Dusty Relics of Arkansas History
March 11-17, 2019
By Bob Denman
The southern states faced a heck of a lot of problems during reconstruction following the American Civil War. The South didn’t enjoy the benefits of the national banking system and for 50 years currency was in short supply. Counterfeiting was systemic and provided much needed currency, although fake and quite illegal.
The Bull Frog Valley Gang, known nationwide for their counterfeiting activities, were reported widely in state and local newspapers. Even the New York Times wrote about the infamous ring whose agents passed fake currency from Mexico City to Toronto, Canada.
The notorious counterfeiting gang based their operation in Arkansas ... so, where is Bull Frog Valley and why Arkansas?
Bull Frog Valley is an idyllic remote valley running along the Big Piney Creek from Booger Hollow to today’s Long Pool Recreational Area just 10 miles north of Russellville and a few miles west of today’s Highway 7. The valley’s natural cover served local bandits and moonshiners quite well and could do the same for one George Rozelle, head of the counterfeiting ring. Rozelle, a Nebraska native, shipped printing equipment by rail from Chicago and set up his illegal operation in caves along the valley floor. His bogus five- and ten-dollar bank notes were quite good and produced in large quantities.
The Secret Service got on their trail after being tipped about a shipment of printing supplies and eventually arrested some 15 members of the counterfeiting gang. Those men were tried and convicted in Federal Court in Little Rock and Fort Smith. The problem was they couldn’t nab Rozelle or any of his lieutenants.
As the Feds turned up the heat, Rozelle fled the valley and buried the printing equipment. A Secret Service agent finally found three men who were affiliated with the operation and determined the general area where the printing press was buried. The agent moved there and patiently waited two years for someone to return for the press. In the meantime, one of the three decided to turn on the other two to save his own neck. Mysteriously, he was shot through the front window of his home with buckshot. The other two, now feeling safe to return for the press, dug it up one moonless night and were immediately arrested by the patient agent.
The two, working hard to save their own neck, gave the Agent a tip on where to find ringleader Rozelle who had moved to Cleburne County under an assumed name to begin a farming operation. Just days before the arrival of the agent in Cleburne County to make the arrest, Rozelle died – the agent finding only a fresh grave.
So ends the story of the Bull Frog Valley Gang, reported on the front page of the June 28, 1897 New York Times – the Gang is definitely a Dusty and illegal relic of Arkansas History.
A gang of counterfeiters known nationwide based their operation in Arkansas in Bull Frog Valley. The valley is an idyllic remote valley running along the Big Piney Creek to today’s Long Pool Recreational Area, as pictured above. (Photo courtesy of the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism)