The following article was taken from the Dundee Hawkeye, and was written by one familiar with the stirring events of the time in which the action took place. It is interesting reading:
Something like a quarter of a century ago a little brown copper-shop stood up yonder on the hillside, within a dozen yards of the spot where I pen these lines. It was but an humble affair, at the best, yet a stout heart beat within, and sinewy arms drew the keen-edged strive through the long hickory hoop poles, and made the mallet upon the unfinished barrels and tubs.
A scotchman by birth, he had landed at New York, and reached Chicago accompanied by his young and newly wedded wife, but without money; not even a single son argued. But he possessed plenty of energy; a good trade, and a sound constitution. He had been out as far as Dundee, prospecting, and had decided on making our village his future home. About this time he met "Squire" Thompson, who lived about a mile from Dundee, and was in Chicago to sell a load of wheat. He struck up a bargain with Thompson to haul himself, wife, tools and few personal effects out to Dundee and was to pay the squire in barrels, as soon as he could get them made. In this humble manner our young cooper reached Dundee.
He set to work at once and, after making up a few barrels, and accumulating a little money, he constructed the little shop on the hill, and boldly launched out as a "manufacturer of barrels, firkins and tubs."
Reader, what think you was the sign which ornamented the rough boards over the door of that unpretentious workshop? It read, simply:
"Allen Pinkerton, Cooper."
Since those far way years the name of Allan Pinkerton has become world famous and the exploits of the "humble cooper" have eclipsed in brilliancy many of those whose names now shine from the pages of our country's history.
And should not Dundee take a just and honorable pride in claiming the great detective as her own?
It was here that he made the first step upon the brilliant career which has led him on through deeds, in the mere recital of which his old-time neighbors grow inspired, to that eminent position which he now holds. It was here that his remarkable talents as a detective first became developed. It was here that he first became awakened to the fact that dishonesty and crime had taken possession of our beautiful ballet, and that the robber, counterfeiter and cutthroat stalked brazen-faced and unmolested up and down its meandering paths. It was here that he formed that noble resolution,, for which all honorable men should be doubly grateful, of consecrating the balance of his life to the great and perilous duty of hunting down and punishing crime. How well he has performed that duty the country has long known. It was here therefore, he may figuratively say, that Allen Pinkerton "started life" for it was here that he made his first arrest.
We will attempt to portray to the reader the story of this story of this trifling yet most important event, in the life of Allen Pinkerton. It was the very arrest which set his brain at work, the result of which was positive self conviction. He had been designed by an all-wise providence for a more noble and glorious station in life than that of "village cooper". It also comes to us now as an amusing incident in his history, depicting a most peculiar trait in the character of the man, which has become so largely developed in his subsequent life, and which has been the very keystone to his great success that is, simply a desire to do everything well, and a desperate determination to win, no matter how unimportant the event. It is this characteristic which has borne him successfully through so many of the trying scenes in his eventful life. But to our story.
One beautiful afternoon in the summer of 1853, Abner Kirn drove down to Dundee, from Algonquin, five miles above the river where he resided, in order to do a little "shopping" at our village store. Not a very enviable reputation for honesty and morality bore the wily "Ab". It was known that he associated with horse-thieves and cutthroats and it was thought by many of the good people of Dundee that he was connected with the Bogus Island band of counterfeiters as a "shover of the guard".
In those days counterfeit money was a plentiful and as much in circulation as the genuine article itself. Much an----------- ------------ have been caused the ------------ and others on account of ------------ yet the manufacture and circulation went on in our very midst, and no one could, or dared stop it. The band which it was known were its manufacturers were composed of the most desperate men, and occupied a small island in the river about one mile above Algonquin, to this day known as Bogus Island.
At this period the country was not so thickly settled, and the law therefore, could be but inadequately enforced, and had but little terror for these desperadoes. In fact, they had the thing their own way and we be it to the man who dared interrupt them in their nefarious business by attempting to enforce the law. Dundee, which now flourishes in prosperity, shipping carloads of milk to Chicago daily from its hundreds of rich dairy farms, was at that date but a little hamlet, and surrounded by a country over which these cutthroats held domain.
Such was the state of affairs which Abner Kirn came down to Dundee on the day referred to. He had plenty of the "queer" with him, and during the afternoon succeeded in "shoving" a good quantity of silver half dollars and dollars.
At last towards evening, he chanced into the general store of I. C. Bosworth. The only persons present when he entered were Mr. Bosworth and Allan Pinkerton, the cooper. Abner bought twenty cents worth of plug tobacco, paying for it with a counterfeit fifty cent coin, receiving genuine money for his thirty cents charge. Then he sauntered slowly out of the store. After he had left Mr. Bosworth examined the silver piece Abner had given him, but was not certain whether it was genuine or not. Mr. Pinkerton's opinion was asked, and he quickly pronounced it a counterfeit coin.
"Pinkerton," said Bosworth, "what in the world are we going to do to stop this infernal traffic, and clear the community of the scoundrels?"
Pinkerton's brow was darkening, and his teeth were set. He had been deeply thinking.
"I'll tell you what I am going to do, Mr. Bosworth," he at last answered.
"I am going to arrest Ab Kirn tonight."
"You arrest Abner Kirn." exclaimed the wondering merchant.
"That is what I said, and that is just what I mean."
