C.C. Beekman’s Bank is the oldest financial institution in the Pacific Northwest, the oldest bank building still existing north of California, and the oldest wooden commercial building still standing on Jacksonville, Oregon’s California Street.  How’s that for a pedigree!

Originally established as a gold dust office in 1856, the current 1863 building has been preserved as a museum since Beekman’s death in 1915.  Since you are unable to visit the museum at this time, Historic Jacksonville, Inc.  is bringing the museum to you.  Each week we are sharing museum artifacts and tales of 19th Century banking practices in Thursday Facebook and Instagram posts and of course, here on our website, so join us for this on-going virtual tour!


Beekman’s Express Safe

This artifact should be easily identifiable—it’s obviously a safe.  It’s also a special safe.  When Cornelius C. Beekman bought his bankrupt former employer’s stables and corral in 1856, he opened Beekman’s Express.  He spent the next 7 years as an express rider carrying mail, parcels, newspapers, and gold over the Siskiyous between Jacksonville and Yreka until he became the local Wells Fargo agent.  To keep miners’ gold secure between trips, he also purchased a safe—this safe.  From this humble beginning Beekman built a business empire of banking, insurance, mining, and real estate interests, and his family became the wealthiest and most prominent of Jacksonville’s pioneer families.


Location! Location! Location!

We did mention that C.C. Beekman’s Bank is the oldest wooden commercial building still standing on Jacksonville’s California Street.  All other wooden buildings were replaced by “fire proof” brick structures, given that fire was a major hazard in early Jacksonville.  Major fires in 1873, 1874, and 1884 took out most of the original town buildings, even burning right up to the Beekman Bank.  Fire insurance was also an incentive for brick.  Owners of wooden buildings saw their insurance costs skyrocket.  Cornelius Beekman sold fire insurance yet never replaced his wooden building with a brick structure.  Why?  Possibly the real estate mantra:  location, location, location!  Beekman’s Bank was next to one of the town wells and pumps.  That hose you see could be attached to the pump and used to spray down the building in the event of fire.  Admittedly, its efficacy has been called into question given the need for 2 people and the amount of water pressure that could be generated.  Its real purpose may have been to reduce the cost of his fire insurance!


Gold Scales

Occupying the most prominent place on the bank counter is a huge pair of gold scales, purchased by Beekman in 1857 for a reported sum of $1,000.  They were known to be the most accurate scales in the region. 

Beekman is quoted as saying, “I have weighed enough gold on those gold scales to make a good many men pretty wealthy.  [The largest] brass scale weight can weigh 200 ounces, and yet the scales are so delicate that my breath will depress the scale pan. They are full jeweled and were made by Howard & Davis of Boston.”  The heaviest weight reported was that of a pan of gold dust and nuggets worth $75,000—at a time when gold was selling for $18-$20 an ounce.  Supposedly, over $40 million in gold crossed the Bank’s counters—equivalent to over $1 billion today.

(We might mention in passing that they also weighed many of the children in town–surely valued at more than gold!)


Beekman Bank Records

Since the 1863 Beekman Bank Museum is not open for tours, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is sharing “Beekman Bank Nuggets”—stories and items from the bank museum.  Do you ever wonder how we know so much about Beekman’s banking operations?  Cornelius Beekman kept meticulous records of all of his correspondence, orders, and transactions.  He used a copy press, the 19th Century version of our copy machines.  Letters were placed between moistened sheets of very thin parchment paper.  When the machine pressed the pages together, the moist paper would pick up the special ink from the original document.  The writing would be reversed from the original but could be read from the back of the sheet.  Beekman typically used pre-bound ledger books placing blotting sheets between each entry.  Dozens of ledgers still exist containing everything from cigar and oyster purchases to land transactions to running accounts with local merchants to gold shipments.


Beekman Bank Clock

Since the 1863 Beekman Bank Museum is not open for tours, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is sharing “Beekman Bank Nuggets”—stories and items from the bank museum.  When you walk into the bank, it’s hard not to notice the impressive clock hanging on the back wall.  It not only keeps the time, it also has a calendar that marks month and day.  When Beekman acquired it in 1876, the Democratic Times noted, “C. C. Beekman this week received a splendid clock from San Francisco, which is about the largest and finest in town.”  This impressive timepiece was manufactured by the Ithaca Calendar Clock Company based on a patent for calendar clocks obtained by H.B. Horton in 1865.   Prior to being offered for sale, the calendar of every clock was run through eight years of days and months, covering 2 leap years. If the calendar registered each date correctly, the calendar movement was considered safe.  The clock received an individual number and could then be offered for sale to the public. The company went out of business in 1918, but its clocks are still ticking and are now collector’s items.  And almost 150 years later, the Beekman Bank clock still runs!


Beekman Bank Derringers

Since the 1863 Beekman Bank Museum is not open for tours, Historic Jacksonville, Inc. is sharing “Beekman Bank Nuggets”—stories and items from the bank museum.  Cornelius Beekman kept this pair of walnut-grip Philadelphia Deringer pistols in their engraved leather-bound case in the Bank.  The 5-piece set also includes a bullet mold, percussion caps, 8 lead balls and 1 short Ramrod.  The set is currently stored in the Southern Oregon Historical Society collection facility.  SOHS notes in its files, “The Deringer pocket pistol achieved its greatest popularity during the mid-1850s and was a favorite of civilians seeking a compact, easily concealed firearm for use in personal defense. Although the Deringer pistol was somewhat limited by its single-shot capacity, its light weight and small size gave it a distinct advantage over bulkier, unconcealable alternatives, and the limitations of its firing capacity could be circumvented by carrying two pistols, which were sold as pairs for approximately $22 to $25 during that time period.” Beekman’s Bank was never robbed.  These pistols may have had something to do with that fact.
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“Like” Historic Jacksonville, Inc. (historicjville) on Facebook and Instagram for regular history trivia and be sure to check back later today when “Mrs. Beekman Invites You to Call”!


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