Banks and Banking
By Harvey J. Hollister
[Note: In this chapter on "Banks and Banking," in the chapter on "Medicine and Surgery," and also in that on "The Bench and the Bar," the long biographies beginning with names set in capital letters have been written, in most cases, also some of the shorter personal sketches, by he Editor of this book, or by others than the authors of the chapters respectively. – Editor.]
So large a part in the history of this Nation does the business of banking bear, than no complete history of the United States can be written unless it embraces a review of the monetary institutions so intimately, and it may be said vitally connected with the National growth and prosperity. In the great crises which have arisen at different points in the Nation's life, the absolute necessity of a sound financial policy, and suitable and adequate instruments by means of which that policy might be carries out, have been most apparent. These instruments for more than a hundred years have been in large measure the banking institutions and these have been called into existence more than once by the absolute necessities of the Government. The first bank organized in this country, the Bank of North America, located in Philadelphia, and which still exists under the name and title of the National Bank of North America, was an expedient devised in 1780, for the support of the war, by a voluntary association of citizens of Philadelphia, formed on the seventeenth of June of that year, for the purpose of opening a security subscription to the amount of $1,500,000, to be expended, or so much as should be needed, in sending three millions of rations to the army, then reduced to the greatest distress for want of food and clothing. The organization was termed a Bank. Congress warmly seconded the movement, and appointed a charge. Upon the report of the committee Congress resolved that this association or bank should be fully indemnified out of the public treasury for all losses sustained in so patriotic a movement. So valuable was the aid furnished by this bank that Robert Morris, then Financial General of the Government, determined to secure for it a legal organization, and applied to Congress therefor. A charter was granted December 31, 1791, conferring the usual and proper powers and naming the first Board of Directors and their President. It provided for a capital equal to $10,000,000. The bank-commenced operations with $400,000, of which Congress promised to subscribe $250,000, but found itself able to pay in but $50,000. We, who live at a time when the Treasury of the Nation is overflowing and a surplus of $100,000,000 awaiting distribution, can poorly comprehend the poverty and financial distress that the Government experienced at the time when the first bank in the Nation's history came into existence. The citizens of Philadelphia subscribed but $85,000, and the balance, $265,000 was furnished from abroad, chiefly from Holland. "The act incorporating this bank was an event," so the historian tells us, "of first rate importance in the history of the country. It was the first adequate attempt of the kind to symbolize its merchandise so that it could be made available and transferred from hand to hand without the interposition of coin. Subsequent its merchandise so that it could be made available and transferred from hand to hand without the interposition of coin. Subsequent experience has proved the wisdom evinced in the establishment of the bank, for in no other way than by the use of banks has it been found possible to supply, on a sufficient scale, adequate instruments of distribution in the place of coin, which, so long as they serve as such, may be properly termed money." Bank credits, bank issues or circulation, based upon ample capital and strict business principles, have proved to be most important factors in the growth and development of the natural resources which the Nation possesses. A prominent and able writer of English history, summing up the events connected with the Napoleonic wars, gives it as his opinion that had not the Bank of England extended extraordinary assistance by way of credits to the English Government, even the combined armies of Europe would not have been successful.
The value of associated capital in great National emergencies was perhaps never more forcibly illustrated than during the early days of our late war. We may go back, however, first, to the war of 1812. The exigencies of that war caused the aid of a National bank to be considered indispensable. The United States Bank, organized in 1791, had been defeated in 1811, in its attempt to renew its charger, and passed out of existence. In 1814 a bill for the charter of a second United States Bank passed Congress, establishing the capital at $35,000,000. This bank existed, with a large measure of success to itself and value to the country, until 1832, when the bill to extend its charter, having passed both houses of Congress, was vetoed by President Jackson. Up to that time, and subsequent to the extinguishment of the second United States Bank, the history of banking, under various forms and conditions, was as varied and as multiform as the rapidly changing and immature conditions of the people would warrant. Each State had its laws regulating the establishment of banking organizations and the issuing of bills for circulation. Oftentimes these laws were so poorly framed that they proved open doors to stupendous frauds; the adventurer and speculator being the gainer, and the people the losers. It would be quite impossible to make an estimate that would adequately cover the losses sustained by the people through the unwise system of banking that prevailed for more than a quarter of a century immediately preceding the time when the present system, known as the National Bank system, was instituted. No Nation under less favorably conditions than our own could have borne the losses and preserved its credit.
The National Bank System.
The introduction of the National Banking System by Secretary Chase, in the early part of President Lincoln's administration, at first received sever criticisms from many sources, and it is doubtless a fact that the movement toward centralization and governmental regulation of monetary affairs of the nation, meeting with persistent opposition from many of the most experienced and wise financiers of that day, could not have been successfully instituted and carried forward, except as a war measure, and therefore apparently a National necessity. Mr. Chase was not a practical financier. He present his views and insisted upon heir acceptance in opposition to the combined and practically unanimous conclusions of those who stood at the head of financial affairs in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. The recommendation of legislation practically prohibiting all issue of circulating bills by State banks, and forbidding, under heavy penalties, the paying out of any currency except that issued under sanction of National law, was, except as a Nation's dire necessity, an act, to say the least, of great assumption. Previously the State was supposed to control to a large extent its internal affairs, and to provide through its own legislation for the establishment of banks, and the issues of bank circulation – it being claimed that the right to charter banks was among those reserved to the States, and was never conferred upon the General Government. Mr. Chase suggested – first, a circulation of notes bearing a common impression, and all thus sealed by a common authority; second, the redemption of these notes by associations and institutions to which they should be delivered for issue, and third, the security of redemption by a pledge of bonds and an adequate provision of coin. It is needless to refer to the bitter opposition with which these and kindred suggestions were met. It is only necessary to say that Mr. Chase's suggestions became the supreme law of the land, and that law has remained, with some unimportant changes, until this time. It is reasonable to suppose, in view of the beneficent working of the system, that the people will never consent to return to the systems of banking that prevailed prior to 1861 and 1862. It would be hard to find in any country another system that combines freedom and safety to such a degree. The protection of the bill holders is perfect, and that of the depositors more nearly so than under any other system hitherto devised. Demagogues and the ignorant may continue to declaim against "monopolies and legalized robbers," but the people, especially those who remember the old days of State banks and worthless issues circulating as money, will see to it that the present system is preserved; and particularly and emphatically will this be the feeling of the people so long as the system shall continue to extend its privileges to all who may comply with its liberal and yet conservative conditions.
Our own State has recently adopted by act of its Legislature, and confirmed such act by the popular vote of the people, a system of banking, resembling in many of its best features the National System. The National Congress as yet reserves to itself and to those banks organized under its laws, the privilege of issuing bills for circulation. It is a question in many minds whether Congress should not assume to furnish the entire circulating medium required by the business interests of the country. Grave objections prevail with many others very wise in such affairs as to such a course on the part of the Nation, and so the question is yet an open one. Let us hope it will be decided wisely, and in the interest of the greatest number.
Early Michigan Banks.
A bank was established in Michigan in 1806, by an association of Boston capitalists or speculators. It was incorporated by act of the Governor and Judges, then constituting the Legislature, passed September 19, 1806. For those days, when the entire civilized population of Michigan was less than 5,000, it was to be a colossal institution, with a charter to run 101 years, and a capital authorized of $1,000,000, divided into 10,000 shares. It issued a large amount of notes – authorities vary as to the total, but range between $160,000 and $1,600,000 – used mostly in the eastern States. It was named Detroit Bank, and its banking house was in Detroit, at the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Randolph Street. Its history is interesting but cannot be given here. Its billholders certainly did not get rich. Its charter was annulled by Congress in March, 1807.
Another bank in Michigan Territory was organized in 1818, under the title of the Bank of Michigan. It was located in Detroit, and its President and Cashier were respectively John R. Williams and James McCloskey. The capital of the bank was $100,000, of which but $10,000 was actually paid in. This bank, under many changes and vicissitudes, continued for twenty-four years, finally failing in 1842. In 1834 The Michigan Insurance Company obtained a charter from the Legislature, under which, the projectors claimed that a banking business could be done, and with a capital of $12,500 this institution began in 1838 to transact a regular banking business. This bank continued to do on the whole it was converted into the National Insurance Bank, with a capital of $200,000.
The first effort to extend banking facilities to the residents of Grand River Valley seems to have been crowned with success in 1838. I find a statement of the assets and liabilities of the Grand River bank, as published under date of December 7, 1838, which will certainly interest all who may chance to peruse these pages, and so I give it in full, and also the statement of the Bank of Niles, under date of November 28, 1838, and that of the Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad Bank, December 20, 1838. The Grand River Bank had for its officers, John Almy, President, and William A. Richmond, Cashier:
Grand River Bank, December 7, 1838
Overdrafts – $3,930
Disc. (Under Protest) – 27,750
" Not Due – 2,229
Specie – 4,403
Bills of other Banks – 4,021
Personal and Real Property – 1,313
Total – $43,646
Capital, $50,000 – $15,149
Deposits (27 Depositors) – 8,860
Circulation – 16,949
Due to other Corporations – 2,688
Total – $43,646
Bank of Niles, November 28, 1838
Overdrafts – $549
Discounts (Under Protest) – 46,648
" (Not Due) – 5,067
Specie – 1,251
Bills of Other Banks – 4,900
Personal & Real Est. – 3,510
Stock in Companies – 6,765
Total – $68,735
Capital – $100,000
Paid in – 30,000
Deposits (68 Depositors) – 11,302
Circulation – 8,583
Due Other Corporations – 17,195
Profits – 60
Total – $67,140
Erie and Kalamazoo Railroad Bank, December 20, 1838
Bills Disc. (Past Due) – $95,494
Bills Disc. Not Due – 14,039
Overdrafts – 32,694
Due From Banks – 4,779
Specie – 4,175
Bills Other Banks – 7,536
Real and Personal Pro – 512
Capital (Pd. in $66,000) – $100,000
60 Depositors – 17,056
Circulation – 40,268
Profits – 2,794
Total – 160,118
Due from Directors – 30,867
Due from Other Stockholders – 42,952
These statements are as originally published, and indicated, as will readily be seen, an utter absence of correct methods either in form or statement. It does not seem to have been at all necessary in those days to consider any less sums than round dollars, as no cents appear in any of the statements; nor was it obligatory upon the bank to have the two sides of the books agree one with the other, as appears in the last two statements. I have procured and herewith place before the reader an advertisement at the final winding up by a receiver of the Grand River Bank, after a fitful experience of about two years. It is not too much to say that some fair reputations became insolvent about the same time, and passed into the Receiver's possession. It must have been so, for their previous claimants never seemed to have valid possession of them in later years:
Receiver's Notice – The undersigned, Receiver of the Grand River Bank, at Grand Rapids, Michigan, hereby notifies the creditors of said Bank, having their claims duly authenticated according to the provisions of law, that a meeting of such creditors will be held at his office, in this village, on Wednesday, the 25th day of August next, at 2 o'clock P. M. of that day, at which time the undersigned with lay before said meeting the details of his doings and ask the consideration of the said creditors thereon. Dated Grand Rapids, June 21, 1841. Geo Martin, Receiver.
