The forming of Delaware County, part 7 (banks & newspapers)

Recent articles in this column have featured the churches and schools of Delaware County with particular reference to those that were established at an early date in the history of the county. These were our institutions of religion and of learning. Equally interesting are our business institutions, among them the banks.

The first bank to be chartered in this county after the “Omnibus Bank Bill” became a State law in March 1814 was teh Bank of Delaware County, doing business in Chester. After the formation of the county the need for banking facilities became evident. With Chester as the county seat and the commercial center of the community, its location there was an obvious one.

Early Swedish and Dutch settlers along the Delaware River found the Indians using a form of currency called wampum-peag. It consisted of white and dark purple beads, shells and stones in long strings. After the early colonists came, trade was conducted chiefly by the barter system. “Country money” consisted of furs, skins and country produce while “ready money” consisted of Spanish, Swedish, Dutch and New England coins.

There were 187 original shareholders from all sections of the county in the Bank of Delaware County when it was founded in 1814. Its first location was in Preston Eyre’s house on West Third street, Chester, where he had conducted a general store for some years. Within a few months’ time a house and lot were purchased on Market Square. After some alterations it was occupied by the bank and remained its home for almost 70 years. In 1864 it incorporated as “The Delaware County National Bank” and in 1882 a new building was erected on the old Market Square site. In 1928 it merged with the Pennsylvania National Bank of Chester and in 1933 a consolidation with the banking department of the Delaware County Trust Company was effected.

It was 50 years after the founding of this first Delaware County bank that in 1864 two more were started, the First National Bank of Chester and the First National Bank of Media, both organized under the National Bank Act passed by Congress in that year. Some 20 years and more later two others were organized, the Delaware County Trust Company, in 1885, and our own Wayne Title and Trust Company in 1890.

Soon after the turn of the century the First National Bank of Clifton Heights and the Swarthmore National Bank and Trust Company were incorporated, the former in 1902, the latter in 1904. Since then a number of other banking institutions have come into existence throughout the entire county.

As Delaware County grew in population and in business, its affairs were chronicled by the early newspapers or journals. The first of these was called the “Post Boy”, because it was delivered by post riders. This quaint old periodical, of which there are only four known copies in existence, was owned by Steuben Bulter and Elijhaleb B. Worthington. Nine years later, in 1826, it was renamed the “Upland Union”, continuing in operation under that title until 1852.

In 1828 a second journal, “The Weekly Visitor”, was established in Chester by William Russell. It was a short-lived publication, however, as it went out of business in 1832. With “The Weekly Visitor” press and equipment the “Delaware County Republican” was founded a year later in Darby. This paper adhered to the Whig principles for a time, later taking up the fight of the new Republican party. Having survived many changes in ownership and in name, it became a daily known as the “Morning Republican” in 1900. Twenty-three years later it merged with the well-known “Chester Times.”

The “Times” itself was founded in September, 1876, by Major John Hodgson, with the principle of stressing local news as its main tenet. By 1882 the Chester Times Publishing Company was formed by 15 leading Delaware County residents. First known as the “Daily Times”, it now became the “Chester Times” and under this name its real progress began. Through many years of changing ownership it continued in existence until November, 1941, when it suspended publication for a short time as the result of a strike of the editorial, advertising, business and circulation emplyes. Shortly thereafter, however, the business was reorganized by a company headed by Alfred G. Hill, of Topeka, Kansas, a veteran newspaperman, under whose direction the paper has reached a new peak of prosperity.

Another very early Delaware County newspaper was “The Delaware County Democrat”, founded in Chester in 1835. Some years later it merged with “The Pilot”, which was started in 1877. Many other newspapers, too numerous to name individually, were established in the county, most of them with but short terms of existence.

Of the more than 30 weeklies now published in Delaware county, only four were in existence before the turn of the century. Among them is “The Suburban”, founded in 1885. The others are “The Weekly Reporter”, a legal journal founded in 1881 and also published in Chester, and “The Rockdale Herald”, a Democratic weekly founded in 1898, and the “Darby Progress.”

In closing the series on the history of Delaware County, which has included something of its early settlers, its native Indians, Penn’s landing and home in Upland, the old mills and tanneries, and other industries, the historical churches and colleges, this columnist wishes to acknowledge once more her indebtedness to Nolan’s “Southeastern Pennsylvania” for much of her information.