Edwin James Dent - a vocation marked by fraud

The following sequence charts the life and ministry of a man who may possibly have had a genuine vocation as a layman, but resorted to fraud, serving a prison sentence; 'escaped' to the American mid-west where he led a charmed life for a time, pushing many of the right buttons but moving rapidly from place to place; and returned to England, and eventual bankruptcy.
Guardian 27 July 1887

Sir—I beg to be allowed this opportunity of cautioning, especially my clerical brethren who are incumbents, as to employing the services of a certain Mr. Edwin James Dent. He claims to have come recently from the diocese of Bloemfontein, South Africa. He assumes, at convenience, the aliases of the Rev. C. M. Lambert (who is a genuine priest still in that diocese) and of the Rev. – James, and others for what I know. I would advise those proposing to engage the services of this 'gentleman' (?) to communicate first with yours faithfully,
W. H. C. Luke, St. Matthias Earl's-court, Nevern House, Earl's-court, S.W., July 25, 1887

Guardian 4 January 1888

At Hammersmith police-court yesterday, Edwin James Dent, a tutor, giving an address in Brixton, who was dressed in the garb of a clergyman, was brought up on a warrant before Mr. Fenwick charged with obtaining money from a lady by false representations. The prosecutrix was not in attendance, but the case was explained by Detective Drew, who executed the warrant. He stated that the accused had been going about for the last twelve months personating ministers of different denominations both in London and in the provinces. There were many charges against him. He came to Kensington and obtained food and lodging, representing himself to be a clergyman from Bloemfontein, in South Africa. On his being arrested on Monday evening in Southampton-street, Covent-garden, six pawntickets and two cheques were found upon him, and at his rooms discovered fifty-three duplicates relating to wearing apparel and different articles, also two carriage rugs, a book containing one cheque on the Birkbeck Bank, and two Post-office Savings-bank books. The defending solicitor reserved his cross-examination, and applied for bail. But the detective opposed the application, saying that charges of uttering forged cheques would be brought against the accused, who he believed had been allowed to take charge of parishes.  A remand was directed and bail refused.

London Magnet 23 January 1888
On Wednesday, at Hammersmith Police Court, Edwin James Dent, who was described as a tutor, and drossed in clerical clothes, was brought up for re-examination on the charge of obtaining money from Mrs. Rennette Gabrielle Hover, a widow, now residing at Westgate-on-Sea, by false representations.—Mr. Angus Lewis, who attended on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there were numerous charges against the prisoner, both for forgery and false pretences. Dealing with the charge first preferred he proceeded to state that in February last the prosecutrix advertised for a boarder, and received a reply from Torquay, the writer stating that he required accommodation for a friend, the Rev. C. M. Lambeth, of Bloemfontein. The terms were accepted, and Dent afterwards appeared, representing himself to be a clergyman, and remained five weeks, incurring a debt of 10 guineas for board and lodging. He borrowed a sovereign, and at the end of five weeks left suddenly in the morning. The prisoner was not the Rev. Mr. Lambeth. In September the defendant was at Riseley, in Bedfordshire, acting as curate. He left after remaining a month, taking a bag belonging to the vicar, the Rev. Mr. Giles, and five cheques which he extracted from his book. Those cheques were filled up for sums amounting to £650, which he passed upon London tradesmen. The prisoner also opened an account at the Birkbeck Bank, and uttered cheques after the amount had been withdrawn.
—The prosecutrix deposed that in February last she was residing in Longridge-gardens, Kensington. After advertising she received letters, and a reference was given to Canon Liddon, but she made no inquiries, as she supposed it was all right. The accused represented himself to be the Rev. Charles Lambeth, from Madeira, adding that he had been in Bloemfontein, where he was ordained. He remained five weeks without paying anything. At the end of the first week she asked him to settle the account, but he said he preferred to do so at the end of every four weeks. At the end of the four weeks she again asked him to settle the account. He told her that he had been disappointed, that he was an independent gentleman, and his agent had not forwarded any money—in fact, he said he was very short, and asked her to lend him a sovereign. She lent him the sovereign, but he never returned it. She paid for wine and other things. He left suddenly on the morning of April 18, and she never saw him again until she attended at that Court.
—Miss Emily Maud Douglas, residing in Cromwell-crescent, Kensington, deposed that she knew the Rev. Mr. Lambeth, of Bloemfontein, but tho defendant was not that gentleman.
—In answer to Mr. Avory (for the defence), the witness said she did not know that the prisoner was sub-deacon at St. Andrew’s Cathedral. Bloemfontein. —Mrs. Annie Dawson, of Belgrave-road, St. John’s-wood, said in November last she advertised for two or three boarders, and saw the accused, who gave the name of Grant, also stating that he was a tutor, and would be ordained at Christmas. He remained a fortnight. He paid for the first week with a cheque on the Birkbeck Bank, and it was honoured. He afterwards stated that his father was ill, and his presence was required at Edinburgh. Before leaving he asked her to cash a cheque for £10 drawn upon the Birkbeck Bank. She procured the money and gave it to him. He also gave her a cheque for £1 17s. 6d. drawn on the same bank for the week’s board, and on going away said he would return on Saturday. He never returned, and she did not see him again uutil he was in custody. The second cheque was not presented, as the first was referred to drawer.
—After hearing evidence in other cases, Mr. Fenwick, at the request of Mr. Lewis, granted a further remand.
—Mr. Avory applied to the magistrate to reduce the amount of the bail, two sureties each in £250. He said at present it amounted to a prohibition.
—Mr. Fenwick declined to reduce the bail at that stage of the proceedings, and the prisoner was removed.

