On December 1, 1893, the Island County Bank of Coupeville closes its doors to depositors after just 19 months in operation. The cashier, T. S. Beals leaves behind promissory notes from his brother and himself exceeding $13,000. Beals will be arrested for embezzlement, but his popularity in the community will contribute to his acquittal at trial. Faced with more civil and criminal charges, Beals will remove to England. The bank will never reopen.
Banking on Beals
On May 7, 1892, the Island County Bank of Coupeville opened its doors as the first bank in the county. Before this, residents seeking to borrow money or secure their savings had to take steamers to Port Townsend or to Seattle. The U.S. Post Office allowed patrons to purchase Postal Notes, but never in denominations of more than $4.99. The organizers capitalized the bank at $25,000 and the shareholders included many longtime Whidbey Island residents. With such support, the bank was bound to prosper.
Cashier T. S. Beals came from Tacoma and quickly became “the social lion of the village” (Kellogg, 92). He appeared at all the best parties and dances, but some of his daytime friends took offense to not being invited to soirees he hosted at Eby’s Landing. When Beals began to take frequent and extended business trips to Seattle and Tacoma, he hired (at his own expense) a female assistant to assume his duties at the bank.
On December 1, 1893, depositors found a closed sign on the front door. Receiver Ed Monroe discovered that Beals had loaned his brother $2,000 and loaned himself more than $11,100. Individual depositors were out $5,000 and the County Treasury lost $1,000.
Keeping Beals Company
Within a week, Sheriff George Nunan escorted Beals off a steamer to Coupeville to be kept in “close company” (Kellogg, 93). Beals was charged with embezzlement and he made bail of $4,500. This notoriety did not prevent Beals’s friends from inviting him to a dance. Beals did not appear. The local newspaper disclosed, “The money taken from the people was spent in the most disreputable dives in Seattle and Tacoma and on the lowest of abandoned women” (Kellogg, 93).
Beals was acquitted after a seven-day trial, but he faced other charges. When he defaulted on his $100 legal fee, his lawyer dropped him. Beals was last heard from in England.The bank never reopened. The County sued the shareholders, who had transferred their stock to seven of the original organizers. The matter dragged on for years and then died away. Bank customers went back to Seattle banks until May 1903, when the Everett Bank of Commerce opened a branch in Coupeville.