The office of Grand River Bank was in a small building on the northwest corner of Bridge and Kent streets. Another of the banks that period (wildcats, as they were called) was started in Grand Rapids, on Monroe Street; Louis Campau was its President, and Simeon M. Johnson, Cashier. It was wound up before it had fairly begun operations, and perhaps the most important transaction connected with its career was the loss of Rix Robinson of some $900 in silver, which he lent to its cashier to make a show of assets to the State Bank Examiner, and never recovered.
Village and Private "Shinplasters."
In the early days of our history, the village of Grand Rapids was apparently compelled to resort to extreme measures to meet its obligations, and such was the scarcity of a circulating medium, that, according to the records of the Village, the corporation undertook to furnish for the time being a currency of its own. The Village Board, at a meeting the record of which bears no date (probably about September 12, 1838), passed the following:
Resolved, That this Board order to be printed for the use of the Corporation, three hundred dollars in bills of the denomination of one dollar and two dollars, which shall be signed by the Treasurer and countersigned by the President, and shall be issued in the payment of debts. The form of the notes shall be as follows:
"For value received, the President and Trustee for the Village of Grand Rapids promise to pay to _____ or bearer _____ dollars on demand. Receivable for all taxes and dues to the Corporation." Grand Rapids, 12 Sept. 1838, C. I. Walker, Treasurer: H. C. Smith, President."
On the same page of the village record is a memorandum showing the number of notes or bills issued and to whom payable: "One Dollar" – Nos. 1 to 20, to James Watson, 20 to 40, to A. H. Smith; 40 to 60, to E. Emerson; 60 to 80, to Louis Godfroy; 80 to 100, to J. W. Peirce; 100 to 120, to L. Campau; 120 to 140, to Mr. Stoddard; 140 to 160, to Smith & Brownell; 160 to 180, to W. A. Richmond; 180 to 200, to E. B. Bostwick. "Two Dollars" – Nos. 1 to 10, to T. Campau; to 10 to 20, to J. N. Elbert; 20 to 30, to G. R. Whitney; 30 to 40, to J. M. & G. C. Nelson; 40 to –, to Cook & Evans. These shinplaster were freely used for seven or eight years, and were doubtless all called in and canceled.
About this time some of the prominent citizens undertook to supply any remaining vacuum that might exist, and so sent out their own "promises o pay" in bank note form of small denominations; even as small as 6 1/4 cents. A facsimile of one of the issues of Jefferson Morrison, at that time a prominent merchant, is herewith presented.
It is pleasant to bear record to the fact that the currency issued by Judge Morrison was in excellent credit through the Grand River Valley, and that it was all promptly redeemed when demand was made. The Judge, now well on in the eighties, has lived to witness marvelous changes, both in character and quality of our circulating medium, and also in many of those things which money purchases. It is quite possible that the Judge sometimes longs for the simple, yet earnest, rugged days of olden times. What that has attained that age does not? Referring to the published statements of the Grand River Bank as well as those of its contemporaries, it will be quite evident to the reader that the citizens of Michigan do not have a patent on wise banking methods. Most of the paper held by those banks had passed into the Notary's hands, as appears by the statements.
Those were the days of extraordinary acts. Men of apparently sound minds and excellent reputation, men of business sagacity and ordinary prudence, were carried away by the craze for Michigan lands and town sites and city and village lots. Money was manufactured and put in circulation about as rapidly as charters could be obtained. From 1836 and 1840, a large number of banks were organized, and the delusive idea prevailed that banks created capital. Unscrupulous and ignorant legislators passed laws. The substance of the general banking law passed March 15, 1837, was as follows: Any persons could form an association for banking business. The subscribers to stock were to elect nine directors for each bank; they to choose a President and Cashier. The Directors to be residents of the State, and at least five of them of the County in which the bank was located. Bonds and mortgages executed by the stockholders upon unencumbered real estate within the State, to be estimated by the Treasurer, Judge, Clerk and Sheriff of the County, in the name of the Auditor General for the use of the State, and its true cash value, exclusive of buildings, to the full amount for which the Association should become indebted, were to be taken and held for the final payment of all liabilities. The amount of bills issued or circulated and the amount of loans and discounts should never exceed twice and a half the amount of capital stock paid in. Under the provisions of this bank act forty organizations were perfected, including the Grand River Bank already referred to. The total nominal capital of these banks was $3,115,000. Many of these banks were located at inaccessible points, and beyond the reach of the Bank Commissioners or the bill holders. As for instance, at Sault Ste. Marie and Superior in the Upper Peninsula, and at Saline, Sharon, Gibraltar, Palmyra, Singapore, Kensington, Centerville and equally unknown and remote points in the Lower Peninsula. The law was violated and evaded in many ways. Capital was not paid in; notes were issued in excess; securities were not always furnished, and when furnished were often of little or no value. A limited amount of coin served for the organization of many banks, and the three Commissioners appointed by the State, energetic, sagacious and honest though they doubtless were, found themselves utterly unable to protect the people from great impositions and ultimate loss. It is impossible in this brief sketch to fully portray the history of the early days of banking in Michigan, nor is it necessary. Enough has been related to enable the reader to contrast the past with the present. What a contrast! Today no possessor of our paper money would hesitate to hold it for any length of time. It passes current everywhere in this country and in most parts of Europe and South America. Why should it not? It has behind it the credit of the wealthiest nation in human history. We are only half a century removed from the wildest forms of financial kite flying, of unscrupulous systems of legislation, and the issues of corporations utterly worthless. But a sound circulating medium, a conservative and honest purpose to protect the people have superseded all, and the commonwealth prospers and grows rich at a wonderful pace. In 1845 the Supreme Court of the State pronounced the general banking laws or a part of it unconstitutional, and thus ended an experiment at banking without knowledge or capital. The pernicious effect of such an education in dishonesty and violation of sacred oaths was felt for a generation. It is no wonder that Michigan then hesitated to introduce any general system of banking, and indeed the number of banks of issue could not have exceeded a dozen for the next twenty years. Other States and Canada furnished our State with whatever circulating medium was used other than coin and the issue of three or four Detroit banks and perhaps two interior banks. It required the passage of the National Bank Act in 1863, and the privileges it extended were a boon to Michigan, the full measure of which can never be fully estimated. In the judgement of the writer no more important factor has entered into the marvelous development of the Northwest than the methods incorporated in the National Bank Act.
The young business man of today can have no adequate idea of the difficulties attending moneyed transactions – the transfer of funds in payment of Eastern indebtedness, the insufficiency and insecurity of the circulating medium, the unstable character of credits – fifty or even forty years ago. It is true that men's expectations in those early days were very moderate. Living was inexpensive. Little was either demanded or expected. It is an open question whether the business man of today gets much more out life, of permanent value, than the business man of half a century ago. Still it is doubtful if many would exchange the present for the past on any terms.
PRIVATE BANKING AND EXCHANGE.
During the ten years from 1840 to 1850 the good people of the Grand River Valley lived, and to a certain extent thrived, without any banking facilities whatever; relying solely upon an occasional bill of exchange that had been brought into their section by an emigrant from new York or New England, or the kindness of some friend who, for the time being, would on his eastern journey volunteer to act as express and mail carrier combined. Only in this desultory way were payments made and debts for goods liquidated.
About 1851 William J. Welles, a gentleman of strict integrity and unquestioned honor, through with very moderate capital, opened a banking and exchange office in the old stone building on the corner of Monroe and Ottawa streets, then known as the "wedge," which stood for many years as a sign of what the early buildings could do with limited means and stones from Grand River. Fire finally made an end of the building, but not until Mr. Welles had established within its walls an enviable reputation for fair and just dealing and a handsome business. Mr. Welles continued in business until June 1861, when, owing to the serious losses arising from the disturbed condition of business affairs in connection with the breaking out of the war, he was obliged to close his doors. Within a reasonable time his creditors received the amount of their claims in full, and Mr. Welles ever retained the good will and hearty sympathy of all who had business relations with him. He died in our city very suddenly in 1874, a poor man, greatly esteemed.
Daniel Ball & Company commenced to sell bills of exchange on Chicago and Eastern cities in 1852. Their business enlarged year by year until, in connection with Mr. W. J. Welles, the necessities of Grand River Valley – rapidly filling up with a vigorous and pushing population, including many new business enterprises – were fairly well provided for. Much might be said of Daniel Ball. He was a man for those days. Indeed he would have been a man of mark in any day and at any time and in any place. If was the privilege of the writer to know him intimately for a full dozen years, and to be connected with him in business most of that time. The opinion is freely expressed that Grand River Valley has had no superior to him in scope of mind or business capacity. This city and this valley can well feel proud of a long list of splendid business men, men of most excellent character and ability, but of no one of the number can it be said that he was more energetic, more enterprising or more persevering than was Mr. Ball. With not overabundant means, but with an unbounded faith in the future of Grand Rapids, he, with others, laid the foundation of our beautiful city. He died at Jamestown, N.Y., December 30, 1872, at the age of 75 years, at the age of 65 years. One cannot help regretting that many of that early day could not have survived those days of hardship and sacrifice and been the recipients of some of the comforts that surround modern life. In October, 1861, Daniel Ball & Co., surrounded by similar conditions with those of W. J. Welles, and having suffered severely by failures of individuals and banks of issue in Illinois and Wisconsin, found it impossible to continue business, and the Exchange Bank of Daniel Ball & Co. went into liquidation.
