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TOM COGHILL TROUBLE -1907Tom Coghill Trouble (The Seymour Press June 20, 1907)

This remarkable story merits review today to help the reader understand the financial success and business acumen of notable Seymour citizens early in the twentieth century. The amount of $40,000 in 1907 is the equivalent of over $1,000,000 in present day purchasing power. It also illustrates the lure of gambling and danger of get rich quick schemes. Also of note is the colorful style of journalism employed by the "Seymour Press" to captivate the reader.

Nearly everybody in this vicinity has heard or read of the fact that Thomas Coghill, cashier of the First National Bank of Seymour, is a defaulter to the extent of about $40,000.00 and had an earthquake touched here the people would not have been more surprised, for the reason that Tommy Coghill was thought to be "gilt edge." Nevertheless it is only too true, and the shock made some people sick even those who were not connected with the bank.

On Thursday Coghill was notified not to return to the bank until called for. The next Monday Coghill was put in the “sweat box” and made a full confession claiming that last August he was short several hundred dollars and went to speculating in wheat to make up the loss. If this is true Coghill made a serious mistake in trying to make good in this way. He would have fixed it up at home, and if he had the brains of a jack rabbit he would not go gambling on the board of trade.

There is not much confidence placed in Coghill’s story, for he has been gambling in cotton and “feeding” a rubber plantation for a number of years, and that undoubtedly accounts for his first shortage. The directors immediately paid in to the bank the necessary amount to make good the loss, and the bank was closed only a few hours. The bank is still safe and sound.

The way Coghill covers up his crooked work was by filling out certificates of deposit for the full amount and the stub, which remained in the bank, for many pennies as there were dollars on the certificate which the depositor took home. He also doctored the books.

Coghill is 42 years of age but looks much older. He was station agent at Black Creek and came to Seymour about 15 years ago and was station agent here until January, 1903, when he went in the new bank as officer. He was a leading member of the Methodist church.

He was arrested at his home and taken to Green Bay where he appeared before U.S. Court Commissioner Matile and waived examination. He asked to be permitted to appear before Judge Sanborn at Oshkosh Tuesday to enter a plea of guilty, but under the United Sates law a prisoner cannot be charged with a crime by information of the district attorney, and he was placed under $40.000 bonds to appear before the grand jury next September. He could not furnish bonds. He asked the bank directors, whom he had roped in for several thousand dollars to go his bonds, but they refused.

The federal warrant was issued upon complaint of Attorney F. Strehlow of Green Bay. Suit will be commenced against the brokers who received the money. Coghill furnished the bank as cashier bonds, $10,000 bonds by the American Surety Company of New York, which the bank examiner accepted as cash when he settled up the affair.

Chas. Freund has been appointed assistant cashier, and will probably be cashier in a short time. Jake Hahn is also employed at the bank. The arrest of Mr. Coghill was series of pathetic incidents. Deputy Vebber and F.R. Dittmer, president of the bank, went together to Coghill’s home and they were seen before they reached the house. At the door they were met by a woman neighbor who was weeping. Coghill was sitting in a rocker and his wife was near him. Their only child, a 10 year-old boy, was on his father’s lap, and when he learned the errand of the officer he clasped his father more tightly than ever about the neck and cried as if his heart would break. Vebber made known his errand and Coghill waived the reading of the warrant. He was told to be ready to go on the 10:10 train, and he was not taken into custody for the reason that he had been able to escape before, if he so desired. When the deputy went back to the house after Coghill the pathetic scenes were repeated. The father, mother and boy were all in tears and the boy refused to be taken from his father except by force.

Coghill was deeply affected and much downcast and could talk but a short time before breaking into tears. He expressed himself as being glad that his anxiety and worry over detection had passed, and his greatest regret was for his family. Too bad he did not think of his family before. If so, he would have not done what he did. It pays to walk the straight, narrow path.

