The Springer Heirs Hoax
Could you imagine finding out that you’re a descendant of an astonishingly wealthy man? Now, imagine being told that if you could just prove your direct relation to that man, you could have the chance to inherit part of their multi-billion dollar estate. This is exactly how the Springer Heirs Hoax started in the 1800s. It was a long-running scam that carried on, well into the 1900s.
The hoax was so widespread that it affected people all over the country, including one local man’s own family. Local resident and opera legend, Fred McKitrick, found that his father had fallen victim to the scam in the early 1900s.
The Origins of the Hoax
Charles Christopher Springer died in Wilmington, Delaware in 1738. He and his life are a bit of an enigma, but records claim he was a man of noble birth who acquired various parcels of land totaling around 800 acres during his lifetime. It is debated who the land was leased to during Springer’s life, but it is agreed upon that the city of Wilmington ended up in possession of his estate after his death. It was estimated that his estate was worth hundreds of millions of dollars at the time of his death.
The first known scam related to the Springer Estate was in the 1880s. A man named George Ponton claimed that his mother was a direct descendant of Charles Springer, and therefore she would receive a large inheritance from the Springer Estate. Ponton asked people to loan him money, which he promised to later pay back with money his mother received from the Estate. Ponton claimed that a settlement between the Springer Heirs and the city of Wilmington had been made and a payout would happen soon; however, this was a fallacy. No settlement had been made and no money was to be paid to Ponton or his mother.