Person:Rudolph Van Baren (1)

Rudolph Van Baren
  • F.  Henry Spier (add)
  • M.  Mary De Braun (add)
  1. Rudolph Van Baren1842 - Abt 1910
  • HRudolph Van Baren1842 - Abt 1910
  • WAnnette WarsopAbt 1855 - 1920
m. 12 Mar 1877
  1. Annette W. Van BarenAbt 1880 & 1883 - Bef 1937
Facts and Events
Name Rudolph Van Baren
Gender Male
Birth[1] April 30, 1842 Streefkerk, the Netherlands
Marriage 12 Mar 1877 Manhattan, New York, New York, United Statesto Annette Warsop
Census[1] 9 Jun 1880 Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States1108 Division Street
Residence[2] Abt 1881 New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States6 Pierpont Court
Residence[4] Abt 1882 New Haven, New Haven, Connecticut, United States108 Olive Street
Will[3] 13 Oct 1910 Westchester, New York, United States
Death[3] Abt 17 Oct 1910 White Plains, Westchester, New York, United StatesSt. Vincent's Hospital


1881 Newspaper articles

Roelloff Von Baren's Windfall: A Pauper Yesterday and a Millionaire To-day

The Daily Evening Democrat (Shelbyville, Indiana), January 25, 1881
New Haven; Conn., Jan. 24
Roelloff Von Baren is the name of a German emigrant, who with his wife and infant child came to New Haven four months ago from Philadelphia penniless, and who lived in great destitution until last Saturday in a cheap tenement which had been provided by charity. He gave his name to the Young Men's Christian Association as Joseph Spier. They believed this, but laughed at him when he said that he was heir to many millions. For charity's sake they gave him a room and procured a scanty crust, hardly enough to ward off starvation.

Last Saturday a step-brother arrived here from Germany and sought him out. This person, Heinrich Von Baren, came with the Mayor of Hamburg and two Notaries. They had with them the will of Heinrich Spier, of Hamburg, which gave Roelloff Von Baren an estate worth from $25,000,000 to $40,000,000.

Roelloff was intended for a Catholic priest by his parents. His mother died, and his father married again and had two children by the second union, who were jealous of Roelloff's great prospects. Roelloff became a priest, but in three years recanted, became embroiled in a family quarrel as the consequence, and finally, in self-defense, stabbed one of his half brothers fatally. He had to flee to Germany or be tried for murder. He went to London, there met a charming English brunette named Annette Warsop, whom he married.

Henrich Spier was his grand-uncle. After the flight he had to furnish Roelloff with funds, but now he became enraged and Roelloff came to this country with little money and separate from all his family. His wife discovered that his name was not Spier, under which he was married, and after her child was born they were remaried here by a Justice.

The meeting of Roelloff and the step-brother was dramatic. The hunted man had suddenly become one of the wealthiest men in the world, with an income of $45,000 per week and the owner of seventy ships and several ship-yards. The stepbrother, with whom there had been an old feud, appeared to say that the grand uncle was dead, aged one hundred and two and to propose to manage the estate and give Roelloff $25,000 per week if he could have the balance. The offer was refused.

To-morrow Roelloff goes to New York to take preliminary steps, assisted by the Mayor of Hamburg, toward getting possession of his property. He is a slightly built man, thirty-five years old, with good health to enjoy the bonanza. He has light blue eyes and light hair, and is well educated. He can not return to Germany yet on account of the charge of murder.

A Lucky Dutchman

Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan 25, 1881

A Poor Dutchman in New Haven, Conn., Falls Heir to a Fortune Estimated at from $25,000,000 to $45,000,000.

