Bringing the Bank to Danville, Part one

A His­tory of the Bank of Cale­do­nia and Cale­do­nia National  Bank

By Patty Conly, Pres­i­dent of the Danville His­tor­i­cal Society

Early Caledonia National Bank on Bank Street in Danville, ca 1886 to 1925.

Early Cale­do­nia National Bank on Bank Street in Danville, ca 1886 to 1925.

Imag­ine what life must have been like for the early pio­neers fol­low­ing their arrival to this area, a vir­gin wilder­ness that we now call “Danville” in the beau­ti­ful north­east­ern cor­ner of the state. There were hard times with many impor­tant deci­sions to be made under dif­fi­cult con­di­tions while set­tlers began to orga­nize the struc­ture of the town at the very first town meet­ing warned in 1788.  Over the next ten year period, a post office was estab­lished, churches were orga­nized and by 1799 there were twelve schools located in the var­i­ous dis­tricts of the town proper.  Danville was on a fast track to becom­ing one of the most impor­tant towns in north­ern Ver­mont in the early decades of the new cen­tury, but it needed a bank. It did not come into exis­tence for another 26 years.

To be or not to be was the ques­tion of the day fol­low­ing some con­tro­versy between Danville and Peacham over which town should be des­ig­nated the shire town of Cale­do­nia County. E. Tobias Balivet, local lawyer and his­to­rian writes, “…by 1790 Danville had become by far the largest town in the county with 25% of the total of the county pop­u­la­tion.” Chief Jus­tice William Cham­ber­lin sug­gested to his neigh­bors that they sup­port a com­pro­mise by estab­lish­ing a county gram­mar school in Peacham and let Danville have the cour­t­house.  He felt that Danville was the more log­i­cal site because of its geo­graphic loca­tion in the cen­ter of the county, mak­ing it a more con­ve­nient loca­tion for lawyers to travel to the county court.  After review by the leg­isla­tive com­mit­tee, Danville’s bid was accepted and on Novem­ber 8, 1796, Danville was offi­cially des­ig­nated the shire town.

Again quot­ing Balivet, “The Vil­lage of Danville Green did not exist until a four-acre par­cel of land was donated [1797] for a cour­t­house and Green, and Aaron Hartshorn and Thomas Dow [the donors], began sell­ing off build­ing lots around it.  Before that, the clos­est thing to a pop­u­lated vil­lage in the cen­ter of town was Danville Cen­ter, around Dole Hill.  And the major north-south road, pos­si­bly used by the stage­coach between Boston and Mon­treal, was the road that you can still pick out mostly on a map today, start­ing at Green­banks Hol­low, run­ning through the Cen­ter, and on to Whee­lock.  When the site was picked for the Green, peo­ple began sell­ing their house lots around the Cen­ter and buy­ing in the area of the Green.

The jail was built imme­di­ately, near the head of Brain­erd Street, but there was delay for some rea­son in build­ing the cour­t­house.  They started build­ing on the Green a few feet north­west of where the band­stand is now.  But they aban­doned that site, got an exten­sion in time from the Leg­is­la­ture, and ended up build­ing approx­i­mately in the area between the cur­rent town hall and Danville Restau­rant.” The new cour­t­house, a two story ele­gant wooden struc­ture was com­pleted in 1801.  Good roads were estab­lished in every direc­tion from all points of the Green lead­ing from the cour­t­house.  This would serve to greatly improve the mail deliv­ery to the vil­lage as well as the oper­a­tion of the first post office.

Com­mer­cial and indus­trial growth rapidly increased with the estab­lish­ment of sev­eral mills, and by the late 1790s many arti­sans began to open shops on Danville Green.   By 1820, there were at least seven stores in town.   William Good­win opened a hat­ting shop just east of the new cour­t­house, and Dem­ing and Strong had a store on the site which later became the Eagle Hotel.  Buck­min­ster and Kelsey opened their new store on the Green where sev­eral years later, Miss Fran­cis Hand opened a dress-making shop on the sec­ond floor.   In one of the largest stores in town, one could buy every­thing from umbrel­las, walk­ing shoes, vio­lins to Ital­ian writ­ing paper.

Sar­gent and Willard opened their wood­work­ing busi­ness on the Green near the cour­t­house where they made clock cases, sec­re­taries, side­boards, desks, and Wind­sor chairs.  Cap­tain Peter Blan­chard built a tav­ern about 1787, prob­a­bly the first in town. This would also come to be known as the home of William Palmer, a man of legal and polit­i­cal dis­tinc­tion with a long-standing career in pub­lic ser­vice.   He was elected Gov­er­nor of the state in 1831. Balivet writes, “ Gov­er­nor Palmer’s home…was the house at the bend in the road to Greenbank’s Hollow…now owned by Peter and Cam O’Brien.”

