THE COLUMBIAN EDITORIAL, APRIL 20, 1901
In the week which has passed the citizens of Vancouver have been called to pass through the most trying ordeal which they have ever known. The failure of the First National Bank and the death by their own hand of its president and cashier is a double calamity of such magnitude as almost to paralyze the community.
When on Saturday morning last the word quickly passed from mouth to mouth that the first National Bank of Vancouver had closed its doors and that its principal officers were nowhere to be found, excitement grew till it reached a fever heat. Business was practically suspended and knots of people congregated here and there discussing the event until it formed the sole topic of conversation. Every detail, rumor, every fact important or trifling, which in any way bore upon the bank or its officers, was eagerly listened to and repeated. Men began to compare their losses, to recount how they had but recently deposited money, or had drawn it out just in time. Others not deposit ors deplored the necessity for the bank failing, wondered how it happened, how serious it all was, and whether it would not somehow all come out right again.
But the most serious blow was reserved for Sunday morning, Some of the better informed citizens shrewdly suspected suicide on the part of the still missing officials and a party was formed who began a systematic search for the gruesome sight which finally awaited them. J.A. Munday was the first to discover the bodies of Chas Brown, president, and E.L. Canby, cashier, or the erstwhile First National Bank. They were found in a little open place in the brush near the bead of Kaufman avenue, about a mile from town. Both were shot through the head and with the same pistol. This was found grasped in the hand of Mr. Brown, showing that Mr. Canby was the first to leap the dark gulf which separates time and eternity, and that Brown took the pistol from the dead manâ€™s hand and with it extinguished his own life.
The thumb of Mr. Brownâ€™s left hand was apparently bitten a wound extending to the bone. This is supposed to have been inflicted by himself and denoted his intense agony of mind while witnessing the expiring struggles of his companion, his reason yet warring against the supposed necessity of himself sharing the same fate.
Nothing was suspected concerning the unsoundness of the bank until the Saturday morning. The curtains were drawn and a written statement was attached to the door stating that the â€œbank had closed and was in the hands of the controller of the currency.â€ This notice was posted by Bank Examiner Maxwell at the close of a hard dayâ€™s work on the books of the bank, and when it became evident to him that the institution was in an unhealthy condition. Canby and Brown were much abstracted during the day, and when Mr. Maxwell asked for the private papers of the two men, Mr. Canby realized that the day of accounting had at last arrived. He called Mr. Maxwell and made a short confession of the actual condition of the bank, concluding his statement with the remark that he might as well kill himself. He verified the remark by securing his pistol and snapped the trigger at his head. The charge was an old one and the cartridge did not explode. Maxwell made a frantic effort to reach the weapon, but Canby retreated to a rear room and closed the door. At call of Maxwell Brown went in to Canby by another entrance when the two held a short consultation the purport of which will never be known. In light of subsequent events it would seem that they had agreed to both suicide later at night and at a time and place when they would not be interrupted. Both men soon came into the main room again, when Mr. Canby stated that the reason he was not a dead man was that the pistol failed to go off. The three then held a consultation about the affairs of the bank. They made a complete statement of its condition and in response to a question from Mr. Maxwell Mr. Brown declared himself equally culpable with Mr. Canby. Mr. Maxwell then announced that he would be compelled to close the bank and would that moment take it under his charge. He counted out the supply of cash on hand and requested Mr. Brown to place it in the vault, closed the bank, took the keys, and Brown and Canby crossed the threshold never to return.
They were seen by a few people within the next hour going northward through the city, but it is not believed they made any stops or held consultation with anybody. Mr. Canby indeed stopped to obtain a glimpse if possible of his little boy. He was passionately devoted to his children and hoped to see him out playing in front of the house. But this poor satisfaction was denied him and he hastened on to his self-inflicted doom.
The case of Mr. Brown is just as pathetic. His aged father, a gentleman of the old school of honor and morality, is almost crushed by the blow and at one time his life was despaired of. His daughter, Mrs. Carpenter, had the dangers of childbirth augmented by the terrible domestic catastrophe, and a brother was inconsolable. The remains of Charles Brown were buried Monday in the city cemetery and Tuesday all that was â€¦â€¦â€¦.