It is only an act of justice to here record – what may seem a surprising fact in these later days, when many men seek to acquire wealth at the expense of the creditor – that within a limited time both of these pioneer institutions, driven to the wall by stress of untoward circumstances, paid in full their obligations, with interest, and that they yielded to the pressure of the times only after the most strenuous efforts to avert so great a calamity as it then seemed both to themselves and to the business community. From year to year until 1861 these two banking institutions, with comparatively limited means, furnished all the banking facilities enjoyed by the good people of a vigorous and growing town, and the country for many miles about. Indeed had it not been for the aid thus furnished many of the enterprises then originating and now developed into a wonderful prosperity and dimensions would never have attained any prominence whatever. Banking from 1850 to 1860 was a very different business in this country from banking at the present time. During those years no more hazardous business could be engaged in. What with a heterogeneous lot of irresponsible banks of issue scattered from Maine to Georgia (most of them in Georgia), with a class of impecunious adventurers desiring and pressing for accommodations, with but very meager facilities for obtaining intelligence, or of transmitting moneys, it is no wonder that those who were engaged in the business often felt that they received but poor return for all their risk and labor. The rate of exchange on New York was oftentimes enormous, at one time rising as high as ten per cent on Illinois and Wisconsin stock bank currency, rarely running down to less than one-half per cent on any kind of paper money or coin. The high rates at that time were due to two facts: First, the impossibility of converting the western currency into eastern currency, it not being current farther east than this State; and second, the high rate of the express companies for transmitting from the East to the West and back again. It became necessary many times, in order to keep the New York accounts good, to send special messengers to Chicago or Detroit to convert the multifarious issues of paper money into New York drafts. With the incoming of the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad, in 1858, and the plank road to Kalamazoo, these difficulties of transmitting currency were in a measure obviated; but the business of banking during the first ten years of its history, from 1850 to 1860, surrounded by the uncertain values incident to an unorganized, unformed commercial community, was neither pleasant nor profitable. Nevertheless both of the above named institutions were of great value to this new and rapidly growing section of the State, and undoubtedly would have been continued in successful operation but for the losses attending the winding up and failure of the Illinois and Wisconsin banks, the currency of which, at the breaking out of the great rebellion, formed, together with the currency known as the "Daniel Ball currency," almost the entire circulation of the Grand River Valley.
About the year 1860 W. B. Ledyard and M. V. Aldrich opened a discount and
exchange business in the office formerly occupied by Wm. J. Welles, he having
built for his especial use a neat wooden office, about where the entrance to the
Arcade now is in Powers' block.
In January, 1869, E. G. D. Holden and Marcus W. Bates, then operating in an insurance partnership, opened in connection with their business a savings department. This was afterward merged in the Grand Rapids Savings Bank.
In 1868, E. P. & S. L. Fuller, after building a brick block there, opened a private bank at or near No. 54 Canal Street, which they operated until 1876, after which Peter Graff and H. H. Dennis (as Graff & Dennis) continued it until 1879. In 1873, Randall & Darragh (L. H. Randall and J. C. Darragh) began banking and operated a private bank until 1879. In the latter year both of these were merged in the Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank.
In 1860, Ledyard & Aldrich opened a private bank, and in the same year the interest of M. V. Aldrich was purchased by Henry Fralick. Mr. Aldrich resumed banking in 1871 and continued it until his death and the Grand Rapids National succeeded to the business.
Thus far no mention has been made of one Revilo Wells, who for a time between 1857 and 1860 held forth as a private banker and custodian of other people's money. His capital, both in money and integrity, was limited. His career was brief, and his methods so peculiar that some of our older inhabitants still remember him with painful emotions. Obtaining several thousand dollars of the people's money, he followed the advice of the sage of Chappaqua, and "went west" and found a wider sphere of action somewhere on the California coast.
In 1870, David L. Lataurette, from Fentonville, of this state, instituted a branch in this city of his bank in Fentonville. He was heralded by sundry persons, innocently no doubt, as a man of abundant means, great liberality, honorable in his dealings, and likely to prove a permanent acquisition to business circles. He soon adopted unusual and unsafe methods of conducting banking by offering extraordinary rates of interest upon deposits. Prudent and cautious persons avoided this institution, but many fell into his traps, and within two years he succeeded in getting into his possession not less than $75,000 of the hard earnings of our poorer citizens. Secretly he left the city. His after record was a sad one. The dividends received by the Grand Rapids creditors were only nominal.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK.
In December, 1861, M. L. Sweet opened the office formerly occupied by Daniel Ball & Co., and he together with Ledyard & Fralick, who had succeeded Ledyard & Fralick, who had succeeded Ledyard & Aldrich, continued until March 10, 1864, to transact the general banking business of the city. At this date, under the direction of several prominent business men, the First National bank was organized, and commenced operations with Martin L. Sweet as President and Harvey J. Hollister as Cashier, with a capital paid in $50,000. Even at this date in the history of our city this capital was deemed by some quite large, and fears were entertained that it could not be safely invested in business paper. The first Board of Directors was composed of the following gentlemen: Martin L. Sweet, James M. Barnett, John Clancy, Zenas G. Winsor and Lewis Porter. Among the prominent men of our city who first and last occupied places upon the directorate of this bank were Amos Rathbone, Wilder D. Foster, R. L. Peirce, F. H. Lyon and W. D. Roberts, all of whom have passed away. Among those still living are M. L. Sweet, L. H. Randall, James Blair, J. W. Converse, J. H. Martin, James M. Barnett and Harvey J. Hollister. The bank had a very successful history covering the entire length of its charter, nineteen years. It gave annual dividends of 12 percent and returned to its stockholders their original investment, and 70 percent additional above dividends. It had but two presidents during its existence – Martin L. Sweet and Solomon L. Withey, and but one cashier, Harvey J. Hollister. Its original capital of $50,000 was increased early in 1866 to $100,000. In July, 1866, a further increase was made to $150,000. Again, in 1868, it was increased to $200,000, and in 1871 to $400,000. The stockholders, as the limit of its charter drew near, voted to go into liquidation, and the capital of $400,000 and $284,000 undivided profits have been paid to the stockholders. The First National Bank has passed into history. Its record was a good one, and though born and meeting with some severe losses, its record of dividends and ultimate division of reserve profits, entitles it to take rank among the most successful institutions of the kind in the State. The management always sought to foster every legitimate industry of the city. And to assist in all prudent ways our mercantile and manufacturing enterprises.
OLD NATIONAL BANK.
February 24, 1883, the First National Bank ceased its active business career, and the Old National Bank, organized with a paid up capital of $800,000, succeeded to the occupancy of the banking office and a portion of the business formerly enjoyed by it. The first officers of the Old National Bank, organized with a paid up capital of $800,000, succeeded to the occupancy of the banking office and a portion of the business formerly enjoyed by it. The first officers of the Old National Bank were: Solomon L. Withey, President; James M. Barnett, Vice-President, and Harvey J. Hollister, Cashier. Its Directors were: Martin L. Sweet, Joseph H. Martin, Solomon L. Withey, James M. Barnett, W. R. Shelby, John Clancy, Harvey J. Hollister, P. Loettgert, H. C. Akeley, Willard Barnhart, S. W. Osterhout, Joseph Heald, D. H. Waters. The Old National Bank has now been in operation over six years, has an average deposit account of nearly $1,800,000, carries a discount line of over $2,000,000, has paid its stockholders $336,000 in dividends, and holds in reserve profits about $125,000. So far it has in addition paid municipal and National taxes amounting to nearly $120,000. Its management is liberal and yet may be said to be fairly conservative. The thirteen years of chartered existence before it, should enable its management to accumulate a handsome reserve for its stockholders and give fair and steady dividends during that time.
MARTIN L. SWEET, banker and farmstock raiser, was born at Paris, Oneida Co., N.Y., February 21, 1819. His parents were New Englanders. In his boyhood he received a common school education, and worked in his father's flour-mill until he had saved $900. On the death of his father, he made a trip, when but fourteen years old, to Chicago, but finding no enticing opening for investment, he returned to his work in the mill and remained there till his twentieth year; after which for three years he was engaged elsewhere in New York and Ohio. In 1842 he came to Michigan and was employed in charge of mills successively at Ann Arbor, Dexter and Delhi, building a mill in the latter place for himself. In January 1846, he came to grand Rapids, and in partnership with John L. Clements purchased the "Old Mill," as it was called, though it was then but ten years old. In July of that year he removed his family here, where he has since resided, and been widely known as a prominent and enterprising citizen. In 1853 he build the Grand Rapids City Mills, which were burned twenty years later. He was the leading dealer in the grain business of this valley for many years. In 1859, he leased the first grain elevator here, at the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad Station, and has kept it in operation since, being constantly engaged largely in the grain trade. He sold out of the milling business in 1868, and in 1868 built the hotel which bears his name, at the corner of canal and Pearl streets. The site was mostly in the then east channel of the river; but, turning the water away, he excavated and laid deep and firm the foundations of the building. Further description of the structure is unnecessary here. It was completed and the hotel opened in 1869, the cost being about $150,000. Some three years later he raised the entire structure four feet and upward to better meet the requirements of a new street grade, at an additional expense of about $40,000. In February, 1872, fire partially destroyed this hotel, but Mr. Sweet promptly rebuilt it, and, much improved, it was reopened the following May. It stands in the front rank of first-class hotels of the city. In December, 1861, on the suspension of the banking house of Daniel Ball & Co., Mr. Sweet purchased the establishment and engaged in banking, with H. J. Hollister and his own eldest sons as assistants, the latter then a youth of fourteen years. Three years later he merged this bank in the First National Bank, of which he became a stockholder to the extent of half its capital, and was its first President. In 1872 he built sawmills at Ludington, Mich., of a capacity to turn out nearly 15,000,000 feet of lumber annually. He has large interests in pine lands in Mason and other countries north and west of Grand Rapids. He is also the owner of several farms near the city, where he has become a successful cultivator of, dairyman and breeder of dairy stock. As an importer, especially of Holstein-Freisian cattle, he has of late done an excellent work in the improvement of farm stock, and has taken great interest in that department of agricultural exhibitions and fairs. July 24, 1844, Mr. Sweet married Desdemona S., daughter of Phineas C. Higgins, of Baldwinsville, N.Y. They have a daughter and two sons.
Harvey J. Hollister, Cashier of the Old National bank of Grand Rapids, is a
descendant of one of the earliest settlers in Connecticut. What a precious, a
priceless heritage have the lineal posterity of the early colonists of New
England! What courage, patience, enthusiasm and energy! What faith and
continuity in what they deemed well-doing, was theirs! What quick and tender
consciences, what sublime ideals, what lofty aspirations inspired them! And of
those pioneers, none were more broad, more tolerant of others' faith and action,
while tenacious of what they conceived to be righteousness for themselves, than
the men and women who founded the colonies in what is now Connecticut. In all
the world, in the first half of the 17th century, there was no braver, more
courageous, liberal people than were they, and what they did, and what they
believed, as to themselves and their relations with mankind, is a heritage of
incalculable value for their posterity – has induced a heredity that yet
blesses our country in marked degree. As has been stated, Harvey J. Hollister,
the veteran banker of Grand Rapids, the sole survivor of the first banking
institutions, the first bankers of the Valley City, is of this New England
stock. The first of his family in this country was Lieut. John Hollister, who at
the age of about thirty years, came from England, and settled, in 1642, in
Wethersfield, Connecticut, where he soon became a leading and influential
citizen. The subject of this sketch is a representative of the eighth generation
from Lieut. Hollister, and was the fifth child and third son of Col. John
Bentley Hollister, who was one of the very early pioneers of Michigan, coming to
the then Territory in 1825, after honorable and distinguished service in which
he won his title, as an officer with Gen. Scott in the war of 1812-15. Col.