In Susan­nah Clifford’s book, Vil­lage in the Hills, a promi­nent New Eng­land states­man trav­el­ling through Danville in May, 1819, recalls the warm and wel­com­ing hos­pi­tal­ity of a local tav­ern owner and the excel­lent food and accom­mo­da­tions.  He described the scene in the vil­lage as “young men brush­ing the streets with long tai­lored sur­coats on their backs and small crowned hats on their heads.”  The first cir­cus arrived in Danville in Sep­tem­ber 1823.  It was a “Grand Car­a­van of Liv­ing Ani­mals” exhib­ited at Wait’s Inn on Danville Green.  Admis­sion was twenty five cents for which one could view up to 34 dif­fer­ent animals!

Danville soon became home to sev­eral well-respected lawyers and judges, many of whom were also local mer­chants and busi­ness own­ers.  By 1820, six lawyers and one judge had offices on the Green.   Mar­maduke Wait, pro­pri­etor of Wait’s Inn on the Green rented rooms to at least two lawyers for their law offices.  Bliss N. Davis, who built one of Danville’s finest Greek Revival style houses in 1845 was the most promi­nent and well-known lawyer in town and had a long and dis­tin­guished career as a state sen­a­tor, state’s attor­ney and judge. Today, this is the home of Sen­a­tor Jane Kitchel and her hus­band, Guil.

Danville’s dis­tinc­tion was again demon­strated in 1804 being cho­sen as host town for the upcom­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion.  Israel Put­nam Dana moved to Danville in early 1800 and built the house on the east side of Hill Street which later became the home of Col. Addi­son Pre­ston and is now owned by James and Sara Stin­son. Dana soon estab­lished him­self as one of the most dis­tin­guished cit­i­zens in town.  In 1805, he opened a store on or near the Green known as the Hav­i­land Store and pur­chased and ren­o­vated the “old red tav­ern stand” to accom­mo­date the legislator’s horses.  Many of the towns­peo­ple opened their homes as board­ing houses to accom­mo­date the 200 leg­is­la­tors who would soon descend on Danville.  The leg­isla­tive ses­sion was held at the cour­t­house while Abel Morrill’s tav­ern hosted the Gov­er­nor and his council.

A Con­necti­cut news­pa­per pub­lisher, Ebenezer Eaton, arrived in Danville in 1807, print­ing press in tow with a plan to start a regional news­pa­per. He met with some of the towns lead­ing cit­i­zens to ask for sug­ges­tions of names for the paper. The name North Star was pro­posed by local mer­chant and store owner, Aaron Porter, and the vote was unan­i­mous. The first issue was pub­lished on Jan­u­ary 15, 1807, on a sin­gle sheet of paper.

The tremen­dous growth and recog­ni­tion of Danville as one of the most impor­tant mar­ket towns and polit­i­cal cen­ters in north­ern Ver­mont hap­pened in a rel­a­tively short period of time fol­low­ing the arrival of the first set­tlers.  Danville was soon becom­ing known and referred to as a “city on a hill” and would enjoy the pres­tige and profit of being the county seat for more than sixty years.

A Connecticut-born lawyer, William Palmer, pre­vi­ously men­tioned, prac­ticed law in St. Johns­bury for sev­eral years and moved to Danville after he was elected Judge of Pro­bate in Cale­do­nia County in 1811.   He was one of the wealth­i­est gen­tle­man farm­ers in town and had a flock of more than 70 sheep.  He went on to be elected Chief Jus­tice of the Supreme Court of Ver­mont and sub­se­quently elected as a Sen­a­tor in the United States Con­gress for the next six years.  He then served as the rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the leg­is­la­ture for Danville for the fol­low­ing year.   Real­iz­ing the need for the county seat and its grow­ing com­mu­nity to have a strong finan­cial insti­tu­tion, Palmer intro­duced a bill in the leg­is­la­ture to incor­po­rate a bank in Danville.  The bill was orig­i­nally rejected in 1824 but suc­cess­fully passed in the 1825 leg­isla­tive ses­sion.   The Bank of Cale­do­nia, as it was named, was incor­po­rated in 1825 and received its char­ter as a state bank, only the third to be char­tered in the State of Ver­mont.  Israel Dana, at the time a mem­ber of the Governor’s coun­cil, also played an impor­tant role in secur­ing the char­ter of the Bank of Cale­do­nia.  This was yet another mark of com­mer­cial dis­tinc­tion for the town.

