Seymour S. Titus

Page 252.  Seymour S. Titus, cashier of the First National Bank of Grand Forks, is one of the oldest bankers of North Dakota.  He went there when the village contained but about one hundred people, and with his keen observation and good judgment decided to make permanent residence in [the] Red river

Page 255.  valley.  Success has attended him financially and socially and he is now one of the most influential men of that region, while the institution with which he is connected is one of the leading banks of the Northwest.

Mr. Titus was born in Oak Grove, Minnesota, June 3, 1851, and was a son of Moses S. and Jane L. Titus, who were natives of Connecticut.  His parents settled in Minnesota about 1844 and for many years his father was engaged in business in that state, where our subject was reared and educated.  He began life as a farmer and followed that calling in his native state until October, 1872, when he entered the First National Bank of Shakopee, Minnesota, as a general helper, working without wages until February, 1874, when he went to Sauk Center in the employ of Andrew J. Smith, banker, and remained with him at that place until 1879, acting as clerk and bookkeeper.  He went to Grand Forks in June, 1879, going by stage by Fisher’s Landing, and was the only passenger.  He remained several days and traveled from the village through the surrounding country, the fertility of the soil and the possibilities of the country being forcibly impressed on his mind.  He returned to Sauk Center for a short time and later located in Grand Forks, North Dakota, August 29, 1879, and in company with J. Walker Smith opened a small bank under the name of the Bank of Grand Forks.  This was the first bank on the lower Red river valley and the place they occupied was a small building situated on Third street, between Kittson and Bruce avenues, and was purchased by them from J. G. Hamilton for about four hundred dollars and was 18×26 feet.  In the fall they erected a small addition in the rear, but were unable to obtain sufficient lumber that year to complete the building, which was only shiplapper.  That building now stands in the rear of the Reder & Stewart block and is used by that firm as a smoke house.  The first deposit made in the Bank of Grand Forks was made by Thomas Collins and was for forty-six dollars and eighty-four cents, and the first draft issued was to W. G. Woodruff for seventy-five dollars.  The first loan was made to Elias Rice and was for seventy-five dollars.  On October 31, 1881, the day the Bank of Grand Forks was superseded by the now First National Bank, the deposits amounted to $234,233.71.  To give an idea of the volume of business done in the early days, the total aggregate of business done by the Bank of Grand Forks from August 20, 1879, to and including October 31, 1881, amounted to the enormous sum of $14,203,096.94.  The Bank of Grand Forks ceased to exist on October 31, 1881, and the First National Bank came into existence, with the following officers:  J. S. Eshelman, president; J. Walker Smith, vice-president, and Seymour S. Titus, cashier.  In the summer of 1881 Titus Smith erected the brick block now occupied by the Union National Bank, which was the first brick block in the valley north of Fargo and was occupied by the First National Bank for some years.  This bank is one of the oldest and also one of the soundest financial institutions of that region, and Mr. Titus has ably discharged the duties of cashier since its organization.

Mr. Titus was married, April 5, 1880, to Miss Annie L. Stabler, a native of Maine.  Three children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Titus, one of whom is now living, viz., Marion E.  (Compendium of History and Biography of North Dakota, Geo. A. Ogle & Co., Publishers, Chicago, 1900)

Page 1129.  Seymour S. Titus, who has attained success by faithful, persistent work, is a native of Minnesota.  He was born at Oak Grove, June 3, 1851, and is a son of Moses S. and Jane L. Titus, natives of Connecticut, who in 1844 settled in Minnesota, where the father was engaged in business many years.

