Want to ask a question? Click here

What is Wilmington’s oldest bank?

Ben Steelman
StarNews
Keys to the vault of the Raleigh branch of the Bank of Cape Fear, circa 1820-1830. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

Keys to the vault of the Raleigh branch of the Bank of Cape Fear, circa 1820-1830. Image from the North Carolina Museum of History.

The Bank of Cape Fear, chartered by act of the General Assembly in 1804, was not just Wilmington’s first bank but the first private state bank chartered in North Carolina. Until the Civil War, it was one of the largest banks in the state.

Headquartered in Wilmington, with an initial capital of $250,000, the Bank of Cape Fear had a branch in Fayetteville from the start and opened a Raleigh branch in 1807. By 1835, branches had also opened in Charlotte, Halifax, Hillsborough, Milton and Saleml By 1859, branches were active in Asheville, Greensboro, Salisbury and Washington, N.C. as well. Earnings from Bank of Cape Fear shares represented a major source of antebellum North Carolina’s state revenue.

In the years before the U.S. government issued much currency, Bank of Cape Fear notes — often in peculiar denominations, such as $3, $4 or $9 — supplied much of the demand for paper money in North Carolina and other Southern states. Surviving Bank of Cape Fear notes, in good condition, may be worth $100 or more today.

By 1861, the bank’s capital totaled more than $2 million. Its bank building on Front Street (no longer standing) was a Wilmington landmark. Notable Wilmington residents, including Thomas H. Wright, Armand J. DeRossett, P.K. Dickinson, Zebulon Latimer and James G. Burr were officers or directors.

The bank remained open throughout the Civil War, but postwar repudiation of state debts and a new federal tax on state bank notes forced its liquidation in 1865. Investors in the Salem branch were able to rescue much of their assets before liquidation, however, and formed the First National Bank of Salem, which eventually grew into the Wachovia Corp., which was absorbed by Wells Fargo.

Got a comment about this post or know more about the answer? Click here to let us know!


Bookmark and Share

X
Ask a question
X

Ask a question

If you’re looking for answers about living in coastal North Carolina, you’ve come to the right place. If we don’t have the answer to your question, we’ll find out or try to find someone who does. Hey, that’s our job! So, ask your question below and we’ll do our best to find the answer. Once we do, we’ll post it in an appropriate category.





Can we use your name to credit you by name (no e-mail or other contact information) with this question when we post an answer?
Yes
Your question:

Post a comment
X

Talk to us!

Have a comment about this post or know more about the answer? Use this form to let us know. Note that all comments are moderated and must be approved before they are posted, although you may see your own comments the first time you post them.





Your comment: