Were any of your ancestors involved in a scandal? Well, my CURREY line leads back to someone who was fairly prominent for a short time and then seems to disappear.
Hiram Mirrick Currey was a member of the General Assembly of Ohio in 1811. In 1816, he was elected treasurer for the state of Ohio. Four years later, he resigned from his position as Treasurer. By 1822, Hiram Currey was named in a resolution authorizing the Ohio Treasurer to receive real estate from Hiram M. Curry.
While bits and pieces of this ‘story’ appear in various newspapers and official Ohio publications, it wasn’t until I by chance did a search for Hiram Currey on Newspapers.com with no date restriction. This search unearthed a lengthy article about the Ohio treasury. Buried in the article are details about the scandal involving Hiram M. Curry.
While I don’t know Hiram Curry’s side of the story or what happened to him afterwards, this article explains why he resigned from office in disgrace.
Brief History of the Ohio Treasury
With some Account of its Tribulations and State FInances
from 1802 to 1857
By Wm. T. Coggeshall
When the Northwest Territory was organized, the Territorial Secretary reported to the General Government, the receipts and disbursements of officers appointed to administer its affairs.
In August, 1792, the Judges of the Territory, who were then law makers as well as law expounders, created the office of Treasurer General, requiring that he should give a bond to the amount of $4,000, and ordering that as payment for his services he might retain five per centum of all the moneys passing through his hands.
In December, 1799, the Territorial Legislature established the offices of Auditor and Treasurer. The salary of the latter was fixed at $400, and a bond of $20,000 was required of him.
The Territorial Treasurer was John Armstrong. His accounts were examined by Legislative Committees, and both Territorial and State Legislatures were informed that the public moneys had not been used by him without authority of law.
When, in 1802, the State of Ohio was organized, Wm. McFarland was elected Treasurer. He continued in office till 1816. His salary was at first $400, without any specification respecting stationary and clerk hire. The Legislature having been called upon to provide for the payment of two or three bills of $10 each, for stationary, it was enacted that the salary of the Treasurer should be $400 per annum, including stationery and clerk hire, but he was for ten or twelve years allowed a small per cent, for disbursement of the three percent fund. A Legislative Committee, authorized in 1803, to investigate the Treasury, made the following statement:
Taxes levied for 1802 $22,923 09
Balances in hands Collectors and
Receivers 3,174 50
From which deduct —___________ $11,834 55
For collection of tax-
es, 1802 $1,604 61
Defalcations for dou-
ble entries 700 00
Fourth part of tax di-
rected to be put in
co’nty treasury 5,154 62
Amount of tax absorb-
ed in redemption of
audited certificates 5,945 90
Audited certificates in
circulation 1,758 00
To this add —
Fifty per cent of tax of 1802 to be
returned to Auditor $ 1,626 94
Interest on tax of 1802 337 54
Balance in Treasury 132 71
To meet expenses of Constitutional
Convention $13,951 74
The Treasurer was required to submit his books to the Legislature whenever requested, was denied any emolument out of the use of State funds, and was subject to a fine of $1,000 for abuse of trust.
Mr. McFarland was frequently visited by Legislative committees, and his accounts were always satisfactory. When he became Treasurer, the funds of the State were derived exclusively form taxation of lands and personal property ; but when he retired fro office (1816) the State derived a revenue form banks of $5,676 76 and had a loan of $47,000 from the Miami Exporting Company, of $20,000 from the bank of Muskingum and of $37,000 from the bank of Chillicothe. Mr. McFarland disbursed the fiscal year of 1816, from the revenues that have been mentioned, the sum of $312,475, of which $88,527 formed the quota for the State of Ohio of the direct tax levied by order of the General Government to pay the expense of the war of 1812.
In addition to the moneys thus derived, the Treasurer, under a law of 1803, received and disbursed the U.S. three percent fund. During the year 1816 the sum of twelve thousand and seven hundred dollars was received, and thirty-six thousand and thirty one dollars disbursed, leaving in the treasury when Mr. McFarland made his last report fifteen thousand four hundred and eighty-five dollars. This fund arose from the setting apart of thre per cent of all the money received form the sale of public lands within the State for the making of roads in Ohio.
Wm. McFarland was succeeded by Hiram Mirrick Curry, who by his election was treasurer until December 13, 1819, when he was re-elected for the term of three years.
On the 5th of January, 1820, a committee of the House made a report that the books in the Treasury were properly kept, and that the vouchers held by the Treasurer agreed with his report to the Legislature.
