By Douglas H. Shepard
Applications to establish banks in Fredonia were sent to the legislature in 1831, 1832, and 1836, although they never were established (Fredonia Censor 30 November 1831; 5 December 1832; 20 January 1836). Hiram J. Miner began H. J. Miner's Bank of Utica in 1849 and moved it to Fredonia in 1850 at 25 West Main Street, part of the Johnson House hotel fronting on Main Street (FC 29 April 1851; 20 August 1850).
Sextus H. Hungerford came to Westfield around 1837 and opened a general store with his brother-in-law, H. J. Miner as Hungerford & Miner. The store continued for about six years, after which Hungerford moved to Ripley in 1843. In 1845 he moved back to Westfield and in 1848 he opened the Bank of Westfield. That was one year before Miner opened his Utica bank.
Early in 1855, Miner's Fredonia cashier J. H. Madison resigned and was replaced by S. M. Clement. (FC 9 January 1855). Stephen M. Clement had been a clerk in H. J. Miner's dry goods store in Camden, Oneida County for about a year and a half. He became ill and left in June of 1848, later joining Isaac, H. J. Miner's brother, in a dry goods store in Rome, NY. Late in 1850 he moved to Fredonia and opened a general store with his brothers Frederick and Thomas (Encyclopedia of Contemporary Biography of New York, pp.335-337).
In 1855, H. J. Miner bought the 3-story brick building at 31 West Main Street and remodeled it for a bank on the first floor (FC 8 May 1855; 18 June 1856). H. D. M. Miner joined the bank in 1856 (Edson, History of Chautauqua County, p.486). The remodeling was completed in June of 1856. Perhaps because of Miner's move to 31 West Main Street and bringing in H. D. M. Miner, Clement joined with several other investors to found the Fredonia Bank in June of 1856, where the Post Office had been in the Johnson House about at today's 29 West Main Street (FC 18 June 1856). The Fredonia Bank opened for business on 22 September 1856 (Fredonia Advertiser 26 September 1856). Clement eventually rose to become President of the bank.
Once Miner's Bank was well established in its new surroundings, H. J. Miner moved to Dunkirk and opened H. J. Miner & Co.'s Bank in 1858, leaving H. D. M. Miner in charge of Miner's Bank in Fredonia. In March of 1865, the Fredonia Bank became the Fredonia National Bank with S. M. Clement as President; R. P. Clement, Cashier.
The Chautauqua County Savings Bank was incorporated on 18 April 1866, moving into "Green's Block," a building about at 23 East Main Street (FC 30 January 1867). On February 3 1868, a group of investors headed by Orson Stiles opened the Union Banking Co. in the same rooms as the Chautauqua County Savings Bank (FC 8 January 1868).
At that point, Orson Stiles bought the lot at 3 East Main Street, intending to put up a separate bank building, and at the same time, W. McKinstry & Son, owners of the Censor, and L. S. Howard & Bros., who ran the Post Office along with a magazine, newspaper and watch and jewelry store, jointly bought the corner lot at 1 East Main Street. Once that was done, the old wooden buildings on the two lots were sold to L. B. Greene. They were jacked up, ready to be moved to Greene's empty lots further east on Main Street, when on 29 April 1868, a fierce fire that began on Water Street burned everything in its path through to 15 East Main Street. Stiles and the others then joined forces and put up the large 3-story Union Block at 1-3 East Main Street. It had its grand opening in March of 1869 with the Union Banking Co. and Chautauqua County Savings Bank on the ground floor at 3 East Main Street (FC 8 January 1868; 14 April 1869).
In March of 1872, Hiram J. Miner died and his son, H. J. D. Miner, took over the Dunkirk bank. The son apparently began in 1883 using bank deposits to speculate in stocks unwisely. In February 1884, all the other bank stockholders sold out, at which point the name was changed to Miner's Exchange Office. By 4 May 1885 it was announced that Miner's Exchange had failed.
In January of 1891 a new Fredonia bank was proposed, the Citizens National Bank of Fredonia (Observer 28 January 1891). However, nothing seems to have come of these plans. In January of 1900 a fire destroyed many buildings at Main and Center Street, including Miner's Bank. A new, two-story building was erected over the old vault, which survived the fire, and opened for business in January 1901 (FC 23 January 1901).
In 1903, Miner's became the Citizens State Bank. In June of 1905 the Fredonia Narional Bank at 3 East Main Street failed. In September 1905, the Citizens State Bank bought the 3 East Main Street premises and moved there in December. At the same time, a new "Bank of Fredonia" was formed and moved into the Citizens' former quarters at 31 West Main Street (FC 6 December 1905). It opened for business on 2 January 1906 (FC 3 January 1906). On 1 March 1906, Citizens became the Citizens Trust Co.
In 1907 the Bank of Fredonia moved to 2 West Main Street and in January 1908 became the National Bank of Fredonia (Downs, History of Chautauqua County,I, 370; FC 1 January 1908). The Fredonia Savings and Loan was formed in April of 1927 and opened an office at 25 West Main Street in 1930. It was remodeled in 1975.
The Union Block at 1-3 East Main Street was replaced in 1929 with the bank building still standing in 2010. The M & T Bank acquired the Fredonia Citizens Trust Co in 1957. In January 1966, they opened a drive-in bank and in 1969 they renovated their main building. Liberty Bank took over the Fredonia National Bank at 2 West Main Street in 1961, and in October 1969 moved to the north side of East Main Street.