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.
Thanks for posting these findings. History is pretty interesting!
Another amazing feat of research, especially the Tiffany clue! While my primary interest is Edward Bonney, I have to look at anyone with 1840s Nauvoo connections. William Clayton’s journal for June 30, 1847 includes this entry (as I’m sure you know):”After dinner the brethren commenced making two rafts, one for each division, and a while afterwards Elder Samuel Brannan arrived, having come from the Pacific to meet us, obtain council, etc. He is accompanied by Smith of the firm of Jackson Heaton & Bonney, bogus snakers of Nauvoo.” I don’t know who this Smith is, but assuming “Heaton” is Eaton, Clayton appears to suggest that there was some cooperation among the four men. Bonney never mentions Jackson or Eaton in “Banditti of the Prairies,” or in his unpublished manuscripts. Of course, he’s not about to mention his counterfeiting past.
Yes, I’m still trying to figure out who that “Smith” is that accompanied Brannan from California eastward. I have a suspicion, but I can’t confirm quite yet.
My thinking right now is that Jackson, Eaton, and Tiffany, had one counterfeiting operation going on in Nauvoo, and Edward Bonney and Dr. A. B. Williams had a separate operation in town. (There were likely others that were occurring with Mormons like Peter Haws, but I don’t think they had as high of quality of product.) Bonney and Williams’ partnership is pretty solid based on Bonney’s 1847 trial. John Long’s confession just before his hanging also lends weight to Bonney & Williams working together. Long mentioned several Nauvoo citizens that could confirm Bonney’s ownership of counterfeiting presses, including R. H. Loomis, Dr. A. B. Williams, Carlos Gove, and Joseph A. McCall. (Robert D. Foster’s account of John Long’s confession also included Theodore Turley as another witness in that list. It’s really weird that he’s the only Mormon in that group, though. But it does explain why both Carlos Gove and Theodore Turley popped up on the December 1845 indictment list.)
I agree that they were all very aware of each other. It’s interesting that in the spring of 1844, M. G. Eaton and A. B. Williams were the two that revealed Jackson’s plans to start an assassination plot against Joseph Smith. Eaton and Williams really only ever had legal problems around counterfeiting, so I suspect that murder was crossing the line for them. Besides, they had a good situation going in Nauvoo, but it revolved around Joseph Smith’s privileged status at the head of the Mormons. I get the impression that Joseph H. Jackson just wanted to burn the whole place down by that point.
From what you’ve written, the gentleman at the Chicago National Archives center who e-mailed me that it has no record of Edward Bonney’s 1846-47 Springfield, IL trial was mistaken. I’ll need to try again, unless FamilySearch has it.
Ronald Stump, a Keokuk native who, in 1961, was convicted of murdering one Michael Daly, the fiancé of his former fiancée, and sentenced to 75 years at the Fort Madison penitentiary, did considerable research on Bonney until he won a new trial and was acquitted in 1969. The same year he was released, he and Steven J. Murphy privately published “A Checklist of Sources for Bonney’s Banditti of the Prairies.” One source is “Harlan, A.W.,, Sketches of Early Iowa: Abiatha B. Williams, Keokuk Daily Gate City, Jan. 24, 27, 30, 1871.” It’s a defense of Williams. So far as I can tell, the only existing copy is in the Iowa Historical Society, whose librarian informed me that it has “not been microfilmed and are currently in preservation storage” and not accessible. In any case, Stump, whom I suspect did shoot Michael Daly out of jealousy, was not at all sympathetic towards Bonney. Williams, along with Silas Heaight, did not come off well in “Banditti,” for obvious reasons. but it would be interesting to get his perspective on the matter.
No, the gentleman was correct that the court records were lost. The account of the trial that I’m referring to is from the National Police Gazette (30 January 1847, p. 3), available at GenealogyBank.com. It’s clear that Williams worked with Bonney with the counterfeiting in Nauvoo, and Silas Heaight was aware of it.
TRIAL OF BONNEY OF THE WEST.
ON A CHARGE OF COUNTERFEITING.
We have just received the following letters of a correspondent of the Chicago Democrat. They contained a condensed account of the deeply interesting trial at Springfield, Illinois, of Bonney, the western officer, who rendered himself so celebrated in capturing and consigning to justic the murderers of Colonel Davenport. Bonney evinced great intrepidity and daring in these arrests, and the charges of his being concerned with counterfeiting and marauding gangs was raised by the captured murderers, as was supposed, out of revenge. We give the trial. The reader may judge for himself–after the jury:
SPRINGFIELD, Dec. 28, 1846.