Our subject acquired his education in his native state and grew to manhood there on a farm.  In the fall of 1872 he became a general helper, without wages, in the First Bank of Shakopee, and so continued till the winter of 1874.  During the next five years he was employed as bookkeeper and clerk for Mr. Andrew J. Smith, a banker at Sauk Center, Minn.  In June, 1879, with a view to selecting a location for permanent settlement, Mr. Titus went on a prospecting trip to Grand Forks and through the adjacent regions, and was so pleased with the outlook that he went back and closed his affairs at Sauk Center and on August 29, 1879, associated with Mr. J. Walker Smith, opened the Bank of Grand Forks.  This was the first bank in that part of [the] Red River valley, and as compared with those of today, was modest in the extreme.  The population of the town then numbered about 100.  The building occupied by this bank, eighteen by thirty-six feet, stood on Third street, between Bruce and Kittson avenues, and cost some $400.  Later it was moved to a site in the rear of the Reder and Stewart block, and is used as a smokehouse.  Those were days of small beginnings.  The first deposit, forty-six dollars and eighty-four cents, was made by Mr. Thomas Collins.  Elias Rice made the first loan, seventy-five dollars, and the first draft, for a like sum, was issued to Mr. W. G. Woodruff.  This bank continued in business, growing with the growth and development of the town, till October 31, 1881, at which time the de-

Page 1130.  posits amounted to $234,233.71; while the business of the bank up to that time aggregated $14,203,096.94.

The Bank of Grand Forks was succeeded on October 31, 1881, by the First National Bank, with J. S. Eshelman, president; Mr. J. Walker Smith, vice president, and Mr. Titus, cashier.  Under the careful conservative and wise management of the clear-sighted men at the head of this bank, its growth has been phenomenal and it has come to be known as, and to be, one of the strongest financial institutions of the Red River valley and the Northwest.

On April 5, 1880, Mr. Titus married Miss Annie L. Stabler, of Maine.  Of three children born to them, Marion E. alone survives.  (History of the Red River Valley Past and Present, Volume II, C. F. Cooper & Company, Chicago, 1909)

Page 742.  Seymour S. Titus.  Recognizing the opportunities for the expansion of banking interests in Grand Forks, Seymour S. Titus, founder and promoter of the first banking institution of the city and the second in the state of North Dakota, is today chairman of the board of directors of the First National Bank of Grand Forks and as such occupies a most prominent position in financial circles in the northwest.  His achievements represent the fit utilization of his time, talents and opportunities.  He was born at Oak Grove, Hennepin county, Minnesota, June 3, 1851, and is a son of Moses S. and Jane L. Titus the father removing from Connecticut to Minnesota in 1844, where he engaged in farming for many years.

The son obtained his education in the rural winter schools of his native state, where he was reared to manhood upon the home farm in Scott county.  In the fall of 1872 he entered the Frist National Bank of Shakopee, Minnesota, as general helper, without wages, and so continued until the fall of 1874, this constituting the initial step toward his present position, giving him some experience in banking.  During the succeeding five years he was employed as a bookkeeper and clerk by Andrew J. Smith a private banker of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and in June, 1879, with a view toward selecting a location for a permanent settlement, he visited Grand Forks, and on the 29th of August of that year in association with J. Walker Smith he opened the Bank of Grand Forks which was the second bank opened in what is now the state of North Dakota.  Mr. Titus became cashier of the new institution.  With the settlement and development of the city and county the business of the bank steadily expanded, and at the close of business on the 31st of October, 1881, the deposits amounted to two hundred thirty-four thousand, two hundred thirty-three dollars.  On November 1, 1881, the Bank of Grand Forks was converted into the Citizens National Bank.  Mr. Titus remained its cashier, while Jacob S. Eshelman became the president and J. Walker Smith vice president.  In January, 1884, the stock was increased to one hundred thousand dollars.  On the 1st of July, 1890, the bank assumed the title of the First National Bank and in August, 1896, removed to its present quarters occupying nearly the entire first floor of the First National Bank building its quarters then being as fine as those of any bank in the northwest.  At the beginning the bank entered upon an era of successfully growth, its course being one of continuous expansion, and on September 18, 1912, the consolidation of the First National and the Union National Banks was announced, marking the consummation of one of the most important financial deals ever carried out in the state, resulting in Grand Forks being given one of the strongest banking institutions in the northwest.  The bank is today capitalized for two hundred thousand dollars and has a

