History of the Village of Johnstown, NY (part 5)
From: History of Fulton County
Revised and Edited by: Washington Frothingham
Published by: D. Mason & Co. Syracuse, NY 1892

Banks, Newspapers, Opera House, Societies.

The People's Bank of Johnstown is virtually the continuation, through a succession of well remembered financial firms, of the old Montgomery County Bank. There are but few men living in Fulton county today who can distinctly remember the inception of Johnstown's first bank, which was established in 1831, Daniel Potter, of Kingsboro, who had become rich by merchandise, being its first president. Nathan P. Wells another successful business man, was made cashier, and his son, Edward, teller. This bank gave Johnstown high financial distinction and was the monetary nucleus for a large share of the surrounding country. On the death of N. P. Wells, Edward became cashier, and eventually his son, Nathan P., conducted the banking business in the same building. It will be of interest to note that Edward Wells, the present cashier of the People's Bank, is a great grandson of the first cashier of the old bank, a remarkable succession in financial service. The Montgomery County Bank was succeeded by N. P. Wells & Company, and they in turn by Hayes & Wells. The latter firm was subsequently followed by David Hayes alone, and he by the First National Bank, which was incorporated April 15, 1879, with a capital of $100,000 and the following officers: President, John Stewart; vice president, John S. Ireland; cashier, Howland Fish; teller, Edward Wells, This bank continued to do business until January 16, 1889. On the following day the People's Bank opened its doors, having been organized in December preceding. The bank was incorporated with a capital of $125,000 and the following officers: President, Jacob P. Miller; vice president, John S. Ireland; cashier, Edward Wells; assistant cashier, Elisha B. Knox; directors, J. P. Argersinger, John S. Ireland, Arch. McMartin, James I. Younglove, Robert J. Evans, Chas. O. Cross, Jacob P. Miller, J. C. Northrup, Oliver Getman, Martin Kennedy, Jonathan Ricketts, John F. Cahill, John H. Decker, Lewis Veghte, Levi Yauney.

The bank occupies an imposing brick structure at the corner of Main and Market streets and has been exceptionally a successful institution. The present officers are as follows: President, Jacob P. Miller; vice president, James P. Argersinger; cashier, Edward Wells; teller, William H. Young; directors, James P. Argersinger, David A. Wells, Archibald McMartin, James I. Younglove, Robert J. Evans, Charles O. Cross, Jacob P. Miller, M. B. Northrup, Oliver Getman, Martin Kennedy, Jonathan Ricketts, John F. Cahill, John H. Decker, Lewis Veghte, and William E. Wooster.

The condition of the bank in December, 1891, is shown by the following quarterly report:

The report will be added at a later date.

The Johnstown Bank. This institution succeeded to the banking firm of McIntyre & McLaren, which was composed of Donald McIntyre and John McLaren, who began business in the fall of 1871, and continued the same until 1879. On April 30 of the last named year the Johnstown bank was organized with a capital of $50,000 and the following officers: President, Donald McIntyre; vice president, John W. Cline; cashier, John McLaren; assistant cashier and teller, A. B. Pnieroy; directors, Donald McIntyre, John McLaren, George A. Streeter, Webster Wagner, John W. Cline, C. E. Argersinger, Burnet H. Dewey, William S. Northrup, John C. Hutchinson, Eli Pierson, Eli J. Dorn. The capital was increased from the surplus, March 3, 1888, to $100,000 and has since remained unchanged.

Donald McIntyre retained the position of president of this bank until August 2, 1881, at which time he tendered his resignation and removed to Michigan. John W. Cline was immediately elected in his place and has since held the presidency. The bank does a general American and foreign exchange business and makes a specialty of collections for banks and individuals, also issping interest bearing certificates. Special deposit books are issued on sums of one dollar and upwards, on which a liberal rate of interest is allowed. The institution has a clear record and its standing has never suffered during financial panics.