Hollister was born in New York, in 1795, and his wife was Mary Chamberlin, a
daughter of Capt. Gad Chamberlin, a prominent farmer and manufacturer, a native
of New York, and at one time a resident of Berkshire, Massachusetts. From this
it is apparent that Mr. Hollister, through both father and mother, is a
"Yankee of the Yankees." Mrs. Hollister, his mother, for many years
was the sole survivor of a family of eleven children, and died in June, 1890, at
the great age of 92 – having retained in a wonderful degree her physical
strength and mental facilities. Col. Hollister was a man of great energy and
strength of character, assisted in the territorial organization of Michigan, and
in conjunction with Judge Burt, the famed inventor of the solar compass, served
the General Government with distinction as a civil engineer in surveys in
Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois and Arkansas. He died in the prime of his early
manhood, at Mt. Clemens in this State, at the age of thirty-five, not long after
the birth of his son Harvey J., who was born at Romeo, Macomb County, Michigan,
August 29, 1830. It requires but a moment of thought to realize that his advent
in life was not with the traditional silver spoon. Michigan was then a frontier
Territory – not yet a State for several years – and its people had little
save courage, energy and hope – they had come to struggle for a home and the
comforts of life; to found churches, schools, good government, and a State. They
were in the "wilds of the far West" then, and opportunities for
education and in business were hardly to be termed "advantages." Mr.
Hollister made the most of what offered, studied faithfully when in school,
worked hard as a lad on his widowed mother's farm, or for an uncle, and when but
17 and 18 years old taught two winter terms of school, near Romeo. He had the
help of a wise, faithful teacher, the late Adonijah S. Welch, whose abilities
gave him prominence as an educator, later, at the head of Michigan's State
Normal School, in Iowa, and in California. His select school at Romeo became an
academy and one of the streams, which afterward grew into the State University.
Mr. Hollister then entered the employ of a drug firm in Pontiac, where he
remained two years, and had applied himself so diligently he was urged to remain
at quite an advance in wages. But his brother, John H., who had become a
successful physician, his mother and a sister were then living in Grand Rapids,
and desired that he join them. So to this city he came, in May, 1850, to find a
permanent home, to become a most honored and useful member and important factor
of this active, energetic population, which since that time has transformed the
city, then just organized with 2,700 inhabitants, into a great manufacturing and
business center of more than 60,000 citizens. His first year here was spent as a
clerk in Wm. H. McConnell's store – a position his brother, the Doctor, had
secured for him. The second year found him in charge of W. G. Henry's drug
store, in what was then known as Irving Hall, at an increased salary – a place
his attention to duty and ability had won. The third year he was a book-keeper
and clerk in John Kendall's dry goods store, where he evidently continued to
grow, for in 1853 Daniel Ball, who had established a private banking business
the previous year, secured his services to take charge of that branch of his
very large business interests in this city and the Grand River Valley, at a
salary of $600 per year – then the largest salary paid any employee in this
city. This relation continued for five years, and most evidently was highly
creditable to Mr. Hollister, for, beginning at $600 per year, his salary had
grown to $1,500 per annum, and then in 1858 he was urged by his employer to take
a partner's interest in the business, and the firm was Daniel Ball & Co. The
troublous times of 1861, following the panic of 1857-58, which were so
disastrous to so many business enterprises in the West, compelled Daniel Ball
& Co., the last of the three such banking houses then in the city, to close
their business at a loss of all their property to themselves – even to the
extent of trenching upon future earnings for at least one of the firm – but
those obligations were all met in full, with interest, later. His special
adaptability to the banking business, and his usefulness in that delicate but
essential relation to its commercial and manufacturing interests, led the Hon.
M. L. Sweet to begin, almost at once, another private bank, at the old place of
business of Daniel Ball & Co., with Mr. Hollister as the manager and a
partner in the profits. This continued until in 1864, when the First National
Bank of Grand Rapids was organized, the Sweet bank was merged in it, and its
successful manager was made Cashier of the new bank, which had then but $50,000
of capital stock. That bank lived out almost the whole of its chartered life,
for nineteen years, grew to a capital stock of $400,000, paid an average of 12
per cent. dividends, and when it went out of business, under the limitations of
its charter, its owners divided 71 per cent. of surplus – facts which tell
very plainly and clearly how admirably the bank had been conducted, the more
especially as it was a pioneer and leader in the reduction of interest rates to
its patrons, when sound business policy suggested the wisdom of such action.
That First National Bank was succeeded by the present Old National Bank, with
$800,000 of capital stock, and Mr. Hollister continues as a director and Cashier
of this great institution, one of the largest in its transactions and involved
interests, in the entire State of Michigan. So he is, in fact, the pioneer
banker of the city, with reference to its present population, and has served for
some thirty-seven years continuously in those relations; few in Michigan have
had so long a career in banking; none a more honorable. He has shown a grasp of
affairs, a breadth of comprehension of business needs, a justice and a courtesy
as between capital and those desiring to buy its use, that have contributed in
no small degree to the building of the city in which he lives, and in conserving
its great and varied interests. He has found time, too – for he has ever been
a methodical and busy man – to assist greatly in many other considerable
interests, and his counsels have been desired, so that he has been a director or
other officer of them and yet retains those relations. He has been a director
since 1872 of the Northern National Bank of Big Rapids, Mich., which was then
organized; he is a director and Vice-President of the Michigan Barrel Co. of
this city; was for several years a director of the Grand Rapids Chair Co., was
one of the founders and continuously an officer of the Cummer Lumber Co., of
Cadillac, Mich., which, starting with a capital of $50,000 in 1880, now has an
investment of $600,000 in its business; has been a director of the Grand Rapids
and Indiana Railroad Co. since 1878; is a prominent stockholder of the Antrim
Iron Co. of Mancelona, Mich.; is a director in the Michigan Trust Co., and has
other interests in or out of the State. Mr. Hollister cast his first
presidential vote for Gen. John C. Fremont, the first National candidate of the
Republican party, and since that time has acted with and through that party –
has been an earnest and generous supporter of its policies and efforts, a wise
counselor of its leaders in his community and State; yet too busy to serve the
people in official capacity save in honorary positions. He is one of the Board
of Control of the State Public School at Coldwater, an institution in which he
has had great interest since its foundation in 1873 – the first of its
character in this country. It is a school, and a home – until permanent homes
in good families can be secured for them – for pauper or dependent, or
neglected children, and during its existence thus far, as aided nearly 3,000
such children to better education and principles, to better homes, and to lives
of usefulness. In such a labor Mr. Hollister gladly serves his State. Mr.
Hollister has been a member of the First Congregational Church of Grand Rapids
for forty years, is one of its deacons, has been its Treasurer for twenty years,
and has served for years in its Sunday School work – as Superintendent for
many years. He has also been prominently identified with the Y.M.C.A. of Grand
Rapids since its organization; has been its President for years, and has lived
to see his oldest son follow in his footsteps in that office – a living proof
the practical worth of his efforts and teachings. He is an earnest and
consistent advocate of temperance. June 6, 1855, Mr. Hollister married Martha,
daughter of the late Col. George Clay, of Deerfield, Mass., who has ever since
proved indeed "a helpmeet to him." They have four children: Mary
Goodhue, born February 2, 1860, now the wife of McGeorge Bundy, Esq., of Grand
Rapids, and a resident upon the same block where is her parents' home; Clay
Harvey, born October 7, 1863, an assistant to his father in the Old National
Bank, married, and one of his father's nearest neighbors; George Clay, born
Sept. 8, 1871; John Chamberlain, born March 27, 1873. Thus a friend, asked for a
pen portrait, describes the subject of this sketch:
The salient fact in Mr. Hollister's life and career is this: The teachings of the Christian religion are to him living, vital Truth. With him to believe is to act, and his faith has become his rule of life, in every relation. His friends and neighbors, those who know him most and best, see and know that with added years have come brighter and brighter faith, broader and deeper and stronger convictions and powers for usefulness, with wider culture, and when this is said, what more could well be added, descriptive of the man, save in detail and illustration? He must read and keep pace with the growth of knowledge in the world, for buried talents are not acceptable to his Master, and otherwise he could not make his life so useful as he ought. He must work in the Church, and be liberal in all its efforts, for that is to be as well as to believe. He must be an able and busy banker, just to those whom he serves, otherwise his faith were not shown in works. He knows that he has labored, that success has attended his labors; that his family, the church of which he is a member, his business associates, the people of this city in which he has lived for forty years, and many, throughout his State and other States, value him and feel the impulse of his example and the worth of his daily life, but he ascribes these blessings, of family, labor, honor, troops of friends, and a competence, not to his own deservings or efforts, save under the power and control of the Master he believes it to be his highest duty to serve.
James M. Barnett is a native of western New York, born in 1832. He came to Grand Rapids in 1857, and soon became one of the milling firm of Sweet & Barnett, which continued until they sold out the flouring business in 1867. In 1861-63 he was one of the operators of the private banking house conducted under the name of M. L. Sweet, banker. He has been Vice-President and a director in the First National and then the Old National Bank ever since the original organization in 1864. He is also interested as a stockholder and an officer in several prominent manufacturing enterprises in different parts of the State, and is ranked among the substantial trustworthy citizens of Grand Rapids.
Henry C. Post came to Grand Rapids some thirty years ago or more; was first engaged in stores as a bookkeeper. When the First National Bank was organized he entered that institution, remaining there and with its successor The Old National ever since, in the capacity of Paying Teller – a genial and trusted business man.
CITY NATIONAL BANK.
The City National Bank was organized February 17, 1865, about one year after the organization of the First National Bank. Thomas D. Gilbert was its first and only President, and J. Frederic Baars its first and only Cashier. The permanency in office of these two men is of itself sufficient evidence both of the stable character of the institution and of its officers. The first Board of Directors was composed of the following gentlemen: William B. Ledyard, Thomas D. Gilbert, Ransom E. Wood, Moses V. Aldrich, Henry Fralick, Ransom C. Luce, George Kendall, James M. Nelson, James Miller. The capital was increased to $100,000. This capital was increased to $200,000 in 1867 (when its deposits were about $250,000), and in 1871 to $300,000. Among other well known names of our business men who served on its Board of Directors are: Noyes L. Avery, John W. Peirce, Julius Houseman, Francis B. Gilbert, Lemuel D. Putnam, John C. Fitz Gerald. The City National Bank Charter expired in 1885. Its history as an active financial institution continued just twenty years. It met with some losses, unavoidable in so long a history, but its successful record will long be remembered by those who were fortunate enough to be numbered among its stockholders and patrons. It gave to the stockholders unusually fine dividends, average some 14 per cent per annum during its last ten years, and at the closing up paid back the face value of its stock and 85 per cent additional. It gave liberal encouragement to the business interests of the city and was always a favorite place for the conservative dealer. It built in 1869 and thereafter owned and occupied by the National City Bank, its immediate successor. It should have been heretofore said that the City National Bank succeeded to the business of Messrs. Ledyard and Fralick, both of whom took a prominent place in the management of the new institutions, the latter remaining upon its Board during its entire history.
