Banks and Bankers in North Central Ohio
North Central Ohio Biographies



In the early day communities of North Central Ohio the local storekeeper usually acted in the capacity of banker to his farmer customers for there were very few banks in those days. There was very little money and most of the transactions were those of primitive barter. The farmer sold to the storekeeper whatever surplus products he had and purchased such supplies as he needed from time to time. Settlement would be made once a year. In order to obtain goods in the eastern markets, the village merchants often did pork packing or would drive cattle, hogs or other live stock to Pittsburgh, Baltimore or some other market.

On April 15, 1803, a few weeks after the first Ohio Legislature met at Chillicothe, the Miami Exporting Company of Cincinnati was incorporated and with a capital of half a million dollars, established the first bank in the state. Five years later banks were opened at Chillicothe, Marietta and Steubenville. There was one at Zanesville in 1811. An Ohio writer has said: "Up to 1845 the banking business in Ohio was in a deplorable condition. Wildcat banking was the rule and bank swindles were a frequent occurrence. During the panic of 1837 the Zanesville bank was nearly the only one in Ohio that did not repudiate its obligations. In those days no man dared accept bank paper without first investigating the standing of the bank issuing the money. In 1845 Alfred Kelley's great bank act was enacted by the General Assembly. It ended wildcat banking in Ohio."

In providing for National banks during the Civil War, a famous Ohioan, Salmon P. Chase, as United States Secretary of the Treasury, followed for the most part the plan of the Kelly bank act.

In 1816 the state's first general banking act was passed and on April 10 of that year, as stated in another chapter, a meeting was held at the court house in Mt. Vernon for the organization of the Owl Creek Bank, which was established in spite of the fact that a charter was refused. All would probably have been well if so many of the patrons who had been perfectly willing to borrow from an unchartered bank, had not acquired conscientious scruples against paying their obligations to an unchartered bank, someone has said. Litigation followed and it was over thirty years before the case was finally ended.

The first bank in Mansfield was started in 1816, the same year that the Owl Creek Bank at Mt. Vernon was opened. Historian Graham says it was on Main Street at the southwest corner of the square, with John Garrison as president and a Mr. Elliott as cashier. The bank failed to receive a charter because when the bill was pending the Richland County member voted aye on what he supposed was the final passage of the bill but which proved to be a motion for indefinite postponement of the measure; this being carried by a majority of one, the Richlander defeated his own bill and the bank having failed to get a charter was discontinued. Mansfield does not seem to have had another bank until thirty years later when James Patterson & Company opened a bank of deposit on the west side of the public square and every evening the daily accumulation of cash was taken to E. P. Sturges' store at Main and North Park streets to be put in his safe. When as a youth of seventeen the future statesman, John Sherman, came to Mansfield to study law, his brother, Charles T. Sherman, afterwards District Judge of the United States for the Northern District of Ohio, was substantially the banker in Mansfield and surrounding counties for eastern merchants, collecting accounts for them. The senator in his Recollections says: "Our banking system was then as bad as it could be, exchange on New York was always at premium and there was no confidence in our local banks."

While a law student in Mansfield from 1840 to 1844, young John was often sent by his brother to the nearest bank at Wooster with money to buy exchange on New York for clients. This trip of thirty five miles over the hills was always made on horseback. The night before he was to make one of these trips young Sherman was given two packages containing nearly two thousand dollars in bills. Next morning before mounting his horse he felt in his overcoat pocket for the packages. He was terror stricken to find the packages gone. One of the packages he found on the sidewalk but thorough search failed to reveal the other one. It touched John deeply that his brother on being told of the loss didn't scold him but prepared to make good the loss after having taken steps to trace the finder of the package. It developed in a few weeks that the package had been picked up by a man who was on his way to get an early morning drink. He was seen taking money from his trunk and a search warrant resulted in the recovery of the thousand dollars except for a small sum that the man had spent.

In 1846 after the Kelley bank act had gone into effect, the new banks that were established took over the collections for eastern merchants in this section of Ohio.

