One of the few first-hand accounts we have of counterfeiting in Nauvoo is from Joseph H. Jackson, a rogue in his own right. (Don’t worry, we’ll cover him in a future post.) In August 1844, Jackson published a pamphlet: A Narrative of the Adventures and Experience of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo: Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villainy. Among the many “revelations” was that Joseph Smith forced Jackson to head up a major coin counterfeiting operation in Nauvoo in the summer of 1843.1 The “first attempts at Bogus [counterfeit coin] making were rather rough,” according to Jackson, “but in October, Messrs. Barton and Eaton, came on from Buffalo, having been sent by one of Joe’s emissaries, and brought with them a splendid press and all the necessary tools and materials for operation.”
Who were “Barton and Eaton”? We’ll start with Eaton.
Marenus G. Eaton
Marenus G. Eaton was born in 1808 in Rome, New York. When he was around the age of seventeen, Eaton’s parents moved to Cuba, New York, about seventy miles southeast of Buffalo. Eaton originally trained as a blacksmith, according to one family history, but later “became interested in the transportation business, acting as agent for steamboat companies, and the New York Central and Michigan Central railroads.”2 Eaton married Laura Scott in 1826, and they had eight children together.
We know that Eaton began working for the steamboat companies by the late 1830s and did business in Buffalo, New York. In an 1839 Buffalo city directory, “M. G. Eaton” was listed as a boat agent, boarding at the United States Hotel. The family likely resided in Buffalo for a short time. Only one of their eight kids was born there, around 1838.
Eaton’s experiences with law enforcement prior to his arrival in Nauvoo were similar to Edward Bonney’s. Eaton had the misfortune to be arrested for counterfeiting in June 1842 and likely saw Nauvoo as a safe haven (or, at least, a good place to lay low).
In June 1842, M. G. Eaton and a friend, David S. Johnson, were arrested near Geneva, New York, for “passing and having in possession counterfeit bank bills.” The local newspaper provided some details.
In our last we briefly mentioned the fact that two individuals charged with passing counterfeit bills, were then under examination at the Police Office in this village. Through the politeness of one of the justices before whom the examination was had, we are now enabled to give a more minute account of this fraudulent attempt.
“The bills were of the Concord Bank of Massachusetts. It appeared in evidence before the magistrate, that the bills, which were of the denomination of five dollars—were paid to several merchants for goods taken up. The bills were in every instance considerably above the amount purchased, and change in good money was made—after passing some three four or five dollar bills, suspicions arose as to their being genuine, and resulted in the discovery that they were altered bills, supposed to be of the Sandstone Bank Michigan—some of the bills were very nicely altered, insomuch that it required very close examination to detect the fraud; others were very badly executed. The Presidents name L. D. Smith was uniform, and no doubt was placed there by one and the same hand. The Payers names in several instances were in different hand writing, and very poorly written. On searching the criminals, counterfeit bills of the like description were found upon them; on one, bills amounting to one hundred and eighty two dollars and on the other, to one hundred and twenty five dollars. The magistrate issued his mittimus against both—we understand they were afterwards bailed.Geneva Courier, Geneva, N.Y., 21 Jun. 1842, p. 2, col. 4, New York State Historical Newspapers.
We don’t know the amount of their bail, but it was likely significant. As with Edward Bonney, the evidence against Marenus G. Eaton and David S. Johnson was indisputable, so it’s reasonable to assume bail for each was around the $1,000 level. Apparently, someone came up with the money, and the two went free. Unsurprisingly, Eaton and his two sureties failed to appear at the August term of the Ontario County court. (Johnson also skipped bail.)
Ontario County authorities refused to give up, though. Eaton’s case was continued for a couple years, and an extradition attempt in Nauvoo was almost successful at the end of 1844. But that’s a story for another day.
