Friday, March 10, 2017

The Money Never Came - A Scam from 1907

Scams and swindles are nothing new. They have been around as long as mankind has existed. I came across an article that was printed on July 31, 1907 in the Detroit Free Press. The article appeared on Page 6 and was titled, “MAY INHERIT $15,000,000.”

Per the article, “Hiram Stoutenberg” received a letter from a New York lawyer, “Walter G. Elliott,” indicating that he and his siblings may equally share in millions of dollars. I would love to see what that letter said because I found several the statements in the article to be untrue.

Walter Graeme Elliot was the husband of Maud Stoutenburgh, a descendant of Jacobus Stoutenburgh. She also was one of the founders of The Stoutenburgh-Teller Family Association, Inc., established in 1942. Maud’s direct ancestors remained in or near the Hyde Park area while Hiram Stoutenburg’s ancestors left Dutchess County, New York about 1800 and settled in Canada near Toronto.

Walter Elliot, on behalf of his wife, drafted the Stoutenburg Circles (descendants of Pieter Stoutenburg) that was published in 1916. He was an engineer and not a lawyer. I found it curious that the article reported that it was a letter from Walter. I don’t know precisely when the project to find the descendants of Pieter Stoutenburg was initiated, but it was at a time when letter was the most frequently method of communicating with distant places.

Hiram may have received a letter from Walter Elliot, but it would not have been to inform him that he was an heir to millions of dollars because the property was leased to the Frederick Vanderbilt many years ago. The article does not indicate why Hiram and his siblings might be heirs to the Hyde Park property. It does not say that the alleged lease has expired.

But that is immaterial because Frederick Vanderbilt purchased the property in Hyde Park on which he built his mansion in 1895. He did not lease the property. The property on which the Vanderbilt estate was built was owned by Samuel Bard by 1799. Jacobus Stoutenburgh did own a large tract of land in Dutchess County in which the downtown area of Hyde Park would have been located. However, he divided his property among his children.

One last point, Hiram’s great-great grandfather, Jacobus Stoutenburgh, did not settle in New York when it was known as Amsterdam. The Dutch colony was New Netherland and on the island of Manhattan was New Amsterdam. By the fall of 1664, the English had taken control of the Dutch colony and called it the Province of New York and New Amsterdam, New York City. Jacobus Stoutenburgh was born in New York city in the Province of New York. He had settled at Dutchess County about 1742.

Hiram was probably very disappointed to learn that he would not be receiving a windfall. The text of the article follows:
Eight Michigan Persons Heirs to Supposed New York Estate.
Port Huron, Mich., July 30.—Shades of Aladdin’s lamp! Just imagine being one of eight heirs to an estate of $15,000,000. Hiram Stoutenberg (sic), farm hand and machine shop employe, declares he has received a letter from Walter G. Elliott (sic), a prominent New York lawyer, informing him that such a windfall may come his way. The lawyer says the property was leased to the Vanderbilts many years ago by Jacobus Stoutenberg, Hiram’s great-great-grandfather settled in New York when it was known as Amsterdam and bought up 1,500 acres of land, part of which comprises the vast estate to which he may be an heir. Most of the property is in the downtown section and is extremely valuable.

If the fortune proves a reality the following eight Michigan persons will benefit equally: Hiram, (sic) Stoutenberg, of Port Huron; John, of Port Sanilac; James, of Cedardale; Albert, of Augres; Jacob, of Prescott; Mrs. Melinda English, of Forestville; Mrs. Mary Ann Ernest, of Applegate, and Mrs. Elizabeth Hyman, of Port Sanilac.