Everyone has a story. Here's ours.
The Bank of Lyons was the first bank in Lyons, NY and it was located on the east corner of Church and William Streets in what was known as the Center Building. It then moved across the street to be located in what is called the bank corner, the present location of the main office of the Lyons National Bank. In 1836, the Bank of Lyons was mentioned in the New York State Register as having $200,000 capital.
The bank closed in 1842 and the bank corner went on to house the Sisson Bank (1846-1850), Sisson & Chapman Bank (1850-1856), Daniel Chapman and Company (1856-1857), Charles Demmon, Banker (1861-1866), Gavitt & Murdock Bank (1871-1873 at which time they moved to a building up the street) the Union Bank of Lyons (1874-1883), and the Bank of Wayne (1895-1910).
To find the direct roots of the Lyons National Bank that we know today, you have to go back to 1852. It was then that lawyer, land baron and entrepreneur, DeWitt Parshall, chartered a private banking house in the upper part of a building on Canal Street in Lyons, naming it the Palmyra Bank of Lyons. This bank was one half of two banks which formed the Lyons National Bank.
In 1857, Parshall changed the name of the bank to the Lyons Bank and erected a building on the corner of Canal and William Streets. In 1864, the bank obtained a national charter and “National” was added to its title. After Parshall’s death in 1881, his son-in-law, Dr. Dwight Scott Chamberlain, ran the bank until his death in 1903. Subsequently, his sons, Dwight P. and Frederick Chamberlain took over.
Peter R. Westfall established the PR Westphall bank in 1860 in a building on William Street. He was assisted by Saxon B. Gavitt, vice president and Beardsley Van Arsdale, cashier. When Westfall moved to Chicago in 1866, Gavitt formed his own banking partnership, Gavitt and Murdock, also located on William Street. This bank was the other entity that comprised the current Lyons National Bank.
In 1871 Gavitt organized the S.B. Gavitt Bank located right next door to the bank corner.
In 1905, Gavitt reorganized as a national bank under the name of The Gavitt National Bank. In 1911, following the demise of the Bank of Wayne, he purchased the bank corner building on William and Church Streets, remodeled it and moved in. Gavitt was president, his son, William S. Gavitt, was vice president, and his grandson, Saxon B. Gavitt II was cashier.
From 1911 to 1933, The Gavitt National Bank and The Lyons National Bank were friendly rivals, with the presidents of both as hunting companions. In the late 1920s, the Gavitt National Bank was extensively re- modeled, and a new building was constructed, replacing the original structure from 1838. Opening day of the new bank was Sept. 6, 1930.
When the Great Depression of the 30s came along, a banking panic engulfed the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed every bank in the country on March 4, 1933. Banks were required to obtain a license to reopen and the banking department decided that Lyons did not need two banks. A public meeting was held at Lyons High School where Gavitt, president of the Gavitt National Bank, and Dr. Fletcher Towlerton, president of the Lyons National Bank, proposed a merger.
The depositors accepted the proposal, and the new bank opened July 6, 1933. The new bank continued under the charter of the old Lyons National Bank, but used the more spacious headquarters of the former Gavitt National Bank on the bank corner. Some 800 local people bought stock to establish the new bank. Assets of the new bank totaled $1.9 million and capital totaled $180,000.
Towlerton served as president of the new Lyons National Bank for several months. He was succeeded by Saxon B. Gavitt II, who served as president for 34 years, until 1967 when he became chairman of the board of directors. His son, William S. Gavitt, a fourth generation banker. provided strong leadership for the next 21 years. In 1988, he retired from the daily management of the bank but remained on the board of directors until 1994. John J. Werner Jr. followed Bill as president until his retirement in 1997. Currently, Robert A. Schick is President of the Lyons National Bank. Under his leadership the bank now has 13 offices in six area counties.