ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — It started with a newspaper clipping.
Todd Allen, the historian for the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, kept it because it talked of Presidential pardons from the 1800s for Monroe County Jail inmates.
Allen’s search brought him to the home of former Monroe County Sheriff Andy Meloni where he found 3 hand-written pardons in decent shape, but in need of serious care.
“Somebody had used scotch tape in the past to keep them together,” Allen remembered.
After Meloni’s passing his family donated the pardons back to the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, which then had them conserved and framed.
While one of the pardons is signed by Ulysses S. Grant, the clear highlight of the group is the one signed by Abraham Lincoln – a pardon for a man convicted of counterfeiting.
“During the Civil War coinage was very hard to find because people were hoarding and this local merchant made his own coinage to give as change and apparently he was convicted of counterfeiting and later pardoned,” Allen said.
Current Monroe County Sheriff, Todd Baxter, couldn’t believe what he was seeing when he first set eyes on Lincoln’s signature.
“I was literally was moved to tears, no exaggeration,” Baxter said.
It’s almost unheard of in modern history for a President to pardon someone at a local jail, but Baxter says it was common in the days during and following the Civil War.
“When the war came to an end, there were a lot of breaks given,” Baxter said. “We had to reconcile the country. You see one the pardons related to that story – OK, that was then, let’s move on as a country and part of that was pardoning people from the jail.”
The pardons were revealed Tuesday evening and will soon hang in a room at the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office named after the pardons’ longtime caretaker, Andy Meloni.