A Century Of Banking

Editor’s note: John P. Herrick, oil historian of Olean, N. Y., founder of the Bolivar Breeze, and for more than 20 years a resident of Allegany County, has written a story of “A Century of Banking in Allegany County.”  A personal acquaintance with the bankers and banks of the county during the past half century makes it possible for him to write a new chapter in the history of the county.

By John P. Herrick

Private Banks in Belfast

            The first banking office in Belfast was established in 1852 by Hazen and Joab Hughes, representatives of a bank in New Jersey.  Bills were issued signed by them as president or vice president and cashier, and put in circulation. The financial crash of 1857 caused the closing of the bank.  During the following 25 years, A. J. Lewis, B. T. Willis & Bros., and J. M. Davis, in turn bought and sold exchange and discounted notes, serving the community as private bankers.

Private Bank in Belmont in Civil War Days

            Prior to the Civil War, residents of the town of Amity, of which Belmont, formerly Phillipsville, was the business center, divided their banking between Cuba, Olean and Hornellsville.  The first banking office was opened in 1862 by Andrew Langdon, a hardware merchant, who later became President of the Empire State Savings Bank of Buffalo.  The volume of business transacted was small, counterfeit bills plentiful, the price of gold high, and after three years Mr. Langdon closed his office.  During the following 23 years, John Thompson & Co., C. S. Whitney & Co., E. W. Chamberlin & Co., C. M. Marvin and M. E. Davis, in turn established private banking and exchange offices in Belmont, none of which proved to be permanent.

The State Bank of Belmont

            The charter of the State Bank of Belmont was dated June 25, 1888.  The authorized capital stock was $100,000, of which $25,000 was issued.  The capital was increased to $25,000 in 1896 and to $50,000 in 1904.  The first officers were Elmore A. Willets, president; Dr. W. K. Paul, vice president and William J. Richardson, cashier.  The first directors were Elmore A. Willets, Mark W. Pike, Miles E. Davis and William J. Richardson.   An attractive bank building was erected in 1913.  Previous to that time the bank occupied quarters in the Belmont Hotel block.  This bank is the only one in the county that pays no interest on deposits, preferring straight checking accounts.  Mr. Elmore A. Willets served as president from date of organization to the day of his death, December 12, 1949.  He was one of the wealthiest residents of the county and endeared himself to the people of Belmont in 1911, by the gift of a beautiful colonial type village hall.

            The State Bank of Belmont on December 31, 1953, reported capital, surplus and undivided profits of $219,783.43 and deposits of $1,630,109.10.  The present officers are Elmore A. Willets, Jr., president; William H. MacKenzie, vice president; Harlen R. Sortore, casdier, Owen F. Keenan, Jr., and James T. Kane, assistant cashiers.  The directors are Elmore A. Willets, Jr., William H. MacKenzie, Lucy Penn Willets, William W. Serra and Harlen R. Sortore.  Mr. Sortore entered the employ of the bank in 1901, and has served as cashier for 44 years.  William H. MacKenzie, vice president of the bank, has acceptably represented Allegany County in the state legislature for 17 years.  The population of Belmont is 1211 and the elevation 1415 feet.

The State Bank of Bolivar

            The first banking office in Bolivar was established as the Bolivar Banking Company, a private bank, on January 31, 1882, by C. V. B. Barse, Henry S. Morris, Mills W. Barse and Charles S. Gary of Olean, N. Y., and Adelbert H. Marsh of Fredonia, N. Y. Mr. Barse was elected president; Mr. Marsh, cashier, and Fred L. Newton, teller.  The bank was located at the corner of Main and Wellsville streets in the Barse Block, the first large business block in Bolivar.

            A few weeks after the new bank opened, a rival group of bank officials from Bradford purchased a corner lot directly across the street from the Barse Block and began the erection of a two story brick bank building.  After filing an application for a charter for The State Bank of Bolivar, an offer made to the Bolivar Banking Company for its deposits and goodwill was accepted.  The State Bank of Bolivar was chartered May 11, 1882, with a capital of $100,000.  Of the 21 stockholders, two were women and only two residents of Bolivar.  Robert F. Borckman of Bradford was the first president ad John F. Thompson of Randolph, N. Y., the first cashier.  The directors were William C. Allison of Philadelphia, the largest stockholder, L. F. Lawton, Robert F. Borckman, Judson E. Haskill and Otto F. Schonblom.

            A controlling interest in the bank was purchased from the organizers in March, 1884, by a group of Bolivar citizens.  James M. Curtiss was named president; Justin B. Bradley, vice president; Fred L. Newton, cashier, and Fred A. Hulbert, teller.  The capital, due to the waning oil boom, was reduced to $50,000 by the new owners.  Three additional changes were made in the capital structure.  In 1892 a reduction from $50,000 to $30,000; in 1921 an increase from $30,000 to $60,000 and in 1946 an increase from $60,000 to $120,000.  John F. Thompson and brother, Charles C. Thompson resigned to join the Seaboard Bank in New York.  John F. Thompson, after serving as executive vice president of the Seaboard Bank, resigned to organize the Bankers Trust Company, serving as senior vice president for twelve years before retiring.

            In 1891, due to the depression in the oil business, Bolivar bank deposits reached a low of $80,000.  In the second boom in 1925 the State Bank of Bolivar enlarged and modernized its banking office and increased the number of employes.  The seady increase in the volume of deposits was due to successful “flooding” operations.

