Skip to main content

Exploring Ohio Hub of Woodsfield

The First National Bank of Woodsfield, Ohio, also issued small size notes of the Series of 1929. Here is an example. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

The First National Bank of Woodsfield, Ohio, also issued small size notes of the Series of 1929. Here is an example. (Photo courtesy Heritage Auctions)

I was perusing my collection of Series of 1882 notes and spied one that got me doing a Google search on its town. Sufficiently captivating, with the bank building still standing, Woodsfield, Ohio, would be a cool subject for our sojourn this time around. So, let’s check it out!

Woodsfield, Ohio, is the seat of Monroe County, a rural subdivision located in eastern Ohio on the border with West Virginia, about 30 miles north of Marietta, Ohio, and about 15 miles northwest of Sistersville, W. Va. It has a current population of around 2,600 and is the largest town in Monroe County. Founded in 1814, the town was named Woodsfield after Archibald Woods, who established the community. Woodsfield has been Monroe County’s only seat of government. According to legend, to clear the town’s main street of trees, in 1814, Archibald Woods purchased a keg of brandy, offering drinks to any man who would help him clear the street. Reportedly, after a single afternoon of work, the street was clean of trees.

Woodsfield was settled by mostly Swiss and German immigrants who saw the area as similar topographically to their homeland. Locally, the area was known as the ‘Switzerland of Ohio.” In 1830, 157 people resided in the community; by 1840, 262 persons lived there. By 1880, 861 people lived in Woodsfield and the completion of the Ohio River and Western Railroad through the community helped to spur the town’s growth.

In the last decades of the nineteenth century, Woodsfield experienced some tremendous growth in population. This was principally due to the discovery of oil, natural gas, and coal in the surrounding environs. The first large oil well was dug in 1891, and 10 years later over 300 wells were producing throughout the area.

Woodsfield’s first bank was not a national one. The Monroe Bank was founded in 1874 and was the town’s only real financial institution for many years. Samuel L. Mooney was not only the bank’s president but also the president of the Ohio River & Western Railroad that was extended through town at around the same time as the bank’s founding. The bank served as the main office of the O.R. &W Railroad from 1905 until 1917. The Monroe Bank erected an impressive multistory corner block in 1903 opposite the Monroe County Courthouse. It was constructed of rusticated stone blocks with the upper floors built with red brick on a primarily square footprint. The four-story building contains three entrances on the ground floor, two on the main facades and the third on a flattened corner. The entrances on the south facade are surrounded by Ionic columns; the entrance on the corner has a panel above the second-floor windows reading “1903”, with decorative scrollwork stone panels separating the second and third floors. Above the entrance on the south facade rise two large Corinthian columns with balconies and a balustrade panel bearing “1903” on the panel. This piece is part of what was once a complete balustrade running along the roofline. That building still stands today as one of the most attractive buildings in town and was placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in 1980.

This Series of 1882 $10 Value Back note was issued by the First National Bank of Woodsfield and is now in the author’s collection.

This Series of 1882 $10 Value Back note was issued by the First National Bank of Woodsfield and is now in the author’s collection.

Bank president Samuel L. Mooney was one of the town’s leading residents and he lived in the town’s grandest mansion, known as the Mooney Mansion, which he bought in 1903 and completely remodeled starting in 1912. The Mooney Mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982; sadly, though still standing the mansion is in total disrepair and is rapidly deteriorating. See attached photos of the mansion as it appeared in 1951 and how it looks today.

The bank remained one of the prominent businesses of Monroe County and seemed to weather the first years of the Great Depression well, until 1931, when the bank was forced to close all its branch locations, leaving just the location in Woodsfield open. However, the financial situation did not improve, and the bank was forced to close its doors 1933.

In 1900, some years after the founding of the Monroe Bank, the First National Bank of Woodsfield was organized under charter #5414. This provided the first bank competition in town and was due mostly to the oil and gas boom. It issued a variety of Series of 1882 notes until 1921, when it started issuing Series of 1902 Plain Back notes. The bank also issued small size notes until it was closed by the receiver at the beginning of 1934. Its total issue was $907,000. Some years back I picked up a nice Series of 1882 Value Back $10 note at a local show; I have included a photo of it and of a small size note issued by the bank. Currently 11 large and 15 small notes are reported.

The First National Bank erected its structure at 143 S. Main Street in town around the same time the Monroe Bank was building its monumental one. Right after the First National Bank closed in 1934, the Citizens National Bank of Woodsfield was founded and operated from the same building. This bank never issued any currency but still exists today with its main branch in the old First National Bank building. I have included photos of the bank circa 1915 and from today; the fancy arched entrance noted in the vintage photo is covered by a rather gaudy porch overhang.

Woodsfield OH First NB

Woodsfield is dominated by the Monroe County Courthouse, located on the town square. It is the fourth courthouse on this spot, prior ones destroyed by fire. The current courthouse was erected in 1905 in the Classic Revival style of red brick with yellow brick quoins, pillars, and pediments, which are said to represent the colors of fall in the surrounding countryside. The main entrance is reached by a small flight of stairs between Ionic columns and a pediment of fine arched stone. The courthouse has one of ten largest clocks in the world, which can be seen from miles away. Its four faces were installed in 1908 by Howard Clock Company of New York. The cost of the clock was $2,775.

Woodsfield today is a pretty classic small town with many amenities and activities typical to the rural small-town ethos. There is little crime but the area, like much of Ohio and West Virginia, has been negatively affected by the opioid crisis.

Readers may address questions or comments about this article or national banknotes in general to Mark Hotz directly by email at markbhotz@gmail.com.