Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County

From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County


In early days, when banks were few and money was scarce, a great deal of counterfeiting was done, both in coin and paper. The Funks, Redmonds, and Curry were ringleaders in this nefarious business. Jake Funk and Curry were experts in detecting spurious notes, especially the former, whose knowledge in this direction was truly remarkable. Large quantities of this money was brought by the Funks and others from Kentucky, and circulated here. The celebrated Funk fight, recorded elsewhere, was the outgrowth of one of these transactions. They were always well supplied with counterfeit as well as good money. In transactions with strangers, 'they would pay out some good money and some counterfeit.

As illustrative of their dare-devil impudence, it is related that on one occasion Jake Funk went to Indiana, and bought one hundred and fifty head of cattle, paid for them mostly in counterfeit money, and ordered them delivered to him at a point remote from the road he had taken. When they arrived, he, with several assistants, took charge of them, and drove them in a circuitous route toward home. In the course of two or three days, as he was proceeding slowly, and without further apprehension, on his way, he was suddenly startled by the appearance of six horsemen, with drawn revolvers aimed at his breast. Although well armed, resistance was both useless and dangerous; therefore, with a bland smile, he said pleasantly: "Gentlemen, I guess I had better surrender." The oflicer showed his authority, upon which Funk asked permission to go forward and tell his comrades that he could not accompany them any further; but well knowing his desperate character, the sheriflf refused, and ordered him to return immediately with him.

At this time Funk had a pocket-book filled with counterfeit bank notes, and also some good money; and from previous experience, well knowing that at his preliminary examination before a justice of the peace an expert would be on hand, he cudgelled his brain all along the road for some means of getting rid of the bad money without being detected. Finally he seemed to have matured a plan and throwing aside all anger, he conversed freely and gaily with his captors, diverting them with anecdotes, and gradually so engrossing their attention that they seemed to forget that he was a prisoner. But on arriving in sight of the justice's office, and seeing a great crowd collected there, in a sudden paroxysm of anger, Funk poured forth volleys of oaths, declaring it was a d—d shame and outrage for an innocent man to be arrested, with no evidence of his guilt, and at the same moment flourishing his heavy cattle whip, he threw it as far ahead of him as possible, and with the same motion jerked out his pocket-book of bogus money and hurled it into the bushes so dexterously that it was unperceived.

Arriving at the magistrate's, he was searched, and all his money submitted to the scrutiny of an expert, as he had expected, but of course was found all to be good. The sheriff and justice now vied with each other in making reparation for the injury done (as they believed) an innocent man. The magistrate insisted on keeping him over night, to which he finally acceded; but after supper, complaining of sickness, he carelessly sauntered toward the spot near which he had thrown his pocket-book, found it, returned to his room and slept with it in his pocket, and next morning rejoined his comrades in safety, to relate to them and others of his friends how easily he had duped the officers of the law.

Their headquarters, for a time at least, were at the house of Curry, which was on lands now owned by Jonathan Chaffin and his father. Smith, the former now living on the old site. One Blaylock also figured conspicuously in the counterfeiting of coin.

From a period extending, perhaps, from 1806 to 1822, counterfeiting was largely carried on by such desperadoes as the Funks, Redmonds, and William Curry, men who defied all law, and boasted that they did pass counterfeit money. Many abortive attempts were made to arrest them and break up the gang. Funk was finally arrested, sent to Kentucky, tried, and acquitted. Brokaw was arrested and sent to the penitentiary in 1820. Curry also was sent for fifteen years in 1821. Curry had many friends among the more desperate classes, and many threats of rescue were made. One Sabbath, just at the close of services in Bloomingburg, a messenger arrived with the intelligence that an attempt was to be made to take Curry from the jail. The majority of the congregation rushed out of the house and started for Washington, to foil this move, but no violent demonstrations were made, and they returned. Also, when the sheritf made preparations to transfer him from the county jail to the penitentiary at Columbus, a desperate effort was made to rescue him. The night before the day fixed upon to transfer him, his wife was admitted to his cell, and in the morning he was found very sick. A physician (Dr. Thomas McGarough) was sent for, when it was ascertained that he had taken arsenic; but in his anxiety he took too much, and threw it up, and it did not prove fatal. It was decided, however, to take him to Columbus on horseback, by way of Bloomingburg, past the present sites of Medway and London. Threats were made by his friends of forcible rescue, and he had been closely guarded while in jail; and when Sheriff Robison started with him, he was escorted by a number of brave horsemen. About four miles from Washington, near Gillespie's, it became apparent that he could proceed no further on horseback, because of increasing weakness, the effects of arsenic. Hastily despatching Colonel James Stewart to his (Stewart's) house for his carriage, he halted until its return, when it was determined, instead of taking the road past London, to push on straight to Columbus, reaching there in due time, without molestation.

It was learned afterward that a desperate effort at rescue had been planned among Curry's confederates; that his departure from Washington was known, as well as the route he was to take, and that seventeen splendidly caparisoned horses were secreted in a thicket about five miles this side of London, while their riders lay concealed in the bushes near the road along which Curry was expected to pass, and nothing but the seemingly providential sickness of the prisoner, and consequent change of plans, prevented a bloody encounter between two parties of brave men.

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