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The legend of Charlie Bingham
his pioneer bank and the Odlins, and the
Renos and LaPlants from Marengo, Iowa
Chapter 1 of 4

By Noel V. Bourasaw, Skagit River Journal of History & Folklore ©2011
(Charlie Bingham)
(Julia Bingham)
Charlie and Julia Reno Bingham in photos taken before leaving Marengo, Iowa, while they were both in their 20s.

      When Charlie and Julia Reno Bingham climbed down from their Fairhaven & Southern rail car in old Sedro in late July 1890, all they saw was stumps in three directions, a one-block town and the mighty Skagit river to the south. Charlie was so pumped up with enthusiasm that the sight probably did not faze him, but Julia must have been shocked. His partner, Merritt L. Holbrook, and his wife and Merritt's parents N.B. and Lizzie Adams Holbrook soon joined them. Charlie and Merritt Holbrook opened a bank just a few steps away from the depot on July 30, 1890. Next week, the Bank of America on Ferry street in Sedro-Woolley will celebrate the 115th anniversary of the Bingham Bank. Bank of America is the result of the evolution of Bingham Bank and its successor SeaFirst. This may be the longest continuously functioning bank in the state, having survived both nationwide Depressions of the 1890s and 1930s, when hundreds of banks failed.
      The first glimpse of Old Sedro was deceptive. Although it was a tiny burg with only a hundred residents, about 1,500 men were busy at work within a mile, felling logs, yanking stumps, clearing land and building structures for businesses. The town was booming and the sound of progress was unmistakable. Only one suitable building was available, the Clarendon Hotel. They must have wondered why a hotel could be leased in the middle of a severe housing shortage, but they knew better than to look the proverbial gift horse in its mouth. A faded sign on the front of the two-story building read "European Plan," which meant in those days that the hotel had a fixed daily rate for both room and meals, as opposed to the American Plan, which did not include meals. The couple's youngest son, always addressed as A. Bingham, told us towards the end of his life that his parents did not learn until a while later that the hotel was a bankrupt brothel, which did indeed charge a fixed rate, usually by the hour. Charlie loved telling a story on Julia that illustrated how naive she was back then. When they got to Sedro, she saw a sign for the "Bank Exchange."
      "Why Charlie," she pouted, "we don't want to start a bank in this place. There's one here already." But that business, too, was a saloon and house of ill repute. Meanwhile, the Binghams and Holbrook quickly converted the ground floor of the old Clarendon into their bank and the upper floor into living quarters for the two families. June Burn, the writer of the Puget Soundings column in the Bellingham Herald in 1931, recorded Charlie's memory of his "first banking transaction when the new bank opened for business one bleak summer day. Prospects looked dismal. But a man came in with a London draft for £10 for which Charlie gave him $40. Then he hurried upstairs, where they had set up housekeeping, and told his wife he had already made $8, which wasn't so bad for the first day. P.S.: That first customer came into the bank next morning and borrowed 50 cents with which to get out of town, having gambled away his $40 during the night."
      Like every frontier wife, Julia was faced with many challenges. Back in Marengo, Iowa, where Charlie, Merritt and Julia all grew up, her father, Lewis Q. Reno, was a dry goods merchant who built the first retail store in town and indulged her every whim until he died in 1883. She recalled many shopping trips to Chicago, the nearest metropolis. Soon after arriving, Julia ran out of thread and sent Charlie to the only store that carried such a thing, the general store of Mortimer Cook, who founded old Sedro in 1885 and built a store and wharf at the crook of the river and an old slough named for pioneer David Batey. That led to one of the favorite stories of the early Sedro pioneers, which was repeated so many times that the thread became a sack of cow feed in later versions told to reporters.

(Old Sedro by the Skagit river)
      This is one of only two known photos of old Sedro by the Skagit river and it was taken almost the same time that the Binghams arrived in 1890 to set up their bank. We are looking north at the main street, McDonald avenue, apparently named for the partner of the McEwan & McDonald shingle mill, which was bought from Sedro-founder Mortimer Cook in 1888 and burned soon thereafter. That street is now River road, which winds around north of present Riverfront Park. Most of the buildings in the one-block town were saloons or brothels or both; the Bank Exchange in the story is the fifth building from the left. Photo from the collection of the late Andy Luft, who was a conductor on the Interurban.

