Sturdivant Gang

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Sturdivant Gang
Founded by Sturdivant Family
Founding location Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois ?
Years active 1780s–1830s
Territory Connecticut, Massachusetts, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Manville Ferry, New Athens, St. Clair County, Illinois and Sturdivant's Fort, Pope County, Illinois, present-day Rosiclare, Hardin County, Illinois
Ethnicity European-American
Membership (est.) 12
Criminal activities counterfeiting
Roswell S. Sturdivant
Born 1700s–1800s
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky, or Tennessee
Died after 1831 (aged ?)
Nationality American
Other names Roswell Sturdivant, Roswell Sturdevant, John Sturdivant, Jack Sturdivant, Bloody Jack Sturdivant, Sturdivant the Counterfeiter
Occupation counterfeiter, gambler
Known for For being the co-leader, with Merrick Sturdivant, of the 3rd-generation Sturdivant Gang, and having survived a knife duel, with the legendary Jim Bowie
Spouse(s) 1
Parent(s) Azor Sturdivant (father)
Relatives Merrick Sturdivant (brother), Stephen Sturdivant (brother), James Sturdivant (grandfather), Ruby Sturdevant Loveland (daughter), Merriness Loveland (son-in-law)
Merrick Sturdivant
Born 1700s–1800s
Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kentucky, or Tennessee?
Died after 1831 (aged ?)
Nationality American
Other names Merrick Sturdevant
Occupation counterfeiter
Known for For being the co-leader, with Roswell S. Sturdivant, of the 3rd-generation Sturdivant Gang
Parent(s) Azor Sturdivant (father)
Relatives Roswell S. Sturdivant (brother), Stephen Sturdivant (brother), James Sturdivant (grandfather), Ruby Sturdevant Loveland (niece), Merriness Loveland (nephew-in-law)

The Sturdivant Gang was a multi-generational, family gang of counterfeiters, whose criminal activities took place over a fifty-year period, from the 1780s, in Connecticut and Massachusetts, also, from Virginia via Tennessee and finally settled on the Illinois frontier, of 1810s-1830s. Although, they did not follow the same frontier settlement pattern, as most of the "Ancient Colony of Horse-Thieves, Counterfeiters and Robbers", who were usually from the region of the Southern United States, who moved west through the Appalachian Mountains and followed the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers into the Middle West.

Third generation of counterfeiters[edit]

By the 1810s, the third-generation, of the Sturdivant family counterfeiters, were organized by Roswell S. Sturdivant and his brother, Merrick Sturdivant, who led the gang, which was partially based at Manville Ferry, St. Clair County, Illinois, now present-day New Athens, and at Sturdivant's Fort, in Pope County, Illinois, now present-day Rosiclare, Hardin County, Illinois. According to the first Illinois census in 1818, Roswell Sturdivant and his wife were living in Madison County, Illinois.

Counterfeiting at Sturdivant's Fort[edit]

Although, the Sturdevant Gang did not base their counterfeiting operations, directly, at Cave-in-Rock, on the Ohio River, in Pope County, Illinois, now present-day Hardin County, Illinois, they were considered, part of, the second wave of criminal activity, associated, within sphere of influence, of the region of the landmark Cave. The Sturdevant brothers ran their counterfeit money-making factory, inside a heavily-fortified, two story, log blockhouse, protected, from within, by a 6-pounder howitzer cannon, trained at the door and known as "Sturdivant's Fort". The blockhouse fortress was constructed to be strategically located downriver, at the top of a cliff, overlooking the Ohio River, and clearly visible from the Cave-in-Rock bluff. The former site of the Sturdivant Gang blockhouse, is now the location of the present-day Rosiclare water treatment plant, in Hardin County. The counterfeiters' blockhouse, was raided, by local law enforcement and regulator/vigilantes, in 1822 and by citizen mob action, twice, in 1823, which finally drove out the Sturdevant Gang, from the lower Ohio River valley. In his book, A History of Illinois from Its Commencement as a State from 1818 to 1847, Illinois governor, Thomas Ford incorrectly claimed, that the Sturdivant Gang was driven out, from Sturdivant's Fort, in 1831.

Roswell Sturdivant in Natchez[edit]

In 1829, Roswell S. Sturdivant, who was also, known as John, Jack, and "Bloody Jack", became a professional gambler, in a Mississippi River, waterfront, gambling den, in an undesirable part of Natchez, Mississippi, called "Natchez-under-the-Hill". Sturdivant, as dealer in a faro card game, cheated a friend, of James Bowie, named Lattimore, out his money. Bowie, who sat for the next hand, won back all the money lost by his friend, which caused "Bloody Jack" Sturdivant to feel slighted and he foolishly challenged Bowie to a knife duel. Jim Bowie, with his left wrist tied to Sturdivant's, won the knife fight, sparing the life of Sturdivant, in which he received a horrible leg wound, from the infamous Bowie knife.

The Sturdivant brothers were criminal contemporaries of James Ford and the Ford's Ferry Gang and his partner, Isaiah L. Potts, alias, "Billy Potts" and the Potts's Hill Gang.

The Sturdevant Gang was often confused with the counterfeiter, John Duff, who operated, from 1790-1799, around the region of Illinois and Kentucky, near Cave-in-Rock, by 19th and early 20th century historians.

In popular culture[edit]

In the 1952 film, The Iron Mistress based on Paul Wellman's 1951 novel, starred Alan Ladd as Jim Bowie and Tony Caruso as "Bloody Jack" Sturdevant also, known as Roswell S. Sturdivant, depicts a Hollywood version, of the infamous bowie duel at Natchez Under The Hill.[citation needed]


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