Saturday, October 25, 2008

The sale of National City

National City Corp., Ohio's biggest bank, acquired Buckeye Federal Savings and Loan of Columbus in 1991 which had a small branch in the Tremont Shopping Center close to our home. This week it agreed to be bought by PNC Financial Services Group for more than $5 billion. I had opened a savings account at Buckeye Federal because it was convenient (within walking distance). When depositors were allowed to buy stock, I did--maybe 10 shares. I think until it was bought by National City, I used my dividends to buy more stock. This was my first adventure into investing, and I know exactly where the money came from and the sad, sad story of where it has gone (subprime mortgages). My last dividend check was thirty-two cents, less than the stamp to mail it.

When my grandmother's estate was finally settled (it took years--apparently the fine state of Illinois thought my grandmother had given her three children her farms in Iowa and Illinois as a death-tax dodge). My mother, a very mild mannered woman with a wry sense of humor, said this was clearly ridiculous, noting that Grandmother a somewhat stubborn and strong willed woman had no intention of dying--ever. Grandma died in 1963 at 87, and I don't recall exactly when everything was settled, but it went on a long time. Sometime in the early to mid-1970s my mother gave me $5,000 from Grandma's estate. This was more money than I'd ever seen, so I took it to the Buckeye Federal branch, and in turn, opened college accounts for my two young children using their SS# (don't ever do that), and put the balance in my account.

I wanted to be very careful with this money because I knew the story of its journey. My grandmother's father was born in 1828 in Adams County, Pennsylvania. He was a hard worker, ambitious, and when news of the Gold Rush in California got to southeastern Pennsylvania, it looked like a lot more fun and money than driving a team to Baltimore and back for his father. So he and a friend were on their way. We have no record of what happened, but we assume the friend died during the trip, and Grandfather David settled in Rockford, Illinois where he worked as a carpenter making furniture and household things. He saved his money, and eventually bought acreage in Lee County very cheap because it was marsh land that needed to be tiled. He returned to Pennsylvania, found a bride, and they set up house near Ashton, Illinois.

Wedding photos, 1855

Fast forward through the Civil War, coming of the railroad and boom and bust years of the 19th century. When he died in 1912 his estate was worth about $250,000, which was a lot of money in those days--probably millions in today's dollars. My grandmother was the youngest of four, with a college education, husband and 2 young sons. The other three siblings had all died rather tragically as adults--Willy, diphtheria, Martha, child birth and Ira, blood poisoning. So she inherited a third of his estate along with her nieces and nephews, children of her deceased siblings. She and grandpa, who didn't like farming and wanted to be a business man, settled down on the farm--although neither were suited or prepared for this life. Fast forward through the ups and downs of WWI, the Great Depression, WWII, and old age, with grandma doing all she could to hang on to the land.

So that's how the money came down to me to deposit in Buckeye Federal, which was absorbed into National City (I'm guessing because of the S&L scandal of the 80s, but haven't really documented that), which this week met its own end. National City was most likely brought down by bad investments in subprime mortgages.

And it all started about 160 years ago with a young man heading for California on an adventure.


Note: As I re-read this a month later, I see I used both "City National" and "National City", probably because when you leave a saved post in blogger to go out to the internet, it sometimes returns you to a previous unsaved post, and thus, you think a correction you made is there, and it isn't, you then resave, losing the first save. Get it? Well, since these mistakes never get erased, if you got here or didn't get here because of a mistake, I apologize. I really did try to correct them early on.

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