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The Savona National Bank opened for business on Railroad Street (now East Lamoka Avenue) on June 10, 1919.  The capital stock was $25,000, most of it subscribed by Savona people who had pushed for a local bank for several years.  The original directors were John R. Hedges (livestock dealer), Jesse H. Niles (undertaker), William M. Wagner (grocer and dry goods merchant), D. Wellington Bennett (barber and insurance agent), Jerome H. Freeman Entrepreneur and former postmaster), William E Joint (hardware dealer) ad Hams H. Bowlby (farmer).   James F. Stinson was head cashier and R. J. Buckmaster his assistant.  Mr. Stinson and his wife lived in the apartment above the bank, as did other employees over the years.

Four weeks after opening, the bank had assts of $59,000 and reached its highest total in 1931 with $188,000.  By then Henry M. Robie was bank president ad William Be Ross head cashier.  When Ross didn’t return from a banking conference in New York City Mr. Robie and the other directors became alarmed and called in Federal bank inspectors.  On April 29, 1931, the bank was closed and examiners were brought in to check the books.  They found that $60,000 was missing.  Ross, it turned out, had lost heavily in the 1929 stock market crash and had covered his losses with the bank’s money.  A Receiver was named to liquidate the bank assets to pay off the depositors, but the stockholders, the larger of whom was Henry Robie, lost everything, with each share subject to an assessment of $100.

William Ross left behind his wife ad son when he skipped town.  Five months later, he was arrested in New Orleans, where he had been operating a restaurant with his new bride of two weeks.  He eventually pleaded guilty in Federal Court to embezzlement and was sentenced to four years in prison.  The Savona National Bank, like other national banks, was issued Federal currency printed with its name and the name title and signature of its President and head Cashier on the face of the banknote.  In 2003 a rare large size $5 bill with the signatures of Henry M. Robie and William B Ross sold at auction for $2700.

Rick Littell – Village of Savona Historian

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