Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County


From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County

THE FIRST MAN SENT TO THE PENITENTIARY

It has been generally supposed that one William Curry was the first person sentenced to the state prison from this county; indeed, many of the oldest living residents have for a long time labored under this impression. After considerable research among the old records, it has been ascertained that this is an error. In an old court record, saved from the court house fire, we find the following entry

"March 21, 1820. State of Ohio vs. Benjamin Brokaw. Indictment for passing counterfeit bank notes to David Hays."

"This day came the prosecuting attorney, as well as the defendant, who, upon being arraigned for plea, saith he is not guilty in manner and form as in the indictment against him is alleged, and of this he puts himself upon the country for trial, and the prosecuting attorney likewise; and thereupon came a jury, to-wit: John Roe, John Gamble, Isaac Johnson, John Baker, William Devolon, Philip Stout, James Stewart, William Blair, John Buck, Joseph S. Gillespie, John Coil, Thomas Burnet, who being elected, tried and sworn the truth to speak upon the issue joined, retired to consult of their verdict."

On the succeeding day, this entry was made in relation to the above case:

"The jury yesterday sworn to try this cause, came into court and returned their verdict in these words, to-wit: We, the jury, do find the defendant guilty. The defendant, by P. Brush, his attorney, gives notice that he will move the court to grant a new trial and arrest the judgment therein."

March 24, 1820, the motion for a new trial was overruled. "And it being demanded of the prisoner whether or not he had anything to say, why the court should not pronounce sentence upon him, he said he had nothing more to say than what he had already said. Therefore, on due consideration, it is considered by the court, that said Benjamin Brokaw be confined in the penitentiary of this state for the term of three years; one twenty-four hours of which time shall be in the solitary cells of the penitentiary."

By reference to another part of the work, it will be seen that a number of persons were guilty of counterfeiting in ye olden times; and a number of arrests were made for the offense. About this time, one James Brown, who possessed the aliases of Amos Headley, and Hadley, was arrested, tried, and convicted, and sentenced to the penitentiary for three years. Curry, it appears, had been passing bogus bank notes successfully for some time, but was detected in the act, likely in the summer of 1821; the first official action being dated Thursday, October 11, 1821, and reading as follows:

"State of Ohio vs. William Curry. Indictment for passing, forging, and assisting in forging counterfeit bank notes. This day came the prosecuting attorney, as well as the defendant in his own proper person, in the last mentioned cause, who, being arraigned for plea, saith he is not guilty, in manner and form as in the indictment against him is alleged ; and not being ready for trial, and offering no bail for his appearance, it is therefore ordered by the court that the said William Curry be remanded to the jail of this county."

On the 13th of October, the prisoner was tried by the following jury: Richard Todhunter, Peter Eyman, John Coil, Abraham Bush, James Carothers, Otho Dowden, Abraham Lambert, Joseph Gibson, William Hill, Hugh McCandless, Joseph Haymaker, and William Thompson, "all of whom being elected, tried, and sworn the truth to speak upon the issues joined, returned the following verdict, to wit: 'We, the jury, do lind that the defendant is guilty in manner and form as in the indictment against him is alleged.' Thereupon the defendant, by Henry Brush, his attorney, moved for a new trial, the motion was overruled, and " it was considered by the court that the said William Curry be confined in the penitentiary of this state for the term of fifteen years, three months of which shall be in the solitary cells of the penitentiary."

In disposing of counterfeit notes, Curry usually pretended that he was unable to read, and offered them upside down to his unsuspecting victim. The chief prosecuting witness was Dr. Eastman, who joined the band in order to turn evidence against him. On the night preceding his departure for the penitentiary, Curry took a dose of arsenic, obtained probably from his wife, but the quantity being too great it did not kill him. However, it maimed him for life, and his face ever after was as white as marble. He was reprieved some time prior to the expiration of his sentence, and went West.

March 26, 1822, one Margaret Redmond was arrested for the same offense, but forfeited her recognizance, and her name is lost on the records.

On the same day, Jacob Shobe was arrested, tried, and subsequently acquitted, March 29th, the same year.

As late as June, 1858, a recognizance was filed by Smith Rankin, justice of the peace, for several witnesses to appear against Blalock, for passing counterfeit bank notes. July 8th he was arraigned, plead not guilty, and Briggs and Maynard were appointed by the court to defend him. July 13th he was tried, and court adadjourned until the 14th, when he was convicted, and on the 15th was sentenced to the penitentiary for five years. Mills Gardner was the prosecuting attorney.