By Sue Lattea Cox (Br. 17)

Many of us have a black sheep in the family, but few of us can say that we have a "blackleg" in the family. In researching my own family tree, I have a William Latta, son of John Latta, who disappeared from Huntington County, Pennsylvania. John's sons supposedly "went west," so I decided to search on www.google.com and see if I could find anything on a William Latta. In searching the results, I came across several William Lattas, but one in particular caught my attention. In the History of Copley, Ohio, I came across an interesting article about a William Latta of Bath, Ohio. The history stated: "The busy commercial activities in Montrose are not really all that new. Also called Ellis Corners or Latta's Corners, Montrose has a long history of business. When it was Latta's Corners, a tavern keeper, William Latta actually, was chiefly interested in counterfeiting and his hotel became a hangout for the gang of dandies he was in cahoots with." In the 1820's with the commerce developing from the opening of the Ohio canal, a man by the name of James Brown formed a counterfeiting ring, "the blacklegs," in the Akron, Ohio area. Historian Samuel A. Lane, Sheriff of Akron, Ohio, and editor of The Buzzard wrote under the pen name of "Jedediah Brownhead, Esq.," in 1825, about James Brown and his followers - "for your own protection, you should note the stature of the men who have taken up storekeeping in the little neighboring town of Boston. They are......William Latta of Bath...these men are counterfeiters; and on a vast and damaging scale."

Finding this interesting, I started searching for "William.Latta" and "counterfeiter." I came across an article on The Life and Death of McGregor McDougle, aka Gregor McDougle, or Blackhawk. Mr. McDougle was originally from Ontario, Canada, but had fallen into the band of counterfeiters in Ohio and New York. He had been arrested in Ligonier, Indiana, by the Noble County "Regulators," and gave his confession before the committee before his hanging. He stated that "I then went to Chemung County, NY where I fell in company with one Sherman Mallett, and with our wives came to Burr Oak, Michigan, and there met with Wm. Latta. Bought a place opposite, and stayed there several weeks repairing the place. Mallett hired a horse at a livery stable and drive to Port Mitchell; broke open a store, and stolen a lot of silk goods and kid gloves; he put in an overcoat and started for home, but lost a piece near the tamarack; took rest to Latta's. About six weeks after Latta came, and proposed to John McDougle, Sherman Mallett and myself that he would furnish us with some counterfeit money if we would get some goods." Mr. McDougle and the men broke into another store and stole dry goods and "sold a part to Latta."

I noted that William Latta must have moved from Bath, Ohio to Michigan, so I began looking at the Branches to see which branch he might be from. I noted in Branch 46 that Moses Latta of Westmoreland, PA, had moved to the Bath, Ohio area, and that some of his children had gone on to Michigan. I sent out an inquiry to the Latta Newsletter and received a reply from Barbara R. Smith of West Valley City, Utah. She had information on Moses Latta; that he had died in Medina, Ohio, and that his son, William Latta, was Administrator of his estate. This was in 1825. Moses Latta and his family came to Bath in 1810. Barbara had information on the whole family, which I have added to the Branch 46 notes. We felt that since William was Administrator of the Estate and was listed in the census, that he was the oldest son of Moses Latta and Rachel Todd. Moses and Rachel had 4 sons and 7 daughters in the 1820 census and William showed up in the 1830 census. Looking at the Branch 46 notes, I noted that several of William's sisters married in Branch County, Michigan. Barbara also enclosed a history of DeKalb County, Indiana which mentioned the notorious "blacklegs" counterfeit ring as being in Noble County, Indiana. Apparently, William was an early settler and built a saw mill in Orange township in 1836. It later became a hangout to the blacklegs. Looking at the 1850 census for DeKalb County, I found William Latta, age 40, male, farmer, born in PA. His wife was Eliza, age 37, born in PA. His children were Christiana, age 12, Lydia, age 10, Joseph T. H., age 6, and Catharine Cidelia, age 3, all born in Ohio.

Mr. Abram F. Beecher, one of the early settlers, tells of an account in which he tangled with William Latta. A friend of his, Dr. Pink was living in Hamilton, and the "blacklegs" of Noble County stole his horse. "Mr. Beecher and a Willard Eddy started on horseback for the Tamarack House to look for the horse. Although they did not find the animal, they did find about a dozen of the most noted blacklegs in a barn, distributing their counterfeit money to their runners. They had quite a pile of it. Beecher made a lunge among them and grabbed a lot of their money, and started to run away; but Latta, their President, knocked him down, and they got all the paper back. It was certainly lucky that the two did not get hurt. They went to a Justice to take law, but the Justice was either one of the gang or afraid of his life or property. It was about that time that several barns were burned in Noble County by the blacklegs. Pity Beecher's strength had not been equal to his noble courage. Pink went out to look for his horse, but got nothing but a severe raw-hiding from Latta for his trouble and his horse. I myself have lost about $200 by the same gang of villains. This Belle Fountain road was one of the principal routes leading to their nest."


Nov. 21, 2005

Sue Lattea,

I found your posting of interest concerning Lane's account of the counterfeiting scheme in the 1820's near Akron, as it turns out, Jonathan DeCoursey (1788-1861), an older brother to my Isaac DeCoursey (1893-1884), was also named by Lane as a member of Jim Brown's counterfeiting gang. Jonathan DeCoursey was a "stone cutter" and an engraver by occupation, and undoubtedly designed and manufactured the plates and dies used in the counterfeiting process. I've tracked some of Jonathan's descendants, and have gathered a great deal of information over the last 50 years or so that I'm happy to share or exchange. (I'm 75 years old. Family history and genealogy has been my hobby through most of my lifetime.) My ancestor,
Isaac DeCoursey, is noted as the first settler of Rittman, Ohio and of Watertown, WI; and he may or may not have been involved with the counterfeiting gang; but I've always wondered. In 1835, Isaac pulled up stakes and moved from Medina County, Ohio with his family together with Timothy Johnson, son of one of the other counterfeiters, to the wilderness of Wisconsin Territory near what is now Watertown, Wisconsin. I imagine that he might have been trying to remain one step in front of the law. He was a hunter, trapper and trader and appears to have had some knowledge of surveying. He was named the first Commissioner of Highways in Jefferson Co., Territory of Wisconsin. He is buried at Faribault, MN. I placed a marker on his grave. He was a veteran of the War of 1812.
Let me know your interest.

Bill Decoursey
1735 - 19th Terrace NW
New Brighton, MN 55112