Subsequent rumors not complimentary to Mr. Currey, in his official capacity, led to a second report with a “pertinent description” of all funds in the Treasury. The Auditor of State was then authorized to examine the Treasury and report its condition, and a special committee was appointed to examine the vaults of the Treasury. The Auditor laid a communication before the House on the 15th of February, showing a total balance against the Treasurer of one hundred and eighty-two thousand seven hundred and forty-eight dollars and eighteen cents. The following day (February 15th, 1820) the select committee reported that on the 11th of February they waited upon the Treasurer and requested him to lock and seal the vaults of the Treasury. The Treasurer requested a delay until the next day, and an arrangement was made with the Treasurer by which the chairman of the committee, Mr. McConnel, of Muskingum, retained the key of the strong chest in the vault and the key of the outward door, while the Treasurer retained the key of the inner vault door. When the Treasurer closed his office the committee occupied the Governor’s Room opposite the Treasury, in what has since been known as “Rat Row” (the building lately removed form High street, in front of the State House, and about to be employed in the erection of an Asylum for Idiots, on Friend st., opposite Blind Asylum). Lest some,
mischief might be done they kept close watch during the night.
On the morning of February 12, the committee held a second interview with the Treasurer, when he assured the committee that he would resign his office on Monday, the 14th. An examination was, therefore, postponed, the committee retaining the keys of which the chairman had possession, and Mr. Curry keeping that of the inner vault-door.
On Monday morning, the Treasurer reported that his securities had directed him not to resign, but upon a demand from the Committee, he permitted them to examine the funds each, the Treasurer and the Chairman unlocking, as occasion required, the doors of which they respectively held keys. On the evening of February 16th, the examination was completed and the Committee found —
Balance charged against Treasu
rer $182,748 79
Funds in the treasury to meet it 171,317 01
Leaving a deficit of 11,431 78
During the examination upon which this state of things was revealed, the Treasurer had resigned. Resolutions of impeachment for mal-conduct had been proposed, and in the midst of the warm excitement much indignation was expressed. The Committee which exposed the deficit as above stated, recommended that the keys of the vault be entrusted to the Governor. Their resolution to this effect was adopted, and with the slight amendment, the Senate accepted the action of the House.
On the 17th of February, 1820, Samuel Sullivan, then a Senator from Muskingum county, was elected in the place of Mr. Curry. On the 23d, the Select Committee, which had examined the Treasury, reported that they had delivered to Mr. Sullivan the keys of the vaults, and that the late Treasurer, Mr. Curry, had stated in the presence of the Governor that he was satisfied no “alteration” had meantime been made in the funds, and that no violence had been done to the Treasury.
Before the Legislature adjourned a resolution was passed instructing the Treasurer to get all notes and bills in the Treasury cashed if possible, and to secure a final settlement with H. M. Curry, authorizing a suit to be brought against him, if a settlement could not be otherwise effected.
Various loans and deposits had been authorized by law between, 1802 and 1820, and non-disposable funds form other sources had accumulated in the Treasury.
On the 4th of December, 1820, Mr. Sullivan reported the amount of those funds to be $33,9033 06 He then stated the obligations in favor of the State, for authorized loans, to the amount of $6,582 66 on which, in compliance with the resolution of the eighteenth General Assembly, he had collected $333 33.
Nothing had yet been accomplished toward a settlement with Hiram Curry and on the 20th of December, 1820, a committee was appointed by the House of Representatives, instructed to demand of Hiram M. Curry to show cause why he should not pay the deficit with which he stood charged. The Auditor had reported that, upon final calculation the deficit was found to be $11,111 89.
The committee addressed a letter of inquiry to Mr. Curry. He responded that he did not stand a public defaulter to the amount reported by the Auditor; claimed the investigating committee had been too hasty; charged that they had not taken proper pains to guard the treasury while they had charge of the keys; admitted a deficit, but before God declared that if it did not arise from inaccurate accounts, and from the exchange of depreciated paper he could not tell the cause. He solicited further investigation of his accounts, was willing to make any reasonable sacrifice to have the “unfortunate business adjusted,” stating that he had three lots in Columbus, and a small farm in Champaign county, which he would cheerfully appropriate to the discharge of any just balance due the State.
These statements of Mr. Curry were reported to the House, and the committee responded to them, that after a candid and full examination of the whole subject, “it was their opinion no alternative remained for the State short of placing the bond of Mr. Curry in suit.” A resolution authorizing a prosecution against Mr. Curry and his sureties was the following day adopted in the House and was immediately accepted by the Senate.
