"Bogus Mason Was Locked Up": Masonic Impostor Duncan C. Turner
May 14, 2019
Long-time readers of our blog will know that every May we return to the topic of our very first blog post: Masonic impostors. This year we focus on a man named Duncan C. Turner (born ca. 1847), who was featured in the 1903 booklet, Album of Masonic Impostors. He was previously published in the Masonic Relief Association's Official Warning Circular No. 147. The Album of Masonic Impostors' description of Turner is brief and to the point:
"Alias McNeill. Acacian Lodge No. 705, Ogdensburg, N.Y. Served time in prison."
An article published in the Buffalo Courier newspaper on November 14, 1897 makes it clear that the circulars published by the Masonic Relief Association worked. The newspaper recounts how Turner's profile was published in recent issues of the monthly Official Warning Circular - first showing up in the July 1897 issue. The article continues, noting that a "more recent letter announced that he [i.e. Turner] had been arrested in Cleveland and sentenced to the workhouse for sixty days, for working his swindle in that city. He recently regained his liberty and a still later [note in the Association's] circular stated that he was on his way East, all Relief Boards being instructed to keep a sharp lookout for him."
The article also reports how it was that Turner was apprehended in Buffalo by a Mason who had, indeed, kept a sharp lookout for him. After having met a local Mason, Henry Cutting, in town, Turner claimed that he had just arrived in Buffalo and had "fallen into a little ill luck." Cutting gave him the business address of Charles F. Sturm, who ran a furniture store in Buffalo and was the secretary of Buffalo's Masonic Board of Relief, which coordinated Masonic charity in the city. Turner made his way to Sturm's furniture store and "told Mr. Sturm a pitiful tale, which he concluded with an appeal for enough money to take him to New York." The article continues, noting Sturm's reaction to having a known impostor present himself to him: "On hearing the man's name, Mr. Sturm almost leaped from his seat in surprise." The article notes that Sturm called the police, who arrested Turner, "who was charged with being a tramp."
The Buffalo Courier reported about Turner's appearance in court on November 14. At that hearing, it was revealed that Turner had defrauded Masons in Briar Hill, NJ, Toronto, and Cleveland. The judge noted that Turner had already served sixty days in the Cleveland Workhouse for "obtaining money from Masons in that city by fraudulent pretense. The judge in the Buffalo courtroom sentenced Turner to sixty days in the penitentiary. At the sentencing, the judge declared that Turner "was the greatest liar with whom he had come in contact during his career as a dispenser of justice."
Want to read more about Masonic impostors? Be sure to check out all of our previous posts on the topic.