      The story originally went that Charlie went to Mortimer's general store in all innocence to leave his card, pay his respects to the town father and pick up Julia's thread and other notions. The total price was about $2. Mortimer couldn't change the $20 coin that Charlie presented, so young Bingham took the sundries home and returned the next day with change to pay his bill. Mortimer charged him $3. Charlie was indignant, but Mortimer pointed to the placard on his wall that proclaimed that the store charged different prices on different days to different people. All the goods weren't new, the sign read, and the management would sell you the old ones if they could get away with it.
      Not long after that, Mortimer went into the bank for a draft, which usually only cost a trifling sum. Charlie matter-of-factly charged a dollar for the privilege, drawing a sputter from Mortimer. "Different prices to different people," Charlie retorted, and Mortimer replied: "You'll do, young man, you'll do."
      Every five years the bank's humble beginnings were celebrated hereabouts and there were 12 such celebrations. Each time the first three depositors were noted because they became three leaders in the community. The first was Ad W. Davison, who ran a cook tent north of town for the hundreds of loggers and construction men who were clearing the townsite. The next two were brothers-in-law Harry L. Devin and Albert G. Mosier, who were also Iowa emigres. Devin was the first real estate agent and Mosier platted the Sedro townsite and hired out as engineer for both Skagit county and other towns. Their office was right across the tracks from the depot and the bank was the only business east of the F&S terminus. Mosier was destined to become a member of the Bingham clan hereabouts.