The first bank in Huron County was the Bank of Norwalk, which started in 1833 under a special charter of the Legislature. The president of it was the Hon. Ebenezer Lane, subsequently a judge of the Ohio Supreme Court and the cashier was Martin Bentley. The directors were: Ebenezer Lane, Timothy Baker, George Hollister, Daniel Hamilton, Pickett Latimer and Moses Kimball. In the spring of 1834 John Gardiner, who at the time of his death, April 14, 1915, was the oldest active banker in the United States, lacking only five months of being one hundred years old, entered upon his remarkable career in the banking business as clerk in this pioneer financial institution which at that time was the only bank for Northwestern Ohio. Its business extended west, to Fremont, Toledo and Perrysburg; north, to Milan, Huron and Sandusky, and south, to Bucyrus, Marion, Mansfield and Mt. Vernon.

Mr. Gardiner was in his eighteenth year when early in May, 1833, he came to Norwalk, which at that time was a village of about 300 population. At a salary of seventy five dollars a year and board, he became a clerk in the store of P. & J. M. Latimer, who did a large general merchandising business and dealt in produce, which found ready sale in Detroit to supply early settlers of Michigan. During the summer of 1834, a short time after he began work in the Bank of Norwalk, Cashier Bentley died very suddenly and the responsibilities of the cashier were assumed by young Gardiner for nearly two months until George Mygatt was made cashier.

The large area served by this early day bank brought young Gardiner into acquaintanceship with all the leading business men of that section of the state, who at that time came to Norwalk for their bank accommodations. The bank went successfully through the panic of 1837 and was one of the first institutions of the kind in Ohio to resume coin payments. He became cashier of the bank, was in mercantile business for a while and in 1847, with some friends, established the Norwalk branch of the Bank of Ohio. This began business in May, 1848, with J. P. Reznor as president and Mr. Gardiner as cashier and manager. In 1861 he assisted Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase to organize the nation's First National Bank. He was president of the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad, now a part of the New York Central Lines. He was one of the organizers in 1865 of the Norwalk National Bank of which he was president up to 1914 when he retired because of his health. The first directors of this bank, in addition to Mr. Gardiner, were Amos Woodward, John Tifft, C. A. Preston and Timothy Baker.

The private bank of Baker, Kittredge & Co., began business in Norwalk in December, 1857, and continued until Feb. 1, 1864. It was succeeded by the First National Bank of Norwalk, the first directors of which were G. G. Baker, W. F. Kittredge, Henry Brown, D. A. Baker, W. O. Parker, Fred Sears and J. C. Curtiss, Jr. The president of the bank was G. G. Baker and W. F. Kittredge, cashier.

The Bank of Deposit, established in Mansfield by James Patterson & Co., came into control of Andrew Conn and Charles T. Sherman upon the death of Mr. Patterson, with whom they had been associated. It closed up its affairs about 1854.

Prominent in a number of banking enterprises in Ohio and elsewhere, also in the construction of railroads and industrial enterprises, along with the successful practice of law was James Purdy, of Mans• field, who lived to advanced age and in his day was the oldest bank president in Ohio in point of continuous service. He was active in securing the passage of the law creating the State Bank of Ohio He had been a stockholder in the Bank of Wooster, organized in 1834, and after the enactment of the law for the establishment of the State Bank of Ohio, he was chosen a member of the board of control. It was through Mr. Purdy's efforts that Mansfield's first permanent bank was established in 1847, regarding which Historian Graham says: "Money to establish banks could not be gathered up on the streets in those days, but Mr. Purdy succeeded in finding thirty men in the county who were able to pay in $30,000 in specie, Mr. Purdy agreeing to take their stock off their hands, if at any future time they should desire it. He was aided in the establishment of this bank by G. Armentrout, William Granger, David Anderson and others."

The first directors were Mr. Purdy, William Granger, David Anderson, M. Barker and John Shauck. Purdy was made president and continued in that capacity after the institution became the Farmers National Bank in 1865. John Rhodes was the first cashier of the Farmers Bank.

