The Bank Notes: Stories From Higley Hill

The story begins with a telegram sent from Henry Turnbull, Vice President of the Hanover National Bank on the corner of Nassau and Pine Sts. in the City of New York to a Mr. Eugene Van Nest at a post office box in Wessington Springs, South Dakota. On November 29th, 1922, Van Nest contacted the bank with his findings regarding the “Onida situation” and Henry Turnbull writes in reply: “In view of the unsatisfactory conditions at Onida, we think it would be advisable to exert some pressure at this time.”

Apparently someone named Glanzer borrowed $10,000 and has not made good on the note. Mr. Turnbull feels a payment of $7,500 would be reasonable. Mr. Glanzer had at some point said the money could be raised among the Mennonites, and Turnbull is advising Van Nest to use pressure in that direction.

Hanover note 1

I found these letters in a wall of cabinets in the front bedroom of our house in Vermont, along with extension cords, caulking tubes, owners manuals for extinct appliances, old telephones, a box of cords and chargers that belong to who knows what, an old heating pad, lightbulbs, paint brushes, a PoPiel chicken rotisserie, and coffee cans filled with nails. What is this obsession men have with keeping old nails?

I also found a torn, yellowed piece of newspaper from The Brattleboro Reformer:

Van Nest

Lt. Colonel Eugene A. Van Nest of Marlboro, Vermont has been placed on the retired list of the Army of the United States at his own request. Colonel Van Nest, who enlisted in the N.Y. National Guard Jan. 2, 1899, is a veteran of World War I, during which he served as a captain of Artillery from its beginning to its end, and was assigned to organize the U.S. Guards in the Eastern Department to relieve 10 regiments of infantry.

Our house is situated on the Wilmington side of Higley Hill abutting the Marlboro line. The paperwork I found is in regards to a “banking mishap” that Mr. Van Nest of Marlboro is investigating in Wessington Springs, South Dakota for the Hanover Bank of New York.

On a letter dated December 4, 1922 , there is a small note written in faded pencil on the margin of the letter. “Peter was his brother-in-law, also a Mennonite.” Is Peter Glanzer’s brother-in-law? How did the Mennonites get involved in this mess? Is this Mr. Van Nest’s handwriting? After retiring from the Army did Van Nest become a traveling private investigator?

From what I can gather reading the legal mumbo jumbo of these documents The Hanover Bank is owed money for collateral on the Onida loan. Long before email and text message, people wrote like this: “Your letter of November 18th has come duly to hand.” Close to a hundred years later these letters are now duly in my hands.

January 10, 1923: Things start to get a little clearer. Michael and Rebekka Glanzer borrowed $10,000 from Onida Loan & Investment Corp. on April 2, 1921, due on April 2, 1922. Legal action on behalf of the Hanover National Bank was brought to the Circuit Court of Minnehaha County, S.D. on January 3, 1923. As of January 10, neither Michael or Rebekka has appeared in court but they have until February 2nd to “appear in order to prevent a judgment being taken against them by default.”

I am currently dealing with legal mumbo jumbo of my own. I have been to a lawyer’s office in Providence and have contacted the local media regarding a fire that took place at my parents’ condominium  on February 21st. As of today, June 20th, there is still a large hole in my parents’ roof. There has been a lot of back and forth, the condo association blaming the property management company, and vice versa. