Saturday, May 3, 2014

In Search of the Springer Fortune

My favorite part of family history is finding secrets and scandals. So much fun discovering scallywags, extra spouses, and occasional criminals hanging out in the tree. Fascinating gems to share.

My mother-in-law regaled us with tales of the "Springer Fortune". An outrageous story of hidden treasures passed down through generations. My husband was sure a chest full of booty sat waiting for Springer ancestors.

Our children loved hearing this story. They encouraged us to find their inheritance! Dreams of Ipods, fast cars and extravagant trips danced in their heads.

Believing this was just a family legend, I did a cursory search. Imagine my surprise when this bit of lore was true! Well, sort of.

I came across the following article from August 15, 1871 in the New York Times.

The Trouble in Store for Wilmington Land-Holders
From the St. Catherine's (Ont) Times, Aug. 11

It seems the greater SPRINGER family are likely to become suddenly rich. The lawyers are at present "working up" a case which, when successfully concluded, will give the heirs of the late CHARLES CHRISTOPHER SPRINGER, great-grandfather to MOSES SPRINGER, M. P. P. for North Waterloo, a legacy of about $90,000,000-not a bad "take", as printers would say. It appears that this CHARLES C. SPRINGER was a native of the State of Delaware, where he had large possessions. Something over 100 years ago he leased 800 acres of land to the Episcopal Church there for a term of ninety-nine years, after which it was to fall back to his legal heirs. This land now comprises the greater part of the city of Wilmington, and is of very great value. The way it happened to pass into private hands we understand is as follows: The trustees of this trust, seeing that the family had been scattered by the troublous times of the Revolution, some of whom being loyalists came to Canada, illegally sold the estate and left for Europe. The heirs are quite numerous in Canada, many of them quite well to do, and they have undertaken to investigate the matter before the United States Supreme Court. From what we hear the matter is assuming a practical, clear and plausible shape. While we admit that a matter of this kind may cause numerous hardships to those who imagine they are real estate owners, and perhaps, have the earnings of a life-time invested in this way, we must congratulate our old friend in North Waterloo, and his numerous relatives, on the bright prospect of becoming millionaires. We are sure they will make good use of the money when it comes, which can't be said of many who become suddenly rich.

Was there a family fortune? Springer Hoax?

Wikipedia has the following entry about the subject:

"The Springer Hoax was a scam starting in the mid 19th century, often using a phony genealogy in various ways to collect money based on the supposed estate of prominent colonialist Carl Christopher/Christoffersson Springer and debts said to be owed to him by various government agencies of Wilmington, Delaware and Stockholm, Sweden. The alleged estate was said to include 1,900 acres of land, 228 acres of which ran though the center of Wilmington, worth up to $150,000,000. Other claims included $100,000,000 deposited in a Stockholm bank."

Further reading about the hoax:

Delaware, a guide to the First State, published 1938

Rootsweb: Springer Hoax

"Springer Estate" Papers (aka Springer Heir Hoax) from the Springer, Miller & Allied Families Website

No great fortune unearthed. Drats! Just a very interesting bit of family history. Do you have a tale of fortune and treasure?


  1. This post is so funny, it disguises all of the wonderful research that you did. Amazing story. Sincerely, Kari Roueche Springer

  2. What a great story, Deb! Hope things are OK with you...missing you on social media outlets. Contact please so we don't worry. :-)

  3. What a wonderful story! My family has a similar one but not as exciting! LOL :) Thanks for sharing! :)

  4. Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article. We see so much of the negative side of life in the media that it is refreshing to have a positive, upbeat report on the good things that are happening.

  5. Fascinating! Until yesterday I thought I was a descendant of the Springers but have since found that my Great-Grandmother was born before her mother married Robert Curtis Carroll, which is the line for Springer. I have to find my Great-Grandmother's real father.