Hiding the Bank’s Money During the British Raid on Elk River During War of 1812

Copied from the Upper Shoreman, June, 1972 (this informative regional magazine, focusing on local history, art, & culture was published in the 1950s, ’60s, and early ’70s)

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Just before the burning of Frenchtown during the War of 1812, the citizens of Elkton and the surrounding country were frightened by a false alarm. Somehow the story got in circulation that the British had taken Frenchtown and the people as far north as the State of Pennsylvania were very much excited and alarm. Companies of militia from Pennsylvania rushed to Elkton. James Buchanan, then a young man, was an officer in one of those companies which was quartered in a house that stood in the eastern part of the new cemetery.

The directors of the Elkton Bank thought it best, in view of the raid, to remove the specie from the bank to a place of safety and so they ostensibly loaded a wagon with it and put the wagon, which was drawn by six or eight horses, in charge of a military escort composed of a number of soldiers, mounted and on foot, and made believe they were transporting the specie to Lancaster. This process made quite an excitement in the country through which it passed, but was only a ruse on the part of the officers of the bank, designed to mislead the British and divert them from the real place of concealment. Sometime before the wagon and its escort went from Elkton to Lancaster, Levi Tyson, a director of the bank and the owner of a grist mill on the Big Elk quietly when down to Elkton one evening with his team and two men and bought the specie home with him that night and placed the chest which contained it under his bed, where it remained until the danger was over. The men were told that the chest contained bullets to be used if the British made a raid on Mr. Tyson’s mill.

Mr. Tyson often related the story of this removal with much satisfaction and thought it a good joke. The ostensible removal of specie to Lancaster was probably made with the view of adding to the reputation of the bank by making the impression upon the minds of the community of its sound financial condition and ability to redeem its notes, many of which were in circulation. And probably the cream of the joke was to be found in the fact that the creditors of the bank were quite as much fooled as the British would have been had they attempted to pillage the bank.

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