Among the other banking enterprises with which Mr. Purdy was connected was the firm of Luther Crall & Co., at Ashland, which started in January, 1852. His associates in this bank of deposit and discount were Hulbert Luther, Jacob Crall, George H. Topping, Jacob O. Jennings and William S. Granger. This became, in January, 1864, the First National Bank of Ashland. Jacob O. Jennings, who died March 13, 1911, at the age of more than ninety two years, was in continuous service of this bank and its predecessor for fifty nine years, having been cashier of the private bank of Luther Crall & Co. from its organization and cashier of the First National Bank until the withdrawal of Hulbert Luther, when he became president and continued in that capacity until his resignation in January, 1911, a couple of months before his death. He was the first clerk of Ashland County and was one of Ashland's most highly esteemed citizens, being noted for his benefactions. Francis E. Myers, millionaire pump manufacturer of Ashland, and for some years president of the Cleveland, Southwestern & Columbus Electric Line, who succeeded Mr. Jennings as president of the bank, died Dec. 2, 1923, and Joseph Patterson became president. Mr. Patterson, now in his eighty eighth year, has been connected with this institution since March, 1861. He became cashier in 1870, continuing in that position many years and was vice president when he was chosen head of the institution. A. C. Bogniard is cashier.

Mr. Patterson, probably the oldest banker in Ohio in point of continuous service, is a remarkably well preserved man and at his desk every working day. Seventy years ago, when he entered upon his work with Luther Crall & Co., Ashland was a village of about fifteen hundred inhabitants. He tells many interesting things regarding banking in those days of the long ago. When in his eighteenth year he came from Savannah to work in the bank at Ashland, he was instructed thoroughly on how to detect counterfeit bank notes. Hundreds of counterfeit notes were in circulation and it was necessary to be on the alert constantly. At that time, too, only a few bank notes were at par in New York. There were frequent changes in the cost of a draft on New York. One week a draft for a hundred dollars would cost three dollars and the very next week, perhaps, it would cost fifteen dollars for an equal amount. State Bank of Ohio notes were at ten per cent discount in New York. During the spring of 1861 very few banks' issues were at par in New York. Paper money was plentiful. Mr. Patterson recalls the time when gold went up to two eighty and how it went down again after the resumption of specie payment.

The Lorain Bank of Elyria was established May 25, 1847, as a branch of the old State Bank of Ohio with Heman Ely as president; Artemas Beebe, vice president; Elijah DeWitt, secretary; W. A. Adair, cashier, and Levi Burnell, bookkeeper. This continued until 1864; the First National, 1864 to 1883, and the National Bank of Elyria from 1883 to 1903, when it was rechartered with an increase of capital. In 1895 Parks Foster organized the Lorain County Banking Company and was its president until his death in 1905. In 1915 the name was changed to the Lorain County Savings & Trust Company. The Elyria Savings and Banking Co. began business in 1901 with William Braman as president. Dr. Elijah DeWitt, who for thirty years was president of the National Bank of Elyria, and who for some years was an associate judge in Lorain County, began the practice of his profession at Lodi in 1821 and in 1835 opened a drug store in Elyria. For fifty five years he lived in a brick dwelling on West Broad Street, which was still standing in 1930. He was actively interested in having the Lake Shore Railroad built through Elyria and was always deeply interested in the advancement of his home city. Judge A. R. Webber, in his Early History of Elyria, writes interestingly of Dr. DeWitt. Also of another Elyria banker, Parks Foster, a native of Amherst Township, Lorain County. Judge Webber says that for "undaunted zeal and determination in his undertakings, Foster stood alone in his day among the native sons of Lorain County." During his long and busy career he took the initiative in, and successfully established a considerable number of enterprises, in some of which he encountered obstacles that to most people would have seemed insuperable. An incident of his boyhood is related. By hard work, persistent application and self denial he had been able to save thirty dollars by the time he was fifteen years old. Fearing that he might be robbed of his money, the lean, tow headed, red faced youngster, barefooted, walked to Elyria to deposit his money in the only bank then in the county. He knew that the bank didn't pay any interest on deposits but was greatly disappointed when the cashier told him he didn't believe the bank cared to bother with so small a sum as thirty dollars. However, the banker told him he would talk it over with the president and let him know definitely that afternoon. When, on his second visit to the bank, he was told that thirty dollars was too small a sum to be bothered with, young Foster made a vow that some time he would return to Elyria and either buy out that bank or start one of his own that would not refuse to receive for deposit any young person's savings, no matter how small. Years later the banking company which he helped to organize and of which he was the president, absorbed the bank that had refused his money when he was a lad. In these days when financial institutions give every encouragement to the practice of thrift, it seems almost incredible that any bank, anywhere, should ever have refused to accept savings.

