So, why was the Kentucky Stock Bank located in Columbus, Ind.?
Like so many questions about obsolete paper money, a
straightforward answer exists. The Kentucky Stock Bank was one of a
large number of “free banks” originally authorized under legislation
The circulation was secured by state or federal “stocks” (actually
bonds) that the banks’ owners purchased and deposited with the auditor
In theory, if a bank failed, the bonds would be sold and the
proceeds would be used to redeem the notes. This particular bank chose
to use bonds from the state of Kentucky to secure its circulation,
thus the name of the bank.
The Kentucky Stock Bank was organized in 1854, succeeding B.F.
Jones & Co.
Benjamin Jones apparently brought banking experience to the table
and served as cashier in the new bank.
William McEwen (variously spelled also as “McEwan” or “McEwin”)
brought additional capital to the bank (his assets in 1860 totaled
more than $100,000) and served as president.
Both men were born in North Carolina and were close neighbors.
W.F. Pidgeon (variously spelled “Pidgeon,” “Pidgen” and “Pidgin”)
was involved with both B.F. Jones & Co. (whose notes he signed)
and the Kentucky Stock Bank (whose higher denomination notes are made
payable to him or bearer). He is also listed by some sources as
president of the Kentucky Stock Bank circa 1857.
The bank, unlike many others, was successful and began to
voluntarily wind up its affairs in approximately 1863. The last
reported outstanding amount still in circulation for the bank totaled
$3,481 as of Oct. 31, 1875.
After winding up its affairs as a circulation-issuing free bank,
the bank changed its name once more, to McEwen & Sons Bank.
Benjamin Jones is listed in the 1870 census as a broker and
apparently did not continue a direct association with the bank.
Perhaps Jones’ banking and financial expertise was missed, as this
last banking incarnation failed disastrously in 1871, with creditors
only receiving six cents on the dollar.
The $10 note illustrated above shows a simple way that banks
fought counterfeiters who wished to raise notes to larger denominations.
Count the number of small round dies (little round decorations
that line the bottom and sides of the note) — yes, there are 10 of
them, the same as the denomination.
Wendell Wolka has been a paper money collector and educator for
more than 40 years. If you have questions or suggestions, you can
email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.