New Haven, Conn., Jan. 24 - Roeloff Von Baren, or, as he styled himself on coming to this country from Holland last July, "John Spier," has been in New Haven ever since he arrived in the United States, with the exception of a few weeks, during which he was delayed in Philadelphia, where he landed, by the birth of a son, his only child. In New Haven he has not been able to support himself entirely, and, even though assisted by several charitable people, has at times suffered for the necessities of life. Late last week there came to this city, direct from Rotterdam, Heinrich Von Boren, who was accompanied by William A. Beach, the New York lawyer. Heinrich Von Baren is a half-brother of Roeloff Von Baren, of this city, and he brought with him the first news that Roeloff had of the great fortune to which he (the latter) had become heir. This fortune is the estate of Roeloff's grand-uncle, Henrich Spier, of Hamburg, who died about Dec. 31, and is estimated to be worth from $25,000,000 to $45,000,000. The meeting between the brother was not an extremely friendly one, but Mr. Beach succeeded in bringing about a reconciliation, so that they could talk business. The news at first staggered the brother here. It seemed to be too good to be true, but there could be no doubt of it, especially after Heinrich, in the presence of witnesses draw from his pocket first $3,000, then $6,000, and finally $25,000 in cash, which he offered to Roeloff if he would agree to sign a paper which he brought with him, which would make Heinrich the manager of the great estate. Heinrich agreed to pay to Roeloff so long as he lived the sum of $25,000 weekly, providing he might retain the remainder of the income for his own personal use. The offer was rejected. The newly-made millionaire changed his name in consequence of a family quarrel. He married his wife under his assumed name, and a few days ago was remarried under his own name. Mr. Von Baren will go to New York to-morrow to meet the Mayor of Hamburg and the notaries who came to this country to consult with him as to what steps he will take toward taking possession of his estate, which he cannot enter into until the 1st of May, when the will is to be opened and the formalities of the law in such matters complied with. Letter received by the last mail ask him to go at once to Hamburg and take formal possession of his uncle's mansion.

ROELFF VON BAREN:He Killed His Half-Brother in Self-Defense and Fled to America

Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan 25, 1881

He Killed His Half-Brother in Self-Defense and Fled to America
He Lived from Hand to Mouth, with the Mouth a Bad Second
Lawyer Beach, of Beecher Fame, Came Down and Wanted to See Him "Bad"
He Would Give $25,000 Cash to Be Von Baren's Business Manager in Future
Von Baren Now Heir to Nearly All Holland, Two Ship-Yards, and About Seventy Vessels
The Whole Estate Valued at Between Twenty-Five and Forty Millions of Dollars
New Haven, Jan. 24 - Roelff Von Baron, a Hollander, who has resided in New Haven with a wife and child for six months, has fallen heir to an immense fortune by the death of a great-granduncle, Heinrich Speir, of Rotterdam, who bequeaths his his property. Last week Heinrich Von Baron, half-brother to Roelff, came to this city direct from Rotterdam, accompanied by
and, Roelff says, told him of his good fortune, and offered him $25,000 in cash if he would make him manager of his estate. Heinrich to pay Roelff $2,500 weekly. This offer was refused, and Roelff has since received letters from the Mayor of Rotterdam and Notaries who drew up the will, informing him that the estate left him is estimated at between $25,000,000 and $40,000,000. It is said the property is the accumulation of several generations, and includes besides an immense amount of real and personal property, two shipyards and
Von Baron goes to New York to-morrow to meet the Notaries, who are said to have arrived there to consult with him. Von Baron is about 35 years old, and says he was formerly a Catholic priest, entering upon that calling at the wish of his father and other relatives, but, after serving three years, he renounced religion against their wished. He further says that, in an altercation with a half-brother over the matter, he was stabbed, and, drawing his own knife
Acting under the advice of the authorities he went to London, where he married an Englishwoman and lived under the name of John Speir, a name he has retained in this country. When he arrived in New Haven he was penniless, and his appeals for aid to his relatives being disregarded and unable to get work, he has lived mainly on charity.

