Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


A Counterfeit Silver Dollar

In the 1880s, Fairfield’s The Weekly Journal carried news items from as far away as Columbus Junction, Burlington, Albia and Knoxville. Some of the Van Buren County news stories are interesting and informative.

According to an advertisement in several 1884 issues, a hack line existed from Van Buren County to Fairfield, operated by Charles H. Crane. The Birmingham-Mt. Zion Hack Line was comfortable, employed good horses, and got over the road in great shape. Jones’ Drug Store took orders for the hack, which operated for hire in a fashion similar to taxi-cab service.

In Volume VII Issue 7, dated Dec. 11, 1884, it was announced that Birmingham hunters had engaged in “a circle wolf hunt” the day before.

There was a long discussion in one of the issues about parents’ responsibilities in terms of their children’s salvation, church discipline, church-related education and their religious needs. Equally fascinating were some of the political references.

There were 150,000 Democrats in the State of Iowa in 1884. Democrats of Mt. Pleasant organized a permanent headquarters where meetings could be held and papers filed.

The Washington Press, it pointed out, was moralizing over the recent Republican Presidential defeat to Democrat Grover Cleveland. It was not wise to give way to “isms” and “tions” or cater to platforms that would make the party a curious assortment of moral and sentimental odds and ends. “The (Republican) party must fall back on and exercise its horse sense.”

Perhaps the most interesting article concerns counterfeit money that was circulating at the time. I have found interesting information about banking in Iowa, printed currencies, and most recently printed stock certificates. But, this newspaper carries a story about counterfeiting the silver dollar!

The December 4, 1884 edition said that a new counterfeit silver dollar was in circulation “which is very cleverly executed.” It is so perfect in ring and imitation, that it is nearly impossible to detect. The counterfeit dollars have the dates from 1878 to 1884, and the material is “white metal,” compactly compressed in a die and carefully plated with silver. Quite a few had been passed, according to the article, and were showing up almost daily at local banks. A man was arrested in Keokuk for allegedly passing one, but he was released for lack of direct evidence.

According to the newspaper report, the fake silver dollars were slightly lacking in weight, which they said was the only way to determine whether or not a dollar coin was genuine.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick