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Dear Brigham: “As Deep in the Mud as I Am in the Mire”

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 03, 2011

This letter was written to Brigham Young shortly after the coming of the railroad to Utah – perhaps an important point, if Brigham were to accept the invitation outlined by the writer.

I have broken the letter into paragraphs that are easier to read on-screen than the original single block of text, and where the original used superscript zeroes (which I cannot replicate with this blogging software), I have used a slash: That is, “$1/00” represents “$1” followed by two superscript zeroes. Otherwise, the text is unaltered.

Dear Sir

You have been reccommended to me as reliable and trustworthy by a man upon whose judgement for shrewdness and fidelity I rely. I have concluded to take you into my confidence.

I have at last got hold of the right thing all I want is a few true men and I guarantee we can make a fortune easily rapidly and in perfect safety.

I was trained up as an Engraver and employed by the U.S. Government on the Treasury notes. But I was removed on account of my politics and I then vowed I would get square with the Government before I died for I work with the square and compass.

I have been long at work in secret and I have now produced counterfeit 50¢ $1/00 $2/00 $5/00 and $10/00 bills which are absolutely perfect. I have printed a large stock of these bills which I want to sell immediately. I use nothing but the very best paper and the dies signatures and everything are so perfect as to defy detection. I know there is a flood of Wild Cat money afloat which I would not advise you to touch, but I can assure you no one can detect my bills Only be very cautious and I pledge you my word you can have no trouble.

I have the money done up in packages of $25000 and over all properly assorted and I sell it at $1000 pr hundred.

If you mean business come on here [New York City] and see me yourself Do not mention your business to any living person or tell any one where you are going or who you want to see. When you come on bring money to buy a large stock for I guarantee when you see the money you will buy all you can. I will show you piles of it and count it out to you in your hand Dollar for dime

This is the finest opportunity ever offered any living man to make a fortune at a single stroke and if you are wise you will even sell your property and valuables and raise a pile of money to secure a good stock while you have the chance. Do not call at my office under any circumstances but stop at some uptown Hotel and drop me a line and I will call on you bringing the money with me. Do not come unless you mean business and are prepared to buy a large stock $1000/00 at least for I run more risk in giving it to you personally than in sending it to you. But if you cannot possibly come on here, I will send you the money on receipt of the price for I must get my stock off at once.

To favor you I will sell you a $250//00 package for $10/00 cash in advance and you can pay me me [sic] the other $15/00 after you have passed it. I will sell you $500/00 for $18/00 cash in advance and $30/00 after $1000/00 for $32/00 in advance and $60/00 after. If you can take $5000/00 at once I will sell it for $120/00 down and $300/00 after

You can send me the money folded in a thick envelope well sealed and plainly addressed to me by mail or Express, but do not register your letters under any circumstances all registered letters are supposed to contain money and mail clerks are apt to open them take out the money and send them through. You see if this should happen it would expose the whole thing. I keep a Book Store and no one dreams that anything of this kind is going on. I will send back my money in such a way that no one will suspect what it is so you need have no fears whatever. For instance I send thousands of it to California sewed in the lining of an Overcoat.

I cannot send the goods until I receive some money from you for money must pass between us so that you may be as deep in the mud as I am in the mire. But I am willing to send you $100/00 by Express on receipt of $5/00 as you can see how well it passes and then order a large stock. Order as largely as possible now for I require payment in full after the first order. I would like to have you take a $5000/00 package costing $500/00 on your second order if you cannot on your first

Now my dear Sir, I have written you at length and I implore you to use the utmost caution and not betray me. Do not mention this to your dearest friend and while you are faithful to me I solemnly swear to be true to you. If you prefer, I will send my money by Express and collect on delivery but I cannot send less than $500/00 C.O.D. $18/00.

Be sure to address your letter exactly like the enclosed slip which you can keep but destroy this letter I will destroy all of your letters

Yours in F.L.&T.

“F. L. & T.” is the Odd Fellows’ keywords “Friendship, Love and Truth.” That, with the earlier mention of working “with the square and compass,” a probable Masonic reference, suggest that the writer was appealing to Brigham’s supposed fraternity should he happen to be a lodge brother.

There is, unsurprisingly, no response in the outgoing letterbooks. And aren’t you glad Brigham and his clerks didn’t feel bound to follow the instruction to destroy this letter?



7 Comments »

  1. Wow. Sound like an e-mail I got the other day. Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.

    It would be interesting to know if this scammer ever got busted.

    Comment by Coffinberry — August 3, 2011 @ 7:11 am

  2. Yeah, this really reminds me of the spam emails that float around now.

    I do wonder: if BY had taken up the offer, what would have kept him from making future payments to this writer with the forged money itself?

    Comment by Ben Park — August 3, 2011 @ 9:19 am

  3. I hope BY called (er, telegraphed) the Feds.

    Comment by Grant — August 3, 2011 @ 9:23 am

  4. This letter as well as the previous one does bring up the question of how Brigham Young was being treated in the national media. Does anyone know if the question has been treated at any length (dissertations, etc.)?

    Comment by Researcher — August 3, 2011 @ 9:52 am

  5. At least this guy is a bit more honest, in his crooked little way, than those Nigerian emails I still get.

    One wonders if there was a chance that this was a setup? Trying to snare Brigham into a criminal enterprise and then expose him?

    Your reference to the coming of the railroad caused me to think that really, how different was this scheme than the selling of stock in the railroads of the day. If I recall, BY was an early investor in the UPRR, but lost most of his investment when the railroad declared bankruptcy and reorganized, with only a handful of the original founders making any money, and the rest, including many Mormon laborers and suppliers to the railroad, left with only a portion of what they were owed. I just can’t recall all the details from Arrington here at work.

    Comment by kevinf — August 3, 2011 @ 11:39 am

  6. I don’t recall all the details either, kevinf, but I do know that BY’s investments in the railroad were not in the way of contributing money to buy general stock in the usual way of stock speculation. He negotiated with the railroads to furnish workers and material for building the part of the railroad that ran through Utah — Mormon men needed the cash-producing work, and the Utah economy needed a sale for their raw materials that couldn’t be profitably freighted and sold elsewhere. BY paid the laborers and hired the cutting of timber and its freighting to the railroad site, largely through credits in the book-economy of Utah (meaning that laborers got credit on the books of the Tithing Office and were furnished with produce and other supplies that were also credited on the books to those who provided them), in exchange for promised cash payments and rolling stock for the proposed railroad that would run south through Utah and be locally owned and operated. The national railroads largely reneged on their contract, leaving BY and the church having already paid for men and materials for which they were never reimbursed.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — August 3, 2011 @ 12:06 pm

  7. One wonders how the writer could not get caught, even if Brigham didn’t turn him in. I assume he also sent similar letters to others beside Brother Brigham.

    Comment by Paul — August 3, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

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