Augustus Barton, a.k.a. Augustus J. Tiffany
This guy took A LOT of digging to figure out. It turns out Barton, listed as “Augustus Barton” on the November 1845 counterfeiting indictments, was most likely an alias for Augustus J. Tiffany of Buffalo, New York.
I have to give thanks to Marenus G. Eaton for providing the clue. He and his wife, Laura, named their youngest son Augustus Tiffany Eaton. I wondered, what if Marenus named his son after a good friend? After banging my head against the brick wall of “Augustus Barton” for what seemed like forever, I began searching for “Augustus Tiffany.” Lo, and behold, a likely candidate emerged!
Augustus J. Tiffany was born around 1810 in Madison County, New York. At a young age, he moved to Erie County, New York. By the 1830s, he resided in the town of Hamburg just south of Buffalo. Around 1830, Augustus married a woman named Emily, surname unknown, and they had at least two little girls.
Newspaper records indicate that Tiffany tended to get himself in trouble. In February 1836, Tiffany and a friend were caught stealing a barrel of flour from a main street grocer in Buffalo. In July of the same year, Tiffany was among a “band of ruffians” that attacked a packet boat near Buffalo. (To indicate the severity of the charge, his bail was set at $3,000 after he was apprehended.) Eventually, Augustus J. Tiffany began working as a boat agent in Buffalo which is likely where he made the acquaintance of M. G. Eaton in the late 1830s.
Pertinent to our analysis of Nauvoo counterfeiting, though, is Tiffany’s involvement in a counterfeiting case in Buffalo, New York, in April 1840. Augustus J. Tiffany was one of two witnesses at a trial for Samuel P. Judson. The local newspaper reported on Tiffany’s testimony.
RECORDER’S COURT. April 16.
Present—The Recorder, Ald. Gleason and Ramsey.
Immediately after the termination of Knight’s trial, yesterday afternoon, that of Samuel P. Judson, for counterfeiting, was called on—Messrs. H. K. Smith, Barker and Tillinghast appearing as counsel for the accused.
The principal witness called by the Prosecuting Attorney, was Augustus J. Tiffany. He stated that in the summer of ’37, the notorious Otis Allen, in company with the accused, took a buggy and went to Lockport. Returning shortly after, they came to the City Hotel, with a trunk which was taken to Allen’s room where the contents were examined and found to be bogus half dollar pieces.
Tiffany says that on leaving the room, the trunk was locked and the key put into his keeping, with directions to allow Judson free access to the same, that he might draw therefrom ad libitum.
A short time after this, another trunk was bro’t and deposited in the same room, containing coin of a like character to the first—the total amount of the whole being from 5 to $6,000. It was understood that this commodity was worth 50 per cent. of its face. Tiffany never used any of the money except one piece which he took to a jeweler to ascertain its real character. Judson, however, helped himself to such as he had occasion for, and made his returns to Allen.
These assertions were partly corroborated by another witness named John O’Brien, an acquaintance of the parties.
No evidence was adduced to confute the above charges. The defence rested solely on an impeachment of the two witnesses for truth and veracity.
About 10 o’clock last night the evidence closed, and this morning Messrs. Smith and Barker addressed the jury, with strong and pointed appeals in behalf of their client–followed by District Attorney Rogers, for the people.
Up to the time of going to press, no result was had.Commercial Advertiser & Journal, Buffalo, N.Y., 16 Apr. 1840, p. 2, col. 5, Newspapers.com.
Did the “notorious Otis Allen” catch your eye? Otis Allen was a big-time counterfeiter who was arrested many times in several states during the 1830s and into the 1840s for counterfeiting. He was able to evade jail time until late 1842 when he was sentenced to fifteen years at the New York state prison. In 1837, both Otis Allen and Augustus J. Tiffany worked out of the City Hotel in Buffalo (Allen as a grocer, Tiffany as a boat agent), which is why Tiffany had access to Allen’s room. According to the 1842 testimony of a man arrested with Otis Allen, Tiffany apparently helped distribute counterfeit money to passers who worked for Allen. The man testified that “he had passed counterfeit money before for [Otis] Allen which he got from Mr. Toppany [Augustus J. Tiffany], at Buffalo, &c.”3
The accused counterfeiter in the 1840 Buffalo trial, Samuel P. Judson, may also be important. Samuel Parsons Judson was a resident of Buffalo, New York, where he likely became acquainted with Otis Allen, until around 1834 when he purchased land in Elkhart County, Indiana. He and his two brothers-in-law, Lewis M. Alverson and Hiram Doolittle, were the founders of the town of Bristol. For those who read my first two Nauvoo counterfeiting posts, Elkhart County should sound familiar. About three miles east of Bristol was Bonneyville, the residence of Edward Bonney during the late 1830s. Nine miles west of Bristol was the town of Elkhart, where both Amasa Bonney and his cousin, Thomas J. Babcoke, resided in the late 1830s.
Who was the connection?
Joseph H. Jackson claimed that one of Joseph Smith’s “emissaries” sent Barton and Eaton to Nauvoo. As of right now, I haven’t been able to identify a decent connection between Joseph Smith, himself, and counterfeiters in Buffalo. So, who else would’ve tapped “Barton” and Eaton from Buffalo, New York, to help with the 1843 Nauvoo counterfeiting operations?
One possibility is Amasa Bonney. Daniel D. T. Benedict was pretty excited in August 1843 about who Amasa Bonney was working with. Did Amasa have connections to the Buffalo criminal network from his previous residence in Elkhart County? Or had Amasa tapped into the New York counterfeiting networks on his mission in late 1842 and early 1843? Given Amasa’s family connections to the counterfeiting operations in the Illinois Rock River Valley, it seems curious that Amasa would’ve reached out to folks in Buffalo for help in setting up a new “mint.” Perhaps he’d made some new acquaintances on his mission?
Another possibility is Joseph H. Jackson, himself.
I was curious about what happened to Samuel P. Judson in April 1840, so I checked the next day’s edition of the local newspaper to see what the jury decided. Turned out they couldn’t come to an agreement, and the trial was held over to the next term of court. (Judson’s bail was set at $2,000.) Just a few paragraphs below this, though, something caught my eye.
The trial of Jos. Jackson, on a charge of dealing in counterfeiting money, is now in progress. He was tried at a recent sitting of the court, when the jury could not agree.Commercial Advertiser & Journal, Buffalo, N.Y., 17 Apr. 1840, p. 1, col. 2, Newspapers.com.
So, apparently, a guy named Joseph Jackson was on trial in Buffalo on counterfeiting charges in April 1840. The newspaper noted that he was acquitted the following day, but it sure seemed like a strange coincidence to me. Could Joseph Jackson, the indicted counterfeiter in the 1840 Buffalo court, be the same as Joseph H. Jackson, the reluctant counterfeiter-in-chief in 1843 Nauvoo? Could Joseph H. Jackson, himself, be the connection to “Barton” and Eaton of Buffalo, New York?
To be continued…
1Joseph H. Jackson, A Narrative of the Adventures and Experience of Joseph H. Jackson in Nauvoo, (1844; Morrison, Ill: Ken Yost, 1960), 10, available at Archive.org. Jackson said that Joseph Smith pressured him into manufacturing bogus in a “remote” part of Nauvoo and also supposedly sent $200 to St. Louis to purchase “German plate” (probably nickel silver) for the purpose of counterfeiting coin. Jackson noted that it was about the same time of the June 1843 extradition attempt on Joseph Smith.
2William Richard Cutter, comp., Genealogical and Family History of Western New York: A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of a Commonwealth and the Building of a Nation Vol. 3 (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1912), p. 1073.
3Testimony of Oliver H. Maxwell in “City Intelligence,” New-York Daily Tribune, 16 Sep. 1842, p. 4 col. 1.