Sardis Birchard, uncle of Rutherford B. Hayes, was one of the founders of the first bank in Sandusky County — Birchard & Otis, established in 1851. It was a predecessor to The First National Bank of Fremont.
But Birchard’s famous nephew also was a pioneer in banking locally.
The establishment of Fremont Savings Bank in 1882 was historic. Just one year after he completed his term as president, Hayes was one of a group of famous men of local history who signed the bank’s articles of incorporation.
Other incorporators included Father Seraphin Bauer, longtime pastor of St. Joseph Church; Dr. John B. Rice, widely known Civil War surgeon and medical lecturer; Dr. James Wilson, popular physician and successful businessman who left the position as president and director of First National Bank to join the venture; longtime banker Anson H. Miller, and Augustus Rice, who later became president of Croghan Bank.
Not only was the bank launched by key figures in local history, it also took the somewhat historic step of paying interest to depositors. It reportedly was the first time since 1859 that such a practice existed locally since the two existing banks had discontinued interest payments at that time.
The directors of the Fremont Savings Bank purchased furniture, a safe and supplies from the recently dissolved Bank of Fremont. They also rented the Croghan Street offices of the former bank.
Hayes was the firm’s first depositor and one year after its formation, nearly 1,000 accounts had been opened and nearly $4,000 in interest had been paid to depositors.
According to a history written to celebrate the bank’s 75th anniversary in 1957, “Five years later, in preparation for needed expansion, the directors purchased the entire Croghan Street block on which the Fremont Savings Bank was located. … Fremont resident Colonel William E. Haynes was elected a director and vice president. He took over the management of the bank’s daily operations. … Colonel Haynes was the first of four generations of the family to serve as a director of the Fremont Savings Bank and Company.”
In 1921, with a growing need for more space, a new building was erected on the Croghan Street site of the original building. That building now houses the main offices of the Fremont Federal Credit Union, which purchased it in 1993.
Fremont Savings Bank was something of a trend-setter with the operation of the Fremont Motor Bank on Garrison Street in addition to the Croghan Street building.
In 1965, The Fremont Savings Bank joined the Society Corporation which eventually became officially known as Key Bank.
Roy Wilhelm started a 40-year career at The News-Messenger in 1965 as a reporter. Now retired, he writes a column for both The News-Messenger and News Herald.
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