Roots in Marengo, Iowa
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      Charlie, Julia and Merritt all grew up within blocks of each other in the little burg of Marengo in the southeast corner of Iowa between Cedar Rapids and Des Moines in hogs-and-corn country. N.B. Holbrook emigrated to Marengo from the East Coast of 1857 and surveyed much of Iowa county. Soon after arriving, he was elected sheriff, then published a newspaper before becoming a real estate agent and investor in the local savings and loan, later acting as its president. Merritt was born in Marengo in 1863 and joined his father's financial business after graduating from high school. We have no further information on Merritt's parents so we do not know how long they stayed in Sedro or if or when they returned to Marengo.
      The story of the Reno family is full of larger-than-life characters, but it is also a cautionary tale. The living descendant who has provided the most information is Reno "Spike" Odlin of Hoogdal and Louisiana, who gently warned me that his grandmother, Jessie Reno Odlin — Julia's younger sister, gilded the lily a bit. She was a writer of some note who specialized in children's stories and she wove a lineage of her ancestors that was alas sometimes a fantasy. She is forgiven because she was otherwise sincere and a gentle soul, unlike her father-in-law, Woodbridge Odlin, who often wove his autobiographical anecdotes from whole cloth. She claimed in a 1937 memoir that the Marengo Renos were of French descent, descendants of the Renaults who were granted an enormous chunk of southern Illinois by King Louis XV. Spike Odlin was fooled, too, until his cousin Roger Reno discovered that "the first of the line was a certain Renaud recorded as arriving in Virginia a few years after he skedaddled out of France to England following the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes." Merci, Monsieur Odlin, for that clarification. Jessie's poem of the merger of Sedro and Woolley, and the slugs hereabouts has become a classic of local literature [see the website for the entire poem.]
      Julia and Jessie's grandfather, Lewis T. Reno, grew up in Pennsylvania and married Rebecca Quinby in about 1815, setting up house at Wheeling, now in West Virginia, but then part of the larger state of Virginia. After returning to Pennsylvania, the family moved west to Chicago and then settled permanently in Iowa in the mid-1850s, first in Iowa City and finally in Marengo. Julia's father, Lewis, and uncle Ben — known as Colonel Reno after his Civil War service, found work with their father on the right of way for the short-lived Lyons Iowa Central Rail Road Co. That line folded during the Financial Panic of 1857 and Lewis had moved to Marengo by then, where he set up a general store that grew over the years to become the largest dry goods store in Central Iowa. He married Amelia Nicholas there in 1858 and together they had five girls and a boy; one of the girls died as an infant. He supplemented his income by starting a masonry business, which was just as successful, and one of his earliest projects was building the bank that would soon hire Charlie Bingham.
      Two of his brothers gained fame as officers in the Civil War. Julia's Uncle Jesse Lee Reno graduated eighth in the West Point class of 1846, which also included Stonewall Jackson. He ran surveys in the West out as far as the future site of Reno, Nevada, and later commanded a brigade, division and corps for generals Ambrose Burnside and John Pope — the hapless commander of the Army of Virginia, in the first two years of the Civil War. Rising to major general rank, he was killed while leading the IX Corps at South Mountain on Sept. 14, 1862, a fierce battle of the Antietam campaign. If you are a Civil War buff, you may also recall his name in connection with the famous myth of 95-year-old Barbara Fritchie, her flag and Stonewall Jackson, which was spun by poet John Greenleaf Whittier. Jessie Odlin may have taken a page from his book. Mark W. Boatner's Civil War Dictionary, and other sources note that Reno, Nevada, was named in Jesse Lee Reno's honor in 1868.
      Julia's Uncle Benjamin Reno was also an officer in the Civil War, a member of Burnside's staff in the battle where his brother Jesse was killed and then serving as a captain under General Ulysses S. Grant at Vicksburg. After surviving seven battles and fifteen skirmishes, he retired and married Mary Vosburgh in New York in 1866 then joined his brothers in Iowa, settling in Marengo in 1870, where he owned a thriving grocery store. Almost a decade after Charlie and Julia came here, Benjamin and his family would also move to Sedro and become noted members of the community. Ben worked on the staff of the Governor of Iowa in the 1870s and his boss designated him an honorary Colonel. Mary's grandmother was also a Mary Vosburgh, who started the tradition of naming one Mary in each generation at five levels thus far, and the first Mary's wedding dress has been handed down through the family.
      Jessie Reno Odlin also fudged a bit about another uncle, Charles Augustus "Gus" Reno, who made his mark in Chicago. She implied that he was mayor during the great fire of 1871, piggybacking onto the Mrs. O'Leary's Cow myth, but actually Uncle Gus was just an alderman before the fire and then police commissioner afterwards. His son died during the fire. In her 1937 memoir, Jessie recalled that their childhood home was built of brick, a rarity in Marengo, built by their stonemason father long before a railroad was extended west from Iowa City to their Iowa river region. Although their papa had plenty of money, their mother built the house with her own money, inherited from her Nicholas family of New Jersey, who departed France in a hurry, just as the Renos did. The home was a mansion by Marengo standards and crammed full of relatives, so Julia missed her family soon after moving here and finding few other women of her social class. She was born on Feb. 15, 1864, the third of five girls, but the second oldest to survive after her older sister, Sarah, died in childhood. Following graduation from Marengo High School, she taught school for several terms but gave up work at 20 to marry Charlie Bingham on Dec. 23, 1885. Just as we were completing this overarching story, we discovered that the Reno family in Iowa has prepared a detailed family tree. In it, we find that when Lewis Quinby Reno died in 1883, he left instructions that his stone was to be inscribed with his middle name spelled as Quimby, the spelling that his grandfather, Captain Samuel Quinby, preferred. That explains why the name has been spelled both ways in subsequent generations.
      Charlie was a relative newcomer to Marengo, having arrived there in 1875 at age 13 when his father was hired as superintendent of schools. Charlie was born on Nov. 6, 1862, at New Columbus, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, where his father held the same position. His parents were Reuben S. and Sophia (Brooks) Bingham, who were both born in New York state, of British ancestors. At age 16, Charlie was hired as an errand boy for J.H. Branch's First National Bank of Marengo and he worked his way up to cashier, becoming the youngest to ever hold that post in Iowa. He graduated from Marengo High School in 1879.
      The partners' move west illustrates the big picture of a western migration by young capitalists and entrepreneurs. Horace Greeley, the founder and editor of the weekly New York Tribune, popularized a phrase in 1851 that exhorted ambitious young men to "go west, young man." The next generation of young men who wanted to rise through their professional ranks discovered that men a generation older filled senior positions in many Midwestern institutions. Their elders seemed likely to maintain their positions for years. Young men such as Bingham and Holbrook were forced to move even further west to find new opportunities.

Go West, Young Man
(Clarendon Hotel)
Click on the thumbnail above to see the full-size photo of the Clarendon Hotel, which was built to hire Sedro town boomers and railroad personnel of the Fairhaven & Southern Railway. It also served as a house of ill repute. Photo courtesy of the 1953 Centennial Edition of the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times.