The present officers are: President, John W. Cline; vice president, W. S. Northrup; cashier, William McKie; directors, John W. Cline, W. S. Northrup, John G. Ferres, W. L. Johnson, William B. Van liet, Borden D. Smith, George A. Streeter, Eli J. Dorn, Zalmon Gilbert, D. H. Van Heusen, M. F. Pierson, Isaac Morris, and M. L. Hambridge

The following statement, issued March 18, 1892, will show the condition of the bank at that time:




Stocks and Bonds.




Due from Banks


Real Estate and Fixtures



58 17










Dividends Unpaid




The Fulton County Savings Bank, of Johnstown, was organized in February, 1892, with the following officers, all of which still continue in their respective positionHousedsident, David A. Wells; first vice president, John H. Decker; second vice president, David H. Van Heusen; secretary and treasurer, Edward Wells; trustees, Martin Kennedy, James McMartin, James I. Younglove, Philetus P. Argersinger, Cornelius M. Rowell, William S. Snyder, Matthias Grewen, George H. Keck, Thomas E. Ricketts, Henry W. Thorne, John H. Decker, David A. Wells, Patrick H. McDermott, David H. Van Heusen, Oliver Getman, William T. Briggs, and Edward Wells.

The office and repository are located in the People's Bank building.

The Fulton County Democrat is the outcome of three previous publications, the first of which was the Northern Banner, a paper which made its first appearance at Union Mills, a village in the town of Broadalbin. It was published by John Clark but was removed to Johnstown after a few months, and the name was altered to the Northern Banner and Montgomery Democrat. In 1837 this name was changed to The Montgomery Republican, and soon after the entire plant was sold to William S. Hawley, who, in 1842 named the paper The Fulton County Democrat, a title that has been retained to the present day. For a time it was in the possession of A. T. Norton; but in 1842, it passed into the hands of Walter N. Clark, who conducted it until his death in October, 1877, when his son, Walter N., became proprietor. In 1878 the paper was sold by Mr. Clark to Walter B. Mathewson, who conducted it until December 23, 1883, when it passed into the hands of George F. Beakley, who still remains its editor and publisher. The Democrat has now reached its fiftieth year, having been established in 1842, and in rounding out the half century its publishers are awakening new interest among those who look for reminiscences of early days in Fulton county. On March 1, 1890, Mr. Beakley began the publication of The Daily Democrat, which with the weekly has grown to a strong factor in the politics of the state.

On June 13, 1892, Fay Shaul, the proprietor of the Evening News entered into a copartnership with the proprietor of The Democrat and both establishments have been consolidated. Mr. Beakley is a native of Schoharie county, and a graduate of Union College. He was admitted to the bar in 1878, but has preferred the duties of an editor to those of a lawyer.

The Johnstown Daily Republican is a representative four page, eight column paper, published and edited by Albert E. Blunck. It is the official paper of Fulton county and of the village of Johnstown. The daily edition was begun July 1, 1890, by the present proprietor and publisher, who has been connected with the paper as owner, first in part and then entirely, since 188i. The Fulton County Republican, a weekly newspaper, is issued from the same office. It was considered a hazardous undertaking to establish a daily paper in Johnstown, especially at the low price of one cent, and Mr. Blunck was counseled by many experienced newspaper men not to attempt such an enterprise, but having strong faith in his own convictions the trial was made and the result has far exceeded his most sanguine expectations. The daily at the present time indeed has a circulation which renders its success. absolutely certain.