I consider that I have arrived at that stage of life where I can no longer be useful to myself, my family or mankind in general. Each member of the family were mentioned and bidden farewell.
The failure of the bank will probably be found to be most serious. It is certain that the depositors will lose heavily, and whether they will lose 50 cents on the dollar, or even more is yet problematical. It is said that the books are 60 days in arrears of being posted and six or eight weeks might elapse before they can be straightened out and a statement rendered. Nearly everyone engaged in business in Vancouver is loser by dire failure, as well as hundreds of people in the city and county. One press dispatch state that Maxell had discovered a shortage of $81,000 in his brief examination. The stockholders are only liable for an amount double their stock. The heaviest stockholder is Col. Jocelyn, of San Francisco. Others are F.N. Marshall, L.M. Hidden and C.H. Funk. These, in common with nearly all the depositors, are stoically bearing their losses, which will not seriously effect them in the sense of a failure of business or an irreparable loss.
In the last bank statement published in February the amount of deposits is given out as $230,533.44 which constitutes the greater part of the liabilities. The assets given are given as including large reserves in eastern banks, some of which are believed not to exist.
Some of the heaviest Individual depositors are S.P. Gattber $11,500 A.B. Easham, $3,000â€¦â€¦Herzig estate $2800, C.D. Bowes, $3,100, James P. Stapleton, Administrator of Abraham Estate $3,000. Vancouver city had $3,500 on deposit and Clarke county $1,400. The depositors held a meeting Saturday and petitioned that they be allowed to choose their own receiver.
An effort is being made to induce Levi Ankeny to open up a bank in Vancouver on the ruins of the First National. He may do so when the finances of the institution are finally determined. Portland financers were talking of putting in a bank as early as the day after the failure and before the bodies of Brown and Canby were discovered.
A run was started Saturday on the Commercial Bank, but it paid out dollar for dollar as fast as the demands were presented, and remained open an hour later than usual to accommodate all who desired to withdraw their funds. The flurry finally subsided and the money soon came pouring back again.
Charles Brown was born in Rhode Island and cam with his father to Vancouver in 1862. He leaves a wife and thee grown children, Mrs. E. Carpenter being the only one married. Mr. Brownâ€™s father was appointed receiver of the Vancouver land office under President Lincoln.
Mr. Canby came to Vancouver as paymasterâ€™s clerk in the regular army. In 1883 he was appointed cashier in the â€¦â€¦ Colonel James E. Canby, brother lives in Denver Colorado.
A brother of the cashier committed suicide a few years ago by jumping off the wharf at Vancouver. The motive for this suicide was never known.
Both men leave considerable life insurance to their respective families.
Bank Examiner Maxwell is still busy on the books of the bank, but the regulations forbid him from divulging any statements concerning his researches until he concludes is work, which will require several more days to time.
It was reported that since the suicides a leading Portland banker said he would have backed the unfortunate men to the extent of $100,000 if they had only asked it. It is thought, also, that if Canby and Brown could have had the courage to represent the facts before a meeting of the stockholders the latter would have found a way out of the trouble. These conjectures, however, are natural since the tragedy, and however much esteem they may have commanded would be more or less discounted were they alive.
Mr. Canby was of a cheerful disposition, but it is known that for a long time Mr. Brown has been terribly worried. His troubles, coupled with the necessity of showing a smiling face, have weighed upon him heavily, and his nearest friends have known that his business troubles were great. He made the singular remark to a friend several months ago that whenever he saw a dead man he felt like shaking his hand and congratulating him upon his escape from the troubles of the world. It is true that Mr. Brown was held in so much esteem for honor and probity of character that even the bank failure and his suicide does not shaken the confidence of his friends in his integrity.
The community is greatly shocked and inexpressibly saddened by the terrible event whose effects will require years in healing.