The Von Baren Estate

Hartford Daily Courant, Jan 26, 1881

New York, Jan. 25 - William A. Beach the well known lawyer of this city, stated to-day that he had not been in New Haven for fifty years, and does not know anything about the Von Baren estate.

Roelloff Von Baren: The New Haven Yarn Probably Untrue

Chicago Daily Tribune, Jan 26, 1881

New York Jan 25. - The New Haven yarn about the immense estate that had been left to a Hollander named Roelloff Von Baren, and estimated at $25,000,000 to $45,000,000, was good enough while it lasted, but one days' publicity has put a different aspect upon it from that which it originally had. Mr. William A. Beach, the attorney of the city, was said to be the lawyer in the case. He knows nothing about it. The German Consul says the Mayor of Rotterdam isn't in the city, and the Dutch Consul laughs at the whole sensation. First he said there were no such large estates in Holland as stated in the published account. Next, the Mayor of Rotterdam would have nothing to do with the matter, even if there was one, and the idea that he would visit New York in his official capacity was
According to the laws of Holland, no notary could leave the country to transact business, and if there were any heirs to Dutch property in the United States the American Consul at Rotterdam would have been the proper person to take charge of it. If the Mayor of Rotterdam had come to New York he would have visited or sent to the Consul of the Netherlands, giving information of his arrival. He thought it was humbug, and not in Hamburg, where the large property was located.

Von Baren's Alleged Legacy

The New York Times, Jan 27, 1881

Ruloff's Swindling Operations in Pittsburg - Believed to be Identical With Von Baren.

Pittsburg, Jan 26-Ruloff Von Baren, who has appeared in New-Haven, Conn, as the alleged heir to $25,000,000 of a Rotterdam estate, was in Pittsburg in 1876. When he first came here he secured rooms at the Young Men's Home, paying $5 a week for his frugal fare. He secured work in a cutlery grinding shop, earning $8 a week. Ruloff, as he was here known, spent his evenings in the house. He became very confiding to the boarders, and murdered the English language unmercifully in telling how he was driven from Holland, because he abjured the Catholic faith, to seek a home in America, where he could worship when and where he pleased. Ruloff said his only friend was a rich grandfather in Holland, and when the old man died he would be the heir. One morning, in the early part of April, 1876, he left his work suddenly and, a few days after, he spread the intelligence about the house that his grandfather had died and left him $20,000. Then Ruloff became asthetic in his tastes and ordered his apartments to be sumptuously furnished, and next he purchased a quantity of jewelry from a confiding firm in the city. One morning in May Ruloff left the house, and has not since been seen. A few days after his departure the furniture men came and claimed the furniture of his apartments. He had purchased it on time and fled before the date set for settlement. Then came the news that the jewelry had not been paid for, and the additional announcement that Ruloff had deposited a note with James D. Thompson for $500, purporting to be drawn in his favor by Mr. George H. Garber. This note, of course, proved to be a forgery. Warrants were sworn out for Ruloff's arrest, but they were never served. The New-Haven Von Baren and the Pittsburg Ruloff are believed to be one and the same person.

Roeloff Von Baren: He Is a Highly-Organized Liar and Humbug

The Chicago Tribune, 28 Jan, 1881

Pittsburg, Pa., Jan. 27. Roeloff Von Baren, who, according to a New Haven dispatch to the Associated Press, has fallen heir to an immense fortune in Holland, it has just transpired resided in the Young Men's Home in this city in 1876, whence he suddenly disappeared, leaving behind him a number of unpaid bills amounting to about $500. During his sojourn at the Home he was very communicative, and said, among other things, that he had been educated for the Catholic priesthood and ordained a priest. The Catholic religion became distasteful to him, and he resolved to renounce it. This intention became known to his relatives, and for a long time he was imprisoned by Catholic authorities. Finally, he escaped to this country, and settled in Cleveland, O. His relatives traced him up, and established communication with the Bishop of Cleveland, with a view of having him incarcerated in an American monastery, so as to keep him out of the clutches of the Protestants. Roeloff discovered these machinations against his liberty, and again he resorted to flight, and settled down to work in this city. All who knew him when here say he is an arrant humbug and swindler. There is not a word of truth in the story that he has fallen heir to a fortune in Holland, or anywhere else. Should he ever return to Pittsburg he would be placed in a position to do the State some service.

