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Skagit River Journal

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Bingham bank memories, part 1:
Those who were there in the 1890s

W.T. Odlin relates early history of Bingham bank
Courier-Times, July 25, 1940, Bingham Bank 50th anniversary section
      W.T. Odlin of Tacoma, former local resident, sent the following interesting letter to the C.E. Bingham & Co. State Bank on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary.
(Interior of bank in new Sedro)
      This picture, taken some time between 1892 and 1895, shows the original staff of the C.E. Bingham & Co. bank. The gentlemen in the foreground are the founders, M.L. Holbrook with hat in hand and gates-ajar collar, and C.E. Bingham.
      The mustachioed gentleman behind the counter is W.T. (Bill) Odlin, the first employee. The picture was taken in the bank office in the Pioneer block at the corner of Bennett and Third streets. This building burned to the ground about 1895 and the site where it stood is now occupied by the high school tennis courts.
      Mr. Bingham died in November 1939. Mr. Holbrook died a few years ago. After leaving this city he entered the banking business at Chehalis, and later went to Portland, Oregon, where he was vice president of the old Merchants' National bank. Mr. Odlin was a banker in Anacortes for many years and recently moved to Tacoma.
—Photo courtesy of the Courier-Times and the Territorial Daughters archives, Skagit County Historical Museum, LaConner

      My heartiest and sincerest congratulations to you all on the occasion of your 50th anniversary. A fully half-century of service in one community is surely an accomplishment deserving of praise and as a former employee (1893-99) of the firm of Bingham & Holbrook and of its successors, C.E. Bingham & Co., let me add my best wishes to the many you will receive.
      I entered the employ of Bingham & Holbrook in March 1893, succeeding Miss Bessie Reno (afterward Mrs. A.G. Mosier) as bookkeeper and general utility man.
      "During the years 1893-94 and 1895, the entire force consisted of two people — Mr. C.E. Bingham, and yours truly. The bank was located in the corner room of the Pioneer block opposite the Hotel Sedro, and situated on the northeast corner of Third and Bennett streets. Other occupants of the same block were Tozier & Co. Drugs (after 1894 named A.E. Holland Drugs) ; Sedro Press & Job Printing; Sedro Land Co. business office, and City Courier, Town of Sedro; all on the ground floor. Upstairs, Dr. M.B. Mattice had his offices in the corner suite and M.J. Gallagher, attorney, in the rear of the building. Fire destroyed the Sedro Hotel in early part of 1894 and spread across the street to the Pioneer black, which was also totally destroyed.
      Temporary quarters were obtained in the Washington block, corner of Jameson avenue and Third street in a room used by the Episcopal church as a chapel. The bank remained there but a short time when it moved to larger quarters in the same building on the Third street side. This room had been formerly occupied by the Sedro Mercantile Co. (O.S. and K.S. Paulson. The room was large and a partition was run down the center, the bank having the north half and A.E. Holland, druggist, the south half.
      The Sedro post office, at that time, using the corner room, 3rd and Jameson, the remainder of the block was taken up by a boarding and rooming hotel. As I remember the bank used these quarters until 1896 when it moved to its new location, the present site of the C.E. Bingham & Co. State Bank. The old home of the bank, 3rd and Jameson, burned in 1897.
      The entire force still consisted of two people, Mr. Bingham and myself. You will appreciate that the so-called "wage and hour bill" was unheard of and no attention was paid to closing time, or opening time either, for that matter. Hours were usually all those in which we could stay awake and not take too many off for sleep. Sometime during 1897, I do not recall exactly, Mr. A.W. Schafer was added to the force. He did a part of the bookkeeping and general work. Mr. Schafer — "Gus," was there only a few years and then went to the bank of Hamilton, where he was proprietor.
      Late in 1897 or perhaps early in 1898 a stenographer and typist was added to the staff. I think her name was Miss Anderson, but I am not clear as to that. She roomed and boarded with Mrs. Huntley.
      I left Sedro-Woolley in November 1899 and my successor was J.B. Holbrook. You have all that data from that time on. W.T. West following Mr. Holbrook and Q.P. Reno entering your service soon thereafter.
      "Even after a lapse of 50 years, many of your old friends and customers remain and I am sure that many of your former employees are still in the land of the living. It was my great pleasure to have an active part in the observances of your 25th anniversary in the year 1915, and I hope to be able to be with you again on your fiftieth.

