Putnam County, Illinois History and Genealogy
A Putnam County Defaulter
December 6, 1877
W. H. Zenor, of Hennepin, late county treasurer of Putnam county, has defaulted to the amount of about $3190, and has left for parts unknown. His accounts were discovered to be irregular at the end of his first term of office, in the fall of 1875. He, however, was re-elected by the people, as he was thought to be an honest man, and that the business of the office would be squared up. This fall the accounts were in a worse tangle than ever, and were given publicity in the county papers, yet he sought re-election for a third term and was beaten by only a small majority. His defeat left him no chance, if he wanted it, to replace the deficiency, and he took the only alternative in his power, to get out of harm's way. We copy from the Record a full account of the affair:
"The announcement last Monday that W. H. Zenor, county treasurer, had departed for parts unknown, was received with much astonishment by the most of our citizens. It was of course known to a great many that Mr. Zenor was somewhat behind with his accounts, yet very few expected otherwise than that he would stay and meet the default, or that he would be able to square up everything when the proper time came. The only excuse he offers, that we are aware of, for his conduct, is contained in a letter which he mailed from St. Louis, and which was to most of the people here, the first intimation that he had gone. The letter reads as follows:
Jeff. Durley or W. H. Casson, gents: Circumstances has compelled me to take steps that I would not otherwise have done. I find that I cannot meet everything, and I want my bondsmen to be as charitable towards me as possible, for I intend that they shall not eventually lose anything. I am going to look out for something to do, and as soon as I can find a place I will be back, but to stay in Hennepin there would be no chance for me to make a living. I have left everything in my office just as it is, and I want you to see that I get credit for everything that is due me. My whole aim shall be to satisfy my bondsmen as soon as I can. I leave without any means, but I intend to find some place where there will be some prospect of my making a raise. I leave the key of the office with my wife. You will hear from me again. Respectfully
W. H. ZENOR
P. S. - I wish you two would settle up the matter with the county.
On account of this letter the county clerk immediately called a special meeting of the supervisors, and that body met at one o'clock p.m. Tuesday, and made a partial examination of the treasury. This revealed the fact that the state tax had all been paid over, and that the parties on that bond breathed easier. The board then appointed a committee of two Messrs. McNabb and Casson to examine Mr. Zenor's books, with a view to ascertaining just what his deficiency is, and report to the board at it meeting, Dec. 1st. This committee has not advanced far enough yet to give the exact amount, but from what we have learned the deficiency will not exceed $3000, which amount will be reduced probably $150 or $200 by available assets on hand. His bondsmen, on his county or treasurer's bond proper, are H. J. Swindler, Fred. Seibold, B. S. Cuter, Wm. Newburn, Daniel Paterson, Jacob Zenor and L. E. Skeel. The committee finds reports of the railroad fund made out to date, and it is not thought that Mr. Zenor took any considerable amount of money with him. We cannot of course give any very accurate statement until the committee finishes its work, and therefore prefer waiting until we can give it accurate and reliable. The amount of Mr. Zenor's default is small, to be sure, yet such occurrences are detrimental to any community, from their tendency to impair the confidence of the people, to say nothing of the shock to friends and relatives. Mr. Zenor has an excellent and economical family, and we sincerely hope, for their sake if nothing more, that he will be able in a short time to make this matter all satisfactory. The loss to his bondsmen will be seriously felt no doubt, but it is a money loss and easier regained. This, we believe, is the first defalcation ever recorded in the annals of this county
June 13, 1878
The arrest and condition of Mr. W. H. Zenor, late treasurer of Putnam county at Memphis, Tenn., is thus told by the Memphis (Tenn.) Avalanche:
"If the old man's story is true, he presents a sad picture of the just suffering for the unjust. Grasping the bars of his cell in the Adams street station house yesterday, his gray head bowed and his weak frame shaking with emotion, he told his story. He had been treasurer of Putnam county, Illinois for six years, from 1871 to 1877. The duty of the treasurer is to settle with the township collectors, who report all delinquent taxpayers to the treasurer, and whose duty it then is, after a certain period, to publish a notice of all delinquents. If the treasurer fails to make the publication at the proper time he becomes personally responsible to the county for the amount of the taxes due by the delinquent taxpayer. It was by favoring old friends, men poor like himself, that he became responsible for about $1000 of taxes due by others. Not having the funds to pay, he left the place that had been his home for 33 years, and became a wanderer on the face of the earth. When asked if he had a family, his eyes filled with tears as he replied, "Yes sir, a wife and three children - two boys and a girl." His name was W. H. Zenor, and he was arrested by the detectives of the city's police force, on instructions received from George C. Read, sheriff of Putnam county. According to the old man's story, he had been in Memphis since last November, in vain endeavoring to find employment, from the fruits of which he hoped to be able to cancel the debt of dishonor hanging over him, and return to his family. He remains in the station house awaiting the arrival of an officer to be sent after him from Illinois.