Coan and Sawyer were driving forces behind Citizens National Bank

Coan and Sawyer were driving forces behind Citizens National Bank

Matthew Ballard August 26, 2016


Volume 2, Issue 35

On October 11, 1870, Ezra Titus Coan started his career as a private banker when he established “Coan’s Bank” in Albion. The establishment was fairly successful and in 1884 relocated to the Burrows Block to occupy the space previously inhabited by the First National Bank. That institution collapsed earlier that year when Albert S. Warner absconded with the bank’s assets. Of course, that is a different story for another time.

This picture shows the interior of Citizens National Bank, the name given to the organization after it was reorganized on July 8, 1895. Seated right is Robert Titus Coan, son of Heman Coan of Lyndonville. At the time this photograph was taken, Coan was the president of the bank, having succeeded his uncle following his death in 1900. Robert is handling bank documents while seated at his desk; a copy of the Orleans Republican newspaper also sits on the desk. Seated to the left is Charles Royce Sawyer, the bank’s cashier at the time.

On November 22, 1911, the bank reached $1,000,000 in deposits, an accomplishment that was noted in papers throughout Western New York. The bank remained in operation until the early 1930s when it closed. The institution’s assets were liquidated in 1937 and the building eventually sold to Arnold Pilon and Carl Rowe when it was converted to a grocery store, becoming Dale’s Supermarket.

Robert Coan, the nephew of E. Titus Coan, was active in the banking industry throughout Western New York, serving as a director of the Genesee Valley Trust Company in Rochester. Before the bank was reestablished as Citizens National Bank, he served as Orleans County Treasurer from 1891 to 1894, treasurer of the Albion Cold Storage Company, and was postmaster at Albion for several years around the turn of the century.

Royce Sawyer was also actively engaged in local civic organizations and banking interests. He served as a director for both the Albion Cold Storage Company as well as Growers’ Cold Storage at Waterport, and was a director of the Niagara Suspension Bridge Company. Sawyer also served two terms as Orleans County Treasurer and was treasurer of Mt. Albion Cemetery. An active member of the local fire department, he was largely responsible for mechanizing the Albion Fire Department and was an active member of the Western New York Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

While returning from a convention of the Republican Party, Sawyer was involved in an automobile accident. Although shaken up, he only suffered minor injuries and returned home to rest. Roughly two weeks later, he suffered a serious heart attack while working at the bank. He returned home on S. Main Street, but never recovered and died shortly after.

Royce Sawyer was the great grandfather of Michael Sawyer who recently passed away August 18, 2016. I had the pleasure of meeting Mike on several occasions to discuss his interests in supporting historical organizations in Orleans County. His father, John, was an ardent supporter of establishing a museum locally to share the rich history of his family’s home. Mike carried on his father’s legacy and interests by continuing that discussion. It’s clear that the passion and desire to better Orleans County was deeply rooted in his lineage; our community suffered a great loss with his passing.

The Department of History will host its final tour of Mt. Albion Cemetery this Sunday, starting at 6pm at the cemetery chapel. I want to thank all of those who have shown an interest in the tours this season; from the preliminary headcounts we have seen roughly 200 people over three tours which is a monumental accomplishment. This week’s tour will focus around the Soldier’s & Sailor’s Monument and features some of the area’s more prominent and well-known politicians, businessmen, and educators.