By Linda Emley
“At half past 3 o’clock on Thursday, May 23, 1867, the banking house of Hughes & Wasson was robbed. There happened to be only $3,500 in the bank, and when that amount was seized, the robbers turned upon Mr. George I. Wasson, the cashier, and covering him with their pistols, commanded him to get more. But upon Mr. Wasson’s assuring them that they had taken all the money on hand, they dismissed him without further molestation. “
It has been said that the James and Younger gang never robbed a bank that was owned by southern sympathizers, so I set out to find out who were the owners of the Hughes and Wasson banking house. Joseph S. Hughes and George I. Wasson left their fingerprints all over Richmond with many business ventures aside from their bank.
In 1838, Hughes left his family farm and moved to Richmond. The 18-year-old took a job as a salesman in a dry goods store. By 1844, he had saved up enough money to open his own store. He ran this business until 1849, when he and George I. Wasson, Esq., formed a partnership and ran a general mercantile business under the name of Hughes & Wasson. They operated this store until 1859.
In 1856, Hughes was elected secretary of the Richmond Insurance Company and continued in this until 1859, at which time he was elected cashier of the branch of Union Bank, also in Richmond. The parent bank, organized under the national banking law, closed the branches, and on Jan. 1, 1866 George Wasson purchased the assets of the Richmond branch bank.
He organized Hughes & Wasson, a private banking house that was in business until Jan.1, 1877 when Wasson sold his interest to James Hughes and his son, Burnett Hughes. The bank was then named J. S. Hughes & Co.
In 1879, George Wasson formed a partnership with Louis Baum and built a large stable. They ran an extensive business and the 1881 history book claimed they had traded over $120,000 worth of mules and horses in an 18-month period. Wasson was also the mayor of Richmond when the cyclone destroyed our town in 1878. He worked many long hours rebuilding Richmond after this disaster.
George Wasson served the Richmond community for 26 years after the 1867 bank robbery. His obituary gave as few more details of his life. He was born in Tennessee in 1819, and lived with his parents on a farm until he moved to Ray County in 1840.
Some time after reaching this county, he was appointed deputy sheriff. He was later elected constable of Richmond township and held the office several terms and was afterward elected sheriff. When he got out of the banking trade in 1877, he was in the mercantile business for a short time before he traded his stock of goods for hotel property and became the owner of the Shaw House Hotel.
He changed the name to the Wasson House, and continued in that business until about a year before his death. During the Civil War and after for a few years after the war, he dealt largely in tobacco and pork packing, and made and lost several fortunes in speculation.
In 1842, he married Angeline Chiles, of New York, who was a great help to him during their long married life. They had two childrenwho died in infancy. After more than a year of suffering from heart and stomach troubles, George Wasson breathed his last at his home in Richmond on a Tuesday morning, April 19, 1893, at the age of 73.
Funeral services were held at the Christian Church, after which he was buried in the city cemetery. His wife, Angeline died on Feb. 3, 1900 and was buried beside him on the hill.
Joseph S. Hughes died on May 3, 1898 and is also buried in the city cemetery. His wife Ann lived to be 92 and died on March 7, 1921. Unlike the Wassons, the Hugheses were survived by several children.
In their lifetime, these two men wore many hats. Hughes was a farmer, a dry goods merchant, banker, insurance secretary and a coal mine owner who employed 100 miners. Wasson was a farmer, deputy, sheriff, constable, mayor, dry goods merchant, banker and a hotel owner. Hughes and Wasson were both good examples of Richmondites that keep an open mind and were never afraid to try a new adventure.
I didn’t find any mention about which side of the fence they stood during the Civil War, but it doesn’t really matter because the only money that was taken from their bank on May 23, 1867 was old fashioned U.S. greenbacks.
You can contact Linda Emley at rayc...@aol.com.