The pioneer banker in Medina was the Hon. Harrison G. Blake, who as a youth of seventeen, located in Medina in 1836, clerked in a store, was in business for himself, studied law with Judge J. S. Carpenter, served in the General Assembly for two terms as Representative and two as member of the Senate, being chosen president of the Senate. In the spring of 1857 he founded the Phoenix Bank, the present Old Phoenix National Bank of which his grandson, Blake McDowell, is president. The reason for its founding was to give the people of Medina County a place to do their banking without having to go to Cleveland or to Wooster. In his Recollections of the Medina County Bar, Judge Webber of Elyria, who studied law in the office of Blake, Woodward & Lewis at Medina, speaks of the magnitism and attractive personality of his preceptor. "He was in his day, beyond all question, the most popular and beloved man in the county," says Judge Webber. "He wore a cloak overcoat and plug hat and was very diligent in his business. He owned the Phoenix Block which he built and was cashier of the Phoenix Bank. The law office was over the bank. He spent practically all of his time in the bank where he was in constant demand by callers. Such was the confidence reposed in him that men and women came to him with about all the troubles to which flesh is heir. If they needed court proceedings, he sent them upstairs to his law partners, Woodward and Lewis. If he thought his presence was needed above he accompanied them for consultation. He cut his life short by many years by his too close confinement to business. He was a distinguished looking man, a gentleman of highest honor, a patriot to the core."

In 1858, the year after he founded the Phoenix Bank at Medina, Harrison G. Blake was elected to Congress from the old Fourteenth District and reelected in 1860. He was a close personal friend of President Lincoln. The United States Postoffice Department money order system was established as the result of Congressman Blake's efforts. "The American people owe a debt of gratitude to the memory of the late Harrison G. Blake, business man, banker, editor," says Hal P. Denton in an article a couple of years ago. "As a member of the committee on post offices and post roads in the Thirty seventh Congress, he conceived the money order, introduced the bill which initiated the necessary legislation for its passage by the nation's lawmakers, guided it through the devious ways of the lower branch of Congress, followed it with fatherly care through the Senate and lived to see the fruits of his wisdom acknowledged by the press of the country."

It is said that in the building on the site of the present Phoenix Block Mr. Blake, during a recess of Congress, drafted the money order bill. At the end of his second term in Congress Mr. Blake enlisted as a private in the Civil War and was chosen colonel of the 166th Regiment, O. V. I.

Summing up the career of this Medina banker who so distinguished himself in other lines as well, Judge Webber says: "His life is striking evidence of the opportunities every youth has to rise in the world under the flag he so ably defended in Congress and out. From a Vermont waif, to the forests of Ohio and fatherless, motherless, and in the arms of strangers, he was given an ax to hew out his destiny which he did to the high position in the councils of the greatest nation on earth, rising to be the best beloved and most conspicuous personage in a great Western Reserve County. It did not come to pass by luck or accident. Native ability and everlasting work and integrity of purpose were the foundations. Such was the impression he left on his day and generation that he is still a conspicuous character for his soul will go marching on."

The Phoenix became a National Bank in 1873, after the National Bank system was established and for a quarter of a century Mr. Blake's son-in-law, the late R. M. McDowell, was at the head of the Phoenix National Bank. When its charter was renewed in 1893, it became the Old Phoenix National Bank. On the death of R. M. McDowell in 1897, J. Andrew became president of the bank, serving until his death in 1915. The other present officers in addition to President Blake McDowell are: Vice president, D. C. Shepard; cashier, C. E. Jones; assistant cashiers, E. F. Gibbs and Paul M. Jones; teller, Max L. High.

