The First National Bank of Whitmire, South Carolina

The First National Bank of Whitmire



Charter Number:



January 1902


January 1907

The First National Bank of Whitmire in many ways epitomizes what national currency collecting is all about.  The Gold Standard Act of March 14th, 1900 made it possible for many small towns to charter a national bank.  After the act passed, a bank only needed $25,000 in capital and a town population of 3,000 people or more to nationalize.  Few locales in the state fit this profile better than Whitmire.  While not totally accurate, these banks are generically grouped together as “red seal” banks, named so because the first currency they were issued were series of 1902 red seals.  Whitmire was the third bank in country to receive the newly issued red seal currency, just behind Paintsville, KY and Waverly, KS.

Despite the historical significance of The First National Bank of Whitmire, its impact and success as a banking institution was minimal.  It was one of three national banks located in Newberry County.  Its geographic position between two large and established banks, The National Bank of Newberry and The Merchants and Planters National Bank of Union, certainly did it no favors when it came to competing for local business.  It was one of only a handful of banks in South Carolina that held its national charter for five years or less.

Due to The First National Bank of Whitmire’s short corporate existence it only issued one type of currency, that being 1902 red seals.  The bank chose the minimum circulation requirement of $6,250.  Due to its minimum circulation we know that at any one point in time there were never more than 500 banknotes issued by The First National Bank of Whitmire in circulation.  Furthermore, in 1910 it was thought there were at most 69 notes left in circulation.  In 1916 a fire ravaged Main Street in Whitmire, likely destroying a handful of notes tucked away in furniture, walls, and floorboards that were waiting to be found by collectors.  Thankfully, in the early 21st century a $10 note from Whitmire did wind up on ebay.  The auction ended early and the note was placed in the ultimate collection of South Carolina National Currency.  There is no reason to think that other notes from Whitmire don’t exist, but when they will be found and where is certainly a mystery.

If you have any banknotes issued by The First National Bank of Whitmire, please tell me about it.  I am a buyer and you will likely be shocked by my offer price.

(Picture above is of the Bank while operating as William Coleman & Co. Bankers after it gave up its national charter)

First President:

WS Coleman

First Cashier:


William S Coleman

b. 4/15/1875 Union County, SC
d. 6/24/1924 Union County, SC

        William Coleman was the first and only president of the First National Bank of Whitmire.  He received his undergraduate degree at Wofford College where he was a graduate of the class of 1895.  He would later attend the University of North Carolina’s law school before getting his degree from Harvard in 1898.  He married his first cousin in 1900 and quit practicing law in Charlotte to move to Whitmire.  
        As was typical of the day, his business interests did not lie solely in banking.  Coleman opened the first cotton mill in Whitmire and ran it as president until 1917.  In 1922 he tried unsuccessfully to become the governor of South Carolina.  Sadly, two years later he was killed in a automobile accident on the way to catch a train to see his son graduate from Princeton.  
Mr. Coleman was also an organizer of The First National Bank of Greenwood. 
As a side note, John Wilkins Norwood, the president of The Norwood National Bank in Greenville, was one of the honorary pall bearers at Coleman's funeral.

James King Stringfield Ray

b. 4/25/1871 - Asheville, NC 
d. 9/25/1906 - Asheville, NC

        JKS Ray was a vice-president and cashier of The First National Bank of Whitmire from its organization in 1902 until 1906.  Ray was an Asheville, NC native who spent the majority of his business life in the upstate of South Carolina.  He graduated from Wofford College in 1891 and upon graduation took the in town job as cashier of The Central National Bank of Spartanburg.  In 1902 Ray moved to Whitmire to become the first cashier of The First National Bank of Whitmire.  While in Whitmire he was also elected mayor from 1904 until 1906.  
        Ray became ill in 1906 and moved back to North Carolina.  Before his passing he did help establish The Citizens and Trust Bank of Asheville.  
        In addition to banking and cotton interest, James Ray was an inventor.  He had patents for an improved fire extinguisher and sprinkler system.

Other People Associated with the Bank: Lloyd Osbourne - Cashier, Elias Earle Child - Vice President.

The building that housed the FNB is still standing but it is vacant.  It has been vacant since 1977.  If you have any further information regarding the First National Bank of Whitmire I would like to hear about it.  The biographical information above and pictures were gathered by Chris Prince
, a Whitmire enthusiast.