Gambling, like liquor makes others suffer who do not indulge. Mr. Coghill will plead guilty, and will probably serve his time in United States Federal Penitentiary at Fort Levensworth, Kansas, where the inmates make chairs and shoes for army supplies. He is now confined in the county jail where he will remain until his trial.

The penalty for a crime of this kind under the United States laws is from 5 to 10 years, and under State banking laws not to exceed 20 years. The bank officials are entitled to much credit for fixing up the shortage so promptly.

Coghill looked haggard and worn. He was unshaven and the dark lines under his eyes testified to weeping and sleepless nights. When he was placed in the cell he was completely unnerved and turned deathly white and appeared about to faint.

In another column will be found an article by Vice-President Tubbs which will explain many things.

To answer many questions and reassure depositors, Peter Tubbs, a director submitted a letter to the editor of the "Seymour Press." Excerpts from the letter are printed below.

A Few Facts on the Coghill Case

Editor of the Seymour Press: Because of the unfortunate speculation of the cashier of the First National Bank whereby $40,000 was taken from its regular channel of business and lost to the bank, the public is rightfully entitled to know the real conditions of the bank, wherein they have placed their faith and money. Although the earnings of the bank were not satisfactory to the directors of the bank for the amount of business that was being done, some suspicion was aroused and at a meeting of the Directors on Saturday evening, June 8, a lead was struck that satisfied the directors that crooked work was going on and it decided to call in an expert at once and sift the matter to the bottom.

Meantime, Pres. Dittner demanded the keys of the bank and Monday morning June 10, S.H. Cady accompanied by J.H. Taylor of Green Bay, came and Cashier Coghill was taken privately by Mr. Taylor where he laid the whole matter bare, commencing with a shortage for cause unknown on balancing books, he commenced Aug. 16, 1906 to speculate in wheat on the board of trade to make good the loss, fearing to reveal the true situation to the directors and as he seems to have struck some genuine sharks on the Chicago board of trade and from time to time he was drawn into their net.

Sometimes he gained $3,000, only to lose more heavily absorbing the gain. The remittances increased from $2,500 to $3,500 to $5,000 twice and then $10,000 twice until the whole amount lost in the board of trade was $38,000, and not a cent to show for it. $2,000 was invested in rail road bonds, apparently good, $1,100 on other bonds for $10,000 with monthly payment to follow. These bonds have been turned over to the bank and with life insurance and other valuable assets Mr. Coghill turned over about $6,000. The commercial bond the bank held of $10,000 makes about $16,000. Thus leaving a net loss to the bank of $24,000. There was a surplus and earnings of the bank which could be applied and the stockholders and directors immediately raised $23,000.

Mr. Luther, the Bank Examiner, who came here to straighten out the affairs of the bank said he never saw any such a case to settled so speedily and without a jar as this was done. He said he would have to take off his hat to us. Everyone concerned took the matter in hand to do each his full duty, determined that the public and patrons of the banks should not lose a cent. Ample means were provided by the assistance of four other National Banks to meet any run that might present itself, but, to our amazement, the next day after the examination $5,000 more were deposited over the counter than was paid out. A rumor was started that the bank had even taken the savings of Mrs. Coghill and her son amounting to $50.00. There is no foundation to this. Mrs. Coghill also holds the deed to the homestead valued at $1,500 or more and no particle of revenge has been manifested. Mr. Luther said on his departure that the first National Bank of Seymour was as safe as any bank. Proceedings have started to recover the $38,000 lost by Coghill, as there is a law providing for the return of any money taken from a bank by its cashier, unbeknown to the bank. There is hope at fully recovering our loss.
Peter Tubbs

The sad story of Thomas Coghill closed when he was sentenced to five years in prison. Fortunately, with the help of bank examiners and market regulations, most of the money was recovered. Quick action by the directors of the bank and their excellent reputations caused depositors to remain calm and avoided a panic.

Mr. Coghill served three years as a model prisoner in the federal penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas. Upon his release the family relocated and started a new life.

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