History of Banking at Willimantic, Connecticut

The Windham Bank was incorporated August 8th, 1842, being located in the central village of Windham. The following persons were then made directors: John Baldwin, George Spafford, Justin Swift, Stephen Hosmer, Thomas Gray, William C. Dorrance, John Webb, Chauncey F. Cleveland, John A. Rockwell and Abner Hendee. The officers were: John Baldwin, president; Joel W. White, cashier. The salary of the cashier was fixed at $350 a year, to begin when he should give his bonds for $50,000. September 17th Mr. White resigned, and Samuel Bingham was unanimously appointed in his place as cashier, which position he held until March 17th, 1886. April 3d, 1850, Henry S. Walcott was elected president, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Baldwin. The bank was organized as a national bank June 21st, 1865. January 9th, 1872, Thomas Ramsdell was elected president, to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Mr. Walcott. In March, 1879, the bank was removed from Windham to the borough of Willimantic. Mr. Ramsdell resigned the presidency, and Guilford Smith was elected in his place January 12th, 1886. March 17th, 1886, the resignation of Samuel Bingham was accepted, and H. Clinton Lathrop was elected cashier in his stead. The capital stock of the bank is at present $100,000; surplus, $7,500; profits, $11,753; deposits, $182,882. The present officers are: Guilford Smith, president; Mason Lincoln, vice-president: H. Clinton Lathrop, cashier. The directors are Guilford Smith, Mason Lincoln, Henry Larrabee, Charles Smith, Thomas Ramsdell, George Lathrop, Frank F. Webb, Albert R. Morrison and Charles A. Capen. A robbery occurred to the bank in the year 1854, the particulars of which are given from the personal recollection of one of its officers as follows

” Friday, November 17th, 1854.-Windham Bank was entered by three men, with false keys, about eight o’clock last evening, and when the clerk, James Parsons, who slept in the bank, entered about nine o’clock, he was taken by two of the men, in the dark, after he had locked the door; a handkerchief was put over his eyes and he laid on the bed and watched by one man while the others broke open the vault and took about $7,000 in specie and about X2,000 of other bank bills and $13,000 of Windham bank bills. After gagging Mr. Parsons and confining his hands and feet, they locked the door and went to Bingham’s Crossing on the N. L. N. Railway and waited while one went to Willimantic and took a hand-car from the Hartford & Providence Road and took them to Norwich, where they arrived about 5:30 in the morning. They were frightened when they heard that the news had got there before them, and crossed the river, entering the woods between Laurel Hill and Allyn’s Point, where they were watched until the steamboat train arrived for New York. They then boarded the steamboat. There the sheriff and his assistants were waiting with Mr. Tingley, who pointed them out to the officers, and they were arrested. About $21,000 of the money was found while the boat was going from Allyn’s Point to New York, Saturday night. At their trial in Windham they gave the names of Jones, Crandall, Scott & Wilson.

“About November 1st, 1854, a large man came to Willimantic and stopped at the hotel then kept by William Tingley on the south side of the river (The Hebard House). It was afterward thought that his business was to make arrangements for the men to rob Windham Bank. He stayed but a short time, then disappeared. On or about November 2d, three men stopped at the same place. They went out in the evening but came back. about ten o’clock and took an early morning train to New York, via Hartford. While they were at breakfast Mr. Tingley felt of their carpet bag and was satisfied that there was a bit-stock and other burglars’ tools in it. He came to the conclusion that they were there for the purpose of robbing some place in Willimantic. One of the arrested men in reply to some questions, stated that they came there at the time named above and walked to the Windham Bank to rob it that night. They broke their key and went -back to New York, made another key and were gone two weeks, before they came to complete the business. When the lock was taken from the outside door of the bank, the piece of a key was found in it, which helped to confirm his story.”

The Willimantic Savings Institute was incorporated by act of legislature in 1842, .approved by the then Governor Chauncey F. Cleveland of this county. The incorporators were Oliver Kingsley Jr., John Tracy, Lloyd E. Baldwin, James D. Hosmer, Joshua B. Lord, Royal Jennings, Samuel Lee, Horace Hall, William L. Jillson; Laban Chase, Newton Fitch, Lewis Gager, Lucien H. Clark, Amos Palmer and Waterman C. Clark. The first meeting of incorporators was held June 18th, 1542. The first officers then chosen were: Oliver Kingsley, Jr., president; Royal jennings, vice-president; John Tracy, secretary and treasurer; William L. Jillson, Lloyd E. Baldwin, Joshua B. Lord, Horace Hall, Laban Chase, directors. Oliver Kingsley, Jr., held the office of president until his death, in 1846. He was succeeded by Horace Hall, who acceptably filled that position until 1870, when John Tracy was chosen president. Mr. Tracy had acted as treasurer since the incorporation, a period of 28 years, and a resolution acknowledging his fidelity and ability in that position was unanimously given him by the board. At this time Henry F. Royce was chosen secretary and treasurer. In 1869 a fine brick and stone building was erected on the corner of Main and Bank streets, which affords excellent facilities for, the transaction of banking business in the corner room on the first floor. The balance of the building, on the ground floor and the second and third floors, used as stores and offices. On the death of Mr. Tracy, in May, 1874, Whiting Hayden, who had for a long time been vice-president, was elected president. He continued in that capacity until his death, which occurred June 20th, 1886, when he was succeeded. by Edwin A. Buck, the then vice-president, who still remains at the head of the institute. Henry F. Royce, having held the position of secretary and treasurer since 1870, was suspended March 23d, 1888, and Frank F. Webb was appointed, at first temporarily, and in June following elected by the trustees at their annual meeting, to the office of secretary and treasurer, which place he still holds. This institution, from a small beginning increased with the growth of the place until the deposits amounted to nearly $1,000,000, and has divided a large’ amount of profits with its depositors.

The Dime Savings Bank of Willimantic was organized in May, 1872, and was incorporated-under the state law in the same year. Its original incorporators were Silas F. Loomer, James Walden, Horace Hall, James G. Martin, Henry G. Taintor, Ansel Arnold, George W. Burnham, Madison Woodward, Porter B. Peck, John M. Hall, Hyde Kingsley, James M. Johnson, William C. Jillson, Fred. Rogers, S. O. Vinlen, George Lincoln, George `V. Hanna, E. P. Packer, J. Dwight Chaffee and George W. McFarland. The bank commenced business September 21st, 1872. Its first officers were: Silas F. Loomer, president; O. H. K. Risley, secretary and treasurer. The amount on deposit October 1st, 1888, was about $600,000. Its present officers are: James Walden, president; John L. Walden, secretary and treasurer.

James Walden was born in Exeter, Conn., October 26th, 1825, and came to Willimantic with his parents in 1828. He was the youngest son of Silas and Jane (Rose) Walden, and commenced at the age of thirteen to work in the Windham Company’s mill, being engaged in the dressing department. About 1850 he engaged in the book and stationery business in Willimantic, which he carried on successfully till 1887, but during this time was also agent for Adams Express Company. He was also postmaster and had charge of the telegraph office here. He was elected president of the Dime Savings Bank, July 21st, 1880, and since that date has devoted’ much of his time to that institution. He married Amanda M., daughter of James Hempstead, and has three children-James H., a resident of New York city; Jessie L., wife of H. C. H. Palmer, of Sing Sing, N. Y.; John L., born in Willimantic, April 10th, 1861, and married Bell N., daughter of Henry Herrick, and who is the present secretary and treasurer of the Dime Savings Bank of Willimantic.

The Merchants’ Loan & Trust Company, organized for the double purpose of doing the business of a trust company and a general banking business, opened for business February 1st, 1871. A. C. Crosby was president, and J. F. Preston, treasurer; William C. Jillson, vice-president, and O. H. K. Risley, assistant treasurer. In March, 1873, the two latter became respectively president and treasurer. The company continued doing active banking business until July, 1878, when that department was turned over to the First National Bank, and the company continued to do simply a trust business until the present time. The officers last mentioned remain to -the present time. The company has a capital of $50,000, and its office is with the First National Bank.

The First National Bank was organized in June, 1878, with a capital of $100,000. Its officers were: William C. Jillson, president; Ansel Arnold, vice-president; Oliver H. K. Risley, cashier. They remain in their respective positions at the present time. The first board of directors were as follows, all except those marked * remaining in the board at present. Those marked have withdrawn, and their places have not been supplied, so the board nov numbers but six: William C. Jillson, Ansel Arnold, O. H. K. Risley, James M. Johnson,* Hyde Kingsley, Amos T. Fowler, Silas F. Loomer,* E. Stevens Henry, Stephen G. Risley.

The United Bank Building, one of the finest business blocks in the town, standing on the northside of Main street, in the heart of the borough, was erected in 1884, by the First National and Dime Savings Banks. The imposing front is made attractive by artistic designs in terracotta work, and still further set off by plate-glass windows at the first story, surmounted by circular transoms in cathedral style. The interior arrangement is in accord with the best modern ideas of convenience and comfort; the plumbing, heating and lighting represent the latest improved methods, and the polished cherry woodwork and hard-finished walls give a pleasing effect. The first floor is occupied by the banks, one on either side of the spacious central entrance, which gives access to the offices above.

One of the largest business blocks in the borough is the Turner block. It was. erected in 1877, and is a substantial five-story. brick structure with a three-story extension. The main building; with the exception of the store floor, is occupied as the Hotel Commercial, a well-kept house under the popular management of Mrs. P. A. Babcock. The block is named in honor of Mr. A. S. Turner, a leading druggist, who occupies an elegant store in the extension.

Loomer Opera House is one of the most substantial buildings in the borough. It is built of brick, the walls being not less than sixteen inches thick in any part. The fronts on Main and North streets are of pressed brick. The size of the building is 72 by 125 feet, four stories high. The ground floor is occupied by stores, while the upper floors along the Main street front are occupied by offices of various kind. Back of these on the second floor is’ the opera house, one of the finest entertainment halls in the state. The architectural plans were furnished by the designer of the first class theatres of New York city. It is furnished with all the modern appointments, elegant and complete scenery and properties, a stage 35 by 60 feet, twelve dressing rooms, four proscenium boxes, two balconies, best opera chairs in parquet and first balcony, heated by steam and thoroughly ventilated, and capable of seating 1,100 persons. The audience room and its appointments were finished at an expense of some twenty thousand dollars. The building was commenced in April, 1879, and was completed so far that the corner store was occupied by Mr. Murray March 15th, 1880. The opera house was completed on the 12th of the following November. The proprietor of the building is Mr. Silas F. Loomer, who came to Willimantic and started in the lumber and coal business in 1862. At that time there was no lumber or coal business carried on here, and the wiseacres- advised Mr. Loomer not to risk his money and enterprise in so hazardous and unpromising a field. But the remarkable success of that business as well as the rapid development of the village since that time proves those caution’s to have been not well timed.

Source: History of Windham County, Connecticut, Bayles, Richard M.; New York: W.W. Preston, 1889

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