic 1847 example of the coin at top. (Courtesy coinsite.com)

By Fern Eddy Schultz, La Porte County Historian

We find that counterfeiting became a part of La Porte County’s history very early on in the existence of the county. Jasper Packard reported in his history of the county in 1876 that between the years of 1836 and 1844, there were a couple of men in the county whose “occupation” was the production of money.

La Porte County Historian Fern Eddy Schultz

These two particular individuals resided in Springfield Township. The exact location of their “business” was described as being in a cabin about a mile northwest of Springville. The area was described in more detail as being “on a dry knoll in the midst of a marsh and surrounded by willows and other shrubbery.” It is presumed they resided together in this cabin and perhaps each had individual talents they shared that lent to the production of counterfeit money. It is not documented, but it was reported that Springfield Township at that time had more money than it wanted and that the rest of the county around this area also was “flush with money.” Perhaps this was because of the production offered by these two men and not because of legitimate financial status.

Reportedly, the cabin was a busy place and was “the headquarters of a most industrious band of counterfeiters.” It was referred to as a “mint for coinage.” It is not known how the products manufactured were distributed, but it would seem that items were “on sale” at the cabin and anyone could make a purchase of whatever their wants might have been.

It would seem that such activity would not have gone on long without being discovered, and its length of time in existence is not known. Eventually, it was exposed. It was determined that two men were in charge. One was named VanVelser and the other Stroud. No first names were reported. There are a couple of Stroud entries in the 1840 census, but it is not known if either of these was connected to the counterfeiter. There are no VanVelser entries in this census.

Reportedly, VanVelser was convicted and sent to the State’s prison (presumably the one at Jeffersonville), where he died. No records can be found of his conviction or of his death. Stroud was reported to have escaped any conviction in La Porte County, but went to an unidentified Illinois community, where it is reported he was lynched for horse stealing.

It was during this time that Indiana passed the act to allow the law-abiding citizens to form Regulator Companies. By 1856, it was reported that northern Indiana became a hotbed for criminals and criminal gangs for various illegal activities. The various illegal activities included stealing horses, counterfeiting, gambling, robbery, arson and murder. The act allowed local citizens to form companies to find, arrest and deal with these criminals. This began the so-called Regulator Movement in northern Indiana that saw the formation of several of these groups. The first of these to form was the LaGrange County Rangers, and ultimately there were 36 companies. The act authorized the detection and arrest of criminals. It did not allow the groups to try them or pass sentence on them.

No record has been located about a Regulator Company having been formed in La Porte County. La Porte County did have, however, an Anti-Horse Thief Association. This was established along the same lines as the Regulators with some of the same policies.

FERN EDDY SCHULTZ is La Porte County’s official Historian. For more information on the county’s rich history, visit the La Porte County Historical Society Museum and its website, www.laportecountyhistory.org.

 

No comments.

Leave a Reply