The Fulton County Republican was originally published at Johnstown in 1838 by Darius Wells. In 1840 Alexander U. Wells became proprietor, and in 1842 he sold it to George Henry, who was a Henry Clay Whig, and who conducted it as an organ of that party, afterwards joining the Republican ranks. His son, George D. Henry, who took charge of it in 1851, continued the publication until about 1864 when it was discontinued. The paper was revived in 1870 by George M. Thompson, who continued it, in connection with. The Gloversville Intelligencer, a paper purchased by him in 1868. He subsequently sold the plant to Capron & Ward. In April, 1881, Mr. Blunck, the present proprietor, purchased a half interest in the two papers and they were published by the firm of Ward & Blunck until about August, 1881, whvn William E. Leaning, of Cooperstown, purchased the interest of H. I. Ward. The firm of Blunck & Leaning continued the two publications until October, 1887, when the firm dissolved, Mr. Blunck continuing The Republican and Mr. Leaning The Intelligencer. Both the daily and weekly editions are Republican in politics, and vigorously advocate the principles of that party, wielding an acknowledged influence in Fulton and adjoining counties. Mr. Blunck is a native of the town of Otsego, Otsego county, N. Y., and received an academic education at Cooperstown, after which he pursued journalism, connecting himself with several prominent newspapers, in which capacity he attained his present thorough knowledge of the business.

The Evening News was the pioneer daily newspaper in Johnstown, and proved a successful venture. Its founder and publisher, L. Fay Shaul, was a practical newspaper man and profited by the experience he had obtained in other efforts of the same kind. His first venture was in Amsterdam, where in 1885 he established The Good Templar, which was in 1886 adopted as the official organ of the Knights of Labor in this section and its name changed to The Workman.

In 1887 Mr. Shaul disposed of the Amsterdam plant to James Bartley, of that city, and in August of the same year established the Gloversville Daily Leader, a paper that soon became well known and received liberal patronage. In March, i 888, he disposed of a half interest in The Leader to William B. Collins, of Albany, and in November, 1889, sold the remaining half to his partner and then came to Johnstown, where he established The Evening News, December 31, 1889. This sheet was first published as an independent paper, and despite the fact that in a short time it had two competitors in the field, its business was such as to amply repay the publisher for his enterprise. Early in 1892 The Evening News espoused the principles of Democracy and was an able exponent of the Jeffersonian doctrines.

Proposals with a view to consolidation were then mutually considered by Mr. Shaul, and George F. Beakley, of the Fulton County Democrat and The Daily Democrat. The result was a union of the two journals on June I I, 1892, under the name of The Daily Democrat, a title which was chosen because of its long connection with the oldest paper in the county. Mr. Shaul is a native of South Columbia, N. Y., and received his education in Amsterdam, whence he removed to Fulton county.

Grand Opera House. The building of the Opera House at Johnstown was an event awaited with much interest, and when the beautiful structure for public entertainment was finished its capacity was tested to the utmost by appreciative audiences. The Opera House Company was incorporated in May, 1889, with a capital of $20,000, and the following officers: David A. Wells, president; Thomas B. Baker, vice president; Charles H. Ball, secretary; James I. Younglove, treasurer; James P. Argersinger, M. B. Northrup, Sydney E. Trumbull, James L. Northrup, John T. Seimser, C. M. Rowell, James I. Younglove, Thomas B. Baker, Thomas E. Ricketts, Philip Keck, John Leavitt, D. A. Wells, and David Ireland, directors. Soon after the organization work was begun on the building itself, the land upon which it was built being purchased from Thomas B. Baker. The house was designed and built by Leon H. Lempert, of Rochester, N. Y., and opened October 24, 1889, by the Conreid Opera Company in "The Kings Fool." Its total cost was about $30,000. The stage is forty feet deep, sixty four feet wide, forty two feet to the gridiron, and has adjustable grooves, eighteen to twenty one feet. It is fitted with twenty complete sets of scenery, besides set pieces and other parapharnalia usually found in a first class theatre. The proscenium has an opening of forty feet. In connection with the stage are nine large dressing rooms, carpeted, heated by steam, and with running water in each room. The house is fitted with call bells and speaking tubes to the dressing rooms and manager's office. It is lighted by gas with automatic electric spark lighters. It has a seating capacity of 1,000; six boxes, and folding opera chairs throughout. The auditorium is also arranged with an adjustable floor that rests upon jack screws. This can be lowered and a ball room floor placed over the orchestra chairs. Under the lobby is a dining room and kitchen, to be used on occasions of parties and balls. The Opera House is under the sole management of C. H. Ball, and has always booked and played excellent attractions.