London Magnet 30 January 1888
THE ALLEGED CLERICAL IMPOSTOR.  On Wednesday, at Hammersmith Police Court, Edwin James Dent, described as a tutor, was finally examined on several charges of fraud, forgery, and robbery.
—Mr. Angus Lewis represented the Public Prosecutor, and Mr. Avory again appeared for the prisoner. Mr. Lewis called witnesses in three fresh cases.
—William Louis Wolturs, a hairdresser in the Holloway-road, said he changed a cheque for £12 10s 4d. drawn upon Barnard and Co., bankers at Bedford, lor the accused. It was returned, marked 'No account'. The prisoner promised to return in a day or two, but ho never saw him again until he was in custody.
—Nicholas Mead, assistant to Messrs. Vanheim and Wheeler, clerical outfitters, of Berners-street, deposed that Dent gave them an order for a suit of clothes, six shirts, a silk hat, and a dozen collars, value £9 18s 6d. He described himself as the Rev. Henry Dawson, of St. Paul’s Clergy House, Bedford, and took the hat with him. He also ordered half a dozen flannel shirts, and requested them to be sent with the hat left behind to Morley’s Hotel. He gave a cheque for £10 10s 6d, drawn upon Messrs. Barnard, bankers, in Bedford, and received the change. The cheque was returned, marked 'No account'.—Reginald Cornish, asistant to Mr. Wipple, a clerical clothier, at Charing-cross, said on Sept. 7 the prisoner came into the shop dressed as a clergyman, and ordered a suit of clothes and a stole. Ho gave a card bearing the name of the Rev. W. H. Robins, and said he was the curate-in-charge of Riseley, Bedford. He requested the stole and clothes to be sent to Riseley Vicarage. The stole was sent, and a letter was received requesting the clothes to be forwarded with an overcoat. The coat was sent on the same day and the clothes afterwards. He called again in October, and was dressed in ordinary clothes. He said he was brother to the Rev. W. H. Robins, and selected a black bag for him. He ordered it to be sent to Bolton’s Hotel, Euston-road. At the time witness did not recognise him. The prisoner afterwards called again, and said he was the Rev. W. H. Robins, giving a cheque for £18 in payment for his account, he received the change, and the cheque was afterwards returned
—Mrs. Gertrude Giles, widow of the Rev. Edwin Giles, vicar of Riseley, Bedford, deposed that in August her husband, who was in a bad state of health, engaged the prisoner as curate up to Christmas. He gave the name of Robins, he came on Sept. 5th, and performed the duties of a curate, having the sole charge of the parish. He left suddenly on Oct. 7, and she afterwards missed a black bag and five blank forms from a cheque-book belonging to her husband, who had an account at Barnard and Co.’s bank.
—The three cheques were produced and identified, Detective Drew, of the F Division, who arrested the prisoner, stating that they were in his handwriting. He (the detective) also produced tho two bags, stole, and overcoat. He said he found the bag belonging to Mr. Wipple and the stole at the prisoner’s lodgings in Brixton. He received the other property from a pawnbroker.
—Mr. Avory stated that his client was duly admitted a sub-deacon of the church at Graham’s Town, and was afterwards at St. Andrew's Cathedral, Bloemfontein.
—Mr. Fenwick committed the prisoner for trial.

