MC History Spotlight: People’s State Bank of Scottville, a victim of the Depression.

March 20, 2019

MC History Spotlight: People’s State Bank of Scottville, a victim of the Depression.

MC History Spotlight is a weekly history column brought to you by Ludington Woods Living and Memory Care. Each week this column features a story from our county’s past.

N.G. Sayles

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Scottville was once home to two banks. The State Savings Bank of Scottville, founded in 1898, still exists as West Shore Bank (more will be posted in the future) and the People’s State Bank of Scottville, which fell victim to the Great Depression.

The People’s State Bank was founded in 1911. N.G. Sayles, a downtown Scottville merchant, was the bank’s first president. Sayles had moved to Scottville in 1891 and opened a general store located in a building that stood in an area about where the northern portion of Holden’s Home Emporium (former Schoenberger’s Market building) is now located. The store also served as a post office and Sayles was post master. Sayles sold the store when he became president of the bank.

Sayles lived in a house located at 202 E. State St., the southeast corner of State and Elm streets. The site is now the western portion of the Mason County District Library Scottville branch. The house was moved in the 1990s to Victory Drive, between Stiles and Amber roads in Victory Township.

Sayles died in 1913 at the age of 48. In his obituary, he was described as “a staunch Democrat and active in party affairs.”

There isn’t a lot of material published about the People’s State Bank. Most of what is written talks about its beginning and its demise. The bank’s leadership and shareholders consisted of some well known names in the town’s history. In January, 1931, an article in the Mason County Press was published listing the bank’s election of officers: F.J. Reader was re-elected president; Newbury Gordon and E.E. Kobe were named vice presidents; Irving .J. (I.J.) Eddy was re-elected cashier; J.J. Cox, assistant cashier; George Long, auditor; and Charles Chisholm, teller.

An October 21, 1931 article in the Ludington Daily News stated: “Recent action of the People’s bank of Scottville was a voluntary measure taken by directors to protect the interests of depositors, but it is regrettable that the step was made necessary by the spreading of false and idle rumors.”

In that same article, Mason County Prosecuting Attorney P.R. VonSprecken and Sheriff George Colyer both warned people “who spread false, idle, malicious or derogatory rumors about banking institutions.” The prosecutor stated: “No further warnings will be issued. Prosecution will be prompt and vigorous, and we will see to it that the utmost penalties provided for conviction of felony, which class includes the making of such rumors, are requested in circuit court.”

“I have already had occasion to call upon a half dozen persons in various parts of the county,” Sheriff Colyer declared, “who had been pointed out as responsible for malicious remarks. I told them flatly that if rumors they had started about county banks were not stopped immediately they would be placed under arrest and still charges preferred. My office will not bother to warn them a second time.”

The bank closed in February 1933.

Peoples State Bank under construction in 1911.

Bruce Eddy, grandson of the bank’s cashier, I.J. Eddy, recently recalled the impact the bank’s closing had on the Eddy family. Eddy moved his family to Scottville from Mikado in 1922 to accept the position at the bank, Bruce Eddy said. I.J. and his wife, Burtie, moved into the house at 401 N. Main St. “He remained in that position until the bank failed,” Bruce said. “Granddad lost his job, his investments in the bank and had to replace the stock funds lost. My dad (James Eddy) had to drop out of college and the family lost the house on Main Street. The very comfortable life they had in the 1920s vanished. They rented for a bit and then purchased the house at 104 N. Columbia Ave.

“I remember him talking about how they tried to keep people from pulling out their money and that he and my dad made a trip to Detroit to try and get a loan from the Federal Reserve, but they were unsuccessful. I really don’t know how Granddad kept his sanity as he dealt with the collapse of his own financial world and that of all the people who had trusted the People’s State Bank to safely manage their money.  He told me the bank did all it could to see that depositors were paid back as much as possible, unfortunately I do not remember what percentage was paid.”

“He was 50 when the bank collapsed but he went on to a long and successful career in insurance.”

I.J. then got a job for State Savings Bank of Scottville, clerked auctions and sold insurance. He and State Savings Bank President Bob Smith eventually formed Smith & Eddy Insurance.

People’s State Bank, foreground with State Savings Bank across the street.

“Granddad kept an office in the State Savings Bank building (102 S. Main St.), until the mid-60s when he finally retired at roughly the age of 85.” I.J. Eddy died in 1978 at the age of 97.

An April 1, 1933 article of the Detroit Free Press talked about the impact the bank’s closing had on people’s lives when farmers nearly rioted at the Mason County Courthouse:

“A group of 125 farmers gathered on the steps of the Mason County Courthouse to protest the foreclosure sale of two farms. Two men were taken into custody during the disorders but were released after questioning.

“The farmers gathered to protest the foreclosure sale of the farm property of William and Agnes Zansconis in Eden Township and Peter and Katie Hajec in Grant Township, threatened Sheriff George L. Collier as he ejected one man from the auctioneer’s platform. There was a scramble on the courthouse steps and the sheriff and a group of deputies took two men into custody.

Interior of Peoples State Bank

“Circuit Court Judge Hal L. Cutler spoke to the crowd and, as rain began to fall, invited them to hold their protest meeting in the circuit court rooms. They filed into the courtrooms and the sale was completed there being no competitive bidding.

“The foreclosure sales were called in behalf of the People’s State Bank of Scottville, now closed, by L.G. Hammond, receiver, who is liquidating the bank.

“The mortgage on the Zansconis farm was for $3,495.36 and that of the Hajec farm for $932.24.”

Special thanks for photographs and information: Bruce Eddy, Lisa Cooper, Nancy Lynn, Mason County Historical Society, Mason County District Library.

Ludington Woods Assisted Living and Memory Care, 502 N. Sherman St., Ludington, MI 49431; 231-845-6100; www.ludingtonwoods.com.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

I.J. Eddy’s bank certificate

 

Transaction book

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