Chapter VIII -- Counterfeiting and the Inventive Genius

Years ago I was shown a canebrake on the Rolling Fork river below the old salt works where it was said that a gang of counterfeiters made their headquarters and made counterfeit money as well. This gang had members, so told, that reached from Tennessee through Arkansas and into Texas, some of the so-called members belonging to some well-to-do and respected families of these three states.

The Bible teaches us that the sins of the fathers will be visited on their posterity, even to the fourth generation, and we have no right to dispute it, and here is evidence that causes us to believe that this is true in more than one way. A granddaughter of one of these old families accused of this counterfeiting business, married many years ago and was living on her grandfather's place. Her grandfather was supposed to have had some gold buried on the place when he died. It was never found. In later years the granddaughter's husband found quite a lot of gold on the place. Assuming that it was the grandfather's legal gold, to which they would have a perfect right, the man used some of it in making purchases for his family.

After a few days that tall, chin-whiskered old man with the starry hat and striped breeches claimed that he had never made any such money, and that it was counterfeit, and that the man spending the money owed, and should pay him two years hard labor at one of his workhouses, maintained for the benefit of the unwary, notwithstanding he claimed and proved that he found it. A part of this money was wrapped in a newspaper announcing that James K. Polk was a candidate for President of the United States. It had been kept very dry and was spurious coin supposed to have been made and hidden away by the woman's grandfather.

Arkansas has produced some wonderful things, but one of the most unique productions was a man by the name of Jackman. He was here before the war and remained several years after. I never knew where he was from and never saw a man that did. In evading an answer to a question he was a scientist, pure and simple; Also in many other things. You could hardly name a place or an area of the country but what Jackman had been there. He was a man of sense and education, and could give information about most anything he was asked about. His going as well as his coming was somewhat of a mystery. One of his hobbies was mining. He was a good mechanic and blacksmith and could fix a clock or put a watch in order, mend jewelry or do most anything else he might be called upon to do.

He would come into the settlement and work a while, getting a small store of provisions, then away to the hills of north Sevier and prospect for mineral, believing that he would find something rich in the near future. When his store of provisions would become exhausted he would return, go to work again, then back to the hills when he again had accumulated a stake. He was very confident that he would some day strike a rich vein of mineral that would make him immensely rich. Then he was going to perfect an electric motor that he had in mind, next to his mining business. I never cared to listen to his talk, for like most all others, I thought he was somewhat off balance and cranky, considerably flighty, and talked of things that I thought unreasonable and could never be accomplished.

I came upon him one day at his work. It was very hot and he asked me to sit down and rest and I did so. He was soon telling me what could be done with electricity and what he could accomplish if he had five hundred dollars in cash. After giving me some ideas of how his motor could be constructed, he then proceeded to tell me what it would accomplish in the future. As I was very tired I thought that I would hear him out for once.

He told me, among other things that if I lived fifty years I would see boats running and railroad cars running by electric power, and that the time was not far off when vehicles would be running the roads without horses. I told him that I did not think that would ever be done. He then went on and told me of Morse and his telegraph, how people doubted him at first; then told of his success that put him on the wires, and finally he told me that if I lived my allotted time I would hear people talking over the wires. He seemed to become vexed and indignant when I told him it could not, and never would be done, and that he was wearing out his brain studying of impossible things.

At last I asked him how much it would cost to bring out these things. He said that with five hundred dollars he could bring out his electric motor; and that would get him all the money that he would need to bring out his other things.

Some time after this I asked a man of some means why he would not put up five hundred dollars that Jackman could experiment with his electric motor. He replied that Jackman was an unusually intelligent and well educated man, and a man of much scientific knowledge, but when he got on his electric railroad car and his talking over his telegraph wires, he became excited and flighty and his mind ran into the infinite.

I was a young man at that time in 1868, and not competent to criticize Jackman, but I have lived to see all that he predicted, verified, and if he had had the backing what might have been accomplished will never be known.

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