Old Bailey 13 January 1888

EDWIN JAMES DENT (33) for unlawfully obtaining money and goods by false pretences — Fifteen Months' Hard Labour. (There were other indictments against the prisoner for forgery and larceny, to which he pleaded Not Guilty.) [no further details given]

 The Churchman 1901

Diocese of Kansas
Edwin James Dent was ordained to the diaconate Sunday, April 27, by the Rt. Rev. Frank R. Millspaugh, D.D., In St. Andrew's church, Emporia, the Rev. Archibald Beatty, D.D., presenting the candidate and preaching the sermon.

Coffeyville Weekly Journal 30 August 1901

Short Sketch of the Man Who Succeeds Rev. Eversden at St. Paul's — The Rev. Edwin James Dent, who will have charge of St. Paul's parish for the next six months, arrived in the city yesterday. He is a man of splendid ability and well fitted to continue the work along the lines laid down by Father Eversden.  Rev. Dent is the son of an English naval officer and received his early education in private schools proceeding in course to Durham university, one of the first three educational institutions of his native land. He is a man of extensive travel, having spent several years as a missionary in South Africa. He is thoroughly posted on the Boer question, being personally acquainted with Abraham Fischer, one of the Boer delegates to this country, while the eldest son of the late Sir John Brand, for some time president of the Orange Free State, received his education from Rev. Dent. Coming to this country in 1889, Rev. Dent took up clerical [sic] work in Wisconsin, in the diocese of Milwaukee, and later came to Kansas, acting as missioner along the Central Branch railroad towns. Recognizing his value as an indefatigable worker, Bishop Millspaugh moved him to the Cathedral parish at Topeka, whence he comes to Coffeyville. Mr. Dent takes great interest in all affairs national and municipal and is a naturalized citizen of of the United States. He is an entertaing talker and will prove an acquisition to the community. He will assist Father Eversden in the services at St. Paul's on Sunday next, taking full charge of the parish thereafter.

Coffeyville Daily Journal 12 August 1902

REV. DENT TALKS: Tells of His European Trip — A Pleasant Journey
Rev. Edwin James Dent, rector of St. Paul Episcopal church, of this city, has returned from a voyage to England, where he spent about two and a half months visiting relatives and viewing places and scenes of interest. A Journal reporter visited Rector Dent in his study Tuesday forenoon and received a most hearty greeting from this excellent Christian gentleman. Of his recent trip Rector Dent said: I left Coffeyville May 18 and sailed from New York on board the Anchoria, a fast Anchor line steamer May 24. On Sunday following I held religious services on board the ship. The trip to Glasgow was made in eleven days. The weather was cold and foggy, but the sea was smooth and the trip altogether was quite pleasant. I spent some time with my brother and other relatives in London and various places. During my sojourn in Europe I visited Portsmouth, Windsor and the Isle of Wight. Considerable time was spent at the Paris exposition, which I fully enjoyed. I also witnessed the production of 'Faust' by Henry Irving at the Lyceum theater in London. Also saw the illuminations and decorations for the coronation ceremonies. Returning home I set sail from Glasgow on board the Astoria, another fast Anchor line steamer on July 17. We had warm weather and very fine sailing. We were ten days in making the trip to New York, arriving there on the 27th. While on board the ship a grand concert was given by the passengers. I took part in the program and sang 'Come Back to Erin'. I also conducted religious services on board the ship on Sunday, July 20. I spent a week in New York city, visited Washington, Indianapolis, Brookfield, Mo., and Kansas City. Arrived home last Saturday. On Sunday morning I held usual services and Sunday school. My trip abroad was a most enjoyable one, and never to be forgotten. I will conduct services on Sunday morning as usual until after the Diocesan convention, which will be held at Atchison, September 10, 11 and 12, after which time my active fall church work will be resumed.

Coffeyville Daily Journal 25 February 1903

ANNOUNCEMENT OF SERVICES TO BE HELD DURING LENT: Rector's Lenten Pastoral is also published herewith; it is well worth reading.