Von Baren's Latest Story

The New York Times, Jan 29, 1881
From the New-Haven Palladium, Jan. 28

Spier or Von Baren has returned from New York and has either been imposed upon or is an imposter, for he persists in his story, in which, however, he makes a few changes, having learned additional particulars, as he says, in New-York. He now says the will, by the terms of which he is to have an immense income, is not to be opened until May, but that the notary who drew it up states him to be the sole heir. Statements come from Pittsburg and from Boston to the effect that in both those places imposters have within a few years told stories very similar to that of this man. Von Baren expects advances of money from the old country in a few days, he says, and adds that his brother, whom he met in New-York, in company with a lawyer who, his brother said, was William A. Beach - at least the name sounded like that - offered him money, and that he refused the offer.

Natuurlijk Onwaar

De grondwet, 1 Feb 1881

In sommige Engelsche en Hollandsche bladen in dit land heeft onlangs het verhaal de ronde gedaan dat een zekere Hollander, Roelof Van Baren, die te New Haven zou wonen, door den dood van een oom te Rotterdam erfgenaam zou zijn geworden van een vermogen van 30 millioen Dollars. Er werden allerlei bijzonderheden verteld: de Burgemeester van Rotterdam zou naar New York zijn gekomen om met den gelukkigen erfgenaam te spreken, de jonge man zou Nederland verlaten hebben, omdat hij een stiefbroeder in een twist gedood zou hebben enz. Natuurlijk is het geheele verhaal verzonnen en noch de persoon, die genoemd werd als de advokaat van den erfgenaam, noch de Nederlandsche Consul te New Vork, weten er iets van.

Pseudo heir, Roeloff von Baren

The Geneva Gazette, February 4, 1881

It appears from the statements of those who have been victimized by the pseudo heir, Roeloff von Baren of Philadelphia, that he not only never inherited a fortune, large or small, but that he concocted the story as a mean of carrying on a continuous series of systematic frauds.

Een Hollander opeens rijk

Nieuwe Amsterdamsche Courant - Algemeen Handelsblad 17 Feb 1881

Eenige dagen geleden werd een Hollander, Roelof von Baron genaamd, die thans met zijne vrouw en een kind te New-Haven, Conn., woont, door zijn broeder bezocht, die uit Rotterdam, Nederland, gekomen was, om hem mede te deelen, dat hij de erfgenaam was geworden van zijn onlangs op 102-jarigen leeftijd te Rotterdam overleden oud-oom, Henrich Spier. Zijn broeder bood hem aan de som van $ 25000 te zullen geven wanneer Roelof het beheer der erfenis aan hem overliet, hetgeen voor hem (Roelof) toch het voordeeligst zou zijn, om reden hij nooit weder in Europa kan terugkomen.
Dit aanbod sloeg Roelof echter van de hand, waaraan hij wijselijk bleek gedaan te hebben, doordien hij kort hierna een telegraphisch bericht van den burgermeester van Rotterdam kreeg, welke hem daarin meldde, dat de door zijn oudoom aan hem nagelaten erfenis eene waarde had van $ 250,000 tot $ 400,000. Op dit bericht maakte hij aanstonds alle aanstalten om zien in het bezit van deze schat te stellen.
Von Baron is omtrent 35 jaren oud, en zegt, dat hij vroeger, volgens den wensch zijns vaders, doch niet met zijn zin strookende, Katholiek priester was gewerden, wolk ambt hij nog slechts drie jaren vervuld had, toen hij den Roomsch Kath. godsdienst, en daarmede ook de priesterlijke bediening, verliet, hetwelk geheel tegen den zin was van zijne familie.
Verder zeide hij, dat in een twist met zijn half broeder, over het verlaten van den R. K. godsdienst en het priesterambt, deze hem met een mes verwondde, waarop hij zijn broeder, door zelfverdediging gedreven, gedood heeft. Na dit voorval vluchtte hij naar Londen, waar hij eene Engelsche vrouw huwde en daarna met haar naar Amerika vertrok, waar hij geheel geldeloos aankwam.

