Windham Life and Times – March 29, 2019

Counterfeit Crown Point Note

Passed at Dennison’s Tavern in Windham in 1755

A Crown Point Note, similar to the counterfeit passed in Windham, is pictured above. As can be seen, any half way decent printer could have counterfeited these notes and many did.

James and Donna Belle Garvin have written a really interesting account of New Hampshire’s Taverns and Turnpikes. In On the Road North of Boston, the Garvin’s write about the problem of counterfeiting bills prior and during the Revolutionary War.  Unlike today, when Federal Reserve Notes have all kinds of technology embedded in them to prevent the problem of counterfeiting, early notes in America looked as if they were made with pen and ink of plain paper. One of the places the counterfeiters hit in 1755 was Dennison’s Tavern in Windham NH.

The Garvin’s write that, “New England’s developing road network facilitated the spread of other types of crime into New Hampshire, particularly the making and passing of counterfeit money. As early as the 1680’s, an English immigrant known to his contemporaries as the ‘Chymist of Cocheo’ faced trial for counterfeiting coins in Dover. And, in 1774, ‘the infamous Glazier Wheeler, the Money-Maker of Cohoss, and Peter Hubbart his Accomplice’ were apprehended and brought to trial in Plymouth. Frequently, counterfeit money was passed to an unsuspecting public at the local tavern. Around 1755, counterfeiter Benjamin Winn unwisely drew attention to himself at a Windham tavern by treating anyone who entered and paying with an eight-pound bill.” Unfortunately, nothing is recorded in the historical record about Denison’s tavern in Windham. On September 28, 1758, by a legislative act, the number of taverns allowed in New Hampshire were limited to eighty-four. Windham was limited to one. According to Morrison, “In 1755, John Stuart, who lived on the Range near Robert Armstrong, was an innkeeper;” but no mention of Denison.

“During the American Revolution, counterfeiting served a political rather than purely economic, purposes; loyalists in New Hampshire as elsewhere undertook to discredit the new American economy by circulating spurious notes obtained from New York City. It is perhaps significant that the leader of the Tory counterfeit ring in New Hampshire was himself a prominent tavernkeeper, Colonel Stephen Holland of Londonderry. Predictably, Henry Tufts also became entangled in this counterfeiting operation. At a Claremont tavern toward the end of the Revolution, Tufts happened to share a bed with a stranger who claimed in the night to ‘have long been an agent of the British, who had now employed him…to explore the country, and circulate counterfeit money’ Tufts ‘found not the slightest difficulty in passing [the spurious notes he received],’ his first purchase being, naturally a horse.”

There is an interesting account of the use of counterfeit bills during the Revolution. Many Windham men served under General Stark at the Battle of Bennington in Vermont. It was to these men that the counterfeiters hoped to pass their spurious bills.

“When the workmen were tearing down the old Wells & Newell’s Store in Springfield, Vt. in the early 1800s, they discovered a cache of money hidden in a wall – both counterfeit and real. It was, they believed, the remnants of the Eureka counterfeiting ring — a band of Tory sympathizers who hoped to pass their counterfeit money off on General John Stark and his soldiers as they passed through toward the Battle of Bennington. The story, as retold many times, goes like this:”

“In the summer of 1777, a group of men were working their way through New England, pouring phony pewter coins and passing fake paper money to unsuspecting victims. The state of official currency during the American Revolution was dicey, creating opportunities for counterfeiters. The bills from the old store walls bore the image of an Indian in a canoe travelling down a raging stream. They carried the legend: ‘Pass Me Along.’ ”“

This band of counterfeiters had holed themselves up in the tiny town (not even a town, really) of Eureka, Vermont. The area gets its name from the small schoolhouse located there. Four families had built the school in colonial times. And the school got its name from David Searle, a young graduate from Yale College who had set off for the frontier. Upon reaching Fort No. 4 in western New Hampshire, he learned that a small school nearby was lacking a teacher. Searle traipsed through the wilderness until he found the building and shouted, ‘Eureka!’ The name caught on. As the legend goes, our counterfeiters were busily drinking and pouring phony coin late into the night. They made up a little ditty to celebrate their expected boon:

 

Our money bright

Buys rum at night

For the weary soldier boy

 

For what care we

And what care he

If it is all alloy

 

From daylight to dark

We’ll cheat old Stark

Yankee Doodle do.

 

“Eureka, however, was like any small town. It wasn’t so easy to keep a secret. The young daughter of a friend of General Stark overheard the song, and it stuck in her head. Out gathering her cows one morning, the girl saw Stark’s soldiers coming down the road. Rushing to meet him, she told Stark he had enemies in the house at Eureka. Forewarned, Stark seized the counterfeiters and most of their bogus cash – missing only a small portion hidden in the walls. He proclaimed it a good omen for the battle that was coming. Exactly how true is the tale? Tough to say. There certainly was money found in the walls of the old store. And there certainly were counterfeiters during the Revolution. One large-scale counterfeiting operation was centered in Londonderry, N.H. – Stark’s own hometown. It was organized by Tories hoping to destabilize American currency, and one of the leaders of that ring was well known to Stark: It was his own brother. But that’s another story…” http://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/general

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