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Columns

March 29, 2014

Delhi bank saw many ups, downs in 175 years

They’re a dying breed — local banks with nearly original names. However, the oldest bank in Delaware County, The Delaware National Bank of Delhi, is approaching its 175th anniversary of doing business.

After a group of businessmen met at the Edgerton Hotel in Delhi on Thursday, April 4, 1839, Herman D. Gould was planning what was then a lengthy trip to Albany to take care of the necessary paperwork to complete the new bank’s organization.

Gould was appointed president of what was first called the Delaware Banke (sic), said to be third oldest bank in New York state. Gould, who was also a Main Street storekeeper, authorized the making of plates to print the bank’s first notes. Stockholders were required to back the venture with bonds, mortgages and cash. The bank began with $150,000 in assets, opening on the second floor of Gould’s store. According to the bank’s website, Charles Hathaway was credited with building the white pillared structure in 1841 on the corner of Courthouse Square, today’s 124 Main St.

The bank remained the Delaware Banke until the spring of 1865 after a national bank law went into effect. After three name changes in three months, the bank became known as The Delaware National Bank of Delhi.

The bank suffered one noteworthy heist in early 1858, and supposedly no one was around to witness it. When the bank opened on Nov. 1 the inner vault door could not be unlocked. A blacksmith was brought in to cut the heads off the bolts to open it, and the vault had been emptied.

Burglars had apparently used false keys to get into the bank from a rear door, sawed a hole in the floorboards, crawled under the floor 10 feet to the base of the vault, undermining mortared stonework to enter it. After taking what they wanted, they slipped a nail into the vault lock to prevent entry from outside. About $38,000 in bank notes, gold, silver and currency was taken. A $3,000 reward was posted.

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