Roelof van Boen

Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb 18, 1881

Grand Rapids, Mich. Feb 17 - The Vrijheide Banner, the Holland paper published here, has made the discovery that in October, 1872, one Roelof Van Boen was sent to the State Prison for a year from this city for false pretenses. He bears the same name as the Hollander in New Haven, reported in the press a few days since to be the heir of many millions in Holland, and is believed to be the same person. When here his false pretenses grew out of goods obtained on the great expectations of a future that was coming to him.

1911 Newspaper articles

Hidden Millions of Man of Mystery Sought By Heirs

The New York Herald, Sunday, May 14, 1911 part 1 and part 2

Trace of Supposed Fortune of Rudolph Van Baren Is Not Found
On Hollander's Death Here Search for Wealth Results in Discovery of Nothing
Depite This, Legatees, Three Young Men, Feel Sure He Was Opulent, Always Having Cash.

Fascinated by a mystery of missing millions, Charles D. Hilles, secretary to President Taft, together with the Dutch Minister at Washington, Treasury Department officials and directors of several national banks here, in Chicago and Washington, as well as all the safe deposit companies in this city, are aiding in a search for the fortune which Rudolph Van Baren drew upon liberally in life and bequeathed to three young men of White Plains. Of this fortune not a cent has been found since Mr. Van Baren's death, last October.
Five million dollars is the estimate of the fortune made by Charles A. Campbell, a florist, now in Chicago. He was Mr. Van Baren's constant companion for the last fourteen years, and is the residuary legatee. Edward and Frederick Piggott, twins, and proprietors of a White Plains green grocery and meat store, are each beneficiaries to the extent of $100,000 by the will Mr. Van Baren made in St. Vincent's Hospital in this city just previous to his death from a general breakdown. He was seventy-one years old.
Henry R. Barrett, Corporation Counsel of White Plains, is conducting the search as attorney for the heirs, who are without wealth. Other persons, some of them of national prominence, who have taken up the matter are spending their time and money entirely out of curiosity to find the answer to the puzzle. If it were not known certainly that Mr. Van Baren had on several occasions cashed large drafts and checks in the First National Bank, the National Bank of Commerce and other financial institutions here, The Corn Exchange National Bank of Chicago, and the Riggs National in Washington, the searchers for his wealth would have long ago given it up as merely imaginary.

Seek Deposit Box
One of them, a retired banker and antiquarian, found in a Ninth street (Philadelphia) boarding house in a trunk left there a few years ago by Mr. Van Baren a receipt for rent of a safe deposit box in a Brooklyn institution. Mr. Barrett opened the box the next day, April 1, and found it empty. The box had not been opened before in three years, officials said.
Twice a week for years Mr. Van Baren, accompanied by Mr. Campbell, came to New York from White Plains and went to Wall Street and Broadway, where Mr. Van Baren left his companion, saying he was going to his safe deposit box. Every January and July for five years he took Mr. Campbell to Washington for the purpose, he said, of collecting interest on his government bonds. Mr. Van Baren made Mr. Campbell wait on the steps of the Treasury Building and at the door of the Riggs National Bank, where he went from the Treasury, and would never permit the younger man to know and details of his affairs. Mr. Van Baren always came out of the Riggs National Bank with a considerable sum of money, Mr. Campbell says.
"Jones killed Rice because Rice told him too much," Mr. Van Baren often said to Mr. Campbell, who was in much the same position toward the mysterious aged man as was Mr. Rice's valet, Jones, toward Mr. Rice at the time of the wealth man's murder. Mr. Van Baren was always suspicious lest any one discover anything about his affairs. He gave Mr. Campbell money occasionally, bought him clothing and other necessities, paid his railroad and steamship fares, board and other expenses in a continued series of travels all over the eastern and southern part of this country during a period of a dozen years.