ON the 29th of January, 1851 (not this is likely a typo and probably should be 1821), a committee reported that the treasury was probably in debt $30,000 and that about the at sum over and above the ordinary revenue would be required in that year, to meet which, the State had —
Due form H. M. Curry $11,111 89
Sundry individuals for loans 5,582 66
Depreciated paper, amounting to
$20,000 of which real value
was 12,000 00
To meet the deficiency exposed by the committee, a loan of $20,000 was recommended authorized.
Loans and transfers from one hand to another, and from banks and from individuals, have frequently been authorized since that period. Their history, amount or character need not here be traced.
Contingent bonds were, in 1820, a new “feature” of public expense. Mr. Sullivan reported in 1821 a “Contingent” expenditure of $44 01. The salary of the treasurer was then $1,000, and his bonds were 50,000.
The settlement of Mr. Curry’s accounts, or rather efforst to secure a satisfactory settlement, caused considerable excitement in the 22d, 23d and 24th General Assemblies, but transfers of property were finally accepted and suites which had been instituted against him and against his securities were ordered to be discontinued. Mr. Curry having paid the principal of the sum due, the Auditor of State was, on the 14th of February, 1824, directed to release the parties upon the payment by them of all costs which had accrued before July 30th, 1822, discharging Curry and securities form all claims for interest upon the deficit which has been reported.
Some tribulation was occasioned in the treasury on a count of difficulties arising out of a tax on the branches of the United States Bank in Ohio, amounting to over $98,000, and in 1822 Samuel Sullivan, the treasurer was taken into custody, while United States officers removed from the treasury the proceeds of the tax, upon which there had been an injunction for some time, and which had been an injunction for some time, and which had been kept separate from other funds. Those who are at all familiar with the history of the
State need not be told that our Legislators were obliged, by decisions in the U.S. Courts to forego any revenue by taxation upon the branches of the Federal Bank.
Minor troubles were, from time to time, occasioned by depreciated paper, and by the failure of the Miami Exporting, the Urbana Banking, and other companies, to repay deposits and redeem their notes, but no circumstances occasioned an extra examination of the treasury until 1847, with the exception of a robbery in 1827. On the night of the 6th of May, in that year, (Henry Brown, treasurer,) the person who was employed to watch the treasury at night, being absent, the vaults were broken int and $12,657 98 were abstracted.
The treasurer was active in an investigation of the circumstances attending the robbery, and by the peculiar detective ingenuity of one of the officers employed, suspicion was rightly directed. A citizen of Columbus, not before suspected of rascality, was arrested and $11,627 66 of the stolen funds ($9,979 in bank bills, and $1,64866 in specie) were recovered, leaving a deficit of $1,030 43 which the Legislature ordered to be passed to the credit of the treasurer, together with the costs of the suit by which the robber had been convicted.
Meantime, as the finances became more complicated — the income form teh School bonds having grown large — a canal fund having been created in 1824 — the surpluse revenue from the United States having in 1836 required management and appropriation, the Penitentiary giving and receiving funds, and other institutions requiring appropriates and disbursements, various laws were enacted changing and enhancing the treasurer’s responsibilities, and throwing guards around the disposal and disbursement of public moneys.
In 1822 a Senate Committee had recommended the establishment of a fiscal year, and the 15th of November was declared (by a law passed on the 29th of January) to be the period up to which, in each year, the Auditor should render account, but it was not until 1831 that any authorized assistant was given to the treasurer. The treasury has now three clerks, besides the Bank Register. IT had only one form 1831 to 1847.
Before inquiring into the difficulties which occasioned an extra investigation of the treasurer in 1847, it will be interesting to consider some tabular statements which expose the responsibilities and rewards of treasurers at different periods.
I present first a
Statement of Funds in the Treasury atAmounts disbursed Balance in Treas- during the ury at time of
Years Fiscal Year Annual Report
1802 26,097 68 132 71
1803 8,804 39 733 53
1804 16,407 15 14 57
1805 22,037 10 161 21
1810 34,494 56 70
1815 270,400 72 5,032 53
1825 257,742 47 55,358 41
1835 313, 43 91 111,577 41
1845 1,809,937 68 232,594 20
1855 4,216,168 24 683,574 90
1856 4,181,740 44 350,548 59
It will not be overlooked that the funds in 1815 exceeded those of 1825. This appears very strange without explanation. It is accounted for by the fact that in 1815, Ohio paid $177,055 24 direct tax to the United States — leaving $93,345 48 as the money raised for her own purposes.
To a statement of the bonds and salaries of Treasurers between 1792 and 1857, I now invite attention. Whoever studies it with a knowledge of political movements in Ohio, may read therefrom political history that is interesting.