The Savings Deposit Bank Co., of Medina, was established in 1892. Amherst T. Spitzer, who, at the age of seventy six, died in September, 1924, was president of this bank for a number of years. His grandfather, Nicholas Spitzer, located in Lafayette Township, Medina County, in 1836. The present officers are E. B. Spitzer, president; E. R. Root, vice president; H. E. Aylard, cashier; C. O. Davenport, assistant cashier. The directors are H. E. Aylard, A. A. Bostwick, E. R. Root, G. F. Gruninger, Frank Spellman, C. O. Davenport, C. E. Hoover, E. B. Spitzer.

Members of the state board of control under the act of 1845 creating the State Bank of Ohio and other banking companies were the following in addition to James Purdy of Mansfield, previously mentioned: John Gardiner, of Norwalk; E. Quinby, Jr., of Wooster; Henry B. Curtis, of Mt. Vernon, and E. DeWitt and John R. Finn, of Elyria.

Probably the greatest banker the Firelands produced was the famous Civil War financier, Jay Cooke, of Philadelphia, who was born at what is now Sandusky, in 1821. When, in October, 1862, Secretary of the Treasury Chase made Cooke financial agent of the government for the sale of government bonds, the Philadelphia financier faced a stupendous task in selling the bonds at par for the premiums on gold had advanced. By newspaper publicity campaigns, advertisements, editorials and articles in the news column on a scale unprecedented up to that time, he carried the appeal to the people of cities, villages and farms in all parts of the Northern states. He named close to 3,500 sub agents and assuming many personal risks, he conducted the campaign so successfully that a loan of half a billion dollars was over subscribed eleven million. Speaking of what Cooke did, Secretary Chase said: "Without Mr. Cooke's service neither army, navy or general creditors of the government could have been paid. It was a work which could not have been as successfully performed, or indeed have been performed at all, by the Treasury."

In a subsequent campaign this great financier rendered still further service. In the panic of 1873 he faced adversity but through fortunate investments he regained wealth, founded a girls' school near Philadelphia and enjoyed a serene old age. Oct. 3, 1900, he was at Norwalk and addressed the Firelands Historical Society. He enjoyed his summer home, the island of Gibraltar, Put-in-Bay. The islands of Lake Erie had for him perennial charm. He died at the home of his daughter near Philadelphia, Feb. 18, 1905, in his eighty fourth year.

The president of the Farmers Bank, Ashland, is J. L. Clark; cashier, George R. Freer, who is also treasurer of the Star Telephone Company, which operates exchanges in fourteen towns in this section of the state. T. O. Stearns is president of the Ashland Bank & Savings Co.; Julius Lutz, cashier. The president of the Ashland Building & Loan Co., which occupies its own building on West Main Street, is H. J. Schulz; secretary, J. E. Arnold. T. V. Simanton is president of the Home Savings & Loan Co. and M. R. Roberts, secretary.

Richland County has twelve banks in seven different towns, as follows: Mansfield, Farmers Savings & Trust Co., Mansfield Savings Bank & Trust Co., The Richland Trust Co., and Citizens National Bank & Trust Co.; Shelby, Citizens Bank and First National Bank; Bellville, Bellville Savings Bank and Farmers Bank of Bellville; Shiloh, Shiloh Savings Bank Company; Butler, The Citizens Bank; Lexington, The Lexington State Bank and Lucas, The Lucas State Bank.

In thirteen towns, Wayne County has sixteen banks. Wooster, Commercial Banking & Trust Co., Citizens National Bank and Wayne County National Bank; West Salem, Farmers State Bank; Orrville, Orrville Savings Bank and Orrville National Bank; Smithville, Farmers & Merchants Bank; Sterling, Farmers Banking Company; Shreve, Farmers Bank; Mt. Eaton, Bank of Mt. Eaton; Fredericksburg, Citizens Bank; Doylestown, Doylestown Banking Company; Dalton, First National Bank; Creston, Stebbins Banking Company; Apple Creek, Apple Creek Banking Company; and Rittman, Rittman Savings Bank.

