November 5, 1875
The interest created in our community by the arrest of Ben Boyd, the noted counterfeiter, and his wife, in this city, and their confederates in Centralia, is still maintained. We stated last week that Boyd and his wife had rented the old Wm. Kitchen house, and that it was there they were arrested. In this we were mistaken. The house they occupied is on the north side of Prairie street,(13th Avenue) and is a large two story and attic building owned by Dr. Reed. The two upon arriving at Chicago were taken before U.S. Commissioner Adams, where they waived an examination, and the commissioner held them to bail, to await action by the grand jury. Boyd was held in the sum of $30,000 and Mrs. Boyd in $15,000. Not being able to obtain parties who were willing to become responsible in such large amounts, they were sent to the Chicago jail where they will probably remain until their trial by the United States Court. The evidence against them is so perfectly overwhelming that they cannot fail of being speedily indicted, tried, and sentenced each to a long term at Joliet.
As the arrest of the counterfeiters, with those at Centralia, has been the most important that has occurred for years, the public are anxious to ascertain all about their lives and doings that can be furnished. The best sketch of Boyd’s and Drigg’s history that we have yet noticed appeared in the St.Louis Globe-Democrat of Tuesday last and which we herewith append;
Ben Boyd, as previously stated, is the engraver of the country. He was arrested at Davenport, Iowa, in 1859 or ’60 and sent to the Penitentiary at Fort Madison. At this time he was engaged in engraving plates for Jim Vessey and Charlie Hathaway, who were in this city, although the Hathaway family lived at Fort Madison. After his release from the Iowa Penitentiary, Boyd came to this city and operated for Sleight and Frisbie. He soon after went to Decatur, Ill., and married Allie Ackman, the oldest daughter of Mrs. John B. Trout, whose husband has done time in the Michigan Penitentiary, for counterfeiting of course. Boyd’s wife, who was captured with her husband at Fulton, on Thursday night, is a sister of Martha Ann Ackman, who is the wife of Pete McCartney, the great American briber, who believes in paying well for liberty when in the custody of men who “can be handled.” It was at the time of McCartney’s arrest by the Sheriff at Mattoon, Ill., in 1865, Col. Wood then being Chief of the Secret Service Department, that Ben got married. McCartney was in Springfield Jail, and Boyd acting as a stool-pigeon. He got out, and, in a few hours, was Pete’s brother-in-law. This Allie Ackman or Mrs. Boyd, rather, has a history. About the time of her marriage, she and Ed. Pierce were arrested at the Everett House, in this city, by Detective Eagan. In a traveling basket John found $25,000 in $50, $20, and $10 bogus bills, and $5,000 in scrip. Pierce was convicted, and sent to Jefferson for fifteen years, while Eagan turned the woman over to C.P. Bradley, head of the Secret Service Department at Chicago. Boyd couldn’t live without his girl, and succeeded in securing her release by “turning up;” that is, placing in the hands of the authorities plates for the face of all the bogus bills found at the time of her arrest. Boyd is probably as well known by the alias of ‘Charlie Mitchell.” He is undoubtedly the best letterer on steel in the country. It was he who engraved the $5 Traders’ of Chicago plate, which passed for a long time, even among bankers, without suspicion. Within the last year the name on this plate has been changed to the Boston Bank, the Canton Bank, and, within the last month, to the Aurora Bank, of Aurora, Ill., large numbers of which notes are now in circulation. Some four years ago he cut a $50 Treasury note plate, and he and Driggs flooded North Missouri with the counterfeits. It was Boyd, also, who manufactured the 50-cent Lincoln vignette plate which gave the Department so much trouble.
He learned the trade of an engraver in Cincinnati, under Nat Kenzie, who was in the counterfeiting business also, and is now in the Pennsylvania Penitentiary. Nat it was who cut the accurate $100 greenback plate in ’64, bills which defied detection by the most expert tellers. During fifteen or twenty years, Boyd has been connected with Doc Gorman, Tom Twitchell, and, in fact, all the noted counterfeiters. He has never been under arrest since his release from the Iowa Penitentiary, except in connection with McCartney, at Mattoon, as previously referred to, and five years afterward, when John Eagan arrested him at Venice and sent him to Springfield, where he again escaped.
On the 7th of March, 1861, John Eagan, at present doing duty at the Union Depot, was in the employ of the Secret Service Department, and looked upon as the most competent man in the West. On that day he added to his reputation by arresting Driggs, at the house of John Roe, on the north side of Morgan, between Eighteenth and Nineteenth streets. In his possession was found $282,000 in counterfeit money on different state banks, and twenty-one full sets of plates, besides press, inks, and bond paper enough to make millions of dollars, were found in the house. While Eagan, who was accompanied by Sergt. Frances and Dick Barry, had Driggs under arrest, his 18 year-old nephew, Henry Guthrie, alias Henry G. Henry, entered the house accompanied by a valise, which he carried. Both were seized and in the valise 25,000 $1 notes on a Cadiz, O., bank and $600 in gold were found. Materials to ‘raise’ bills were also found in a trunk in a house. As a result of this haul, no less than thirty-nine indictments were found against Driggs, and being allowed to plead guilty on a single count, he was sent to the Penitentiary to serve out a ten year term. His nephew, Guthrie, was also convicted and sentenced to six years imprisonment but before his time had expired Gov. Gamble pardoned him out.
Soon after Driggs’ release from the Missouri pen, he went to Louisville and sold goods for a short time. He then returned to this city, hunted up Boyd, and in November 1871, they went to Nauvoo, Ill., taking up their residence at the house of Louis Sleight. “Nelse” who must now be over 70 years of age, originally came from Ohio, where he was in early life a well-to-do merchant, controlling almost the entire trade of five counties, and looked upon as high respectable. He has been dealing in “coney” for the last thirty-five years, and served a term in the Illinois Penitentiary, before it was removed from Alton, for having been found with plates in his possession. Twenty-five or thirty years ago Driggs was connected with Jerry Cowden, and Oscar Finch, the noted Eastern counterfeiters, and his cronies in the West have been such men as Louis Sleight, now dead, John Frisbie, Pete McCartney, John Vessey, Charlie Hathaway, Nat Kinsey, Dr. Parker, and Lou Dollman, who was shot and killed by Chief Harrington in this city, 1866. In 1856 or ’57, Driggs made his headquarters at Metropolis, Ill., near Cairo, having for partners Sleight and Frisblel who subsequently moved to Nauvoo, where Frisble’s brother was killed in an altercation on a boat. Driggs was the moneyed man of the party. Milt, alias “Doctor” Parker was another of the gang, and he is now serving out a term in the Eastern Pennsylvania Penitentiary, under the name of Edwards, having been arrested and convicted in Philadelphia last year. During the War, Parker, Frisbie and Sleight were taken to the Old Capital Prison, and kept there for some time.
Those arrests are looked upon as of the utmost importance, for the reason that, with Boyd’s incarceration, the supply of plates will be cut off, and Driggs will not be on the outside to negotiate the disposal of ‘coney’ as only he can. Chief Washburn has accomplished wonders since his appointment to the head of Secret Service Department, and these arrests are the crowning success of his career.