The trial of Edward Bonney for counterfeiting commenced this morning. As it occasions great excitement, I will endeavor to make you acquainted with the substance of the evidence, as far as given.
A. B. Williams was first sworn on the part of the prosecution. He testified that in the spring of 1844, he saw Bonney engaged in making bogus in Nauvoo, and that he (Bonney) manufactured in his presence 6 or 8 Mexican dollars–In the fall of that year, Bonney showed him four or five hundred bogus dollars, and stated that they were of his manufacture.
On the cross examination he was asked if he had told certain persons that he knew nothing against Bonney; to which he replied that he had no recollection of having done so. He also stated that he refused to testify before a grand jury of Hancock county, because he was afraid of his life, from the Mormons.
He represented his connexion with the Nauvoo counterfeiters to have been the result of threats on the part of Jo Smith and the leading Mormons–they having expressed an intention to make cat-fish bait of him in case of any disclosures.
It was evident to all who heard the testimony of Williams that he had more to do with counterfeiting than he disclosed. He tried in every way to shield himself, but in doing so made it entirely apparent that he had been deeply engaged with Bonney in counterfeiting. He was an accomplice beyond a doubt.
James J. Crail was next called, and testified that Bonney came to his house in Fulton county, some time in 1844, and in the course of conversation, inquired if the witness did not wish to engage in a speculation, and then showed him a bogus Mexican dollar, saying it was made in Nauvoo, and that the business was a safe one and very profitable–that from two to five hundred dollars could be made of a night, and that that they were so made that they could not be detected by any ordinary test–that the material, or blanks were obtained in New York, and shipped to Nauvoo, where they were milled, died, plated, or washed. The counterfeit coin Bonney gave was a trifle larger than the genuine in order to make up a deficiency in weight. Bonney then proposed to the witness to join him in setting up a bogus factory in Vermont (Fulton county), and urged upon him that he (witness) could do it with impunity as he was largely engaged in business and would not be suspected. There were two or three conversations with Bonney; and Williams was present at one of them, and took part with Bonney in urging upon the witness to engage in the bogus business.
Silas Heaight testified that he was in the employ of the government for the purpose of ferreting out conterfeiters, and that in the spring of 1845, with a view of ascertaining Bonney’s connexion with counterfeiting and the operations of other counterfeiters he had several conversations with him–that at one time Bonney offered to furnish him with 100 bogus dollars for $75 good money; at another he stated his want of $2,00 or $3,00 to get material for making bogus, from Connecticut, where there was an establishment from which it was procured. Bonney finally agreed with Heaight, that they would go together east, and procure blanks, but failed to meet Heaight at St. Louis, because, as he afterwards stated by way of excuse, he got a more profitable job in arresting the Davenport murderers.
Charles Warner swore that two, or two and a half years ago, he saw counterfeit money in Bonney’s possession at Nauvoo–that an individual brought Bonney several Mexican dollars that were so worn as to be easily detected–Bonney took them, promised to fix them up and return them.
John Carpenter saw a quantity of Mexican bogus in Bonney’s possession at Nauvoo, a year ago last spring.
Robert McFarland swore that sometime during the winter of 1844, he bought four bogus Mexican dollars of Bonney, giving him two dollars in good money.
With this testimony the case was closed on the part of the government. The Court has adjourned for supper, and I suppose the examination will go on in the evening.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Dec. 29, 1846.
The trial of Bonney was the great subject of interest. The testimony for the defence was brought foward last evening and this morning.
Nathaniel Belcher, testified that a few days after the execution of the Davenport murderers, he saw Bonny and Williams together–Bonney introduced Williams, and the latter stated that he had yet to learn any thing against Bonney.
P. A. Walker, swore that in a conversation with him, a short time after said execution, that he knew nothing against Bonney, and that the statements of the murderer Long, implicating Bonney, in counterfeiting and murder were false. Long had made charges of this character on the scaffold, and referred to Williams to substantiate them. On his cross examination the witness admitted that he felt a strong interest in favor of Bonney, although he was a suspicious character, and generally though to have been engaged in counterfeiting, yet he thought he ought to be acquitted on the account of the good he had done.
James Reynolds, testified that he was foreman of the Grand Jury of Hancock county in the fall of 1844–that Williams was before the jury, and think he swore he did not know of any one being engaged in counterfeiting at Nauvoo. This was after the death of the Smiths.
William Smith was a member of the Grand Jury. Williams was a witness and gave a description of a counterfeiting machine, which he said Jo Smith got permission to have concealed in his (Williams’) house. He did not testify that any one made use of the press for making bogus. It was safe at that time for Williams to testify truly before the Grand Jury. Williams refused to answer questions that went to implicate any one.