"Impossible," ejaculated Bosworth, "he would shoot you down as he would a dog, and besides, you are not an officer, and Constable Dan Smith is absent in Chicago."
"Never fear-I have thought of all that," Pinkerton replied. "I propose to swear out a warrant, and have my self sworn in as a deputy constable."
"And what then?" cried the excited Bosworth.
"What then! Why then I shall hunt up Kirn and arrest him before he leaves town. If he proposes to use steel or lead, why he will find that I can use them too, that's all."
"But my dear friend, you will be running a terrible risk, and even if you should succeed in arresting him, his companions up the river will avail themselves of the first opportunity to have you got out of the way-they would kill you, without doubt."
"Pshaw!" replied Pinkerton, "I may arrest them all before I get through!"
And sure enough, as the sequel will show, he did arrest them all before he got through.
"Well, if you will run your hand into a hornet's nest I don"t know that I can help it." said Bosworth, "but be very careful, Kirn is a desperate man."
"Thank you for your advice, I will be careful, but do you know that I have resolved tonight, let come what will, to make a desperate attempt to clear the valley of thee d--nd villains, and I shall commence work tonight upon Ab Kirn- good night," and Allan Pinkerton passed quickly out of the store, and waked rapidly away in the direction of the residence of Esquire Oatman.
Finding the justice at home Pinkerton related the circumstances, and then placed before him his plan for Kirn's arrest. The sedate justice admired the pluck and courage of the young cooper but somewhat doubted his ability to carry out the work proposed. Still he did not refuse Pinkerton's request and immediately filled out a warrant for the arrest of one Abner Kirn, for passing a counterfeit half dollar upon Increase C. Bosworth, in the town of Dundee, Ill, on Friday evening, Aug. 3, 1853." He then swore Pinkerton as a deputy constable, and handed him the warrant, with directions to serve it on Kirn at once.
It was about 8 o'clock in the evening, and quite dark when Pinkerton left Esquire Oatman's house with the warrant in his pocket.
His first move was to get some reliable person to assist him. Meeting a neighbor, by the name of Sutfin, he told him what he wanted and asked him if he would help him. Sutfin consented at once, and the two proceeded to arm themselves.
It was ascertained that Kirn, with some companions, was engaged in a little drinking bout over the river at the Kirn House, then located about where Bauman's hotel now stands (in 1901), and Pinkerton and his man then proceeded in that direction. On approaching the bridge they met some boys who were coming from the river. Pinkerton questioned the boys who told him that they had just come from the Kirn House, and that Ab Kirn, with some others, was just about to get into their wagon to drive away.
Without stopping for a second thought Pinkerton threw off his coat and then quickly removed his boots, and after directing his assistant to "come on" struck out on a dead run over the bridge.
At that time Allan Pinkerton was a very athletic man, and had but few equals in the valley as a wrestler or a runner.
Pinkerton reached the hotel, but Kirn and party were gone. He was told that perhaps they might stop to water their horses up by the old furnace, where there was a watering place, and away flew the new deputy in that direction. Not a second had he to spare. He shouted as he come up the hill. "Hold on there, I want to see you, boys," and before Kirn realized who he was, or what he wanted, he was into the wagon and had a strong grip upon Kirn's coat collar.
"Abner Kirn, I have a warrant for your arrest-you know me-I was Allan Pinkerton, the cooper, now I am Allan Pinkerton, the constable. I am a sworn deputy to serve this warrant, and to arrest you for passing fifty cents in counterfeit money upon I. C. Bosworth, and, so help me God, I am going to do it! Come along with me quietly and you will be well treated, -if you offer resistance you will find me a hard customer to deal with-will you come?"
The light of their lantern showed fully in face of Alan Pinkerton as he spoke and there was no doubting the fixed determination stamped indelibly there. One look sufficed for Abner Kirn, and he quietly answered:
"Yes, I'll go."
"Just then I came up puffing and blowing," his assistant says, "but, blast it, the fun was all over. Allan had done the job alone, and done it quickly too."
Reader, that is all there is about this little affair. You will say, perhaps, there was nothing so very remarkable about it. True, there may not have been, and we should have, no doubt, forgotten it long ere this had not its hero since become a great detective, known to the whole country. We all love to read about the first public acts of great men, no matter how trifling they may be, and for that reason this little sketch of Allan Pinkerton's first arrest is given to the public.
In conclusion we will add that Kirn was examined before Justice Oatman and committed to await the action the grand jury. He was subsequently released on bail. Soon after Pinkerton, the cooper, was appointed deputy-sheriff of Kane county, and, while occupying this office, he formed his plan for capturing the whole band of Bogus Island counterfeiters. This scheme he successfully carried out soon after, arresting the whole party, as he told Bosworth in the store, he "might do before he got through." This band was composed of some of the most noted counterfeiters in the west, numbering among them such men as Kirn, the two Pipers, the two Canes, Button and several others we might mention. The arrest of this party, and their complete annihilation from the Fox River valley, made the name of Allan Pinkerton famous throughout the northwest.
We might tell the story of this affair from memory, for it is freshly imbedded there now, but shall refrain from doing so as, do doubt, Mr. Pinkerton will relate it for our pleasure and benefit in one of his forthcoming books.
FOX RIVER VALLEY
A Reminiscence of Nearly Half a Century Ago
FIRST JOB BY ALLAN PINKERTON
He routed the Counterfeiters-
Thereby Laying the Foundation of
a Great and Successful Career