Counterfeiters, Thieves, and Outlaws


Nathaniel Proctor ran the general store in Dayton in the late 1830s. Jesse Green’s memoir has this story about his time in Dayton:

Proctor had a very nice and amiable family, and was apparently a high minded and honorable man, he had a great faculty for gaining friends and did a very successful business for a year or two. One cold winter day father went from the mill up to his store, and put his feet up against the stove to warm them, having his pocket-book containing between five and six hundred dollars wanted for buying wheat in his pants pocket. Returning home he soon discovered he had lost it, and thinking it might have dropped out of his pocket at the store, he returned immediately to look for it, but not finding it, he offered Mr. Proctor’s boys five dollars if they would find it for him, saying he must have lost it between the mill and store; seeing they made no effort to find it, he concluded they had found it, and that probably he would see no more of it.

Not long after this occurrence Mr. Proctor went to St. Louis for some goods, and on his return, and probably in St. Louis passed some counterfeit money, and learning by some means that he was liable to be arrested, he never returned to Dayton. Father being security for him to the amount of twelve or fifteen hundred dollars, and other creditors gobbling up his goods, it fell to fathers lot, to take his book accounts and notes, nearly covering the amount he was held for provided collections could be made. They were scattered over a great extent of country. It was afterwards learned that he had dealt quite heavily with members of his gang of outlaws, that infested the whole north western portion of the state.

His book accounts and notes were put in legal shape for me to collect and I was sent out with his books in a pair of saddle bags, and calling one night on one of his principal creditors, who was keeping a Hotel on the Pickamesoggin not far from Belvidere, I found a crowd of ruffians, all armed with pistols and bowie knives, and I could scarcely make up my mind, which would be best under the circumstances, to try and find another stopping place for the night, or boldly face the trying ordeal which I felt sure I was doomed to for the night. I finally concluded that if they might have any intention to rob, or molest me, they would do so in either event, and I determined to put on as bold a front as it was possible for a little boy of 18 and concluded to seek no farther. When I went in and threw down my saddlebags containing the books, there were a dozen fierce roguish eyes cast upon me, which almost made the hair on my head stand on end, and young and defenseless as I was, my situation can be better imagined than I can tell it.

I concluded to retire to bed soon after supper, as my company did not seem at all entertaining to me, and about twelve o’clock at night the landlord brought up a great burly fellow and put him in bed with me, he first laid a big pistol under his pillow, and then a large bowie knife. My sleep from then on until morning was somewhat disturbed, as they all knew my business, and I had a bill of $250.00 against the landlord, they would naturally suspect that I had collected some money, such thoughts as these kept crowding upon me before I could sleep, in fact I do not think I did sleep any that night, the more I would think of my situation as it occurred to me, among (as I thought) a den of thieves, the more would I think, that they probably would destroy my books and possibly me too. So my stay there was anything but pleasant, but fortunately no demonstrations were made or harm done and next morning as soon as I heard any movements below, I left my bedfellow pretty early sleeping soundly on his arms, and after breakfast had a settlement with the landlord. He gave me no money, but I took his note with which I was more than glad to leave him, but his note was never paid. I suspect that most of Proctor’s customers in that far away region were members of the gang of outlaws called the bandits of the prairies, and the Driscols who were summarily punished near Mount Morris in early times were of the same gang.

Whilst invoicing Proctor’s goods, his dies for making bogus coin were discovered, and secretly laid aside until going home at noon when it was the intention to secure them; but when they put their fingers upon them, like the Irishman’s flea, they were not there, removed by his clerk probably.  In digging out a cellar to the store, he [the new owner] found father’s old pocketbook minus the money lost with it. A little later the old store building was torn down, and inside the plastering was found a ten dollar copper plate on a Michigan bank for making counterfeit money. All sympathized deeply with the disgraced family, who remained in Dayton but a short time after this unfortunate circumstance. But where they went and their subsequent identity, we never learned as they probably were no longer known by the name of Proctor.

An Ohio Marriage

Green, J - Grove, B. marriage1
John Green and Barbara Grove were married in Licking County, Ohio on March 28, 1813. Barbara was the daughter of John Grove and Barbara Lionbarger. In his memoir, Jesse Green described his grandfather Grove: “John Grove, the head of the Grove family was of Dutch or German descent and was a large powerful man. He could pick up a barrel of flour under each arm and toss them upon one of those old fashioned Virginia wagons with ease. He was so large that his descendants long preserved one of his vests to show his unusual girth about the breast.”

The original 1929 party that came from Ohio to Illinois, to the rapids of the Fox river, included many members of the Grove family – Barbara Grove Green, David Grove, Emma Grove DeBolt, Samuel Grove, and Joseph Grove. After the death of John Grove, his widow, Barbara, also came to La Salle county, in 1838, to live with her son Joseph.

Further information on members of the Grove family may be found at

  1.  “Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch( : accessed 18 August 2015), John Green and Barbary Grove, 28 Mar 1813; citing Licking, Ohio, United States, reference v1,p.23; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 384,300.

Walking on the Desks

A Pioneer School

Maud Green told her memories of school life in Dayton in the 1870s and 1880s. The school would not have been as isolated as the one shown above, as it was right in the heart of the village.

The desk tops were hinged and when the boys walked on them mischievously they sometimes dropped unexpectedly with disastrous results.  A bench ran around three sides of the room to accomodate more pupils.  The other furniture consisted of the teacher’s desk and a small organ. There was always something extra for Friday afternoon.  One teacher read us chapters of “The Swiss Family Robinson” each week and we spoke pieces and sometimes had a treat.  Once it was oyster soup!  We all had slates instead of tablets and our slate pencils came covered with gold or silver paper.  Once we girls put boards over the corner of the fence to make a play-house at school & we all took rag-dolls to play with at recess.  Our best “play house” at home was when the oats-bin was empty in what we called the “little barn” north of the house.  Of course we all wore sun bonnets.

The Dayton Literary Society

Book label - Dayton Literary Society

The Dayton Literary Society was founded in February of 1881,  with Isaac Green as President, Charles Green as Secretary and Harry Green as Librarian. Harry was the librarian because the library, all one hundred volumes of it, was housed at his store. You paid a monthly fee and then you could borrow any book. This label, found in every book, listed some of the rules governing the library:

ART. 4. The Time of Keeping a Book shall be Two Weeks, and any person failing to return said book inside the specified time, shall be fined the sum of 5 cts. for each day until returned. Also, any person returning a book unnecessarily soiled, shall be fined the sum of 10 cts.

ART. 6. The Librarian shall not issue Books to any person who is known to be in arrears of monthly dues or fines.

ART. 7. No person shall be allowed more than ONE Book at a time.

Unfortunately, no record of the complete “Rules to Govern Library” has survived. Did it contain guidelines for what books to include? Were books purchased, or donated from town residents? What was the most popular subject matter?