Masonic and other Societies. Highly favorable views of the value and benefits of Masonry were entertained by Sir William Johnson and his contemporaries, as is shown by the fact that he had scarcely lived at the Hall more than three years, when he took active steps towards the establishment of a lodge, being himself its master. Before giving an account of the progress of St. Patrick's lodge, it seems fitting to relate a few facts to show where and when Sir William himself became a Mason. An old Masonic manuscript, some time since in the possession of Robert H. Brown, of Albion, contains an account of moneys received for the charity fund of Union Lodge No. 1 of Albany. In this ancient document, under date of April 10, 1766, the following item appears:

Bro. Sir William Johnson on raising




Bro. Guy Johnson on raising




Bro. Clans ar entering




Brothtler at entering




Bro. Moffat at entering




Rochat on signing by-laws




Bro. Johnson on signing by-laws




Bro. Byrne on entering




Bro. Trewin on entering




From the above it is apparent that Sir William Johnson was "raised" in Union Lodge No. 1, at Albany, on the 10th of April, 1766, as was also his son inlaw, Guy Johnson. Daniel Claus paid his entrance fee at the same time. It is also clear that on the same night that Sir William and Guy Johnson were "raised," Brothers Butler, Moffat, Byrne and Trewin paid their entrance fees of £L3 4s. each, and that Brother Rochat signed the by-laws. It is also of interest to note the cost and charges for being "made a Mason" over one hundred years ago in this state. The antiquated Masonic document, from which the above information is gleaned, came into the possession of Mr. Brown from his father, Rufus Brown, of Albany, who was for many years master of Masten Lodge, then No. 2, of that city. It is quite probable that Sir William went to Albany and became a Mason for the purpose of establishing a lodge at the Hall and that Guy Johnson, Col. Claus and John Butler also became Masons to insure the success of the project. These men all held important positions in St. Patrick's Lodge upon its organization. It is now known as St. Patrick's Lodge No. 4, Free and Accepted Masons, but the original number of the lodge was 8. The warrant constituting this venerable body of Masons was dated May 23, 1766, and granted by the provincial grand master of New York, to Sir William Johnson, Bart., master; Guy Johnson, esq., senior warden; and Daniel Claus, esq., junior warden, of Johnstown, N. Y. The organization took place at Johnson Hall August 23, 1766, and the lodge worked under the supervision of Sir William Johnson, as master, until December 6, 1770, when, having been elected master of "the ineffable lodge" at Albany, Ancient Accepted Scottish rite, Sir William was succeeded by Col. Guy Johnson, who held the office until May 5, 1774, when the hostilities preceding the revolution began. From May 5, 1774, until July 31, 1785, a period of seven years, no meetings of the lodge took place. Up to this time all meetings had been held at the Hall, the first initiation being that of Hendrick Fry, September 1, 1766. On the 7th of the following March Jelles Fonda was made a Mason, and it was in his honor that the town of Fonda in Montgomery county was named. Aside from Guy Johnson, master, Daniel Claus, senior war den, and John Butler, secretary, who were colonels in the British armv, many members of the lodge were engaged in the military service either tory or patriot, both as officers and privates. Among the officers were General Nicholas Herkimer, killed at the battle of Oriskany, August 6, 1777; Lieutenants Benjamin Roberts, George Phyn, Turbott Fran cis, Hugh Frazer and Augustine Prevost, and Majors Peter Ten Broeck and Jelles Fonda. The effects of the war were so much felt by the lodge that of the forty three who were members when the war commenced only three remained after its close to assist in its reorganization. Some fell on the battlefield, but bv far the greater number of them, having taken sides with the royalists, under the lead of Sir John Johnson, lost their property by confiscation, and at the close of the revolution left the country. After the establishment of peace, the lodge reorganized