A. Hamilton swore that Williams was at his house a year ago and told a story of Jo Smith making bogus in his presence. Witness asked Williams if Bonney was engaged in it. Williams answered in the negative. Witness intended his question as a general one, but Williams may have understood it as referring to the particular subject of conversation. Haight was present.
Thomas H. Owens was a member of the Hancock Grand Jury and testified in substance the same as Messrs. Reynolds and Smith.
Ex. Gov. Thomas Ford testified that at the request of Mr. Knox, he furnished Bonney with requisitions to enable him to arrest, and bring to this State the murderers of Col. Davenport. This was in the summer of 1845. At one time he saw in Bonney’s possession a sheet of blank notes on the Bank of Missouri, and another on the Illinois bank. The notes were produced and identified. Bonney knew of the indictment against him before he was arrested last winter. The witness desired for considerations of public policy to prevent Bonney’s arrest at that time, and accordingly kept him out of the way until the Marshal and District Attorney could be consulted. Upon their declining to delay the arrest, Bonney was produced and taken into the custody of the Marshal.
N. H. Ridgely identified the sheets of blank bills as genuine.
The testimony relative to the bank notes was objected to, but permitted to go to the jury.
James L. Estis identified the bank bills. He also testified in relation to charges for counterfeiting in Iowa, against Williams and Bonney.
Samuel Payne, had heard Charles Warner say that Bonney was a rascal, and ought to go to the Penitentiary–that he (Bonney) was hell against the twelve, and deeply involved in counterfeiting.
This is, I believe, substantially the testimony on both sides. Counsel are now engaged in arranging the case to the jury, and there will probably be no verdict to-night.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Dec. 30.
Last evening the argument in the Bonney case was concluded. The counsel for the defence insisted that the witness Williams was utterly unworthy of credit, and that his testimony ought to be disregarded. On the part of the prosecution it was contended that although Williams might be disregarded as an accomplice of Bonney yet his testimony was so fortified, and sustained by other witnesses, that it was impossible to set it aside as false.
The arguments were of considerable length, on both sides, and I have neither space nor inclination to give you a sketch of them.
The jury retired at about half past five o’clock P.M. and at twelve, returned into court with a verdict of not guilty.
Thus has the matter ended. Great interest was felt in the trial–the court room being constantly crowded during its progress with anxious spectators.
The whole contest was about the character of the witnesses. There was testimony enough, if believed, to convict a dozen counterfeiters.
Dr. Williams (his full name was Abiathar Buck Williams) definitely seemed to have better character than Bonney or Heaight, I’ll give you that. Heaight was dirty. I think Williams panicked when he was indicted for counterfeiting in Lee County, Iowa (I still don’t know who testified against him), and he had to figure out how to get his punishment reduced, likely trying to turn states’ evidence. Williams testified against both Bonney and church leaders to authorities in Lee County at that point, though Illinois authorities refused to allow Iowa authorities to arrest the church leaders since they saw the lawsuit as “vexatious.” (Illinois authorities had already agreed with church leaders that they wouldn’t do any vexatious lawsuits or try to prosecute them for crimes as long as the Mormons agreed to leave the following spring.).
With church leaders avoiding arrest (and there being no appetite to pursue the counterfeiting charges against Bonney in Lee County due to his help with the Miller-Leisi and Davenport murderers), the plan for Williams to get his charges dropped failed. He’d already testified to the Hancock County grand jury the previous year about counterfeiting in Nauvoo, and the Illinois state authorities weren’t gonna pursue anything against church leaders anyway. That’s why I believe he worked with Heaight to get Bonney and church leaders indicted on federal charges–he HAD to provide testimony at court in order to have an excuse to get his Lee County charges dropped or lessened. And it WORKED. The prosecuting attorney in Lee County dropped the counterfeiting charges against Williams in October 1846, just a couple months before he testified at the Springfield trial.
I have a Nauvoo murder mystery in my ancestral stories that I’d love some help researching if you’re up for another investigation! The story is told at the end of my blog post here: http://www.familytreerings.org/2011/12/happy-213th-birthday-hezekiah-hatch.html
Anita, so if I’m reading it right, the evidence for murder is based on the later vision of the daughter?
It was not unusual for medical treatments of that period to include powders, and it was not unusual for people to die from bilious fever. So the only piece of circumstantial evidence that could support the daughter’s murder accusation is Foster’s behavior with the financial papers, right?