      A couple of sources claim that the young Bingham couple moved to Washington very soon after their 1885 marriage, but that is wrong. The young couple lost their first child, a daughter who died in Marengo after just 25 days on Feb. 25, 1888. Other sources say that they moved here in 1890. Her eldest sister, Louise Reno Vaeth, was the first of her family to live in Washington territory, moving with her husband, Richard, to Tacoma in the summer of 1884 during the Northern Pacific boom days. He was a noted jeweler in Marengo. We do know that Reuben S. Bingham was hired as superintendent of schools in Tacoma in 1888. Sometime after that, N.B. Holbrook visited Reuben in Tacoma and scouted the territory for other booming towns where their sons could set up a bank. He apparently reported back about several possibilities, including the town of Sedro in the new county of Skagit, where one or more railroads would soon lay track. Catherine McClintock wrote in a 1935 Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times Bingham profile that Charlie and Julia first looked at the towns of Waterville near the Columbia river and Oysterville on Puget sound before choosing Sedro. Reuben would eventually become president of the Washington State Teachers Association.
      By the time Charlie and Julia arrived, sure enough, two railroads were crossing here daily. Nelson Bennett's Fairhaven & Southern line extended from Cook's wharf to Bellingham Bay, 26 miles away on a diagonal. The second line was the Seattle & Northern, which the Oregon Improvement Co. built east from Ship Harbor — now Anacortes, on Fidalgo island. That line reached a point a mile northwest of Sedro in April 1890 and a developer named Philip A. Woolley, from Elgin, Illinois, was platting another town at that point when the Binghams arrived in July. Sometime by 1890, Charlie and Julia joined his parents in Tacoma, taking the Canadian Pacific Railroad across the county, then taking a steamer to Tacoma. There was not yet a train north from Seattle to Sedro, so they took a steamer from Tacoma to Fairhaven, where they then boarded an F&S train at 8 a.m. that mixed passengers and freight, arriving in Sedro at 1 p.m., five long hours later.
      The years from 1889-92 were the first glory years of Sedro and Woolley. The conduit for investment in the boomtowns was the company of Bingham and Holbrook, bankers. When John Higgins wrote his unpublished History of Banking in Skagit County in 1962, he was given a copy of the first few days of deposits, in which he noted an oddity. There was another bank here when the partners arrived, the 1st Bank of Sedro, but that bank's founders, E.C. Foltz and W.J. Thompson, are on the July 30 cash journal as depositors with the new bank. Pioneers interviewed decades after 1890 could not recall the original bank, which apparently folded soon after Bingham and Holbrook's arrival

Flexing their muscles in Sedro
      The new bank was modest to say the least. The first customers came before the partners even had a safe, but they resourcefully hid the deposits under a mattress upstairs. Charlie must have had a few laughs about the facilities with Mortimer Cook, who gained fame in Santa Barbara, California, 20 years before that, when he brought the first safe to town on a schooner and set up the first gold bank south of San Francisco. Like most other bankers of the time, the partners dealt in gold and silver. Paper money was scarce on the frontier and memories of weak Civil War paper currency were still fresh in their minds, so paper notes were usually discounted ten to fifteen percent. Gold and silver talked loudly.
      In a 1978 oral interview with Barbara Heacock, A. Bingham recalled his father's story that the partners had to have a safe shipped around the Horn of South America since there was not yet a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. They were considerably relieved the day a few weeks later when a sternwheeler heaved to at Cook's wharf and there was their safe, strapped to the deck.
      The partners had to be very astute and were forced to size up their customers by appearance alone sometimes, always on guard for the shysters and deadbeats who peopled frontier boomtowns. Albert G. Mosier recalled in the Courier-Times on the bank's 50th anniversary (1940) how he was initially treated:

      Upon my return from platting Sauk City on the south side of the Skagit and west of the Sauk rivers, I dropped into the new bank and made my first deposit, consisting of $350.00. M.L. looked at me and made this comment, "Where did you get all that money?" Chicken feed nowadays but real money in 1890. The bank then was a week or two old and the new bankers were kept busy importing coin to meet the demand, cashing time checks at a discount being the top of the daily business.
      Bingham explained that a time check back then was sort of a promissory note that a logging company gave their employee in lieu of wages. Unless the concern was really large, the owner would not be paid for their logs until they were sold downriver at a log dump. Whenever the logger brought in a time check, the banker would discount it by a certain percentage depending on the time until it would be redeemed. Time checks were the bread and butter for rural and remote banks.
      You can find the site of the original bank by going down to Riverfront Park and locating the barbecue pits that the Rotary club built there in the early 1980s. Just walk a couple dozen paces northeast of there and that is where the Clarendon stood. Ten years later, the building was torn down for the site of an excelsior and pulp plant that eventually became known as the Sedro Box & Veneer Co. By the late 1920s, as the country slid into the Great Depression, the mill site and the original Cook townsite were converted into the town dump and stayed that way until the Rotary and other volunteers rescued it fifty years later and created the beautiful park that we enjoy today.
      After the old town of Sedro boomed out and James J. Hill's Great Northern Railway gobbled up the Fairhaven & Southern Railway, the partners erected a new building in new Sedro in about 1892 at the northeast corner of 3d and Nelson where the administrative offices of the high school now stand. William T. Odlin, who married Julia's sister Jessie, recalled that incarnation of the bank, also for the 50th anniversary in 1940:

      I entered the employ of Bingham & Holbrook in March 1893, succeeding Miss Bessie Reno (afterward Mrs. A.G. Mosier) as bookkeeper and general utility man.
      "During the years 1893-94 and 1895, the entire force consisted of two people — Mr. C.E. Bingham, and yours truly. The bank was located in the corner room of the Pioneer block opposite the Hotel Sedro, and situated on the northeast corner of Third and Bennett streets. Other occupants of the same block were [Tozer] & Co. (afterward A.E. Holland) Drugs; Sedro Press & Job Printing; Sedro Land Co. business office, and City Courier, Town of Sedro; all on the ground floor. Upstairs, Dr. M.B. Mattice had his offices in the corner suite and M.J. Gallagher, attorney, in the rear of the building. Fire destroyed the Sedro Hotel in early part of 1894 and spread across the street to the Pioneer black, which was also totally destroyed.
      Temporary quarters were obtained in the Washington block, corner of Jameson avenue and Third street in a room used by the Episcopal church as a chapel. The bank remained there but a short time when it moved to larger quarters in the same building on the Third street side. This room had been formerly occupied by the Sedro Mercantile Co. (O.S. and K.S. Paulson). The room was large and a partition was run down the center, the bank having the north half and A.E. Holland, druggist, the south half. The Sedro post office, at that time, using the corner room, 3rd and Jameson, the remainder of the block was taken up by a boarding and rooming hotel.

Click on these thumbnails for full-sized photos
(Bingham boys and Reno Odlin)
(Bingham Mansion)
(LaPlant House)
Far left: The Bingham boys, from left, Quinby, Charles; far right, Albert; the charming boys with curls in the wagon is their cousin, Reno Odlin.
Center: The Bingham mansion, circa 1920. This view is from the west on 4th street. Most of the wings and additions had been built by then. The Shannon family added a dining room out from the wall in the center of the photo. Scanned from a postcard.
Right: The LaPlant house at the corner of 5th and Talcott streets, otherwise known as the Honeymoon cottage. Photo taken circa 1900, courtesy of Janet LaPlant.

Julia feathers the Bingham nest
      About the time that the partners decided to move their bank, Julia was getting very tired of living in the former brothel. There was a strip of forest between Sedro and Woolley and although the area had been platted by Albert G. Mosier in 1889, it was still covered by towering firs and Western red cedar more than 200 feet high. A crude wagon road connected the two towns but most people took the F&S train between them. Woolley druggist recalled later that during those early days, a walk between Sedro and Woolley was a real challenge, especially during the muddy months of October through May. From the time they were toddlers, children were taught to never enter the woods during hours of darkness because they could easily get lost in the brush and deadfalls. Fairie Cook, Mortimer's daughter, shot a mountain lion in the late 1880s where Bingham's bank would later stand in Woolley. Julia urged her husband to carve out a piece for a home of their own. We were thrilled to find in the scrapbooks of the Territorial Daughters at the Skagit County Historical Museum a letter that illuminates the Binghams search for a home. It was written by J. Elmer Bovey, whose mother walked with her young children beside a wagon from Marysville to the Skagit river in 1889, forded the river, and then set up a tent boarding house near Cook's store. At Christmas time, 1939, right after Charlie Bingham's death, he wrote a letter to the Courier-Times in which he recalled:
      I am thinking now of the summer of 1890, when I, as a boy, proudly marched into the wooden structure sitting by itself across the ditch from the old Fairhaven & Southern railway bed and deposited with the new young bankers, Bingham & Holbrook, the sum of $24.50, which I had earned by hard work. This was my first bank account.
      The year before, mother arrived from Marysville with us four young children, she had purchased some lots here "sight unseen" in what proved to be purely virgin ground, covered with tall timber. Mr. Bingham had been a sort of fatherly advisor to me through these years, as he doubtless had been to hundreds of others.