Well Beloved in Christ: Lent is now here to tell us of the vigils, the fastings, the prayers, the passion and the death of our Most Holy Saviour. And by the church and our consciences we are called to take up our cross and follow Him. And is there any one among us who has been washed by the waters of baptism, cleansed by the precious blood and fed by our Redeemer's Body in the holy communion, that can look to the summit of Calvary and gaze upon the Divine Face so wan and pale, can look into those Holy Eyes filled with dust and blood, can see those Sacred Lips all swollen from the blows of an ungrateful people, can meditate upon that holy, silent Body, in the stillness of death hanging all limp by cruel nails to the cross - is there any human sinful heart that can look there and not fall prostrate, crying out: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And there is something for each to do. God in His mercy and wise providences gives us this holy season that we may draw nearer, to Him, when like his dear Son we are to be made perfect through suffering. But we all know that we cannot draw near to God while we cling to our sins. So, then, beloved, it is a practical question: How are we to overcome our temptations and draw near to God? Long ago a great seer foretold in prophetic song of Christ. Look unto me and be saved. We must then look to Jesus for our strength and our example when we are struggling with sin and temptation. Look into Christ, then, when He kept the first Lent, while for forty days and forty nights He fasted and prayed in the wilderness. We know, indeed, that Jesus did not and could not sin, for He is God; yet in some mysterious way He was tempted in all points like as we are. How did He, at the end of that long vigil, when He was weary unto death, overcome the assaults of Satan? Remember, it was the Almighty God who was battling with the evil one. He could have hurled him, had He wished, to the lowest abyss. What a wonderful example He set us of humility! He took the simple means God had thus far ordained, as if He had been merely a man and not God as well. He repulses the attacks of Satan by the words of the Holy Ghost in the Divine scriptures It is written. It is written. It is written. So we must overcome by the means God has appointed His church, the Bible, Prayer and the Sacraments. We must be saved in God's way, not our way. And so in Lent it is the custom of the church to give her children a more abundant opportunity to use the means of holiness through Jesus Christ our Lord. To some of us the privileges of another Lent may never come. Now is the accepted time. Now is the day of salvation. Let us, then, with Christ set our faces steadfastly toward Jerusalem and walk with Him the way of the cross, which leads, yes, which leads to death, but also to a glorious resurrection, when we shall rise triumphant on the Great Easter with our Savior. Because we have suffered with Him we shall also reign with Him. Praying that God may quicken your hearts to serve Him more faithfully, with all blessing. Your friend and rector, EDWIN JAMES DENT.

The Lenten services at St. Paul's church are as follows: Ash Wednesday Matins, Litany and sermons, 10:30 a.m.; Evensong, Penitential office and - sermon, 7:30 p. m. Sundays Matins (with Litany & Ante-Communion service) and sermon, 10:30 a.m.; Sunday school and children's Vespers, 3 p.m.; Evensong and sermon (1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays) 7:30 p.m.; Evensong (2d 4th and 6th Sundays), 4 p.m. Week days Matins, 9 a.m.; Evensong, with devotional reading, except Friday, 3.30 p.m.; Evensong with address Friday, 7:30 p.m. Good Friday Matins, Litany, Ante-Communion service and sermon 10 a.m.; The Three Hours, 12 to 3 p.m.

However, he was not ordained priest until December 1903 in the Diocese of Missouri, at St Mark's Cathedral, Salt Lake City, by the Presiding Bishop as Provincial Bishop (sede vacante); he then served for a year in the Missionary District of Salt Lake, before his next post in the diocese of Fond du Lac (founded in 1875 for the area of north-eastern Wisconsin).

The Churchman 1905 p821

The Rev. E. J. Dent, of the diocese of Fond du Lac, has resigned the charge of St Mary's, Medford, Wis. He sails from Philadelphia May 27, by the American Line steamer Westernland, and will spend the summer in England.

Back in England, he served briefly (with the Archbishop of Canterbury's permission under the Colonial Churches Act) as a curate at St Bartholomew Bethnal Green (106-07), St Paul Leicester (1908-09), St Edmund Hunstanton (1910-11), living at Rose Villa, Hill Street, New Hunstanton, where he was declared bankrupt - paying a dividend of 2s 1½d in the £. Another brief curacy followed, then his six-month period at Christ Church Watney Street (1912-13) - how much did Arthur Stevens, the Vicar, know of his background? Futher curacies followed - St Catherine Nottingham (1912-13), All Saints Coventry (1913-15), Headless Cross, Redditch (1916-17), and All Saints Coventry again (1919-23), after which he had permission to officiate in Coventry diocese for the following year, and then in London from 1924 until the early 1930s, living at Christ Church House, Shroton Street Marylebone (church closed in 1973 - now a recording studio).

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