Salaries and Bonds of Ohio TreasurersAmount Annual Amount of
Date Salaries Bonds
1792 5 per cent $400
1799 $400 20,000
1802 400 20,000
1805 400 5,000
1809 500 10,000
1814 600 10,000
1816 700 50,000
1819 1,000 50,000
1820 1,000 150,000
1824 800 150,000
1831 800 250,000
1837 1,000 250,000
1844 730 250,000
1846 1,000 250,000
1852 1,500 250,000
By the Legislature of 1845-6, a committee was appointed to investigate the financial operation of the Board of Public Works. That Committee made a voluminous report toe he succeeding Legislature (1846-7) It was uncompromising, and caused wide-spread political excitement. The General Assembly which received it, probably to offset its political influence — the Board of Public Works being Democratic — ordered an inquest upon the treasury, Joseph Whitehill, a Whig, being Treasurer.
The Treasury Committee sat during the summer of 1847, and reported tot he Legislature which met in December of that year. — The investigation was thorough, and the report temperate and candid. It mad an exposition of State Finances, and complained vigorously of a careless and responsible system of book-keeping practiced in the treasury.
A. A. Bliss succeeded Mr. Whitehill. An apparent deficit of $6,000 was then exposed. Mr. Whitehill claimed that he had paid a note to the Franklin Bank of Columbus for hte State for that sum, which not having been recognized on the Auditor’s Book by means of a certified warrant, had not been passed to his credit. Various unsuccessful attempts to adjust the claim were may by Mr. Whitehill, but it was not accomplished until after the Finance Committee appointed in April, 1856, had reported to the second season of the Fifty-second General Assembly (1857). That Committee expressed full conviction that Mr. Whitehill had been unjustly held responsible, and credit for $8,000 [was] ordered to be made in his favor on the books of the Treasury.
We now invite attention to a statement of
Reported Deficits in the Ohio Treasury
When Ascertained Amount
1820 $11,111 89
1847 6,000 00
1852 65,000 00
1856 204,633 77
1857 549,892 21
The Finance Committee of 1856 first made
public the details of the deficit charged against A. A. Bliss. Mr. Breslin, who succeeded him, protected Mr. Bliss form exposure, by the manner in which he made his reports and Bliss secured Breslin from loss. He finally paid to the State (in 1856) all the money for which he did not account when he left office in 1852.
Breslin’s deficit (1856) was alleged by him to have been occasioned by the failure of parties with whom he had deposited
City Bank of Cincin $79,811 95
Daniel Beekel of Dayton 50,785 48
W. W. Cines & Co. Cin 47,168 11
Com. Bank Toledo 26,271 23
Total $204636 77
Beekel has paid into the Treasury $1,000. It is understood that the balance of the claim against him has been secured by mortgage on property. To ascertain whethere the other sums can be recovered, suits against Mr. Breslin’s securities were ordered by the last Legislature.
Wm. H. Gibson was elected Treasurer in place of John G. Brslin, in the fall of 1856. The Treasury under his control was subjected to the investigation of a Senate Financial Committee in the winter of 1856, was examined by a joint (special) Financial Committee in the summer of 1856, and was examined by the Auditor in the winter of 1857 — all of which failed to expose official neglect or misconduct on the part of the Treasurer.
The investigations led, however, to stringent laws, imposing checks ont he Treasury, and authorizing special examinations under the direction of the Governor and the Auditor.
In spite of suspicions and investigations, Mr. Gibson maintained the credit of the Treasury, and his own official standing until a draft had been made upon him to meet the July interest. On the 13th of June, 1857, he acknowledged a deficit of $549,892 21, arising, he declared, from detalcations of John G. Breslin, which he had concealed.
Mr. Gibson was immediately constrained to resign, A. P. Stone, of Columbus, was appointed in his place, and an examination of the Treasury at once required by the Governor.
The peculiar circumstances attending Mr. Gibson’s resignation — the present condition of the treasury — the facts respecting any mal-administration or breach of trust by John G. Breslin — are being investigated by the Examiner, whom the governor has appointed, and no attempt need here e made to anticipate his developments.
A proper conclusion to this outline of treasury history is a statement of teh names and terms of Ohio Treasurers
The Treasurers and Their Terms of Office
Names of Treasurer Terms of OfficeThe Greenville Journal (Greenville, Ohio)
John Armstrong 1792 to 1802
Wm. McFarland 1802 to 1816
Hiram M Currey 1816 to 1820
Samuel Sullivan 1820 to 1822
Henry Brown 1822 to 1834
Joseph Whitehill 1834 to 1847
A. A. Bliss 1847 to 1852
John G. Breslin 1852 to 1856
Wm. H. Gibson 1856 to 1857
A. P. Stone 1857 to 1858
8 Jul 1857