      Charlie soon had the little patch of land at the northeast corner of future 4th and Talcott streets cleared and built a small cottage for Julia in 1891, the first home built in Sedro north from Jameson avenue. That was just in time, too, because a small story in George Hopp's July 26, 1892, Sedro Press reported that a little dividend had been delivered to banker Bingham. Julia gave birth to her first child on July 22, a boy who would soon be named Quinby R. Bingham, in favor of her late father's middle name. The baby arrived just four years after Julia and Charlie lost their first child back in Iowa, a daughter who died 25 days after birth. Although the house grew topsy-turvy over the next 20 years and eventually became known as the Bingham Mansion, it truly was a cottage in those early days.
      We are always grateful when reporters and letter writers help us see behind the dry profiles of pioneers and especially in the case of Julia Bingham. Later on, she would be known as a society matron who lorded her status over some of her neighbors, back in the 1890s, when she was in her mid-20s, she was both daring and very active, acting against the grain at times. Julia could occasionally be crusty and A.G. Mosier summed her up as "estimable." Catherine McClintock gave us a glimpse in her 1935 profile:

      In early days, recreation was horseback and bicycle rides. On occasional trips to Seattle, they rented bicycles and took rides up Second avenue. She laughs, remembering her bicycle costume, a daring creation of bloomers and skirts then considered very risque. She used to drive a horse and buggy over the plank road to Skiyou, and recalls how the drivers of the big logging wagons used to help her pass them on the one-way corduroy.
      The logging road she described was built by Frank Hoehn and the modern version still bears his name. In the early 1890s, when the felled cedar created a glut on the market in between fires in frontier towns, logs were often piled well over 100 feet high and burned. Hoehn was contracted to cut the excess cedar logs in half and embed them in river gravel spread along the rough wagon trails so that a fairly flat surface was available for several miles out to the logging camps of George Green and James Young in the Skiyou and Utopia areas east of town. Like other homemakers, she discovered rich soil in the semi-swamp where the huge trees were felled on their homesite and she soon transformed the soil into a rose garden that was famous for the next few decades. At that time, Fourth street did not continue through, so she connected two blocks of Talcott with her roses and flowerbeds of seasonal beauty.

Bingham follows the business tide to Woolley
(Washington Block)
This is the Washington Block where Bingham and Holland moved their businesses sometime in 1894-95 after a fire leveled their Pioneer Block in new Sedro.