Aided by Friends
From 1896, when he first made Mr. Campbell's acquaintance in a casual way and induced the young man to quit working as a florist and become his companion, until 1905 Mr. Van Baren was only occasionally in funds. The two boarded in White Plains in a house where the Pigotts were very friendly and often tided Mr. Van Baren over financial stringencies during those years. In 1904 Mr. Van Baren disappeared for several months, and on reappearance said that he had been to Holland to settle up an estate inherited from a brother and an uncle. This, he said, included an island in a Holland harbor which was leased to the government there for use as a shipbuilding yard.
Mr. Van Baren always had plenty of money after 1905 and told of the valuable paintings and antiques, including jewels, he had brought back with him and stored in the mysterious safe deposit box and elsewhere without ever naming locations. Mr. Barrett had the files in the Custom House here searched for record of entry of such goods, but without avail, and the Holland-American steamship passenger lists for the months of Mr. Van Baren's absence also failed to disclose his name, although he declared he had returned to the United States aboard one of its steamships.
Two men, who spoke Dutch, made visits to Mr. Van Baren at White Plains and in Philadelphia after his alleged trip to Europe, and in the presence of Mr. Campbell, who is slightly familiar with the Dutch language, talked to Mr. Van Baren about his estate. They are being sought in Utrecht, Holland, Mr. Van Baren's birthplace, through the Dutch Legation in Washington and with the aid of the State Department. Mr. Hilles, who was then an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, took up with interest an inquiry to discover what government bonds Mr. Van Baren had owned, but without result.

Got Money from Family
Mr. Van Baren came to the United States about forty years ago and went to Memphis, Tenn., bought some property, engaged in business and married. His wife and daughter died and he came North about fifteen years ago. He said his eight brother and himself were educated for the priesthood, but he never was ordained, as were his brothers. The last of them to die, he said, had inherited the great estate of their uncle and it descended to him as the last of his family. Mr. Van Baren said he and his family were not on good terms, and they sent him only a small allowance in foreign drafts, which he is known to have cashed before his period of prosperity began five years ago.
The three young men to whom Mr. Van Baren bequeathed his estate are well known in White Plains. Mr. Campbell served with the volunteer troops during the Spanish-American War, rejoining Mr. Van Baren when it was over.
One of the figures in Mr. Van Baren's story, and a vital factor in the solution of the problem of his wealth, is a "Judge Martin," presumably of Washington, whom Mr. Van Baren reported he had sent to Holland to settle up the estate there. It was not until after the return of "Judge Martin," whom Mr. Campbell and the Piggotts never saw, was reported by Mr. Van Baren, in 1905, that Mr. Van Baren came into the opulent command of wealth he afterward exhibited in his own strange way. He was economical, but not mean, and seemed careful rather to protect his secret than through love of money.
Mr. Van Baren was highly educated and was of impressive manner and appearance. He carried a valuable, old fashioned watch, and gave Mr. Campbell one after 1905, but subsequently took both of them, and they were not seen again. Mr. Van Baren reported that he had put them in the safe deposit box with his other family jewels and his bonds and stocks.

