One major part of Manchester’s history is that of St. Mary’s Bank, the first credit union in the nation!
According to the St. Mary’s Bank website:
In 1908, Monsignor Pierre Hevey, [pictured right] Pastor of Sainte-Marie’s parish in Manchester, New Hampshire, organized what was soon to be known as the first credit union. The goal was to help the primarily Franco-American mill workers save and borrow money.
With the start of the bank, Manchester’s large immigrant population quickly benefited.
For just $5, the price of one share of capital stock, anyone in the community could become a member. Savings were accepted from workers, families, and children. The accumulated savings were, in turn, lent to members to purchase and build homes, establish neighborhood businesses, and meet the personal financial needs of the community.
St. Mary’s Bank prospered. The credit union moved into its own offices in 1913 and hired its first paid, full-time manager in 1916. In 1917, the state legislature approved a bill changing the name from “St. Mary’s Cooperative Credit Association” to “La Caisse Populaire, Ste-Marie”. And, by 1923, the credit union’s assets exceeded $1 million. In 1925, an amended charter allowed the institution to be called either “La Caisse Populaire, Ste-Marie,” or “St. Mary’s Bank.”
In 1930, St. Mary’s Bank moved into “The Marble Building,” a landmark in the center of what was then the commercial heart of Manchester’s West Side. As the credit union expanded, so did its menu of traditional products and services. Checking accounts, Christmas Club accounts, safe deposit boxes and a wider variety of loans became available. By the mid 1950’s, St. Mary’s was serving several thousand members and had $6 million in assets. In 1970, St. Mary’s Bank built and moved into its present main office at McGregor Street in Manchester.
One super interesting note about St. Mary’s Bank and their 100 year history, is their resiliency. As their website states:
Over the years, St. Mary’s Bank has helped members through difficult times, including the Great Depression and the bankruptcy of Amoskeag Manufacturing Company in 1935. When thousands of banks failed during the Great Depression, St. Mary’s Bank remained open, even during the “Bank Holiday” of 1933, when President Roosevelt closed all banks nationwide. St. Mary’s Bank also survived the economic disruptions of the early 1990’s, which saw the failure of many familiar Manchester banks.
St. Mary’s Bank continues to be an institution in Manchester that has stood the test of time! And as their website reads, “It costs no more to belong to St. Mary’s Bank now than it did in 1908. For just $5, anyone can become a member, by purchasing one share of capital stock.”
Images via Manchester Historic Association
History Information via St. Mary’s Bank