The Woodslee Mint

Woodslee, the Scene of Counterfeiters
by Charles Buck, London Free Press

In the fall of 1878, newsreaders were told about the operations of counterfeiters and their aids in two points of Western Ontario. In one village, coins were being made, but not in a Dominion mint.

The site of the nefarious manufacture was the hamlet of Woodslee in Essex County. How this little village was discovered as the scene of such criminal activity is not fully disclosed in the following report. Neither is it apparent why an ex-police chief should have busied himself with its detection. The account as it was published on December 27, 1878.

“For some time ex-Chief of Police Bains, of Windsor, has been in possession of information which made him certain that expensive coining operations were going on at some point in Essex County. It was not until lately, however, that he was able to strike the right trail. Following a bit of information he located the illegal mint in Woodslee, a little village in the direction of Chatham, about 7 miles from Belle River. Learning that the local gunsmith had disposed of several counterfeit coins to shopkeepers in the village, the officer went to his shop and arrested him. In the search, Bains found that he possessed a large quantity of American silver dollars, US 50 cent and 25 cent pieces and many Canadian half dollars and 10 cent pieces. These the officer confiscated.

Bains then went to the man’s home. Hidden under the bed was found a collection of dies for all the coins. In other places he found partly finished money and much raw material. All the illegal finds were dumped in a flour sack. The prisoner was tightly secured and after hiring a horse and buggy, the officer drove to Belle River station with his captive and took the westbound train for Windsor. On his return Bains surrendered the prisoner to Acting Chief Windred and put him in the lock-up.

The finished coins were well executed. The man admitted they were of his manufacture but says he made them, merely “to see what he could do in that direction”.


Posted on January 27, 2012, in A History of Rochester Township 1853-1978, towns and villages and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. How is it that enterprising folks, like this unnamed Woodslee gunsmith, never get ahead??? I love his excuse. Wonder if he was prosecuted to the full extent of the law? And, who was he? Woodslee had all of 12 people residing thereabouts in 1878, didn’t it? (Some of my kin were among them.)

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