Known By Other Names
From occasional remarks by Mr. Van Baren his heirs received the impression that he was in bad standing with his family in Europe. He as known first to Mr. Campbell as Van Varen, and it has been learned that others knew him at various times as Van Baren, Van Borean, Van Dorn and Van Buren. When Floyd M. Grant, of Mr. Barrett's office, went from White Plains to St. Vincent's Hospital to draw Mr. Van Baren's will he told the dying man he must be described in that document and must sign it with his rightful name. He then said his name was Van Baren.
Mr. Grant told Mr. Van Baren also that he, as the lawyer in the case, must be informed of the whereabouts of the wealth of which the testator was disposing.
"Oh, the boys know where it is." Mr. Van Baren replied. The Piggott boys and Mr. Campbell did not know anything of its whereabouts, but Mr. Grant was not aware of their ignorance, and as Mr. Van Baren died four days later there was no further opportunity to question him on this point.

Seek Missing Millions

The New York Times, May 15, 1911

No Trace of Rudolph Van Baren's Supposed Fortune Can Be Found

When Rudolph Van Baren of White Plains died of a brief illness in St. Vincent's Hospital last October, a representative of Corporation Counsel Henry R. Barrett's office, who had gone to ask him about the whereabouts of $5,000,000 he was supposed to have hidden, failed to get the information, and search for the fortune still is being conducted by the Corporation Counsel and a score or more banking institutions. All that Mr. Van Baren is said to have revealed on his death bed were the words, "The boys know where it is." These "boys" it was learned, were Charles A. Campbell, a Chicago florist, residuary legatee, and Edward and Frederick Piggott, twins, in whose house in White Plains the old man and Campbell had lived for several years. The Piggotts, who are proprietors of a White Plains grocery store, were mentioned as beneficiaries to the extent of $100,000 each.

But none of these "boys" knew anything about the whereabouts of the treasure, always having been kept in the dark as to Van Baren's business dealings. The wealth of the old man, it is stated, dated to 1904, when he disappeared for several months, and on returning said that he had been to Holland to settle up an estate which, he said, included an island in a Holland harbor leased to the Government. After his return, his friends said, he had plenty of money, and often spoke of a mysterious safe deposit box where his art treasure and jewels were stored.

No Trace of Fortune: Search for Van Baren Millions Without Result

The Washington Post, May 18, 1911

Hilles and Louson Silent
Eccentric Millionaire Was Known at Riggs Bank and in Other Washington Institutions, Where He Had Transacted Business - Financiers Baffled by Disappearance of $1,000,000 in Bonds

Concerning the search which they are reported to be making, with many others, for the missing millions of Rudolph Van Baren, who died recently in New Yorik, neither Charles D Hilles, secretary to the President, nor Jonkheer Loudon, Minister of the Netherlands, would make any statement yesterday. It was explained that Mr. Hilles' part in the intercity effort to find a trace of Van Baren's vanished fortune was during the time he was Assistant Secretary of the Treasure, when he was requested to locate, if possible, the present holders of bonds bearing Van Baren's name. The minister of the Netherlands, it is said, has had no active interest in the matter.

A search in this city at all the large banks revealed nothing which might lead to the finding of the $5,000,000 fortune which Van Baren possessed during his life and which is apparently gone with his death. Despite the fact that he frequently transacted business with the Riggs National Bank of this city, officials there are as helpless as the bankers of New York and Philadelphia.

Van Baren Was Secretive
During his frequent visits to Washington with his friend, Charles A. Campbell, a Chicago florist, Mr Van Baren transacted business both at a prominent bank here and the Treasury Department. He was secretive to the point of eccentricity, and apparently distrusted every one. When Campbell visited this city with him he was required to wait at the corner of Fifteenth street and Pennsylvania avenue while the old man drew interest on the fortune now vanished.

It was stated on good authority yesterday that a firm of private detectives, hired to try and trace some evidence of where $5,000,000 in stocks, bonds, and securities has gone, has so far failed to learn anything more than the financiers who are seeking the missing money.

An attempt is now being made to find the numerals of the government bonds which Van Baren was said to possess to the extent of $1,000,000. That such a sum of money as this could have vanished is declared by all financiers to be beyond the bounds of comprehension.

