The First Bank in Chautauqua County

National Chautauqua County Bank of Jamestown, located on the NW corner of Second and Main Streets, in 1921. This first bank built in the county was located across the street from this building, on the SW corner of Second and Main.  (Photo property of the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Not to be reused without permission)

In 1831, Chautauqua County saw its first bank established. That was the year the Chautauqua County Bank at Jamestown applied for incorporation to the state legislature.

According to Andrew Young in his book – History of Chautauqua County, N.Y. (1874) – the application was filed for several reasons, including the local lumber trade, which boasted “about 40 million feet of boards, planks and scantling were annually manufactured in the counties of Chautauqua and Cattaraugus, and the adjoining counties of Warren and McKean in Pennsylvania.”

The earliest bank in Chautauqua County may have looked very similar to this sketch of a fronteir bank. (Image property of the Chautauqua County Historical Society and not to be used without permission)

The continued growth of the county, combined with the distance it took a resident to reach the nearest bank, were also cited in the application:

Population of county in 1811 (year of incorporation): about 2,000
Population of county in 1825:  20,639
Population of county in 1830: 34,668

Population of Jamestown in 1825: 393.
Population of Jamestown in 1830: 884.

It has now eleven stores, one woolen factory, one sash factory, one gristmill with three fun of stones. one gang sawmill, three common sawmills, two printing offices, and a great number of mechanic establishments. A steamboat of eighty tons burden plies daily between Jamestown and Mayville on the Chautauqua Lake. One of the Lake Erie steamboats is solely employed in doing the business of Chautauqua county.

Jamestown is ninety miles on the route usually traveled, from the nearest banking institution in this State [United States Branch Bank at Buffalo]. The bank at Lockport is the nearest State institution. There is no bank in the southern tier of counties from Orange to Lake Erie

…The county of Chautauqua ranks among the first in the State for size [695,800 Acres] commercial advantages, and fertility of soil. It has no large swamps nor barren mountains, and is probably capable of supporting as numerous and dense a population as any in the State…

..A bank at Jamestown will accommodate an active population in this state and Pennsylvania of at least 60,000.

– American Historical Society (1921)

The charter for the bank was granted almost immediately on April 18, 1831.

Judge Elial T. Foote, first president of the Chautauqua County Bank (image from Young’s History of Chautauqua County)

After the legislature granted the charter, the commissioners to receive subscriptions for the capital stock, were: William Peacock, Thomas Campbell, Leverett Barker, Elial T. Foote and Walter Smith. The bank was organized under the safety fund act, with a capital of $100,000.

The first directors were Leverett Barker, John G. Saxton, William Peacock, James Hall, Samuel Barrett, Jediah E. Budlong, Oliver Lee, Thomas Campbell, Daniel Sherman, Elial T. Foote, Alvin Plumb, Abner Hazeltine, Richard P. Marvin. The first officers were Elial T. Foote, president, with an allowance of one cent for each bill signed by him, and Arad Joy, cashier, with an annual salary of $550.

The books for bank were first opened at Jamestown on the June 1, 1831 and were kept open three days. Notice was given in January following, that the capital stock had been paid in, and that the bank was about to commence business.

Other banks soon incorporated throughout the county, including in the village of Silver Creek (Bank of Silver Creek – 1839), Westfield (Bank of Westfield – 1848), Dunkirk (Lake Shore Bank – 1855) and Fredonia (Fredonia Bank – 1856). But from January 1832 until January 1859, the Chautauqua County Bank would be the only bank providing service from within the village of Jamestown.

The first charter expired in 1859. The Chautauqua County Bank was then reorganized as a state bank. In 1863 it was made a national bank an in 1896 it was reorganized as a trust company under existing banking laws. In 1896, the bank absorbed the City National Bank and in 1899, it absorbed the Jamestown National.

Interior of the National Chautauqua County Bank of Jamestown at its location on 2nd & Main Streets, Jamestown, N.Y. in 1931. (Photo property of Chautauqua County Historical Society. Not to be used without permission)

By 1900, Jamestown was a city and had four prosperous and progressive banks, including the Chautauqua, the First National Bank, the Union Trust Company and the Farmers and Mechanics Bank. In his book Illustrated History of Jamestown (1900), Vernelle A. Hatch wrote:

It is a noteworthy fact that in all the history of Jamestown there has not been a single bank failure, although surrounding towns and cities have at different times sustained disasters of this character… The [Four Banks] have maintained harmonious relations, and have been ready at all times to stand united against any financial disaster that might be threatened. A case in point was the condition of affairs during the panic of 1893, when supposed stable institutions were going to pieces in every section of the country. There was no uneasiness manifested in Jamestown but the banks prepared for every contingency…

Many of the best known citizens of Jamestown have ben connected with the bank in various capacities. Fitch Shepard, father of the late Elliott F. Shepard of New York was for a time acting cashier. Robert Newland, a gentelman universally respected and beloved, was connected with the bank for over 57 years, serving 18 years as president. Oliver Lee, Samuel Barrett, Leverett Barker, Leverett Barker, Aaron D. Patchin, Thaddus W. Patchin, Seldon E. Marvin, David N. Marvin, Daniel Griswold and M. M. Skiff in connection with the others enumerated above, are among substantial conservative citizens who have helped to build the bank up to its present high standard.

– V. Hatch (1900)

By 1920, three more banks were operating in Jamestown. The were American National Bank, Bank of Jamestown and Liberty National Bank.

The following timeline brings the Chautauqua County Bank from 1900 to the present state:

1906: Established National Chautauqua County Bank of Jamestown
1951: Acquire By Merger Union Trust Company of Jamestown, NY
1951: Name Change To Chautauqua National Bank & Trust Co of Jamestown
1965: Name Change To Marine Midland Bank – Chautauqua, N.A.
1976: Merge to State Marine Midland Bank
1980: Convert Federal Marine Midland Bank, N.A.
1993: Convert State Marine Midland Bank
1999: Name Change To HSBC Bank USA, Merge To State Republic Bank of New York
2004: Convert Federal HSBC Bank USA

– Source:

The original home of the National Chautauqua County Bank still stands today on the corner of the northwest corner of 2nd and Main Streets. In 2009, it was converted to Galactic Systems Headquarters, Science Research Facility, Business Incubator and Culture Center.

An early Chautauqua County Bank note from 1835. (Image property of the Chautauqua County Historical Society – not to be reused without permission)

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Sources: History of Chautauqua County (Young, 1875); Early History of the Town of Ellicott, Chautauqua County, N.Y. (Hazeltine, 1887): Illustrated History of Jamestown, N.Y. (Hatch, 1900); History of Chautauqua County, N.Y. and its People (American Historical Society Inc., 1921).

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