James E. Reeves (1814-1904)
Born in 1814 in Gloucester County, New Jersey, he and his family came to Richmond in 1823.  At the age of fifteen he became a clerk in the drug store of Dr. James Mendenhall, and after a year he went to Liberty, Indiana as a salesman for Dr. Mendenhall.  After working for his brother, Mark, at his store in Washington, Indiana (now Greensfork), James had several mercantile endeavors in Richmond and Cincinnati until 1855 when his health failed.  He returned to Richmond and farmed until, in 1863, he and twelve other businessmen, including his brother Mark, formed the First National Bank, only the 17th such institution chartered and the second in Indiana.  He was elected president and remained in that position until 1902.

In 1865 Governor Oliver P. Morton named Reeves the first treasurer of the Board of Trustees of the Indiana Agricultural College, which later became Purdue University.  He was involved in numerous other businesses, including the Champion Roller Milling Company, and served on the Richmond city council.

This story appears in Pioneering with the First National Bank, a booklet published in 1938 on the 75th anniversary of the bank's founding:

One Hour's Delay Prevents the First National Bank from Obtaining the First Charter in the Nation

A delay of an hour prevented the bank from becoming the first national bank of the entire United States, instead of the 17th.  James E. Reeves, having been elected president of the organization, was authorized by the directors to proceed to Washington and to take with him the necessary amount of United States Government bonds to deposit with the treasurer of the United States to thus enable the local bank to become a national institution.  While traveling through Maryland, the train was attacked and overrun by Mosby's guerilla band, a Southern contingent which was carrying the Civil War up into the North.  The guerillas collected all the baggage of the passengers, which they threw into a pile on the ground, including Mr. Reeves' satchel containing the bank's bonds.

Mr. Reeves noted his own satchel among those in the pile and asked the bandit nearby, "Will thee be good enough to hand me that small valise."  The bandit, probably thinking it had been searched, handed the valise over to Mr. Reeves intact.  After an hour the train was allowed to proceed, but that hour's delay deprived the Richmond institution of the first place in the whole nation.

For more information see:

Biographical and Genealogical History of Wayne, Fayette, Union and Franklin Counties, Indiana.  Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1899: 63-65.  [Adult Non-Fiction  920.0772 B61a]

Fox, Henry Clay.  Memoirs of Wayne County and the City of Richmond Indiana.  Madison, Wis.: Western Historical Assn., 1912:  412-413  [Adult Non-Fiction  977.263 F79a]

Pioneering with the First National Bank.  Richmond, Ind., 1938.   [Richmond Collection 332.11 R53]

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