THOMAS D. GILBERT is one of the pioneer settlers of this valley, of which he has been a resident fifty-five years. He was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts, December 13, 1815. His father was General Thomas Gilbert, and his mother was Harriet A., daughter of Ebenezer Arms, of that town. The educational training received by Mr. Gilbert was that of the common schools and at Deerfield Academy. In 1830 he entered a store as clerk, remaining there about five years. In June, 1835, he came to Grand Haven, Michigan, where there were then only about half a dozen settlers, and soon after, with others, engaged in operating one of the first sawmills started in this valley. The financial revulsion of 1837 left that adventure with but little to show beyond the experience gained therein. In 1843 he embarked in mercantile and warehousing business at grand Haven with his younger brother, the late Francis B. Gilbert of this city. In 1850 the brothers engaged largely for those times in the lumber trade and in lake shipping, an enterprise which proved successful and profitable, in which they continued for some five years. In 1855 they removed to Grand Rapids, and after two years of travel at home and abroad the subject of this sketch took up his permanent abode here. He became a stockholder in, and in 1860 was made Secretary and Treasurer and Managing Director of the Grand Rapids Gas Light Company, which positions he still holds. In 1805 he was elected President of the City National Bank, to the present time. Besides his stock in that corporation he has financial interests in other business enterprises, among them the Michigan Trust Company, and several of the manufacturing enterprises that have made Grand Rapids what it is. In official life Mr. Gilbert has rendered the public much excellent service. In 1841-42 he was Sheriff of Ottawa County. In 1841-42 he was Sheriff of Ottawa County. In 1861-62 was Representative from this city in the State Legislature, and served upon the House Committees on Ways and Means, and on Banks and Incorporations. At that time the finances of the State were in such condition that is resources were taxed to the utmost to meet the extra demands of the United States for war purposes, and Mr. Gilbert's judgment and influence proved valuable in shaping needed legislation. In 1863 he was elected Member of the Board of Regents of the State University, and was retained in that position until the close of 1875 – twelve years – an office without compensation other than payment of necessary expenses. During the entire time he was Chairman of the Finance Committee, a position requiring much time and labor in attention to its duties. On that Board his services, in behalf of education and of the University, of which the State is so justly proud, were a great value. He has also served several years as Member of the Board of Education of this city. Upon the organization of the Board of Public Works, in May, 1873, he was appointed a member thereof, and was its President five years. During that time the City Water Works system was established and put in operation under the direction of the Board; and much other work in the way of public improvements was accomplished. He has also served two and a half years as Alderman of the Second Ward. In official positions he has ever been found watchful and alert in regard to the public interests, and faithful to its trusts. Mr. Gilbert married, in November, 1871, Mary A., daughter of the late Rev. Abel Bingham, who for upward of thirty years was a missionary among the Indians (first with the Senecas near Tonawanda, N.Y., six years, and afterward at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., where Mrs. Gilbert was born), and who died in this city November 26, 1865, aged 79 years. During his twenty years at Grand Haven, Mr. Gilbert was not only active and energetic in business, but interested in noting the growth and progress of that town and this valley; as is shown by items relating to shipments to and from that port, furnished by him to the weekly newspapers of Grand Rapids from time to time in that period. And in the thirty-five years of his residence in this city, he has been continuously identified with some of its leading enterprises. His life work is built into the development of this region. As a man and citizen he enjoys the confidence of its people. Public spirited, he has taken an interest in the public weal. Naturally generous and benevolent, fortunately has means have enabled him often to be liberal, as is shown by contributions to the public schools, and to various benevolent and charitable associations and enterprises; several of which receive notice as historical items in other pages of this volume.
Francis B. Gilbert was born at Greenfield, Mass., May 25, 1818; came to Grand Haven, Mich., in 1837; to Grand Rapids in 1840; returned to Grand Haven in 1844; came again to Grand Rapids in 1855, and resided here until his death, May 25, 1885. He was a man of affairs, successful in business, upright and esteemed. For much of the time in business interests he was intimately associated with his brother, Thomas D. Gilbert. He was President of the Grand Rapids Gas Light Company for more than a quarter of a century, and was also connected with banking.
Henry Fralick is a native of Minden, Montgomery County, N.Y., born Feb. 9, 1812. His father, Abraham Fralick, formerly of Columbia County, N.Y., was a Captain in the war of 1812. His grandfather was one of a family of fifteen boys, eleven of whom served in the Revolutionary War, in which four of them were killed, and the other seven were wounded. His mother was Mary E., daughter of Henry Keller, who served as a member in both houses of the New York Legislature. Henry Fralick was educated in the district schools of his native place, and of Wayne County, N.Y., where his father moved in 1824; till the family moved to Plymouth, Mich., in October, 1827. In 1829, he left home and found employment on a passenger boat of the Erie Canal for two years, becoming Captain of the boat the second year. In 1832 he shipped as a hand before the mast on a whaling vessel for the South Atlantic and Indian Ocean, the voyage lasting two years, and for his services received a one-hundred-and-fiftieth part of the cargo – his share amounting to eighteen barrels of oil, which he sold for $25 per barrel, and whalebone from which he realized about $150 m ore. Among his exciting adventures during this voyage was the capture of a sperm whale sixteen feet in diameter and ninety-six long, and being in the boat which was fastened to the whale, he was towed in a circle at the rate of twenty miles an hour a distance of some eighty miles, when the whale went down, taking a mile and a half of line before stopping. From the head of this fish they secured about forty-eight barrels of oil, the whole fish yielding 110 barrels, worth near $4,000. In 1834 Mr. Fralick shipped as third mate in a vessel bound for Rio Janeiro and other South American ports, the trip lasting about seven months, after which he was engaged for a year on coasting vessels, and then returned to Michigan. In 1836 he became clerk of Michigan Exchange Hotel in Detroit, staying there nine months, when he returned to Plymouth and entered the store of Henry B. Holbrook. In 1838 he purchased the stock and began trade for himself, taking two partners after a few months, the firm name being, Austin, Fralick & Co. Three years later he sold his interest in this business, bought a lumber mill and built a flouring mill. After two years he sold his mills and again engaged in merchandizing; but in 1860 sold his store and goods. His next move was to Grand Rapids, in 1861, where, in partnership with William B. Ledyard, he engaged in banking, doing a successful business until 1865, when the firm dissolved and the City National Bank was organized, in which and also in its successor, the National City Bank, he has since been a prominent stockholder and member of the Board of Directors. When the Civil War began in 1861, he, with his brother and Mr. Penniman, raised and equipped the first company of three-years men, and during the Rebellion gave liberally of his energy and means in support of the Union cause. In 1867 he again entered the mercantile trade, but after two years abandoned it and began in the real estate and money loan business, in which he is still engaged. In 1872 he, with others, organized the Grand Rapids Chair Company, in which he was a director for three years and its President two years. He is also a principal partner in the Worden Furniture Company, which gives employment to about 160 hands. In public and official life he has rendered much and faithful service. He has been Justice of the Peace, Supervisor, County Auditor; for thirty years a school officer, and for four years President of the Grand Rapids Board of Education; a Trustee and Treasurer of Olivet College for twelve years, which position he still holds, and also for three terms has served as a member of the State Legislature. In the latter capacity, in 1853, in the Senate, he presented a petition of over 100,000 signatures in favor of the passage of the prohibitory measure known as the Maine Law, and a bill for it which, after amendment, was made a law. In 1850 he was a member of the Convention which framed the present State Constitution. In 1871 he was appointed by the Governor one of the committee for the distribution of relief funds to the sufferers by the great fires of that year; devoted, gratuitously, seven months of his time to that work, and his labors in their behalf will ever be gratefully remembered. In 1875 he was appointed one of the Board of Managers to represent this State at the National Centennial Exposition in 1876. To that service he gave about seven months, and to his efforts is largely due the prominence which Michigan there attained. Mr. Fralick has for eighteen years been a member of the Executive Committee of the Michigan State Agricultural Society, and its President two years; a member of the State Pioneer Society for ten years, a member of its Executive Committee four years, and its President one year. He was also held and satisfactorily performed the responsible duties of United States Jury Commissioner for the Western District of Michigan for eight year, and held the office of Notary Public forty-two years. Besides, he has served as Trustee of the First Congregational Church and Society of Grand Rapids for nine years, and its President five years. It is apparent that the life of Mr. Fralick has been a busy and useful one. He seems to have known no such thing as tiring, to have been "instant in season" and all the time in the performance of every duty devolving upon him, and his industrial, methodical career is one well worthy of emulation. Mr. Fralick married, May 23, 1837, Corrine A., daughter of Henry Lyon, one of the first pioneers of Plymouth, Mich. She died Oct. 16, 1840. April 22, 1842, he married Jeanette Woodruff (nee Sloan), of the same town, who died at Grand Rapids, Mich., much beloved, March 27, 1884. They had five children, of whom four – Henry S. Fralick, Mrs. C. W. Valentine, Mrs. Dr. Watson and Mrs. A. E. Worden are living. As an influential citizen and a man of conscientious integrity, of energy and liberal generosity, Mr. Fralick stands in high repute, not only in Grand Rapids, but generally throughout the State.
NATIONAL CITY BANK.
This is the successor of the City National, by reorganization when the charter of the latter expired, and its incorporation dates from January 22, 1885, with a capital stock of $500,000. Officers – Thomas D. Gilbert, President; Julius Houseman, Vice-President; J. Frederic Baars, Cashier; Edward H. Hunt, Assistant Cashier. Directors – Thomas D. Gilbert, Julius Houseman, Noyes L. Avery, John C. Fitz Gerald, Ransom C. Luce, George G. Briggs, Henry Fralick, Constantine Morton, J. Frederic Baars, George Kendall, T. Stewart White, Lemuel D. Putnam, Charles H. Hackley. The only change in this list has been the accession of Philo C. Fuller as a Director in place of Charles H. Hackley. It has been quite as successful as was its predecessor, its deposits having grown to upward of $1,000,000. The City National Bank was made a United State Depository in 1865, and that, and this National city Bank, has remained such ever since.
