Nelson Driggs was known as one of the most famous counterfeiters in the United States. Secret Servicemen from back in the day regarded him “as one of the cleverest counterfeiters in the country.” His life was filled with adventure and crime but there was a soft-side of him too.
Prior to Driggs landing in Dayton, he had served time in the Joliet, Illinois penitentiary for manufacturing counterfeit money. He had been sentenced for fifteen years and served nearly all of it but was released early for good behavior.
When he came to Dayton, he settled in town on South Main Street but soon moved out to the road house known as The Abbey on Home Avenue near the Soldier’s Home. It was here that Driggs is said to have dealt in counterfeit money with his notorious partner Jim Guyon. Guyon was also very well known by the Secret Service and in 1888, the G-men “swooped down” upon The Abbey one evening with Guyon fleeing but Driggs and his wife captured.
The trial of Nelson Driggs and his wife Gertie became one of the most remarkable and interesting trials in the history of the U.S. Courts. The trial was held in Cincinnati and “almost every witness called sprung a surprise in his or her testimony.” Charges against Driggs and his wife were discharged.
Nelson Driggs was also known as a generous man and a good friend to the poor. He was known to house the poor in his home giving them food, clothing and shelter during the winter months and never asking for anything in return. He didn’t like to talk about these small acts of kindness.
He was a man who always paid his bills and one time he went to the Dayton Herald office to pay his subscription bill. He laid a small sack of Mexican dollars on the counter. Of course the money was refused and Driggs vowed to never pay his bill again, but he did pay it, each and every year and promptly too. Rumor was that he made the trip to Mexico to dispose of some of his own counterfeit bills. Upon his return he had a bag of good Mexican money and a herd of ponies.
Nelson Driggs died at The Abbey on December 17, 1895. He was 84 years old. He was laid to rest at Woodland Cemetery on April 23, 1896 in Section 110 Lot 2982.
You can visit the gravesite of Nelson Driggs and all of the other people on the History, Mystery, Mayhem and Murder Tour at Woodland Cemetery by going to our Tour page and downloading our Woodland Mobile App.
Woodland Cemetery, founded in 1841, is one of the nation’s oldest rural garden cemeteries and a unique cultural, botanical and educational resource in the heart of Dayton, Ohio. It is the final resting place of the Wright Brothers, Erma Bombeck, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Charles F. Kettering, John H. Patterson, Gov. James M. Cox, George P. Huffman, George H. Mead, and Levi and Matilda Stanley, King and Queen of the Gypsy’s and more than 111,000 others who made it great in Dayton.
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum is located at 118 Woodland Avenue off of Brown Street near the University of Dayton Campus. The Cemetery and Arboretum are open daily from 8 am to 6 pm and until 7 pm during Daylight Saving Time. The Mausoleum is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm. For more information, call 937-228-3221 or visit the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum website.