            The State Bank of Bolivar on December 31, 1953, had a capital, surplus and undivided profits of $278,431.07 and deposits of $2,566,634.07.  The officers are William J. Hogan, president; John C. Bradley and Frank Dougherty, vice presidents; Louis B. Dunn, cashier and Bernice Hitchcock and Joyce N. Burdic, assistant cashiers.  The directors are Chester M. Bliss, John C. Bradley, Frank Dougherty, William F. Hogan, William J. Hogan, Fred C. Shaner and Forrest J. Wilson.

Dean of Allegany County Bankers

            The dean of Allegany County bankers is William J. Hogan, president of the State Bank of Bolivar, who entered the bank as a clerk on February 1, 1883, and celebrated 60 years of continuous service last year.  He was elected the fourth president in 1919, succeeding Christopher C. Garthwait.  In addition to being a bank president, Mr. Hogan has been an oil producer for many years.  He is also an expert telegrapher with many years of service as an oil buyer for purchasing agencies, making reports of daily sales by wire.  For a number of years he has been a director of the South Penn Oil Company.

The First National Bank of Bolivar

            The First National Bank of Bolivar was chartered October 6, 1928, with a capital stock of $100,000.  The first officers were George H. Stohr, president; John H. Reynolds and Thomas R. Crowley, vice presidents; Floyd C. Case, cashier and Milford Root, assistant cashier.  The directors were John H. Reynolds, Murray C. Bascom, Albert J. Matson, Charles J. Reeland, Ira O. Dillis, Floyd C. Case, Thomas R. Crowley, Cassius Congdon and George H. Stohr.  A banking office was opened in the Masonic Temple on December 15.  The only change in capital was in 1934 when it was reduced from $100,000 to $50,000.

            The capital, surplus and undivided profits of the First National Bank of Bolivar on December 31, 1953, were $227,117.52 and the total deposits of $1,583,850.22.  The present officers are George H. Stohr, president; Thomas R. Crowley, vice president; Clifford E. Wing, cashier and John R. Hawkes, assistant cashier.  The directors are Charles A. Chipman, Thomas R. Crowley, Albert L. Howe, Harlie J. Loop, William G. Nichols, Arthur W. Shaner, George H. Stohr and Clifford E. Wing.  The population of Bolivar is 1490 and the elevation is 1590 feet.

The Canaseraga State Bank

            The first banking office in Canaseraga was established in October, 1879, as a branch of a bank in Dansville, with William C. Windsor in charge.  When it was discovered that under the laws of the state banks were not permitted to operate branches, Mr. Windsor purchased and took over the assets of the branch bank for the sum of $3,000.  Within a year the note which he gave for the purchase price was paid from accrued profits.  On October 1, 1691, Stephen Bennett was admitted as a partner and the business continued under the name of the Canaseraga Banking Company, with a capital of $3,000.  In March, 1895, the banking company completed and occupied a new bank building.

            On September 21, 1895, the partners decided that others should be invited to become stockholders and a total of 120 shares of stock were sold at $100 per share, resulting in a total of 12 share holders.  After due deliberation, the stockholders decided to convert the private bank into a state bank.  On June 10, 1922, a charter was granted to the State Bank of Canaseraga with a capital of $30,000.  The first officers were William C. Windsor, president and G. N. Manley, cashier.

            The Canaseraga State Bank on December 31, 1953 had capital, surplus and undivided profits of $54,802.53 and deposits of $765,758.20.  The officers are D. E. Windsor, president; Charles Oliver, vice president and Eleanor Prendergast, cashier.  The directors are James G. Graig, Dennis McCarthy, William W. Serra, David E. Windsor, Charles F. Oliver and Melvin J. Hard.  The population of Canaseraga is 693 and the elevation of 1255 feet.

Cuba’s First Bank Moved From Rochester

            The first names connected with banking in Cuba are those of Robert Haight and Marvin J. Green.  The first banking office was that of The Monroe Bank of Rochester, transplanted from Rochester to Cuba.  Mr. Haight was manager and Mr. Green the clerk in charge.  The date of the removal of this small bank to Cuba is fixed by a news item in the Rochester Union of April 12, 1853.  The item stated that “The Monroe Bank of Rochester has been moved from Rochester to Cuba, Allegany County.”  The names of S. S. Haight and Charles P. Bissell appear as partners in the bank.  William H. Marston was the bank’s agent in New York.

            Early in 1838 the Buffalo Commercial stated that “unfavorable reports of the Monroe Bank of Rochester are in circulation.”  In reply the Rochester Republican of January 30, 1838, stated “We think the reports are entirely unfounded.  Those connected with the bank are men of undoubted integrity.”

            The capital of the Monroe Bank was reduced from $7,000 to $5,000 in 1856, the year of liquidation.  The safe in the Cuba banking office was one used in the Rochester office.  The first bank sign in Cuba, 4½ x 14 inches in size, was embedded in a brick wall at the corner of Main and South Streets.  Messrs. Green and Bissell severed their connection with the Monroe bank in 1855 to become officers of The Cuba Bank, organized in June of that year- Cuba’s first incorporated bank.

The Cuba Bank

            The Cuba Bank was chartered June 1, 1855, with an authorized capital of $100,000.  The first officers were Hon. Benjamin Chamberlin, president Charles P. Bissell, vice president and Marvin J. Green, cashier.  Mr. Green appears to have been the active operating head of the bank for several years.  The directors were Hon. Benjamin Chamberlin, George W. Robinson, Robert Norton, Smith Parish, Silas S. Seely, J. B. Spaulding, Marvin J. Green, Joseph Palmer, Charles P. Bissell, Samuel W. Merrill, Robert Smith, Edwin W. Park and Edward H. Johnson.

To Be Continued - Part 5