Page 745.  surplus of fifty thousand dollars.  Among its officers and stockholders are some of the most wealthy and influential men of North Dakota and their high standing and well known business integrity give the institution prominent and safe connection with the larger financial centers of the country.  The strength of the First National Bank is indicated in the fact that in times of general financial depression, when other banks have been forced to the wall, the First National has emerged strong and safe from the storm and stress.  Its management has always been characterized by a conservatism that has constituted the safeguard of its deposits and all of its manifold interests.  Its business has constantly broadened in scope and importance, and it has ever remained an institution of the greatest usefulness to the community and state.  From the inception of the private bank, of which he was the principal founder, through all the subsequent changes, Mr. Titus remained as cashier until September 16, 1912, a period of thirty-three years, when he was elected president, and so continued until August 1, 1916, when he retired from the presidency and was elected chairman of the board of directors.  Under the careful, conservative and wise management of the farsighted men at the head of this institution its growth has been almost phenomenal, and it has come to be recognized as one of the strongest banks not only of North Dakota but of the northwest.  From the beginning Mr. Titus has had an active part in its management and control, and his initiative spirit and sound judgment have contributed in substantial measure to its success.

On the 5th of April, 1880, Mr. Titus married Miss Annie L. Stabler of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, and three children were born to them but Marion E. alone survives.  She became the wife of W. R. Vanderhoef, the owner of a book, stationery, lens and Kodak store in Grand Forks.  They now have two children:  Lois Gould, born May 21, 1913; and Dean Titus, born June 15, 1915.

Mr. Titus is a member of the First Presbyterian church, Masonic orders and the Commercial Club.  He is now, and has been for many years, treasurer of the University of North Dakota, which is located at Grand Forks.  He is also financially interested in some of the leading industries and enterprises of Grand Forks.  In fact, his broadening interests and activities have constituted a source of material development and progress in city and state, and thus he has taken an active part in the upbuilding of Grand Forks and of North Dakota.  In his career are no spectacular phases.  He has not reached his present position of prominence by leaps and bounds, but through that steady progression which results from the wise and careful utilization of each day’s opportunities, resulting from a recognition of present day conditions.  Thus his interests have constantly broadened and the bank of which he has continuously been one of the active managers has become a most potent force in the development and progress of the state.  Moreover, in all the years of his connection with Grand Forks Mr. Titus has displayed a spirit of progressive citizenship that has made him an active cooperant and generous supporter of every plan and measure for the public good, and the value of his example as well as his generous support has been incalculable.  (North Dakota History and People, Volume III, Clement Lounsberry, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago, 1917)

Page 1.  Funeral To Be Held Saturday For S. S. Titus.  Pioneer Grand Forks Banker Succumbs To Stroke of Apoplexy.  Was Stricken At Age of 72.  Deceased Was Prominent Figure In Development of Grand Forks.  Funeral services for S. S. Titus, veteran financier of Grand Forks, who died at his home on Thursday afternoon, will be held from the Presbyterian church on Saturday afternoon, and burial will be made at Memorial park.  Rev. F. Halsey Ambrose will conduct the services at the church while those at the cemetery will be the Masonic burial ceremonies.  No arrangements have been made for the pallbearers.  Mr. Titus, who was one of the most prominent figures in the development of Grand Forks for the past 44 years, was 72 years old.  Death came as the result of a stroke of apoplexy suffered on last Saturday afternoon while he was at the Masonic temple.  He was taken to this home immediately, and although paralyzed on his left side, hope was held out for his recovery, as he remained conscious and was able to talk.  On Sunday afternoon, however, he fell into a state of coma and grew gradually weaker until the end, which came at 1:10 yesterday afternoon.

M. S. Titus, a brother of the deceased, who was traveling on the west coast by automobile, was located Wednesday night at Redding, Cal., but he will not be able to attend the funeral.  Mrs. Symington, a sister of Mrs. Titus, arrived in Grand Forks yesterday from Sauk Center, Minn., and Mrs. W. J. Plunkett of Minto, a niece of the deceased, also is here.