      As the Depression of 1893 settled over the Northwest and the nation, the bank partners had to hunker down and ride it out, even though local business and construction ground to a halt. Merritt Holbrook was still an active partner through their move to new Sedro in 1892, but by the time that their Pioneer block burned to the ground in 1894, he was apparently looking elsewhere for another banking opportunity. Some have assumed that he and Bingham had a falling out, but that seems unlikely. When we interviewed A. Bingham, the youngest son in the family, he noted that when he was born in 1895, his middle initial was "H" for Holbrook. In addition, when Merritt's brother James moved here in 1900, Charlie gave him a job at the bank to get him started.
      We suspect that Merritt retained a small interest in the bank through the turn of the century, but by the mid-'90s, he moved to Chehalis, where he became manager of another bank, and later managed a bank in Portland before retiring. By the time Merritt moved on, Charlie had found a new partner in business. Although they would not incorporate, he and druggist A.E. Holland became as close as two peas in a pod, a relationship that would last until Holland's death in 1923. Originally hired as Mortimer Cook's clerk in the summer of 1886, Holland moved here with his uncle Donald McLaughlin from Pennsylvania where he was born on Sept. 28, 1868. Six years younger, he became the younger brother that Charlie never had, and he learned the money business quickly, amassing a small fortune by the time he died. As Odlin noted above, when their building burned in 1894, Bingham and Holland moved together to temporary quarters, the first in a series of moves together that decade.
      A 1955 article in the Courier-Times hints that Holland may have been the first to realize that all signs pointed to the new town of Woolley. Four dreadful floods in old Sedro and the fires in new Sedro, plus the deepening Depression through 1896, sounded the death knell for new Sedro, which Norman B. Kelley platted for the SLS&E railroad, where the high school stands today. As the business section of both Sedros shrank, P.A. Woolley looked ahead and planned for a real city that would replace his company town at the triangle where three trains crossed. In 1896, progressive business leaders in new Sedro, including C.E. Bingham, Junius B. Alexander, Harry Devin and Dr. Menzo B. Mattice, formed the Twin Cities Business League, which aimed at merging the competing towns and getting rid of the redundant government and its attendant costs. This group may have persuaded Charlie to join Holland in the woodframe building he had found at the southwest corner of Woodworth and Metcalf streets in downtown Woolley. They shared that building, starting in 1896, just across the street from the growing hardware business owned by the Fritsch brothers, German immigrants via Texas and then Sauk City. Charlie's bank was on the corner and Holland's drug store fronted on Metcalf.

Part 2 of Bingham bank and family, which includes: Bingham bank establishes itself as the most powerful bank in the county and has a monopoly in Sedro-Woolley for 15 years; Charlie Bingham hires very young entry-level people who work for the bank for decades; Bingham mansion becomes social center; Charlie becomes controversial and envied in business and politics; 1st National Bank opens in 1905; Fire strikes again at Bingham bank; Charlie Bingham employs public relations as civic good neighbor; 1st National Bank robbery brings changes, followed by war; Bingham and Odlin boys go to World War I; '20s and '30s were a roller coaster; Bingham Bank is robbed; Reno Odlin excels; recovery from Depression; C.E. Bingham dies and the bank enters a new era; The Bingham brothers "modernize" their building and then sell.

There are five parts to this Bingham story and two bonus links

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Story posted on March 26, 2003, last updated Oct. 7, 2007, moved to this domain Nov. 7, 2011
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(bullet) Please report any broken links or files that do not open and we will send you the correct link. With more than 700 features, we depend on your report. Thank you. And do not give up if you find a link that seems to be closed. Just put the subject in the search box below. The story may have been moved to our new domain. Or just ask us and we will guide you to it.
(bullet) Did you enjoy this story? Remember, as with all our features, this story is a draft and will evolve as we discover more information and photos. This process continues until we eventually compile a book about Northwest history. Can you help with copies or scans of documents or photos? We never ask for your originals.
(bullet) Read about how you can order CDs that include our photo features from the first ten years of our Subscribers-paid online magazine. Perfect for gifts. Although it was delayed by our illness, it is due for completion in 2012.

You can click the donation button to contribute to the rising costs of this site. See many examples of how you can aid our project and help us continue for another ten years. You can also subscribe to our optional Subscribers-Paid Journal magazine online, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in September 2010, with exclusive stories, in-depth research and photos that are shared with our subscribers first. You can go here to read the preview edition to see examples of our in-depth research or read how and why to subscribe.

You can read the history websites about our prime sponsors
Would you like information about how to join them in advertising?

(bullet) Our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down comforters, pillows, featherbeds andduvet covers and bed linens. Order directly from their website and learn more about this intriguing local business.
(bullet) Oliver-Hammer Clothes Shop at 817 Metcalf Street in downtown Sedro-Woolley, 90 years continually in business.
(bullet) Peace and quiet at the Alpine RV Park, just north of Marblemount on Hwy 20, day, week or month, perfect for hunting or fishing. Park your RV or pitch a tent — for as little as $5 per night — by the Skagit River, just a short drive from Winthrop or Sedro-Woolley. Alpine is doubling in capacity for RVs and camping in 2011.
(bullet) Check out Sedro-Woolley First section for links to all stories and reasons to shop here first
or make this your destination on your visit or vacation.
(bullet) Are you looking to buy or sell a historic property, business or residence?
We may be able to assist. Email us for details.

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