by warrant of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, dated July 20, 1784, granted to Zephaniah Bachellor, master; Robert Adams, senior warden; Christopher P. Yates, junior warden. The meetings were held at a private house for several years, and in 1792 the lodge purchased of Michael Rawlins the property so long known as "the lodge," now owned by Mortimer Wade. The lodge soon acquired a large membership, but later on, owing to a general decline, and the troubles arising out of a division of its members, who had diverging opinions on the subjects involving the Grand Lodge during the anti Masonic excitement, the lodge relinquished its charter in 1849. It will be noticed that from December 2, 1820, until December 7, 1843, no new master was elected, meetings simply being held once a year, in order to retain the charter. The warrant under which the ledge now works was granted June 6, 1850, to Samuel Maxwell, master; Asahel Whitney, senior warden; and Marcellus Gilbert, junior warden. As has been stated, St. Patrick's lodge was first known as No. 8, which number it held until July 20, 1784, when it was changed to 9. On June 4, 1819, it was again changed to 11, and on June 4, 1828, to 4, which number it still holds. In 1867 plans were made and work begun on the lodge building on Main street, and the structure was completed and occupied in 1868. It was at that time and is today, one of Johnstown's most imposing buildings, and has been a great source of profit to the lodge. The lodge room is spacious and elegant and its walls are adorned with portraits of Sir William and other deceased members of note. The archives of the lodge in Sir William's time are still preserved and contain many points of antiquarian interest. More important, however, than all other historic appointments are the silver emblems which were presented by Sir William and which are among the most valued curiosities of the order. The original charter and the old jewels were carried away by Sir John Johnson when he fled to Canada, and for a half century were lost. The following appears in the recerds June 3, 1831: "Sir John Johnson gave directions to have the old provincial warrant and jewels of the lodge returned, and the worshipful master has received the same by direction of Sir John Johnson." The most interesting private memorial of St. Patrick's lodge is the silver badge formerly belonging to Frederick Fisher, colonel in the famous Tryon county regiment, and who fought under Herkimer at Oriskany. As Colonel Fisher was made a Mason some years before the revolution, this is probably the oldest relic of its kind in existence. It is now in the possession of his great grandson, Alfred De Graff, of Danoscura place. The records of the lodge are complete from its organization in 1766 to the present time. Its centennial anniversary was celebrated at Johnson Hall, May 23, 1866, and the occasion was one of deep interest to the public as well as to the members of the order. M. W. John L. Lewis, P. G. M., delivered the oration. The lodge is now one of the most prosperous and wealthy Masonic organizations in the country. Its reserve fund enables it to pay a considerable sum to the survivors of deceased members. Following is a list of the masters of St. Patrick's lodge from its organization to the present time: 1766, Sir William Johnson, Bart.; 1770, Col. Guy Johnson; 1784, Zephaniah Batchellor; 1792, John. McCarthy; 1797, John Morgan; 1802, Abijah Lobdell; 1805, Richard Dodge; 1806, Stephen Owen; 1807, Henry F. Yates; 1808, Nicholas Philpot; 1810, Caleb Johnson; 1811, Peter Brooks, jr.; 1812, Benjamin Chamberlain; 1814, Joseph Cuyler; 1816, John W. Cady; 1818, Nicholas Yost; 1820, John L. Lobdell; 1843, Samuel Maxwell; 1850, John Frothingham; 1852, Nathan J. Johnson; 1855, Daniel Cameron; 1856, George Perkin; 1857, J. J. Whitehouse; 1858, Samuel Hopgood; 1860, Joseph J. Riton; 1861, Francis Burdick; 1866, James M. Dudley; 1868, John G. Ferres; 1869, P. P. Argersinger; 1876, Marcus F. Pierson; 1877, John W. Uhlinger; 1882, A. J. Nellis; 1885, M. S. Northrup; 1887, James Stewart; 1888, Sidney E. Trumbull; 1889, Philip Keck; 1891, Frank Miller, the present master. The lodge at present has a membership of 160 master Masons.

