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Matamoras Minute: Banks

In that the Peoples Savings Bank, the only bank in Matamoras, now stands on the site of the former “old” school, it is the proper time to turn this column’s attention to the history of banking in our town.

There have been three banks in Matamoras and they all had their beginnings on the same site. That being the forner of Front and Main Streets. The first was the Bank of New Matamoras followed by the First National Bank of New Matamoras, and finally the Peoples Savings Bank. The later two banks were in competition with each other for a period of 22 years.

The Bank of New Matamoras was organized in 1896 by Charles A. Cline, Jacob Gautschi, Edward M. Gross and E.H. Myers. Cline was president, Gautschi vice-president, and Gross cashier. The bank’s eventual demise would come when it associated itself with a larger bank in Cleveland which in turn as shut down by Ohio banking regulators. As a result the Bank of New Matamoras had to close circa 1899.

Following the closing of that institution, the First National Bank of New Matamoras incorporated in 1901. Known presidents of this bank were John Shannon, Morton Hutchison, and John Berentz.

The First National was first housed in the building occupied by the original bank of town. In 1911-1912 it moved to the corner of Main and Second Streets. This is the same building which is now the headquarters of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. In 1911 the Peoples Savings Bank incorporated. It rented the former site of the First National from the First National. So competing banks were landlord and tenant for a time. Eventually Peoples Savings bought the property.

In 1924 the First National’s assistant cashier was held up and robbed of $2,400 by a man from Quarry, Ohio. This was a hefty sum in those days. But the scoundrel was caught before he could leave town when he unsuccessfully tried to climb over a fence in a neighbor’s backyard and was apprehended.

In October 1929 the country began to slump into the Great Depression. In March 1933, as he assumed the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt declared a bank holiday and closed all banks in the United States for governmental inspection. Roosevelt told the country in his first fireside chat that any bank on a sound basis would be reopened and those banks in an unstable condition would not.

Well, the Peoples Savings Bank reopened and the First National did not. Assets the bank owned were seized.

Sometime in the 1940s checks began arriving in the post office to reimburse the patrons of the First National. No one received their full value of deposits but the liquidated sum of the assets was divided proportionally. From that difficult period of history Matamoras has retained one bank to the present day.

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.

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