No. 333
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
August 17, 2017

Rogue's Corner: CHARLES WILLIAMSON (202)
CHARLES WILLIAMSON
alias: PERRINE
BANK OF ENGLAND FORGER
Description:
Forty-three years old in 1886. Born in Malone, New York State. Single. Professional forger. Stout, portly built man. Height, 5 feet 9 1/2 inches. Weight, 220 pounds. Brown hair, hazel eyes, dark complexion. Generally wears a full black beard. Dresses well, and converses in an easy tone.

Record:
WILLIAMSON, alias PERRINE (the latter is his right name), is one of the most extraordinary criminals this country has ever produced-a man of great ability, imposing appearance, and iron nerve. Himself and William E. Grey are credited with being the two smartest people in their line in the world.

A man who gave the name of George A. Vincent, was arrested by the St. Louis police on February 29, 1884. The charge against him was attempting to pass forged drafts on New York City. Vincent had evidently set out on an elaborate scheme of robbery. He had opened accounts in several of the St. Louis banks, and at once began the deposit of a large number of drafts, and appeared, from the accounts, to be doing a very brisk business. He was a portly man, and would be described in brief as a "solid business man." The Chief of Police, who had carefully worked the case up, was convinced that his prisoner was a criminal of no ordinary type, and that he belonged to the upper circles of professional forgers. The police of St. Louis were detailed to look at the alleged Vincent, but not a man on the force had ever seen him before. A photograph was taken, and with a description annexed was sent to the police of several cities. At once came back a series of responses, and the man was shown to be none other than Charles Perrine, alias Charles J. Williamson, alias Charles Sherwood, alias Charles Cherwood, alias Stevens, well known in this city as a burglar and forger, and particularly valuable to the gangs of forgers as a "layer down" or presenter at the banks and banking offices of the forged paper prepared by other hands. His appearance was very much in his favor for his part of the business, and few of the extensive forgeries of a dozen years past were carried on without the assistance of Perrine, under some alias. He came of a family in the northern part of New York State, and has a brother-in-law now doing business in Wall Street, New York. His family, which is of the highest respectability, have long since cut off this member and utterly ignore him.

He first came into the hands of the police about fifteen years ago, when, under the name of Stevens, he was convicted on a charge of burglary, a quantity of silk and fine cutlery having been removed by him from the bonded warehouse in Howard Street, New York City. He served four years for this (his time expired on March 1, 1873), and upon his release was not heard of again until August, 1873, when a wholesale scheme of plunder was started, and bonds to the amount of more than a million dollars were placed on the market. Among the bonds cleverly counterfeited were those of the Buffalo, New York and Erie Road, the New York Central and the Chicago and Northwestern. They were counterfeited so well that they readily passed muster before bank clerks and cashiers. The gang that was interested in the gigantic steal included Roberts and Gleason, Walter Stewart, alias Sheridan ; Steve Raymond, Spence Pettis (now dead), and Dr. Blaisell (now dead).

Three different banking houses on Wall Street, New York, were forced into bankruptcy because of the number of the forged bonds which had found their way into the strong boxes of the firms. Among the houses victimized were the New York Guarantee and Indemnity Company and the National Trust Company. Perrine as Charles D. Williamson acted as the banker for the forgers, and all the bogus bonds passed through his hands and were by him put on the street. His share of the proceeds of the transactions, it is said, amounted to about $100,000. He was among the first of the gang to disappear when the exposure came. He went abroad, and for a time was lost in Great Britain.

In 1875 a man sold, or attempted to sell, to Rollins Brothers, of Broad and Wall streets, New York, a number of seven per cent. gold bonds of the Central Pacific road, California and Oregon branch. These were detected as counterfeits, and as the seller was to call on the following day with an additional number of the bonds, the Captain of the New Street police station was notified and took the man into custody. He had given the name of Howard, but he turned out to be the Charles J. Williamson who was "wanted" for the big forgeries of three years previous. He was taken to the District Attorney's Office, where from the pigeon-holes were drawn out a number of indictments against him in connection with the previous forgeries on the Buffalo, New York and Erie, and other roads named. The District Attorney insisted upon bail for the entire batch, and this making up a great aggregate, Williamson was unable to command it, and remained in the Tombs until his trial. This occupied several days, and a hard fight was made to save the now celebrated criminal, but he was convicted, and sentenced on October 31,1876, to the limit of ten years in the State prison. Upon motion of an Assistant District Attorney, who had conducted the case, an additional five years was added to the sentence-making fifteen years in all-because it was the second offense of the prisoner. He was sent to Sing Sing, and at once began plotting for an escape. He, with several other convicts, entered into a conspiracy. The bakehouse was fired, and in the confusion which followed a number escaped. The majority were retaken, but Williamson got away. This was on June 26, 1877, about eight months after his arrival at the prison.

He went to London, and there, under the name of Charles Cherwood, alias Sherwood, was arrested in March, 1878, for some forgeries directed against the Union Bank of London, by which that institution was to be swindled by means of false drafts and bills of exchange on the Continent. The Scotland Yard force had made the arrest, and knowing that they had an American professional, they sent a photograph and description to New York City, and word was sent back telling who the man was, and giving his entire unsavory American record. He was tried, and received, after conviction, a ten years' sentence. He at once turned State's evidence, and by his information an extended conspiracy on the part of American forgers to operate in England and on the Continent of Europe was laid bare. Dan Noble, Joe Chapman and Clutch Donohue were arrested, and, on the evidence of Williamson, convicted. In return his sentence was shortened, and in October, 1883, he was released.

Fearing to come direct to New York City, he took ship for Canada, and thence crossed the line, and about January 15, 1884, he was seen in New York, and then went West, to begin business at St. Louis.

He was held without bail to answer the charges of the bank officials in St. Louis, but steps were taken to bring him back to Sing Sing, to serve the fourteen years and four months still charged against him on the books of the prison.

Williamson was convicted in St. Louis, Mo., for attempting to swindle the St. Louis National Bank out of $6,500, by means of a forged letter of credit, and was sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary on February 11, 1885.

See records of Nos. (16), (18), and George Wilkes.

Williamson's picture, which was taken in England, is an excellent one. The Slate shows his handwriting.
Next May 19, 2017 Previous


Source:
Byrnes, Thomas. Professional criminals of America. New York, N.Y: Cassel, 1886.

"We follow vice and folly where a police officer dare not show his head, as the small, but intrepid weasel pursues vermin in paths which the licensed cat or dog cannot enter."

 The Sunday Flash 1841

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