Charles O. Brockway (Abt. 1837-1901), aka Charles D. Vanderpool, Chester C. Brockway, Charles Seymour, Curley-Headed Kid — Counterfeiter, Forger
From Byrnes’ text:
DESCRIPTION. Fifty-one years old in 1876. Born in United States. Married. Medium build. Dark curly hair, blue eyes, sallow complexion. Height, 5 feet 9 inches. Weight, 160 pounds. Black beard.
RECORD. Charles O. Brockway, whose right name is Vanderpool, is one of the cleverest forgers in America. He has no doubt been responsible for several forgeries that have been committed in America during the past fifteen years. He at one time kept a faro bank in partnership of Daniel Dyson, alias Dan Noble, who is now serving twenty years in Europe for forgery. He subsequently branched out as a counterfeiter, and served two terms in State prison for it. The last one, of five years, was done in Auburn, New York, State prison. His time expired there in 1878.
He afterwards went West, and was arrested in Chicago, Ill., with Billy Ogle, in June, 1879, for forgery on the First National Bank of that city. At the time of his arrest a full set of forgers’ implements was found in his room. He made a confession, and charged an ex-government detective with having brought him to Chicago and picked out the banks for him to work. This statement was corroborated by a subsequent confession of Billy Ogle. The authorities indicted the ex-detective, and Brockway was admitted to bail in $10,000. The case never went to trial for lack of other evidence to corroborate Brockway and Ogle, who were both men of bad character.
Brockway came back to New York, where he was credited with doing considerable work. The following banks are said to have been victimized through him : The Second National Bank, the Chemical National Bank, the Bank of the Republic, the Chatham National Bank, the Corn Exchange Bank, and the Phoenix National Bank. He was finally arrested at Providence, R. I., on August 16, 1880, with Billy Ogle (13) and Joe Cook, alias Havill (15), a Chicago sneak, in an attempt to pass a check on the Fourth National Bank for $1,327, and another on the old National Bank for $1,264. Brockway pleaded guilty to two indictments for forgery, and was sentenced to eight years in State prison at Providence, R. I., on October 2, 1880. His time will expire, allowing full commutation, on August 26, 1886. See commutation laws of Rhode Island. Brockway’s picture is a good one, taken in 1880.
Contrary to Byrnes’ assertion, Charles O. Brockway was born to John O. Brockway and Abigail Carey in Washington, Sullivan County, New Hampshire in 1837. John Brockway passed away in South America just two years after Charles was born. In 1846, Abilgail remarried to Sylvanus Clogston. By 1850, Charles Brockway was living with a young farming couple named Fletcher, rather than with his step-father’s family.
Fourteen years later, at age 27, he had not moved far away; he was said to be living in Laconia, New Hampshire. One account suggests he had soldiered for New Hampshire in the Civil War; but his name is not found in muster rolls, and a different account suggests he had been in prison in Concord. Residents of Laconia say he was suspected of being involved in a failed attempt to rob the Laconia Savings Bank in 1864.
It was about this time that Brockway fell in with one of the nation’s most infamous counterfeiters, Bill Gurney. Brockway was said to be a “passer of the queer”, i.e. one assigned to put counterfeit currency into circulation. Brockway was also said to be an avid faro player, the card game favored by gamblers before poker replaced it in later decades. In October, 1864, officers from Albany and New York captured Brockway in Troy, New York. He was accused of drugging and rolling a businessman in a Houston Street saloon; and of passing counterfeit bills in Albany. Though committed to trial in New York, he was eventually returned to Albany and was jailed there. The 1865 state census found Brockway still in the Albany prison.
Upon his release, Brockway connected with a New Hampshire-based counterfeiter named Bill Dow, who was equally notorious in that endeavor as Bill Gurney. After the Civil War ended, federal bank notes replaced individual bank notes, and the United States Secret Service was founded to counter widespread counterfeiting operations. Dow was indicted in Maine, while Brockway tried to set up an operation in Mount Vernon, New York. The house he had rented was raided by agents of the Secret Service, but Brockway convinced one of the agents, Abner Newcomb, that he could provide information leading to much larger counterfeiting operations. They also made a deal to help settle Dow’s Maine indictment by setting up a fake raid and crediting Dow for making the raid possible. Eventually, the whole tawdry affair was exposed in a federal court, to the great embarrassment of the Secret Service. Brockway was sentenced to fifteen years for counterfeiting, to be served in Albany.
Brockway was pardoned in early 1869 by President Johnson (in the last days of his administration) having served just one year and eight months of his fifteen year term. Shortly after his release, as he approached Mrs. Bunker’s residence on W. Houston Street in New York City, he was shot in the back by George Lockwood. The cause of the dispute between Lockwood and Brockway isn’t known; both were womanizers and gamblers.
Upon recovering, Brockway partnered up with a check forger named Lewis M. Van Eaton, and made a forging tour that went from New Orleans to Detroit. Both men were captured; Brockway was brought from Detroit to New York, where he was tried and convicted for forgery. He was sent to Sing Sing for a term of four years and nine months.
Upon gaining his freedom in 1875, Brockway tried to reform himself and landed a job as a streetcar conductor on the Lenox Street Line in Boston. Within weeks, he was arrested for forging streetcar tickets.
Fleeing Boston, Brockway settled in Chicago and attempted to set himself up as a financial broker. Now over forty, Brockway romanced a girl of eighteen and married her. Whether his intentions to go straight were honest or not, his criminal acquaintances sought him out, involving him in further forging schemes. Their operations ranged from Chicago, to Boston, to Washington, and Baltimore, but it was in Providence, Rhode Island where a case was made against him. In 1880, he was sentenced to eight years in the Rhode Island State Prison. His young wife divorced him.
After his release from prison this time, Brockway returned to Chicago and once again set himself up as a broker on the commodities market. In the last dozen years of his life, he stayed out of trouble with the law, though never was particularly successful in his new vocation. He died in debt in 1901 at age 64.