GEORGE KENDALL was born at Greenfield, Franklin County, Mass., December 14, 1813. He is a son of Lyman and Martha Clay (Goodhue) Kendall. His father was a native of Ashford, Conn., and his mother was born in Putney, Vermont. Lyman Kendall died at Cleveland, Ohio, February 6, 1847, and his wife, Martha, came to Grand Rapids, where she died July 27, 1874. The family moved in 1828 to North Adams, Mass., thence to Homer, New York, and afterward to Cleveland, Ohio, where they arrived September 22, 1833, when the population of the latter place was not over 2,500. George Kendall received a common school education, and attended Greenfield Academy two years. In April, 1836, he traveled through Michigan on a prospecting tour and spent a Sunday in Grand Rapids, and here was engaged in mercantile business, chiefly the dry goods and groceries trade, until 1850. In 1849, he purchased about seventy-six acres, in that part of the town where he now lives, and platted it as "Kendall's Addition." He built and occupied the first brick house there, in 1851, his present residence. Withdrawing from merchandizing, he has since 1850 been in the real estate business, and known as an enterprising capitalist, who has been uniformly successful in his business ventures, and prominent in fostering the material development and growth of the city. He served as a Trustee of the Village in 1848; and as an Alderman of the City in the second year of its existence – 1851-52. He was a Director in the City National Bank during the life of its charter, and after its reorganization continued in the same relation with the National City Bank. He is also a prominent stockholder in the Grand Rapids Gas Light Company, and in several of the manufacturing enterprises of the city. Mr. Kendall married, May 23, 1842, Miss Esther Tallman, of Alamo, Michigan. They have had four children, of whom three are living: Mrs. Martha G. Eagle, Mrs. Mary E. Breed, of Chicago, Illinois, and Mrs. Esther K. Shields, of Grand Rapids. George T., their only son, died May 11, 1877. As a neighbor, as a citizen, as a man of character and of thorough integrity, pleasant and genial in all relations, Mr. Kendall stands among the highly prized members of this community; liberal and charitable in feeling yet quiet and unostentatious in action, he exhibits a warm interest in public affairs, in matters of benevolence and in the common welfare. In the development and material building up of the handsome eastern and central hill portion of the city he has taken a prominent part, with which his name will long be associated, and all who know him hope to be cheered by his presence yet many years.
JULIUS HOUSEMAN was born December 8, 1832, at Zeckendorf, Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany. He attended the national schools of his native place and of Bamberg until fifteen years of age, after which he spent two years in the study of commerce and the sciences, and then, in 1850, sailed for America. On arriving he went to Ohio and served as a mercantile clerk, first in Cincinnati and then at New Vienna; and afterward to Battle Creek, Michigan, where he entered the merchant tailor and clothing business with Isaac Amber. In 1852 he came to Grand Rapids, taking charge of a clothing store established here by the same firm. Three years later the partnership was dissolved, Mr. Houseman becoming sole proprietor of the Grand Rapids establishment and continuing the business nine years. The firm of Alsberg, Houseman & Company was then formed, and established branch houses in New York, Baltimore and Savannah, which were kept until 1869. Mr. Houseman then sold his interest in all the Grand Rapids store, and the firm of Houseman & May was formed, which carried on a successful business, with a very large trade, near the foot of Monroe Street until 1876. Meanwhile, in 1870, he spent a summer in Europe, visiting Germany, Switzerland, France and England. He then retired from the clothing business and turned his attention on with success and much profit. Indeed, in business life throughout, his career has been one of continuous and gratifying success, until he is counted prominent among the wealthy men of this city. He has built and own several business blocks and private residences; and conspicuous among them, as a monument to his enterprise, is the colossal brick structure on the east side of Ottawa street, extending from Pearl to Lyon. Mr. Houseman is a stockholder in and President of the Grand Rapids Fire Insurance Company; Vice-President of the National City Bank, and a Director in the Grand Rapids Chair Company, with each of which he has been connected since its organization, and all of which are doing successful business. He is also a stockholder in several other manufacturing and financial concerns. In public life he has been called to several important official stations – was Alderman for six years, from and after 1864; elected Mayor of Grand Rapids in 1872 and again in 1874; was Representative from this city in the State Legislature for the term of 1871-72, and Member of Congress from the Fifth Michigan District in 1883-85. While he was Mayor the City Water Works System was constructed and put into operation. A distinguishing and perhaps most prominent trait in him is his close and careful attention to whatever he has in hand, combined with energy in execution, and this is applied with as much fidelity to public, and this is applied with as much fidelity to public trusts as to his personal affairs. He has but one child – a daughter, now the wife of D. M. Amber, and residing in this city. Religiously, Mr. Houseman is a Jew or Hebrew. Politically, he is an adherent of the Democratic party. He is a member of the Masonic Fraternity; of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows; of the Independent Order of B'Nai B'Rith, and of the Brotherhood of Elks. And all the people of the central part of this city, where his genial greeting has been a familiar experience almost forty years, can testify to his good standing as a citizen member of society.
Noyes L. Avery was born at Aurora, Cayuga County, N.Y., Dec. 11, 1815, and received a common school and academic education. After he was fifteen years of age he was engaged as a mercantile clerk for about eleven years; next bought a store and carried on trade for himself; then sold out and lived on a farm until 1849. In 1850 he came to Grand Rapids; was engaged in the gypsum trade and manufacture some ten years, and afterward turned his attention to dealing in real estate, and other business enterprises. During the civil war he took part in sanitary work, distributing contributions of money and supplies from this region to hospitals at Washington and other places south. He was also one of the Board of Enrollment or Draft Commissioners for this part of Michigan. He was an original stockholder in the City National Bank, also a Director, and has retained similar relations to that and its successor, the National City Bank. He is interested in various incorporated companies, and is a Director in the Michigan Trust Company. He has served the city as Alderman and Supervisor, and was Postmaster from March 27, 1861, to August 24, 1866. Since the latter date he has chosen the walks of private life. Mr. Avery has three times married: First, Hester Ann Osburn, who died at Ovid, N.Y., in 1848; second, Elizabeth Dougherty, who died at Grand Rapids in October, 1875; third, Fanny Lovell Foster, who died May 8, 1886. Politically he is a Republican; religiously, a Congregationalist. He is also a member of the Masonic Fraternity and of de Molai Commandery, Knights Templar.
J. Frederic Baars was born at Hamburg, Germany, July 8, 1820, and graduated from a private school there in 1835. Shortly afterward he came to Bristol, Rhode Island, and at 26 years of age was cashier of a Bank at that place; also engaged in the West India trade. In 1858 he came to Grand Rapids and engaged as bookkeeper for the Eagle Plaster Company; then in 1861 entered the banking house of Ledyard & Aldrich; has been in that business ever since, and continuously since 1865 the Cashier of the City National and its successor the National City Bank. From 1864 to 1874 inclusive (except 1869) he was Treasurer of the city of Grand Rapids.
Edward H. Hunt was born at Utica, New York, July 10, 1838. Came to Grand Rapids in 1854, and entered the banking house of William J. Welles. Enlisted in 1861 in the Eighth New York Cavalry as Lieutenant and Battalion Adjutant. Was taken prisoner at Harper's Ferry in the spring of 1862; released on parole and served as clerk until the close of the war in the Quartermaster-General's office at Washington. He then returned to Grand Rapids and entered the City National Bank as Assistant Cashier, which position he has since held. In 1869 he married Julia M. Hatch. He is a Republican but not actively in political life.
GRAND RAPIDS NATIONAL BANK.
The Grand Rapids National Bank was organized and commenced business March 9, 1880, as successor to the banking house of M. V. Aldrich. The Directors were C. H. Bennett, Edwin F. Uhl, Freeman Godfrey, W. B. Ledyard, Wm. G. Herpolsheimer, M. J. Clark, Paul Steketee, Enos Putnam, George H. Long – C. H. Bennett, President; T. C. Sherwood, Cashier; Freeman Godfrey, Vice-President; Edwin Hoyt, Jr., Assistant Cashier. The capital stock was $200,000. Average deposits, $250,000. The business of the bank was very prosperous, and, July 1, 1882, the capital was increased to $300,000, with an average deposit of $900,000. Again, August 11, 1883, the capital was increased to $500,000, with an average deposit of $1,100,000; after making semi-annual dividends of 4 1/2 and 5 per cent, its surplus has reached the sum of $100,000. Before the beginning of the year 1884 the deposits had increased the sum of $1,200,00. The first President of the bank died in April, 1881. Edwin F. Uhl was elected President as Mr. Bennett's successor in April, 1881, and has held the office since that date. T. C. Sherwood retired from the office of Cashier in April, 1883. Wm. Widdicomb was elected in is place, and held the office nearly six years. Nathan B. Brisbin was elected Assistant Cashier in January, 1888, and was chosen Cashier, January 1, 1889, upon the registration of Mr. Widdicomb. Frank M. Davis was elected Assistant Cashier at the same date. The bank is now (1889) in a flourishing condition, with a capital of $500,000; surplus, $100,000; undivided earnings, about $50,000; average deposits, over $1,000,000. Cashier Brisbin died in July, 1889. The members of the Present Board of Directors are: Edwin F. Uhl, Freeman Godfrey, Daniel H. Waters, George H. Long, W. G. Herpolsheimer, Charles S. Hazeltine, John E. Peck, Enos Putnam, Charles Shepard, Paul Steketee, Silas F. Godfrey, M. J. Clark, Joseph Houseman. Present officers – Edwin F. Uhl, President; Freeman Godfrey, Vice-President; F. M. Davis, Acting Cashier. The following named gentlemen also have been Directors of the bank: T. D. Stimson, Michael Englemann, Wm. Widdicomb, George C. Kimball, John L. Shaw. The banking office, vaults, etc., have been enlarged and improved from time to time to meet the growing demands of an increasing business, and the bank now stands among the first institutions of the kind in the State.
GRAND RAPIDS SAVINGS BANK.