Born in Minnesota.  Mr. Titus was born June 3, 1851 at Oak Grove, Hennepin county, Minnesota, now known as Bloomington, about twenty miles south of Minneapolis near the Minnesota river.  His parents were Moses Starr Titus and Jane Lamont Titus.  In the fall of 1851 the family moved to a small settlement on the south side of the river now known as Shakopee, where the family home remained until the death of the parents.  His father was a farmer and Mr. Titus made his start on the family farm and putting up hay on the river bottoms for contractors.  As a young man he had the reputation of being

Page 6.  able to stack more hay in a day than any man in the whole Minnesota valley.  In 1872 he began his banking career in a bank at Shakopee and later worked in another bank at Sauk Centre, Minnesota.  J. Walker Smith, now of Minneapolis and for many years a business associate here was in Sauk Centre at the same time working in a general store.

Opened First Bank Here.  In 1879 Mr. Titus came to Grand Forks and later in the same year established a bank of his own known as the Bank of Grand Forks.  He was the sole owner and entire staff of the bank until joined by J. Walker Smith who came from Sauk Centre to join him in the new enterprise.  The institution was not only the first bank in Grand Forks but was the only one in the territory of Dakota north of Fargo.  It occupied a small frame building on South Third street on the site now occupied by the Johnson meat market.  He and Mr. Smith remained together in the banking business and other enterprises until 1910, when Mr. Smith moved to Minneapolis.

His banking business flourished and in a few years he erected and occupied the first solid brick building in this part of the state.  In 1881 the bank was granted a federal charter as the Citizens’ National bank.  Nine years later it took over the business of the First National bank and still continues under that name.  From the beginning and until 1912 he served as cashier and at one time announced that he wanted to establish a record of fifty years as cashier.  In 1912, however, due to another consolidation, he became president, and in 1916 chairman of the board of directors.  His original partner, Mr. Smith, served as president for many years.

Lived Quiet Life.  Mr. Titus never held public office, but nevertheless played a prominent part in the development of Grand Forks and particularly aided in the financing and growth of many of the older firms of the city.  He served for many years as a trustee of the Presbyterian church and was always active and interested in its affairs.  He had his own way of doing things both in business and in his social relations with others.  He was always willing that others should have the lime light while he occupied a less prominent position.  Older residents of the city recall many occasions when he materially assisted in large enterprises without appearing in them in any way.  His charities were handled in the same manner and many men today well established in business and prominent in the city tell of quiet and unusual assistance rendered when they were struggling for a start.

In 1880 he was married to Miss Annie Stabler of Sauk Centre who survives him.  Mrs. W. R. Vanderhoef of this city is the only one of three children now living, the others having died in infancy.  Two brothers, M. S. Titus of Minto, N. D., and Harland H. Titus of Boise, Idaho, also survive him.  Mrs. M. C. Bacheller of this city is a niece of Mr. Titus.  Mr. Titus was a member of the Masonic bodies of this city and also of Kem Temple A. A. O. N. M. S.

Belonged to Old Family.  The span of Mr. Titus’ life reached back to almost the beginning of the development of this territory, and also of Minnesota.  Shakopee, his early home, is one of the oldest settlements in Minnesota, but was really only a frontier outpost, part Indian and part white when his family moved there.  His parentage was unusual, and is not generally known.  His father was born near Washington, Conn.  The Titus family was related to the Ponds, an old Connecticut family, two members of which Samuel Pond and Gideon Pond came west about 1832 as missionaries among the Indians and established a mission among them on the east side of what is now known as Lake Calhoun in the city limits of Minneapolis.  Moses Starr Titus, his father, came west about 1848 to join the Ponds and assist them as a teacher and at that time Oak Grove was a settlement organized by the Ponds on the north side of the Minnesota river and where they lived.  It was there that the elder Titus met the mother of Mr. Titus.