Albert G. Mosier memories: the first days of the bank
Courier-Times, July 27, 1950, Bingham Bank 60th anniversary section
      Early in 1890, clearing was going on [all over Sedro], the Cokedale mine was being developed and three railroads were building.
      There were about 1,500 employed in this vicinity, with some turnover always taking place, making this an inviting location for someone to begin banking.
      The Fairhaven Land Co. bought some land of Mortimer Cook and Mr. Woods and C.J. Wicker and platted "The Town of Sedro," Norman [Kelley] having already platted "Town of Sedro."
      However, the Fairhaven and Southern being the first to ranch the site, building a fine depot near the river, and Mortimer Cook's general merchandising store doing business on the bank of the river, it was an easy matter to locate the first business center on the Fairhaven Land Co.'s site.
      Consequently, when C.E. Bingham and his hometown neighbor M.L. Holbrook located here by advice of M.L.'s father who had scouted the place, they located in the Fairhaven plot. The only available building being one that had been used for other than legitimate banking business and causing some embarrassing moments at times to the new bankers.
      This building stood just east of the railroad where the veneer plant afterwards occupied. Myself and brother-in-law [Harry L.] Devin had built on the edge of the bench on the west side of the track, having a commanding view of the new bank.
      Upon my return from platting Sauk City on the south side of the Skagit and west of the Sauk rivers, I dropped into the new bank and made my first deposit, consisting of $350.00.
      M.L. looked at me and made this comment, "Where did you get all that money?" Chicken feed nowadays but real money in 1890.
      The bank then was a week or two old and the new bankers were kept busy importing coin to meet the demand, cashing time checks at a discount being the top of the daily business.
      M.L.'s wife May was a friend of my sisters in high [school] days in Des Moines, and it was easy to form a friendship with Charley Bingham and his estimable wife. It was not long until her sister Bessie arrived from Marengo, Iowa, and Albert Holland, then a clerk at Cook's store, and myself were invited to spend the evening with the bankers to meet the new arrival. It was the beginning of a friendship that ended in our marriage at the Bingham cottage on Talcott street, now grown into the Bingham apartments.
      Most of you have heard about Cook's remark to C.E. when the latter bought a spool of thread at a fancy price and remonstrated about it.
      "We have different prices for different people on different days." Shortly afterwards the bank broke even with Mortimer when he bought a draft.

First three Bingham Bank depositors of July 30, 1950
Courier-Times, July 25, 1940, Bingham Bank 50th anniversary section
(The first three Bingham depositors)
Harry L. Devin, Ad Davison and Albert G. Mosier

      Pictured [at the left] are three well known local men who were among the first depositors of the C.E. Bingham & Co. State Bank.
      A.W. Davison, former lumberman, automobile dealer and mail agent, now one of the city's most enterprising strawberry growers, is listed as the first depositor of all. Davison, now approaching the age of 83, is hale and hearty and hard at work every day.
      Harry Devin, pioneer real estate dealer and official weatherman of the city, has retired from active participation in business and is taking things easy at his Warner street home, enjoying his family, his friends and his garden, and still keeping accurate tab on the weather.
      A.G. Mosier, well known engineer and mine expert, is spending his spare time building an attractive and unusual log house at the corner of Eighth and Fidalgo streets. All three of these splendid citizens have done their banking at Bingham's for the past half-century and all three have expressed heartiest congratulations to the House of Bingham on its fiftieth anniversary.

H.L. Devin tells of bank's start
Courier-Times, July 25, 1940, Bingham Bank 50th anniversary section
      Harry Devin, among the first depositors of the Bingham bank, speaking for himself and other old timers, gives the following account of his first dealing with the firm:
      I remember very well when Bingham and Holbrook, a couple of likeable young men, opened the first bank in what is now Sedro-Woolley, in July 1890. It was a wonderful convenience to have a bank with in a block of my office, as I was carrying my account in a bank in Snohomish, where I had opened an account when I came to the territory. The nearest bank in 1890 was at Mount Vernon, and with the then roads, ferries and means of conveyance, one was lucky to make the round trip in half a day. I immediately transferred my account to their bank and have been banking with them ever since. Their bank has been an important factor in the development of the community and surrounding territory.

There are four parts to this Bingham story and two bonus links

Story posted on April 15, 2003, last updated Oct. 7, 2007 . . . Please report any broken links so we can update them
This article originally appeared in Issue 13 of our Subscribers-paid Journal online magazine

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