This bank is now located in the Livingston, corner of Fulton and South Division streets, was organized March 23, 1870, with a capital of $100,000, of which 50 per cent was paid in. The following named persons were elected Trustees for the ensuing year: Alfred X. Cary, Wm. S. Gunn, Henry M. Hinsdill, Solomon O. Kingsbury, Edwin S. Pierce, Sluman S. Bailey, Eben Smith, John R. Stewart, Samuel M. Garfield and E. G. D. Holden. Officers – A. X. Cary, President; Wm. S. Gunn, Henry M. Hinsdill, Solomon O. Kingsbury, Edwin S. Pierce, Sluman S. Bailey, Eben Smith, John R. Stewart, Samuel M. Garfield and Marcus W. Bates, Treasurer. April 24, 1872, the bank was reorganized, with the same officers, and the capital stock was reduced to $50,000, but ten years later was again increased to its present amount, $150,000. In 1874 George R. Allen succeeded M. W. Bates in the Cashier, succeeded Mr. Shedd July 1, 1885. Succeeding Mr. Cary, President, for various periods of time, we find on the records the familiar names of George W. Allen, Isaac Phelps and James D. Robinson; the latter now serving in that capacity, having been elected January 3, 1885. In addition to those already mentioned, the following appear upon the records as having served as Directors: Benjamin A. Harlan, George W. Griggs, Robert M. Collins, George S. Lovett, J. M. Stanly, W. G. Beckwith, George M. Griggs, Robert M. Collins, George S. Lovett, J. M. Stanly, W. G. Beckwith, George M. Edison, W. D. Talford, J. F. Letellier, Thaddeus Foote, C. G. Swensberg, Aaron Brewer and Charles W. Garfield. The situation of the bank serves to render it of special service to many doing business in the southern part of the city. Its deposits are increasing and have reached the handsome sum of $500,000, as shown by its last published statement. The present officers are: James D. Robinson, President; Moreau S. Crosby, Vice-President; F. A. Hall, Cashier; D. B. Shedd, Assistant Cashier. Directors – J. D. Robinson, W. D. Talford, M. S. Crosby, E. S. Pierce, C. W. Garfield, J. M. Stanly, George M. Edison, C. G. Swensberg, Aaron Brewer.
FOURTH NATIONAL BANK.
The Farmers and Mechanics Bank, the predecessor of the Fourth National Bank, was organized, under act of Legislature of Feb. 16, 1857, and acts amendatory thereof, for discount, deposit and circulation, with a capital of $100,000, Feb. 1, 1879, with forty-three stockholders, and to terminate January 31, 1909. Under the articles of association the following were named as Directors: Leonard H. Randall, William Sears, James M. Nelson, Amasa B. Watson, Thomas M. Peck, Henry H. Dennis and Edwin Bradford, and the following were elected officers: Leonard M. Randall, President; Henry H. Dennis, Vice President; James C. Darragh, Cashier. Among the stockholders, aside from the Directors named, were: Henry S. Smith, Freeling W. Peck, Lewis Porter, John Clancy, and R. P. Sinclair, of this city, and Wm. A. Wood of Kalamazoo – all deceased. Other prominent stockholders, now living, were: E. S. Pierce, Henry Pierce, Henry Spring, W. O. Hughart, J. H. Wonderly, H. J. Hollister, Geo. C. Peirce, E. Crofton Fox, L. E. Hawkins, G. K. Johnson, M. L. Sweet, S. B. Jenks, L. H. Withey and D. P. Clay. Articles of association were filed with the Register of Deeds January 27, 1879, and with the Secretary of State January 28, 1879. The assets of Randall & Darragh and H. H. Dennis were accepted by the bank. They had deposits also; $80,558.56 and $29,368.59 respectively. The first dividend, made payable on and after July 7, 1879, at 10 per cent per annum, was declared June 24, 1879. January 23, 1880, the capital was increased to $200,000; old stockers being allowed to take pro rata $50,000 at par and the other $50,000 to be sold at two per cent premium and added to the surplus. March 16, 1880, L. H. Randall resigned as Director and President, and Amasa B. Watson was elected President. April 4, 1880, Geo. C. Peirce was elected Director in place of L. H. Randall. May 10, 1880, H. H. Dennis resigned as Vice President and Director. At the stockholders' meeting June 7, 1880, Andrew J. Bowne (then of Hastings) was added to the Board to fill vacancy. The same day Thomas M. Peck was elected Vice President. July 26, 1880, J. C. Darragh resigned as Cashier, and H. H. Dennis was made Acting Cashier. Nov. 18, 1880, I. M. Weston was elected Cashier. Feb. 1, 1881, E. Bradford resigned as Director, and James Blair was elected in his place. May 2, 1881, H. H. Dennis resigned as Assistant Cashier. Oct. 18, 1881, Thomas M. Peck resigned as Director and Vice President, but his resignation was not accepted until Jan. 17, 1882, at which time a resolution was passed to wind up the affairs of the Farmers and Mechanics Bank and reorganize under the name of Fourth National Bank, with nine Directors. January 9, 1882, the Fourth National was chartered – circulation $50,000. Jan. 17, 1882, George W. Gay, Delos A. Blodgett, and I. M. Weston were elected Directors to fill vacancies. The same day A. J. Bowne was elected Vice President, and the capital was increased to $300,000 and circulation to $100,000. July 18, 1882, Henry P. Baker was elected Assistant Cashier. January 23, 1883, T. Stewart White was elected to fill vacancy caused by the death of James M. Nelson. Feb. 27, 1884, A. B. Watson presented his resignation as President, and I. M. Weston as Cashier, which were not accepted until May 27, 1884, when A. J. Bowne was elected President, I. M. Weston Vice President, H. P. Baker Cashier and H. W. Nash, Assistant Cashier. Nov. 24, 1884, the bank moved to its present quarters from the old Randall block. At the annual meeting, Jan. 13, 1885, Geo. K. Johnson and A. D. Rathbone were elected Directors in the place of I. M. Weston and T. Stewart White, and at the Directors' meeting following A. J. Bowne was elected President to succeed Major Watson, and Geo. C. Peirce, Vice President, to succeed I. M. Weston. Sept. 7, 1886, the circulation was reduced to $50,000. Feb. 13, 1888, Fred. K. Baker was elected Assistant Cashier, but resigned April 30, 1888. July 23, 1888, Geo. C. Peirce resigned. Sept. 22, 1888, appropriate resolutions were passed regarding the death of Major Watson. Oct. 9, 1888 H. P. Baker resigned as Cashier. On the same date Delos A. Blodgett was elected Vice President in place of Geo. C. Peirce, and H. W. Nash was elected Cashier. This bank has always received a fair portion of the current business of the city and Western Michigan, and numbers among its stockholders and officers men of large men and excellent business reputation.
DELOS A. BLODGETT, lumberman and capitalist, is a descendant of an early Vermont family. He was born in Otsego County, New York, March 3, 1825. His life has been one of work, of study, of enterprise, of adventure and of material and financial success. His educational acquirements are such as could be attained in his youth by the privileges of the district and select schools, and the later and varied experiences of active business. When twenty years of age he spent a year in the Southern States. In the early part of 1848 he began saw-mill work, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and in the fall of the same year entered the camp of Henry Knickerbocker on the Muskegon river; soon became a foreman, and continued with that gentleman until July, 1850. Afterward, with T. D. Stimson, of Muskegon, his operations in lumbering were extended at points on the tributaries of Muskegon river. In 1851 he improved land where now is the village of Hersey, Osceola County, which he founded in 1869. There he has (1890) a farm of six hundred acres; one in Clare County of four hundred acres; and in Missaukee county one of seven hundred acres. On these farms he is raising French draft horses. His partnership with Mr. Stimson terminated in 1854; and in 1858 he began manufacturing on his own account, erecting a saw-mill and grist-mill at Hersey. In 1871 he entered partnership with the late Thomas Byrne, of Grand Rapids, the firm name being Blodgett & Byrne; the business of which was the purchase of pine lands, logging and manufacturing lumber; the latter being done chiefly by contract with mill owners at convenient points until they in 1880 purchased the property at Muskegon known as the old George R. Roberts & Company mill. In 1878 Mr. Blodgett purchased a half interest in the mill of George Tillotson, at Lakeside by Muskegon Lake, and the firm of Tillotson & Blodgett was formed, and continued for six years, at the end of which time he bought Mr. Tillotson's interest, and erected on the same site a new mill with all the modern improvements, that is classed among the very best in the State. These Muskegon mills have done large and steadily increasing business, their output for 1888 being upward of sixty million feet. The active management there has been largely in the hands of D. A. Blodgett's son, John W. Blodgett. For years past, there and in connection with Mr. Blodgett's other lumbering interests, employment has been given to some 600 men, in the average. In participation with others Mr. Blodgett has been instrumental also in the building up of Evart and Baldwin. In 1881 D. A. Blodgett purchased residence property in the city of Grand Rapids, to which in that year he removed from his Osceola county farm. His financial connections and investments are numerous and extensive. He owns some 300,000 acres of pine lands South, chiefly in Mississippi. He was one of the incorporators and is a director of the Northern National Bank, of Big Rapids, and is similarly interested in the stock or management, or both, of the Fourth National Bank, of Grand Rapids; a private Bank at Cadillac; the Kent County Savings Bank; the Lumberman's National Bank, of Muskegon; the Preston National Bank, of Detroit; the Grand Rapids Fire Insurance Company; the Standard Accident and Life Insurance Company, of Detroit, and the Leaf River Lumber Company, of Grand Rapids, owning large tracts of pine timber lands in Mississippi. Mr. Blodgett is the owner of much real estate in Grand Rapids, including the seven-story brick block with stone trimmings at the corner of Ottawa and Louis Streets, completed in 1889 at a cost of $165,000; also a large brick block, five stories and basement, on South Ionia Street, used in mercantile trade. He is interested in the Valley City Street and Cable Railway Company, and has very large real estate investments in Chicago. He takes an active interest in local and State agricultural and horticultural associations. Politically, he is a staunch Republican, and was a delegate in 1880 to the National Republican Convention, at Chicago. Religiously, he classes himself as "an agnostic," believing in "one world at a time." Mr. Blodgett married, September 9, 1859, Jennie S. Wood, of Woodstock, Illinois. They have two children, John W. and Susan R., the latter now the wife of Edward Lowe, of Grand Rapids. As a stirring, enterprising, energetic and philanthropic citizen, Mr. Blodgett as yet betrays no intention of resting.
FIFTH NATIONAL BANK.
The Fifth National Bank of Grand Rapids, Michigan, was organized March 9, and opened for business April 15, 1886, with the following Boards of Directors: Wm. Dunham, J. D. Robinson, George E. Dowling, R. G. Peters, Wm. Steele, C. E. Belknap, Leonard Covell, Hubert Weiden, Henry Idema, T. W. Strahan, J. E. Earle, Peter Weirich and A. D. Plumb. The present Board comprises the same names with but two exceptions: Peter Weirich, deceased, succeeded by Charles Pettersch, and A. D. Plumb, resigned, succeeded by Charles H. Chick. The project of starting a bank on the West Side had been agitated several times previous to the organization of the Fifth National, but without success, and not by the parties who took hold of the present concern. The officers elected at the outset were: Wm. Dunham, President; J. D. Robinson, Vice-President; and Wm. H. Fowler, Cashier, and they have been re-elected at each succeeding annual meeting. The capital stock is $100,000, and at the present time the surplus is $12,000. The stockholders have been paid 6 per cent annually in dividends since the organization. The institution of this bank and its successful career thus far has proved not only a great convenience to business men located in the western portion of the city, but a real stimulus to many business interests located on the West Side. The banking house erected especially for the Fifth National Bank is a handsome brick structure, centrally located – in every way convenient, and a credit to all concerned. Evidently the Fifth National Bank came to stay, and it came none too soon.