Mystery Man Bequeathed Thousands, Left Nothing

The Evening World, Oct 2, 1911

White Plains Grocers Give Up Search for Hidden Wealth of Rudolph Van Baren
White Plains, N.Y. Oct 2 - Edward and Frederick Piggott, proprietors of a grocery and meat store, who were bequeathed $100,000 each in the will of Rudolph Van Baren, known as the "man of mystery" of White Plains, have given up the search for the fortune they thought Van Baren left. It is now generally believed that the thousands he gave away existed only in his disordered mind and that he didn't have a cent. Lawyer Henry R. Barrett, representing the Piggott boys, consulted the Dutch Minister at Washington, Treasury Department officials and officers of banks in Chicago, Washington and New York in his search for the hidden securities Van Baren often boasted of owning, but not a cent has been found.

Mr. Barrett found a safety deposit box Van Baren had rented in a Brooklyn institution, but there was nothing in it. The Piggott boys loaned Van Baren considerable money, which he never repaid. They have decided to be good losers, and have given up the idea that they will ever see any of the "mystic wealth" of Van Baren.

Timeline from newspaper accounts

  • 1779, Supposed birth of Heinrich Spier
  • 1861, Immigration
  • 1871, Immigration (Memphis, Tennessee)
  • 1872, Oct Grand Rapids, Michigan State prison
  • 1876, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • 1876, Apr, $20,000
  • 1876/1877 London, meeting Annette Warsop
  • 1877, marriage in New York (as Johan Spier)
  • 1880, Jul, coming from Holland
  • 1880, Birth daughter
  • 1880, Oct Philadelphia census (as Johanis Spier)
  • 1880, Dec supposed death of Heinrich Spier
  • 1881, Jan 21, arrival of Heinrich von Baren, Mayor of Hamburg & 2 Notaries
  • 1881, Jan 25 , New Haven; Conn.
  • 1881, May 1, Opening will in Hamburg
  • 1896, Met Mr. Campbell
  • 1896, Coming up North
  • 1898, Campbell, served during the Spanish-American War
  • 1904, Judge Martin sent to Netherlands
  • 1904, Disappearance, and wealthy, when returning
  • 1908, Last opening Deposit Box
  • 1910, Oct 13, Creation of will
  • 1910, Oct 17, Death
  • 1911, Apr 1, Opening deposit box
  • 1911, May 14, White Plains
  • 1911, Oct, end of search


  • Roelof Von Baren
  • Roelof Van Baren
  • Rudolph Van Varen
  • Rudolph Van Borean
  • Rudolph Van Dorn
  • Rudolph Van Buren
  • Joseph Spier
  • John Spier
  • Johanis Spier

Suspected identity

The current theory is that Rudolph Van Baren was born as Roelof van Baren in Streefkerk, Zuid-Holland on 30 Apr 1842. He married Maria Donk on 9 Aug 1866 in Oud-Alblas, Zuid-Holland. Maria had given birth to a son named Marinus on 23 Dec 1864. Marinus was officially recognized as the child of Roelof at the time of their marriage. Marinus died on 27 Nov 1870. His death certificate indicates that Roelof was living apart from his wife in Groot Ammers. In Apr 1888, Maria filed for divorce from Roelof on the grounds that he disappeared.

No conclusive evidence has been found to prove this theory.

  1. 1.0 1.1 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. 1880 U.S. Census Population Schedule.

    "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 15 Oct 2013), Johanis Spier, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States; citing sheet 425B, family 0, NARA microfilm publication T9-1174

  2. 1881 New Haven City Directory.

    Vanburen Roelof, gun shop, h 6 Pierpont court

  3. 3.0 3.1 New York, United States. New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971.

    [1], [2], [3]

  4. 1882 New Haven City Directory
    Vanbaren Roelof, emp Sargent & Co., h 108 Olive
    Sargent & Co: