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A LOOK BACK: Springville Currency

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The Citizen’s Bank as Marine Midland Bank at the corner of North Buffalo Street and Main Street in 1959.

By Derek M. Otto

The President’s Day weekend is upon us and many kids will have off of school for the week. It wasn’t that long ago that we had only one day off for the holiday. Before that, many remember celebrating both Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays separately and much winter fun was had.   

There are rumors that before automobiles, it was common practice for the Springville community to have sledding parties on Elk Street, sliding down the street across Main Street and down Franklin Street.

Burt Spaulding remembered in his 1936 column that there would be a spotter on the corner to make sure no teams were coming up or down Main Street.  With all clear given down the hill, they would come, young and old alike.

Spaulding recalled, “If it was icy enough, you could reach the Sardinia Railroad depot.” (Today that’s the municipal building on Franklin Street.)

The young and the young at heart had fun at those sledding parties and I am sure Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays would be an excuse to have them.  Today it would be illegal and highly unsafe to go sledding down a village street, so it is not recommended by this author.

  The other thing that makes me think of President’s Day— especially Washington and Lincoln— is money. A few weeks ago, Mark Snyder, a Springville native, posted a note he found and some information on national bank’s notes on Facebook.  It got me thinking about some other research I had been doing. I know we have a resident expert on the subject in Dr. Brian Scharf.

According to Scharf, “On February 25, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln passed the National Currency Act of 1863. The act formed national banks that were allowed to buy interest-bearing bonds. From the bonds, paper currency was printed with the bank’s name, cashier and president of the bank’s signature printed on the bank’s notes.”   

Scharf added that, “Springville had two national banks: The First National Bank of Springville was formed in February of 1883 with the charter number 2892; the second, The Citizens National Bank of Springville, formed in 1902 with a charter of 6330.” Coincidentally, the banks were both housed in the same building.

The banks were issued large sized notes from 1863 until 1929, when notes were changed to the current smaller sized notes we are used to today.

According to Scharf, “The larger notes were printed in denominations of $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, $500, and $1000.  The small notes were issued in $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 denominations.  The First National Bank of Springville issued $109,360 in notes during its 19-year operation.  The Citizen National Bank, between 1902 and 1935, issued $1,162,010 in notes.”

Since the notes were not backed by gold, the notes could not be used to pay for duties on imports or for interest on public debt.

A few of the Citizen Bank notes exist and are collected.

Scharf explained that other neighboring communities had national banks, such as Arcade, East Aurora, Franklinville and Dunkirk.

In my research, I found that it became a rite of passage for the bank clerk to work up to being bank president.  In 1902, Frank Furman was the bank president and organizer of the Citizens Bank and Ira Vail was his cashier.  When Mr. Furman died in 1915, Mr. Vail became president, and his cashier became Arnold Neubach. When Ira Vail died, Mr. Neubach became president and his clerk was Orin Stearns.  When Mr. Neubach died an untimely death in 1938, Mr. Stearns became President.  On the bank notes that Mr. Scharf had, you could see the changes on whose name was printed on the notes: A 1902 series $10 note had Mr. Neubach as cashier(notes must have been printed later since Mr. Neubach started working for the bank in 1908); later he was bank president in 1929 series notes. (Both Vail and Neubach also served as mayors of Springville. Neubach was mayor throughout the 1920s.)

In late 2016, I wrote an article on the Christmas clubs that included a picture of the 1883 bank building that was built by C.J. Shuttleworth. At the same time the national bank system was being overhauled, the old 1883 building was being torn down and replaced with the new yellow brick structure.

Mr. Stearns’ daughter recently gave the Concord Historical Society a 35 mm video of them tearing down the old bank in 1935. In October of 1955, Citizens Bank of Springville merged with Marine Midland Bank of Buffalo.  In 1970, the bank moved to the current location of Community Bank and sold the building to Village of Springville.   The village uses the building as its main office building.  The bank vault is to the left when you enter the building.

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