Huron County has thirteen banks located as follows in nine differ. ent towns: Norwalk, Huron County Banking Company, and Citizens National Bank; Willard, Commercial Bank Company and Home Savings & Banking Company; Bellevue, Union Bank & Savings Co., and First National Bank; New London, Third National Bank; Greenwich, Farmers Banking Company, and First National Bank; Monroeville, Farmers & Citizens Banking Co.; North Fairfield, North Fairfield Savings Bank; Plymouth, Peoples National Bank; and Wakeman, Wakeman Bank Company.

Knox County has ten banks located as follows: Mt. Vernon, First National Bank, Knox County Savings Bank and Knox National Bank; Danville, The Commercial & Savings Bank Company and Danville Bank; Fredericktown, First National Bank and Dan Struble & Son, Bankers; Gambier, The Peoples Bank; Howard, Howard Savings Bank Company; and Centerburg, Centerburg Savings Bank Company.

In seven towns in Medina County eleven banks are located: Medina, Savings Deposit Bank Co. and Old Phoenix National Bank; Wadsworth, Wadsworth Savings & Trust Co. and First National Bank; Lodi, Lodi State Bank and Peoples National Bank; Seville, Seville State Bank; Spencer, Farmers Savings Bank and Spencer State Bank; Sharon Center, Sharon Center Banking Co.; and Valley City, Farmers Bank.

There are seventeen banks in Lorain County located in eight different towns. Lorain, Central Bank Co., City Bank Company, Lorain Banking Co., Peoples Savings Bank and National Bank of Commerce; Elyria. Elyria Savings & Trust Co., Lorain Co. Savings & Trust Co., Savings Deposit Bank & Trust Co.; Wellington, First Wellington Bank and First National Bank; Oberlin, Oberlin Savings Bank Co. and Peoples Banking Co.; Amherst, Amherst Park Bank Co. and Amherst Savings & Banking Co.; Grafton, Grafton Savings & Banking Co.; Kipton, Kipton Bank Co; and La Grange, Peoples Bank.

Ashland County has ten banks in eight towns: Ashland, First National Bank, Ashland Bank & Savings Co. and Farmers Bank; Loudonville, Farmers & Savings Bank of Loudonville; Jeromesville, Citizens Bank; Savannah, Farmers Bank; Nova, Nova Banking Co.; Perrysville, Perrysville Bank; Polk, Polk State Bank; Sullivan, Sullivan State Bank.


The following is a list of the Building & Loan Associations in the seven counties of North Central Ohio:

Ashland County: Ashland Building & Loan Company and Home & Savings Company, Ashland.

Huron County: Industrial Savings & Loan Association, Bellevue; Home Savings & Loan Company, Norwalk.

Knox County: Centerburg Building & Loan Association Company, Centerburg; Citizens Building, Loan and Savings Association Company, Home Building & Loan Company and Knox Savings & Loan Association, Mt. Vernon.

Lorain County: First Savings & Loan Company, Lorain County Savings & Loan Company, Northern Savings & Loan Company, Elyria; Citizens Home & Savings Association Company, Independent Savings & Loan Company, Lake Erie Savings & Loan Company, Union Savings & Loan Company, Lorain; Wellington Savings & Loan Company, Wellington.

Medina County: Citizens Savings & Loan Company, Medina; Medina County Savings & Loan Company, Peoples Savings & Loan Company, Wadsworth.

Richland County: Citizens Savings & Loan Company, First Savings & Loan Company, Mansfield Building & Loan Association, Mechanics Building & Loan Company, Mansfield; Shelby Building & Loan Company, Shelby.

Wayne County: Citizens Savings & Loan Company, Rittman; Home Building & Loan Company, Peoples Savings & Loan Company, and Wayne Building & Loan Company, Wooster.

History of North Central Ohio
Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne,
Medina, Lorin, Huron and Knox Counties
BY: William A. Duff
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1931

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