She was the daughter of a full blood Dacotah Sioux woman who had married a French settler or trader named Lamont.  The mother was a daughter of Chief Cloud Man, head of the Lake Calhoun band.  On the death of Lamont, the child, Jane Lamont, was given to the Samuel W. Pond family by her mother with the request that she be raised by them as a white woman.  She was then a child 10 or 12 years old and until her marriage in 1850 to Moses Starr Titus remained a member of the missionary’s family and was reared and educated according to the strictest New England standards.  She became a woman of strong character and influence and occupies a  considerable part in the records of the early settlement of the territory south of Minneapolis along the Minnesota river.  She was well educated and a very active church worker and three sons who survived her after her death at the age of 72 have played parts in the development of the northwest that would be a credit to any woman of whatever birth or training.

It is stated that the elder Titus organized the first school in the Minnesota River valley at Shakopee.  He was not a strong man and died in middle age.  The oldest son, S. S. Titus came to Grand Forks before the railroad or any of the other modern conveniences now deemed essential were available and with his associates helped to develop another part of the new northwest.  (Grand Forks Herald, Friday, April 6, 1923)

Services Were Held Saturday For S. S. Titus.  T. B. Elton Conducted Masonic Burial Ritual at Cemetery.  Seymore S. Titus exercised a code of honor and justice in the business world and a dependability and faithfulness in church work, the memory of which will go far toward softening the sorrow of his death.  This was the summing up of the tribute paid the veteran banker of Grand Forks who died Thursday, by Rev. F. Halsey Ambrose who conducted the funeral service of Mr. Titus at the First Presbyterian church here Saturday afternoon.  Mr. Titus was eulogized by Rev. Ambrose as doing good in an inconspicuous manner, avoiding publicity for his good acts.  The First Presbyterian church, he said, might, in its physical aspect, be a fitting memorial to the deceased, for it was he who had more to do than anyone else, with the financial status of the church.  This fact, he pointed out, was not, however, widely known prior to Mr. Titus’ death, largely by his own request.  He was chairman of the board of trustees for a great many years and in 1911, laid the cornerstone of the present church.

Music for the simple church service was furnished by Paolo Conte at the organ and Mrs. Alberta Fisher Ruettell, who sang two selections.  The casket and rostrom were banked with a great many flowers.  The service at Memorial Park cemetery, where interment was made, was in charge of Acacia Lodge No. 4, A. F. & A. M.  Past Master T. B. Elton conducted the Blue Lodge ritualistic service.  Members of the various Masonic bodies of which Mr. Titus was affiliated, met at the Masonic Temple at 2 o’clock and attended the service at the church and also at the cemetery, in a body.  Pall bearers, as selected from among his business associates and close friends, were:  J. Walker Smith, of Minneapolis, Don McDonald, I. A. Berg, C. C. Gowran, W. H. McGraw and Leslie Stinson of Grand Forks.

A brother of the deceased, M. S. Titus of Minto, who with Mrs. M. S. Titus has spent the winter in California, is enroute to Grand Forks.  It was impossible for him to get here in time for the funeral because of being delayed at Redding, California, by heavy rains.  Other surviving relatives are his wife, Mrs. S. S. Titus, one daughter, Mrs. W. R. Vanderhoef of Grand Forks, and Harlan Titus, a brother of Boise, Idaho.  In addition to the large number of local people who attended the funeral services, the following were here from out of town:  Mr. and Mrs. W. K. Nash, Mr. and Mrs. J. Walker Smith and H. L. Whithed of Minneapolis, C. D. Lord of Park River, a boyhood friend of Mr. Titus, Dr. and Mrs. W. J. Plunkett of Park River, the latter being a niece of the deceased, and Mrs. Clara Sackett Pond and son H. S. Pond of Crary, N. D.  Mrs. Pond is a distant relative of Mr. Titus.  (Grand Forks Herald, Sunday, April 8, 1923, Page 16)


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