Advertisement for the sale of capital stock.  North Star January 24, 1886

Adver­tise­ment for the sale of cap­i­tal stock. North Star Jan­u­ary 24, 1886

A notice solic­it­ing sub­scrip­tions for cap­i­tal stock in the newly char­tered Bank of Cale­do­nia was issued on Jan­u­ary 7, 1826, and the adver­tise­ment ran in the Jan­u­ary 24, 1826, issue of the North Star.  The fol­low­ing were listed as the first com­mis­sion­ers of the Bank of Cale­do­nia:  John W. Chan­dler, Israel P. Dana, Augus­tine Clark, Luther Clark, Samuel Sias, and Ephraim Pad­dock.  The sale of stock was opened on Jan­u­ary 31, 1826 at the Inn of Mar­maduke Wait on Danville Green and con­tin­ued for ten days; $50,000 was raised by the sale of stock for the bank’s start­ing cap­i­tal and the bank offi­cially opened for busi­ness on March 13 of that year.  It is believed that the first board of direc­tors at this time con­sisted of William Palmer, Samuel Sias, Franklin Dem­ing, William Bax­ter, and Dr. Josiah Shedd.  The cashier, who acts as chief exec­u­tive offi­cer, was Zebina Newell.  The board of direc­tors elected William Palmer as pres­i­dent of the bank; how­ever, he resigned after only six months and was suc­ceeded by Augus­tine Clark, a local mer­chant and tav­ern owner.  Clark owned a house at the top of Hill Street, known for many years to be the home of Dr. Mar­tin Paulsen and his wife Louisa, now owned by Dwight and Sharon Lakey.

Phil Rogers, a for­mer direc­tor of the Cale­do­nia National Bank has done exten­sive research on the early his­tory of the bank, and has shared a great deal of the fol­low­ing infor­ma­tion. The Bank of Cale­do­nia is believed to have started doing busi­ness in a brick build­ing built by John Kelsey in about 1820.  This build­ing was long known as the John Cur­rier Store.  The build­ing was later owned by the Amer­i­can Legion and is now home to the Open Door on the first floor, while the sec­ond floor is occu­pied by the office of the North Star Monthly. The bank did busi­ness at this loca­tion until its own build­ing was com­pleted on the Green, beside the old Wetherby Hotel, which was in the approx­i­mate loca­tion of the Pope Memo­r­ial Library today. At this time, Samuel Mat­tocks, a prac­tic­ing lawyer in Danville, was appointed cashier of the bank in 1833. He remained in this posi­tion until 1835 when he was appointed clerk of the county court.  In 1848, he resigned this posi­tion and returned as cashier of the bank until 1857.  Gus­tavus A. Bur­bank served the bank in the posi­tion of cashier from 1857 – 1863.   In 1855, a fire destroyed the Bank of Cale­do­nia build­ing as well as the nearby Wetherby Hotel. The bank rebuilt on the Green the same year beside the Methodist Epis­co­pal Church.

At the time of its incor­po­ra­tion, the Bank of Cale­do­nia issued its own paper cur­rency and con­tin­ued to do so until this prac­tice was taxed by the Fed­eral gov­ern­ment in 1863.  It was thought that the objec­tive was to dis­con­tinue the issuance of paper money by thou­sands of dif­fer­ent banks through­out the coun­try in order that the gov­ern­ment should have more con­trol by bring­ing all banks under the same sys­tem.  In 1865, the direc­tors of the bank voted to give up their state char­ter and become a mem­ber of the National Bank system.

1-scan0003The appli­ca­tion was approved and on Octo­ber 7, 1865, the bank received their new char­ter under the name Cale­do­nia National Bank.  Dur­ing this period, the bank had expe­ri­enced sig­nif­i­cant growth with an increased cap­i­tal of $100,000.  Orra Crosby was elected pres­i­dent of the newly named Cale­do­nia National Bank at this time and James Mat­tocks, son of Samuel Mat­tocks, had been serv­ing in the posi­tion of cashier since 1863. At that time, The National Bank­ing Act allowed banks that had been granted a national char­ter to issue their own paper cur­rency if this money was secured by United States gov­ern­ment bonds held at the bank. The Cale­do­nia National Bank issued a vari­ety of these notes and they cir­cu­lated widely until the bonds which secured the notes were called in by the Roo­sevelt admin­is­tra­tion in May, 1935.