William Dunham was born at Grand Isle, Vt., March 6, 1824, and is son of John and Julia (Hilliard) Dunham. When he was eight years old his parents moved to Medina county, Ohio, where he lived with them on the farm and attended school until he was eighteen, when he learned the trade of carpenter and joiner, at which he worked ten years in Ohio. In 1853 he came to Grand Rapids, and was engaged in various occupations for the following eight years. Then when the Civil War came on, he raised a company at Fentonville (to which place he is accredited in the history of "Michigan in the War") for the Third Michigan Cavalry. This was Company I, William Dunham, Captain, mustered into service in November, 1861. May 11, 1862, he resigned on account of disability, and received an honorable discharge. He then went into business at Fenton, until 1867, when he removed to Manistee. There he was elected County Clerk and Register of Deeds, served a term in each office. Next he engaged in banking, with Charles Secor & Co., which relation lasted eight years, and afterward he organized and operated alone a State bank for two years. In 1879 he purchased a half interest in the wholesale grocery house of Arthur Meigs, on Canal Street in Grand Rapids, and became a resident here in April, 1881. This partnership continued until 1884. In 1885-86 he took a leading part in organizing the Fifth National Bank, which was incorporated with a capital of $100,000, March 13, 1886, since which date he has been its President and financial manager. He is also one of the lumber firm of Dunham, Peters & Co., whose principal office is in Grand Rapids. In 1876 Mr. Dunham was a delegate from the Ninth Congressional District to the Republican National Convention at Cincinnati, and was chosen a Presidential Elector the same year. He is a member of the Masonic Order; has taken thirty-two degrees in the DeWitt Clinton Consistory, and was elected in 1889 to the thirty-third and last degree. In 1877 he was Grand Master of the Order in Michigan. Mr. Dunham married, in 1843, Hannah A., daughter of Chester Conant, and a native of Medina County, Ohio, born in 1824. She died September 6, 1854. February 26, 1856, he married Emeline, daughter of William R. and Caroline (Harlow) Godwin, his present wife, born at Bangor, Maine, April 17, 1833. Mr. Dunham ranks among the successful, enterprising men of the city, and holds a position of honor and respect with his fellow citizens, for his sturdy uprightness, public spirit, generous disposition, kindness and sociability.
KENT COUNTY SAVINGS BANK.
This institution was organized under the State law December 24, 1884. The incorporators were forty in number, and the capital stock was placed at $50,000, divided into one thousand shares of $50 each. Directors: A. J. Bowne, A. B. Watson, Joseph Heald, D. A. Blodgett, J. C. Bonnell, John A. Covode, James Blair, E. Crofton Fox, Thomas J. O'Brien. The first meeting of Directors was held January 5, 1885, at which time the present location was decided upon and a lease obtained. The second meeting of the Directors was held January 16, 1885, when the Board organized by the appointment of the following officers: Joseph Heald, President; J. C. Bonnell, Vice-President; J. A. S. Verdier, Cashier. The bank was opened for business January 26, 1885, on which day six savings books were issued – the deposits entered in the same amounting to the um of $82.50. The first regular election under the law was held May 4, 1888, when the same Directors were again chosen, with the exception of A. J. Bowne, who was succeeded by Henry Idema; the same officers continuing to act. May 3, 1887, J. A. Covode was elected Vice-President to succeed Mr. Bonnell, he having sold his stock, and September 5, 1887, Mr. Bonnell's place as Director was filled by the election of J. A. McKee. Oct. 1, 1888, A. J. Bowne was again chosen a Director to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Major A. B. Watson. January 4, 1889, the bank with a great loss in the death of its President, Joseph Heald, who had won the confidence and respect of his associates as well as the high esteem of our citizens. The growth of the Kent County Savings Bank has been steady and satisfactory. The stockholders have had fair returns for their investment and those who have become patrons of the bank have felt secure. The number of savings depositors has risen from six the first day to 5,200, and the deposits from $82.50 to nearly $400,000. The bank does but a limited amount of commercial business. A thorough investigation of the bank is made each quarter by a committee of the Directors. The deposits come very largely from the mechanics and laboring classes of the city. As an educator of the people in lines of frugality and economy this bank certainly takes a leading place.
MICHIGAN TRUST COMPANY.
This chapter would be incomplete without mention of the Michigan Trust Company, organized July 15, 1889. While this company does not operate a bank, it is still one of the financial institutions of the city, and should properly be mentioned in connection with the banks. The functions of this corporation are unique in this community, and in the order of their prominence are: The acceptance of any trust to which it may be appointed – the classes of trusts having a broad range – the company acts as executor of wills, administrator of estates, guardian for minor children and for incompetent persons; trustee for married women in respect to their separate property; trustee for any person or corporation in the management of property; trustee for bondholders under mortgage made by individuals or corporations; registrar and transfer agent for railroads and other corporations; agent for persons or corporations in the care of their property and in collections; assignee and as receiver; depositary for court funds and the funds of estates and trustees; and as agent for other persons in the purchase and sale of all kinds of investment securities, stocks, bonds, mortgages, etc. It also takes charge of the whole or any part of any person's estate; invests idle funds in bond and mortgage or other securities as directed; loans its capital on real estate and collateral security, and maintains and manages safety deposit vaults, renting safes in which may be stored the securities or valuables of the renter. It receives and stores any valuables and becomes responsible for their safe keeping, and it transacts as agent any business with which it may be entrusted. It will be seen at a glance that this institution, carefully and properly managed, is a valuable adjunct to the banking facilities of the city, and the flattering manner in which this company has been received by the community is an evidence that it is appreciated, and that a corporation organized for the transaction of this class of business was a necessity. Perhaps the most important feature of this company is its administration of estates. The records of the Probate Court of Kent County show that during the past ten years the total number of estates that have been administered upon is 1,281; of these439 executors and administrators have filed no final account, and 272 have filed no account whatever. During the same period 597 guardians have been appointed, Of these 482 have filed no account, and 311 have filed no account whatever. This is a startling record. It is a relief to business men to be able to decline acting as executor or guardian , and to suggest the appointment of the Michigan Trust Company instead. By law this company is obliged to deposit $100,000 of securities with the Treasurer of the State, to be held by him in trust for the security of its patrons. Its capital is $200,000, paid in; the additional liability of the stockholders is $200,000. The affairs of the institution are under the supervision of the State Banking Department, subject to the examination of the Commissioner of that department, and its statements are published at the same time as those of State Banks. The features of the law under which the Michigan Trust Company is organized were conceived by Grand Rapids parties. The act was drafted by them, was presented the Legislature during the session of 1889, was passed, was approved by the Governor, May 23, 1889, and is known as "An act to provide for the incorporation of Trust, Deposit and Security Companies." The list of stockholders embraces the names of the representative business men of Grand Rapids and Western Michigan. The Directors of the company are Lewis H. Withey, Willard Barnhart, Thomas D. Gilbert, Darwin D. Cody, Julius Houseman, Alfred D. Rathbone, Harvey J. Hollister, Daniel H. Waters, James M. Barnett, William Sears, Charles Fox, T. Stewart White, Robert B. Woodcock, Noyes L. Avery, Samuel B. Jenks, John W. Champlin, Henry Idema, Anton G. Hodenpyl, all of Grand Rapids; Wellington W. Cummer, of Cadillac; John Canfield, of Manistee; and Charles H. Hackley, of Muskegon. The officers are: Lewis H. Withey, President; Willard Barnhart, Vice President; Darwin D. Cody, Second Vice President; Anton G. Hodenpyl, Secretary.
THE CLEARING HOUSE.
The Grand Rapids Clearing House Association was organized December 30, 1885. Its charter members were the Old National Bank, the National City Bank, The Grand Rapids National Bank, the Fourth National Bank, the Grand Rapids Savings Bank and the Kent County Savings Bank. The Fifth National Bank was organized in 1886 and joined the Association in April of that year. The first officers of the Association were: Harvey J. Hollister, President; H. P. Baker, Secretary; Alonzo B. Porter, Manager. The system is a great improvement over the old methods adhered to by the banks for so many years. Promptly at 12 P.M. the messengers from the respective banks meet in the Directors' room of the Old National bank, so far the designated clearing bank, each bringing the total amount of checks held against other city banks. A voucher is handed the Manager by each messenger, indicating the total amount of checks held by each bank against all the others; after which another voucher is handed the manager by each messenger, with the total amount against said bank. The balances are figured by the manager, and if in favor of the bank, the manager gives a voucher for the same; if in favor of the Clearing House, the messenger gives the necessary voucher. The debtor banks are to pay any balances against them on or before 1:30 PM, in New York or Chicago Exchange. The entire time occupied by the transactions involved averages about five minutes. The amount involved cuts no figure, as the Clearing House deals only in totals. All computations of the respective bank clearings must be made before and after the meeting at the Clearing House rooms. The annual statement prepared by the manager, for the three years since the organization of the association, indicates a healthy increase in the general business of the city. The total clearings for 1886 were $21,428,206; balances, $4,828,486. For 1887 – clearings, $27,959,193; balances, $5,914,508; an advance of 10 2/3 per cent. It is hardly possible to overestimate the value of this modern institution, and the wonder is that all cities, even those much smaller than our own, do not adopt similar methods; so simple and accurate; economical as to time consumed and money expended, and absolutely free from liability to loss. Our own banks could not be persuaded to go back to their former methods, and would commend their system to any bankers who have not yet adopted any general plan of making their exchanges. The present officers are: Harvey J. Hollister, President; Wm. H. Fowler, Secretary; Charles L. Grinnell, Manager. The following table shows the bank clearings for 1888 and 1889:
Months - 1888 - 1889
January - $2,909,440 25 - $3,017,704 07
February - $2,209, 25 04 - $2,303,539 69
March - $2,737,018 80 - $2,904,781 02
April - $2,526,855 06 - $2,491,942 10
May - $2,652,601 20 - $2,898,187 86
June - $25,577,210 18 - $2,642,858 38
July - $2,425,017 40 - $3,015,479 06
August - $2,501,804 71 - $2,620,637 98
September - $2,384,947 02 - $2,975,554 41
October - $2,777,445 90 - $3,218,765 43
November - $2,525,119 58 - $2,900,473 08
December - $2,725,113 15 - $3,079,346 63
Total - $30,932,342 29 - $3,406,826 971
Transcriber: Jennifer Godwin
Created: 14 March 2002