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They had had their right ears cut off (cropt) and their foreheads branded with the letter C.

1630Boston1630Boston Posts: 13,777 ✭✭✭✭✭

I posted part of this as a comment in another thread, but thought more members would enjoy, so here it is :)
yes it's long, but interesting
Tis’ Death to Counterfeit: New England Counterfeiters in NY

While an ongoing border dispute took place between the governments of New York and Massachusetts, Ichabod Miller eked out a living on his farm in West Stockbridge, Mass. On December 20, 1772, his pastoral life was turned upside down.

Miller was awoken to the commotion of an angry mob at his door. In a moment they had broken in the door and he faced the business end of a loaded musket. He was accused of counterfeiting. This crime could be heart stopping. If proven, the sentence was death.

Counterfeiting was fairly prevalent in the colonies at this time. It was relatively easy to do, it was extremely profitable, hard to discover, and even harder to prosecute.

1771 a batch of New York paper money was so extensively counterfeited that officials proposed printing an illustration of a hanging on all printed money. The plan was never carried out, but they hoped the scene of a man hanging from the gallows would have profound impact.

In addition to deadly prosecutions, officials devised ever more sophisticated methods to thwart counterfeiters. Engravers used complex symbols and marks to make identifying genuine bills from counterfeits easier. Still, the relatively poor quality of printed bills generally meant that the average person was easily duped. As it does today, money often changed hands with little notice of whether it was real or fake.

Counterfeiters made plates and printed whole sheets of fake currency. Once in circulation, it was hard to detect, and harder to trace to a source once detected. When bogus money was reported by the occasional eagle-eyed merchant or tradesman, it was confiscated, leaving the reporting party that much poorer. Even worse, people with fake currency could be prosecuted for merely possessing or innocently exchanging counterfeit money.

The Ichabod Miller Affair

In October 1772 Berkshire County, MA, Sheriff Elijah Williams executed a New York warrant for the arrest of six men from Berkshire County. Williams initially tried to convince Justice Timothy Woodbridge of Stockbridge to validate the warrant, but Woodbridge refused for lack of evidence. Justice John Ashley, from Sheffield, was satisfied with the evidence and endorsed the warrant.

Williams and Ezra Hickok, a deputy, delivered the accused to the New York border. Mark Hopkins and a New York Justice, Theodore Sedgwick, co-signed the warrant. Accordingly, Gill Belcher, Ethan Lewis, Daniel Lewis, J. Adams & J. Caul were turned over to New York officials. A sixth person, while unspecified, was probably Wilholm Hulbert. The men were tried in New Canaan, NY, and confined in Albany County jail.

Later, a separate warrant was issued by William B. Whiting, a justice from Albany County, for John Wall Lovey of Great Barrington. He was implicated by Daniel Lewis – one of the men previously arrested. Ezra Fellows, Wheaton Hicks and Michael Hollenbeck, all Berkshire County officials, delivered Lovey to Albany County.

Daniel Lewis also gave testimony against Gil Belcher and Ethan Lewis, saying they had counterfeited four or five shilling notes and Spanish coins. In the end, Belcher, Hulbert, and Lovey were sentenced to death. (Daniel Lewis was apparently released, but the disposition of the rest of the Berkshire County counterfeiters has not been discovered.)

On December 20, 1772 at two in the morning, Ichabod Miller and his family were awoken by Albany County Deputy Sheriff Daniel Davids knocking down the door. Miller lived close to the New York-Massachusetts border, but on the Mass. side of the line. He later testified that in arresting him for counterfeiting, the Deputy Sheriff and his five-man posse smashed open his door with an axe, and shackled and removed him to the jail in Albany, where he contracted smallpox.

At the time, New York asserted jurisdiction over all residents west of the Connecticut River, part of a long-standing dispute between New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts (and what would become Vermont). During examination by the King’s Attorney, Ichabod Miller invoked Massachusetts’ authority in the case. The King’s Attorney responded: “God Damn your Authority.” The King’s Attorney told Miller he would get a Massachusetts authority to endorse the Miller warrant after the fact.

NY Bill
Miller appealed to Stockbridge Justice Timothy Woodbridge who referred the case to the Massachusetts Legislature. During January 1773, a committee was appointed by that body to investigate and report their findings to the Governor.

Miller’s raising the issue of jurisdiction was an unexpected gift for others who were arrested by the Albany County posse. Several of them followed his example and appealed for relief from the Massachusetts Legislature, arguing that they too had never been examined by Massachusetts justice.

**The Fate of Counterfeiters

While the battle over jurisdiction stalled in the Massachusetts Legislature, officials seem to have redoubled their efforts against New England counterfeiters.

Wilholm Hulbert, already confined in the Albany jail, confessed his crime and implicated others. Having already had previous convictions, Dr. John Smith and Phineas Granger of Connecticut were easy to identify – they had had their right ears cut off (cropt) and their foreheads branded with the letter C.

Others implicated by Hulbert were Thomas Smith, Dr. Joseph Bill (also known as Packer), James Sutton, Jock’ Mehonm (possibly Jehoiaikim Mtohksin, a Stockbridge Indian), Abner Burrows (of Hartford, CT), Lewis Lett, and Colonel Jeremiah and Stephen Hogeboom, merchants from Claverack, NY. All were accused of making and passing counterfeit bills; Dr. Bill was named the engraver.

After trail and conviction, Wilholm Hulbert (who had turned state’s evidence), Gil Belcher, and Ethan Lewis were each condemned to death. Hulbert’s cooperation saved him from the hangman’s noose, but the sentences of the others stood.

In a letter to the Massachusetts Governor, Belcher admitted that his crimes took place in Great Barrington and he begged the Massachusetts governor to “interpose in his behalf.” Belcher stated, “We ware taken out of our town,” Belcher stated “hawled away like oxsn to the slaughter [and] have a great desire to die in our land… [rather than] in the lands… [of] the Dutch.” Massachusetts officials eventually responded by requesting “the poor miserable… creatures… be treated with tenderness, compassion and justice.”

Before his execution, John Smith confessed that he was previously convicted of counterfeiting, was sentenced “to be cropt and branded,” but had escaped from the Hartford jail and joined Daniel Lewis in “dollar making.” He admitted that he had a counterfeit bill at Ichabod Miller’s house, but said he never exchanged it. His last words were said to have been: “Alas! You may think… there is no danger, bread eaten in deceit is pleasant, but know ye for all these things God will bring thee unto judgment.”

Gilbert Belcher was reported to have barricaded himself in the Albany jail with gunpowder, but was subdued and hung the next day. It is said that his dying words were: “No gain afforded me so much pleasure as that which I acquired by illicit means.”

Broadside of the confession of John Wall Lovey printed in 1773John Wall Lovey was the last of the Berkshire County counterfeiters to hang. With his dying breath he is said to have forgave Daniel Lewis and his prosecutors, praying God pardon his sins.
more here if interested https://www.newyorkalmanack.com/2018/04/18th-century-warning-tis-death-to-counterfeit/

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