The present officers of St. Patrick's lodge are: Frank Miller, W. M; John J. Buchanan, S. W.; John A. Karg, J. W.; John W. Uhlinger, treasurer; Eugene Moore, secretary; George C. Potter, S. D.; William H. Young, J. D.; Thomas C. Grimes, S. M. C.; George S. J. Chant, J. M. C.; Mortimer Wade, jr., marshal; Rev. D. M. Reeves, chaplain; George R. Smith, organist; Douw H. Heagle, tyler; Samuel Hopgood, James P. Argersinger, John G. Ferres, trustees.

Johnstown Chapter, No. 78, Royal Arch Masons, was organized February 13, 1823. The first officers were Benjamin Chamberlain, M. E. H. P.; Joseph Cuvler, K.; Henry Cunningham, scribe; Samuel R. Dudley, secretary; Asa Child, treasurer; Charles Easton, C. of H.; David Mosher, P. S.; Aaron Fletcher, R. A. C.: Nicholas Philpot, M. 3d V.; Howland Greenhill, M. 2d V.; Seth Whitmore, M. 1st V. Amos Rood, sentinel.

The record of this venerable chapter has been one of unusual success and its members have ever been men of the highest integrity and honorable character. The following is a list of the high priests of this chapter since its organization: 1823 to 1825, Benjamin Chamberlain; 1825 to 1837, Joseph Cuyler; 1839 to 1859, N. J. Johnson; 1859, Junot J. Whitehouse; 1860 to 1863, Daniel Cameron; 1863 to i 866 Samuel Hopgood; 1867 to 1870, James Byron Murray; 1870 to 1877, Samuel Hopgood; 1877 to 188o, James H. Pike; 188o to 1882, Samuel Hopgood; 1882 to 1887, Philip Keck; 1887, Samuel Hopgood; 1888, A. J. Nellis; 1889 to 1892, John G. Ferres. The chapter has 186 members. The present officers are: John G. Ferres, M. E. H. P.; Thomas E. Ricketts, E. K.; Sidney E. Trumbull, E. S.; John W. Uhlinger, treasurer; Eugene Moore, secretary; Frank Hanson, C. of H; John T. Seimser, P. S.; John J. Buchanan, R. A. C.; Harwood Dudley, M. 3d V.; John A. Karg, M. 2d V.; Mortimer Wade, jr., M. 1st V.; Rev. Peter Felts, chaplain; George R. Smith, organist; Douw H. Heagle, tyler.

Johnstown Council, No. 72, R. & S. M., was organized October 3, 1891. With the purpose in view of establishing a council at Johnstown, a number of the members of St. Patrick's lodge went to Albany and took degrees and became members of Dewitt Clinton Council, No. 22. As soon as they received the dispensation from the Grand Council of the State of New York the organization of the Johnstown council took place. There are at present seventy eight members. The first officers have held their respective positions up to the present time, and are as follows: Philip Keck, T. I. M.; Frank Hanson, D. I. M.; John A. Karg, I. P. C. of the W.; Eugene Moore, recorder; John G. Ferres, treasurer; John J. Buchanan, C. of the G.; John T. Selmser, C. of the C.; Rev. Peter Felts, chaplain; A. E. Blunck, marshal; A. B. Wassung, steward; Douw H. Beagle, sentinel; George R. Smith, organist.

Village of Johnstown Pages, Also see the town of Johnstown

Part 1 - Early General History

Part 2 - Schools, St. John's Episcopal Church and Presbyterian Church of Johnstown

Part 3 - Other Churches

Part 4 - Cemeteries - Historical Society - Utilities - Railroad

Part 5 - Banks, Newspapers, Opera House, Societies.

Part 6 - Glove Manufacturers

Part 7 - Leather Manufacturers - Miscellaneous Manufactures

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