Most bank names selected in antebellum America were intended to
convey a message to people who came into contact with the bank’s notes
Names like “The Merchants Bank” or “The Farmers and Mechanics
Bank” clearly spelled out the bank’s area of focus and customer base.
For others, geography played a role in the name.
Thus a name like the “Delaware County Bank” made it fairly obvious
where the bank’s primary place of business was located.
What’s in a name
The Indian Reserve Bank of Kokomo, Ind., had a name firmly rooted
in the area’s history.
Like Ohio, Indiana was generally settled from the Ohio River northward.
Native Americans still inhabited much of north central and
northern Indiana well into the 19th century, and the city of Kokomo
sat right in the middle of the Big Miami Reserve that had been created
by the Treaty of St. Mary’s with the Miami Indians in 1819. The
reserve was the largest such Indian reservation in the state,
comprising more than 760,000 acres.
It stretched from near present-day Logansport on the north to
present-day Tipton on the south and encompassed all of present-day
Howard County and parts of seven adjoining counties. The pressure for
more land for settlement predictably led to further agreements that
led to the sale of most of the reserve by 1846, although many Miami
tribe members remained on the land as private landholders. Thus, the
ink on the final land sales document was barely dry when the Indian
Reserve Bank was formed as a Free Bank in 1854 by three prominent
local citizens, including David Foster who had founded Kokomo in 1844
when he donated 40 acres of land to be used to create the county seat
for Howard County.
1854 was not good to Indiana’s free banks, with a large number
failing by the end of the year due to troubled financial markets.
According to contemporary documents, the Indian Reserve Bank had
suspended issuing additional circulation by early 1857, with the
notation in the December 1859 issue of Bankers Magazine that the
bank’s circulation was being redeemed at par at the office of one of
the bank’s founders, John Bohan. The crowning blow that ultimately led
to the bank’s complete closure occurred on April 30, 1860, when the
bank suffered a multi-thousand-dollar robbery of county tax
collections that had just been deposited.
David Foster sold enough land to make the losses good, averting a
financial disaster for all but himself.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mail at
Box 1211, Greenwood, IN 46142. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope
if a written response is required.