Introduction to Bank of Geauga v. JS et al.

Document Transcript

Bank of Geauga v. JS, Whitney, and Rigdon
Geauga Co., Ohio, Court of Common Pleas, 6 June 1837
Historical Introduction
In March 1837, the president and directors of the in , Ohio, initiated a lawsuit against JS, , and to reclaim a debt the men owed the bank. JS, Whitney, and Rigdon had taken out a loan for $3,000 from the Bank of Geauga on 2 January 1837, likely related to the opening of the , and signed a promissory note for repayment in forty-five days at the bank’s office in Painesville. JS and Rigdon were elected officers of the in November 1836 and retained official positions when the Safety Society was restructured as a banking company in January 1837. Whitney was not an elected officer of the Safety Society but served as a temporary clerk in January; he may have agreed to act as a cosigner to allow JS and Rigdon to obtain the loan. While the officers may have needed money to pay for their recently erected building or other supplies, the majority of the money the banking company had would have functioned as its reserves of specie, or gold and silver coins. Although the Kirtland Safety Society had almost $12,000 by January 1837, this amount constituted only 4 percent of its revised capital stock of $300,000. Thus, it appears that JS took out the loan from the Bank of Geauga to bolster the Safety Society’s specie reserves.
By March 1837 the promissory note remained unpaid, and the began a lawsuit for repayment using the common law action of . On 24 March, Sheriff arrested JS, , and . The following day, and signed a allowing them to be released. On 24 April, the law firm Perkins & Osborn filed a on behalf of the Bank of Geauga, claiming $4,000 in damages. When the case came to trial in early June 1837, the debt was already settled by mutual agreement. This indicates either that it had been paid between 24 April and 6 June, or that the parties had agreed to some other arrangement for repayment. The court ordered JS and the other defendants to pay the court fees for the case, which were paid by mid-June 1837.
Calendar of Documents
This calendar lists all known documents created by or for the court, whether extant or not. It does not include versions of documents created for other purposes, though those versions may be listed in footnotes. In certain cases, especially in cases concerning unpaid debts, the originating document (promissory note, invoice, etc.) is listed here. Note that documents in the calendar are grouped with their originating court. Where a version of a document was subsequently filed with another court, that version is listed under both courts.


  1. 1

    See Documents, Volume 5, Introduction to Part 5: 5 Oct. 1836–10 Apr. 1837.  

  2. 2

    See Historical Introduction to Constitution of the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, 2 Nov. 1836; and Articles of Agreement for the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company, 2 Jan. 1837.  

  3. 3

    State banking regulations required a bank to have a certain amount of capital—usually from money paid to the bank by stockholders on their stock—before it was allowed to operate; this amount ranged from 5 percent to 20 percent of the bank’s capital stock. This specie reserve allowed the bank to redeem its notes for specie. (Staker, Hearken, O Ye People, 463–482; Marckhoff, “Currency and Banking in Illinois before 1865,” 365–418; see also “A Bill for the Regulation of Banks within This State,” Ohio State Journal and Columbus Gazette, 13 Jan. 1837, [2]; and An Act to Incorporate the State Bank of Ohio and Other Banking Companies [24 Feb. 1845], Acts of a General Nature [1844–1845], p. 27, sec. 8.)  

    Staker, Mark L. Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith’s Ohio Revelations. Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2009.

    Marckhoff, Fred R. “Currency and Banking in Illinois before 1865.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 52, no. 3 (Autumn 1959): 365–418.

    Ohio State Journal and Columbus Gazette. Columbus. 1825–1837.

    Acts of a General Nature Passed by the Forty Third General Assembly of the State of Ohio, Begun and Held in the City of Columbus, December 4, 1844, and in the Forty Third Year of Said State. Columbus: Samuel Medary, 1845.

  4. 4

    See Kirtland Safety Society, Stock Ledger, 1836–1837. The $12,000 came from payments on stock subscriptions. The stock ledger recorded these payments as being made in “cash,” which in nineteenth-century banking and accounting terminology could mean either specie or banknotes. (Coffin, Progressive Exercises in Book Keeping, 10–39, 77.)  

    Coffin, James H. Progressive Exercises in Book Keeping, by Single and Double Entry. Greenfield, MA: A. Phelps, 1836.

  5. 5

    For more information on the structure and funding challenges of the Kirtland Safety Society, see Documents, Volume 5, Introduction to Part 5: 5 Oct. 1836–10 Apr. 1837. Reynolds Cahoon took out a loan for $1,200 on 10 January 1837 that may also have been intended to supplement the specie reserves of the Kirtland Safety Society. ([Reynolds Cahoon et al.], Cleveland, OH, to Commercial Bank of Lake Erie, Promissory Note, 10 Jan. 1837, JS Collection, CHL.)  

    Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.

  6. 6

    Transcript of Proceedings, ca. 6 June 1837 [Bank of Geauga v. JS et al.].  

  7. 7

    Docket Entry, Costs, ca. 6 June 1837 [Bank of Geauga v. JS et al.].