Bliss N. Davis was elected pres­i­dent of the Cale­do­nia National Bank in 1873 and held that posi­tion until 1879.  Dur­ing this period he was instru­men­tal in bring­ing the rail­road to Danville.  Ground was bro­ken in 1870 and con­struc­tion began the fol­low­ing year.  At about the same time, the town decided to build a rail­road depot to the south of the vil­lage. The build­ing was con­structed by builders William Dole and David Morse. On Sep­tem­ber 29, 1871, the first train cars arrived at the Danville depot greeted by a large cheer­ing crowd.  Just one month after the arrival of the first steam engine to the sta­tion, the first tele­graph mes­sage was suc­cess­fully relayed from Danville. Tele­phone wires were strung from St. Johns­bury to Danville in August of 1884, and the first tele­phone in town was located in the Elm House Hotel.

Fire again rav­aged the newest Cale­do­nia National Bank build­ing and the Methodist Epis­co­pal Church next door in 1886. This is likely the rea­son that many of the early records of the Bank of Cale­do­nia and the early Cale­do­nia National Bank are no longer in exis­tence. The Methodist Church rebuilt that same year and the new loca­tion of the Cale­do­nia National Bank would be a large house on the Green referred to in more recent years as the “Hamil­ton House.”  The bank orig­i­nally occu­pied a back cor­ner room of the house but soon out­grew the space and expanded to two rooms.  Con­tin­ued growth led to the ren­o­va­tion of the entire first floor for the use of the bank.  The orig­i­nal vault is still intact in the house today.

The Cale­do­nia National Bank would expe­ri­ence an extreme stroke of good luck in 1889 when on the after­noon of May 9, a fire broke out in the Bax­ter barn on Hill Street near the Con­gre­ga­tional Church.  The fire spread rapidly as high winds fanned the flames and within an hour most of the busi­ness por­tion of the vil­lage was a mere pile of smol­der­ing ashes, includ­ing the Eagle Hotel, the old cour­t­house and the office of the North Star. The grand Elm House Hotel and Cale­do­nia National Bank were the only two build­ings left stand­ing in the busi­ness dis­trict after the great fire. “The pic­tures show it stopped south of the Con­gre­ga­tional church on Hill Street, trav­eled up Route 2 as far as the Danville Restau­rant, and doesn’t appear to have touched the south side of Route 2,” notes Balivet.

Bank Street. The Caledonia National Bank and the Pope Memorial Library between 1890 and 1925

Bank Street. The Cale­do­nia National Bank and the Pope Memo­r­ial Library between 1890 and 1925

A short time after the Great Fire of 1889, the bank would acquire a new neigh­bor to the north.  Mrs. Charles Pope of Chicago donated funds to con­struct a library in mem­ory of her late hus­band, a Danville native who moved to Chicago and became a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. This beau­ti­ful build­ing of superb nine­teenth cen­tury neo-classical style was designed by Brook­lyn archi­tect Mar­shall J. Mor­rill. It was com­pleted in 1890 and named the “Pope Memo­r­ial Library.”

After the death of his father in 1893, Charles H. Mat­tocks was called on to assume the respon­si­bil­i­ties of cashier of the bank, con­tin­u­ing the work of his father, James B. Mat­tocks.  He was born in Danville in 1871 and grad­u­ated from St. Johns­bury Acad­emy in 1890.  At 22 years of age, he was likely the youngest bank cashier in the state, and it was a tes­ta­ment to his abil­ity to be cho­sen to fill this impor­tant posi­tion.  He served as cashier until 1900.

Many note­wor­thy and promi­nent busi­ness­men in addi­tion to those pre­vi­ously men­tioned served in the posi­tion of pres­i­dent of the Cale­do­nia National Bank in the early years, some of whom include: Samuel Sias, George W. Chan­dler, Ira Brainard, L .H. Delano, Samuel Ingalls, James W. Simp­son, John Far­ring­ton, Henry S. Tol­man and Peter Wes­son, who served from 1905 – 1920.

As busi­ness con­tin­ued to grow, the Cale­do­nia National Bank would even­tu­ally out­grow their cur­rent space and in 1924, the direc­tors began to pur­sue a new loca­tion on the Green and a favor­able design for the new structure.

This is the first in a series of arti­cles that will focus on early life in the vil­lage of Danville, busi­ness on the Green and the his­tory of the Bank of Cale­do­nia and Cale­do­nia National Bank.

This arti­cle first appeared in the North Star Monthly April, 2014

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