Jackson Ward Black Wall Street and Church Hill Historic Districts of Richmond VA

John Mitchell Jr and Mechanics Savings

Mitchell was the founder and president of the Mechanics Savings Bank in Richmond. It was part of the rise of black-owned businesses in the city. Among the bank’s board of directors was photographer James C. Farley, who also worked with Mitchell at the Planet, In 1902 Mitchell opened the Mechanics’ Savings Bank in Richmond. Its deposits hit an all-time high of over half a million dollars in 1919. Three years after that, the bank failed. A jury found Mitchell guilty of fraud and theft in the bank’s collapse. The convictions were overturned, but Mitchell’s political and editorial influence was greatly diminished.

William Washington Browne and The True Reformers Savings Bank

Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers was the first bank owned by African Americans in the United States. It was founded on March 2, 1888 by Reverend William Washington Browne and opened on April 3, 1889. Although the True Reformers bank was the first black-owned bank chartered in the United States, the Capitol Savings Bank of Washington, D.C. was the first to actually open on October 17, 1888. – The Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers Bank opened a year after its founding, initially operating out of Browne’s home at 105 West Jackson Street in the Jackson Ward district of Richmond, Virginia. The first day’s deposits totaled $1,269.28. In 1891, the bank moved several blocks away to 604-608 North Second Street. The bank grew and survived the financial panic of 1893, during which it was the only bank in Richmond to maintain full operation, honoring all checks and paying out the full value of accounts – Rev. Browne died in 1897 but the bank continued to thrive after his death, expanding into a number of other services including a newspaper, a real estate agency, a retirement home and a building and loan association. New branches opened as far away as Kansas, and by 1900 the bank was operating in 24 states, owning property valued at a total of $223,500.

Richard F Tancil and The Nickel Savings Bank

By 1900, there were two African American banks in Richmond: the True Reformers and the Nickel Savings Bank. The Nickel Savings Bank was also known as “Dr. Tancil’s bank,” since physician Richard F. Tancil was its president, and it operated out of his East End home for many years after its founding in 1896. …Nickel Savings Bank was always small, not having started out as a depository for fraternal funds. Eventually, the Nickel Savings Bank’s cashier, Mr. Bass, organized a fraternal organization called the People’s Relief Association, and the bank became known as the People’s Bank.


Giles B Jackson and True Reformers Bank

Giles B Jackson became the first African American attorney certified to argue before the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. The next year, he helped found a bank associated with the United Order of True Reformers, In 1888 Jackson wrote the articles of incorporation for the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain of the United Order of True Reformers, of which he was a member. The bank was rooted in the tradition of the benevolent societies and fraternal organizations of the era. By 1907 membership had reached 100,000 with deposits of $330,000 and more than $1.5 million in annual business. Booker T. Washington selected Jackson as his aide-de-camp in 1900 when Washington organized the Negro Business League in Boston. Jackson served as a vice president during the organization’s first three years!