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

The First National Bank of Friendship

            The first bank organized in Allegany County under the national banking act was the First National Bank of Friendship, (no. 265) with a capital of $55,000 which was soon increased to $75,000.  A private bank operated for some years by General George W. Robinson and associates and the private banking business of Miner & Wellman, were taken over by the new organization.  Mr. Robinson was elected president, Asher W. Miner, vice president and A. J. Wellman, cashier.  The organization was perfected and officers elected on February 1, 1864.  The directors were George W. Robinson, Asher W. Miner, A. J. Wellman, William Colwell, Hugh J. Higgins, Morris C. Mulkin, William H. King and I. D. Hartshorn.  Mr. Miner was elected president in 1870 and served to the close of his life in 1902.  Mr. Miner was a director in other Western New York banks, a stockholder in seven banks and a generous contributor to every worthy cause.  Miner & Wellman were among the first to purchase valuable leases in the Richburg area in 1881, immediately after the discovery of oil.  Mr. Wellman, a most capable banker, served as cashier from 1864 to the date of his death in 1889, when he was succeeded by his son, A. Miner Wellman, a graduate of Yale University, who in turn was succeeded some years later by Frank R. Utter, a popular and capable banker.

The Citizens National Bank

            The Citizens National Bank of Friendship was organized January 25, 1882, with a capital of $50,000 by a group of citizens, a number of whom had made fortunate investments in oil leases in the vicinity of Richburg.  The first officers were S. McArthur Norton, president; Herman Rice, vice president and Mortimer W. Potter, cashier.  The directors were S. McArthur Norton, Ward and Herman Rice, Emmett G. Latta, George L. Skiff, George W. Fries, Robert A. Scott, Isaac Amsden, Sidney P. Morse, Alfred Whipple and Mortimer W. Potter.  The bank prospered and was soon on a dividend paying basis.

The Union National Bank of Friendship

            After a number of conferences the directors of the First National Bank and Citizens National Bank of Friendship decided that a union of the two banks into an institution with increased  capital and an enlarged board of directors would be a wise move, acceptable to the stockholders of both banks – and to the community.  On July 31, 1917, the banks were merged to form the Union National Bank with a capital and surplus of $125,000, and housed in the brick block long occupied by the First National Bank.

            The first officers of the Union National Bank were Frank R. Utter, president; B. F. Drake and M. W. Potter, vice presidents; Charles J. Rice, cashier and W. C. Kingsbury and Harry L. Blossom, assistant cashiers.  The members of the first board of directors were B. Frank Drake, Harmon A. Corbin, Fred C. Mulkin, Frank H. Graham, Roy M. Cartr, Fred A. McKee, Aaron L. Elliott, Guy Wellman, Frank R. Utter, M. W. Potter, Charles J. Rice, Benjamin J. Rice, J. L. Robinson, John McGraw and Fred J. Moser.

            The Union National Bank of Friendship on December 31, 1953, had a capital, surplus and undivided profits of $226,323.20 and deposits of $1,271,439.12.  The officers are Harry L. Blossom, president; W. G. Taber, executive vice president and cashier; H. B. Drake and Lorenzo H. Utter, vice presidents and R. H. Jones, assistant cashier.  The directors are H. G. Almy, H. L. Blossom, H. B. Drake, D. W. Holliday, William Junker, M. C. Mason, B. J. Rice, W. G. Taber, Lorenzo H. Utter and Dr. E. S. Webster.  The population of Friendship is 1344 and the elevation 1520 feet.

First National Bank of Richburg

            A charter for The First National Bank of Richburg, capital $50,000 was granted August 11, 1881, less than four months after the discovery of oil a mile east of the village.  The stockholders were citizens of Richburg and Friendship.  The first officers were John S. Rowley, president; Albert B. Cottrell, vice president; Frank E. Fairbanks, cashier and William J. Richardson, teller.  The directors were Asher W. Miner, A. J. Wellman, Dr. James Pitt, Alvan Richardson, Edwin S. Bliss, Albert B. Cottrell, John S. Rowley, Hiram Dimick, E. S. Richardson, William J. Richardson and E. A. Fuller.  A two story brick building, 22 x 70 with interior trim of walnut and plate glass windows was erected at a cost of $10,000, the only brick business block in the boom town.

            In September, 1881, after putting its own bank notes in circulation, The First National Bank of Richburg advertised for deposits in the Olean Daily Herald, a newspaper that had a large circulation in the Richburg area, there being at that time no daily newspaper in Richburg.  The writer owns a copy of the nine column Olean Daily Herald of September 23, 1881, that contains no less than seven columns of display advertising of Richburg oil well supply firms, and advertisements of Richburg’s two banks.  In February, 1882, Irving S. Worden, later to be elected a vice president of the Exchange National Bank at Olean, was a teller in the First National in Richburg.  From March 1, 1884, to June 1, 1885, Mr. Worden was a teller in the State Bank of Bolivar, leaving Bolivar to accept a position in the Olean bank.  William J. Richardson, another Richburg bank teller, eventually became president of the Citizens National Bank at Wellsville.  John S. Rowley, president of the First National Bank, and Richburg’s first mayor, after the liquidation of the bank, became cashier of the First National Bank at Port Allegany, Pa.  Edwin S. Bliss, a director of the First National Bank, was one of the organizers and first president of the University Bank at Alfred, N. Y.

            The records in the office of the Comptroller of the Treasury in Washington show that the First National Bank of Richburg remained in operation, in spite of the waning oil boom, until January 10, 1888, when it was placed in voluntary liquidation by the stockholders and its affairs wound up by a special committee.  The population of Richburg at the peak of the oil boom was around 7,000, the largest village in the county.

(To Be Continued)