Counterfeit Coins in Berrien County

The first bank in Ray’s Mill, GA [Ray City] was not established until 1909. In the earliest days of Berrien County there were no local financial establishments. The nearest bank was 120 miles away at Saint Mary’s, GA, in Camden County. It had a capital of $30,000.00. In the 1840s the cashier was George Washington Winter and the bank’s president was John.G. Winter (see THE LETTERS OF A GEORGIA UNIONIST: JOHN G. WINTER AND SECESSION).

John G. Winters, a prominent citizen of Columbus GA, was president of the Bank of St. Mary's in the 1840s.

John G. Winter was a prominent citizen of Columbus, GA who purchased controlling interest of the Bank of St. Mary’s in 1841. In 1844, he was elected mayor of Columbus. During the Civil War he remained a Unionist.

Due to the remoteness, conducting commerce from the region of present day Berrien county was daunting.  Early Berrien settlers traded at Centerville, GA  near St. Marys and its trading port.  Although the Bank of St. Mary’s issued currency as early as 1840, the pioneer farmers and stockmen of Berrien [then Lowndes county] were not wont to exchange their products for paper money.

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary's

1840 ten dollar note, Bank of St. Mary’s.  John G. Winter, President.

The oldtimers may have had reason not to trust paper bank notes, as this clipping from the April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times indicated:

April 28, 1852  New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary's is broke.

April 28, 1852 New York Daily Times reports the Bank of St. Mary’s is broke.

But large payments received in gold or silver coin could be difficult to carry. According to a Berrien County Centennial article written in 1956,  “It was often transported in ‘saddlebags,’ a kind of leather wallet swung across the saddle, containing a spacious wallet on each side. The cattle raisers of this territory often brought home as much as a half bushel of specie in this manner, obtained from the sale of beef steers driven to Savannah or Jacksonville and sold.”

coronet-quarter-eagle-gold

Berrien County, GA pioneers knew that even commerce transacted in gold coin did not always protect the seller.

The following item appeared in the Atlanta Constitution Tuesday, October 31, 1882.

From the Berrien County News.
 Counterfeit two dollar and a half gold pieces are in circulation in this vicinity. They are not hard to detect. A half a day’s carrying them in the pocket rubs off the (?) gold and exposes to view a white looking metal.”

In 1910 counterfeiters were caught operating in Berrien, Coffee, and Appling counties.

Atlanta Constitution
February 25, 1910

PHONEY GOLD COINS CAUSE TWO ARRESTS

Dr. J. Dedge of Coffee County is Held to Await Trial for Counterfeiting

    Valdosta, Ga. Feb 24 – Dr. J.R. Dedge, a dentist at Nicholls, Coffee county, Ga. and his brother. E. E. Dedge of Milltown, Berrien county, were arrested by United States secret service men and  brought to Valdosta to-day, charged with being implicated in the disposal of counterfeiting $10 gold pieces.
    The former was given a perliminary hearing before United States Commissioner Roy E. Powell and bound over under a bond of $4,000. The warrant against the latter was dismissed.
    Dr. J. R. Dedge was arrested by Special Treasury Agent J. M. Wright and Postoffice Inspector Brittain, at the home of his father in Appling county at a late hour last night, while E. E. Dedge was taken into custody by Deputy Marshals J. M. Sutton and D. H. Riley at Milltown.
    When the former was arrested the officers said a small box containing ten spurious  $10 gold pieces was found in his overcoat pocket and these coins were exhibited as evidence against the accused at the hearing in the afternoon. Their workmanship is pronounced by the officers as about the best they saw. The coins apparently are made of a white metal plated with gold and could be readily passed as genuine on a person who happened not to notice them carefully. Their greatest defect is their light weight, two of them weighing but little more than our genuine coin weighs.
    The case against D. Dedge was worked up by Inspector Brittain. On the stand he stated that the box of coins, which he has received through the mails addressed to the  accused at Douglas, Ga. had been ordered forwarded to Nicholls. The inspector’s attention was called to it by the post-master and his assistants, whose suspicions had been aroused in some manner. The inspector opened the box and carried it to the deputy collector’s office at Macon, where it was exhibited to Collector Storrs.

The Dedge brothers were from a family of dentists who figured prominently Wiregrass history.  They were involved in a number of currency schemes or other frauds, not the least of which was the Wild Man of the Wiregrass.

Related Posts:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s