In the early settlement of Hancock County there were no banks nor, indeed, was there any demand for banks. The pioneers who came here from the east and south, as a rule, were men of limited means and their means had been converted to coin before they set out for this wild and uncultivated land, and this coin was tucked away in a buckskin belt or otherwise secured about the person, and was economically used in the purchase of land or of oxen, horses and farming implements….Bank books and checks were unknown in Hancock County in the (Eighteen) thirties and forties and even at later dates. Some of the merchants, and possibly others, conducted a small business in holding and caring for small deposits of money belonging to others. A system of barter and exchange existed betwen the merchants and farmers as to certain farm products, particularly as to butter and eggs, and perhaps as to furs and hides.
In the course of time, as traffic on the Mississippi River was developed and famers began marketing grain and live stock sthrough that instrumentality, money came more and more into circulation and the system of barter and exchange was gradually disused. Prior to the Civil War, so-called “State Banks” of the country issued much paper money, the value of which depended upon the financial integrity of the bank. (This) paper currency was a very undesireable medium of exchange for the reason that a man in Hancock County holding such bank-notes issued by a bank in a distant state had no assurance one day that the bank would be in existence or its paper worth anything the next.
1919 check drawn on the First National Bank of Hamilton Illinois
The First National Bank, for example, started out in 1887 as another department in a general drug store owned by Marshall B. Lane. Lane’s general store also included a jewelry department, a newstand, an insurance agency, and — of course — a soda fountain. Bank accounts were kept in the same ledger with store charge accounts, but by the end of June, 1887 a separate ledger was opened. In the winter of 1888, a fire-proof safe with a time lock was installed. By 1890, bank business had grown so large that a separate building was established at the southwest corner of Ninth and Broadway. Bank capital at this time was listed as $25,000. The bank was also renamed the State Bank of Hamilton, although checks continued to be written against the old bank name as illustrated above.
In 1894, the bank opened a savings department which is believed to be the first formal savings bank department in Hancock County. By the end of 1919, bank assets totaled $100,000.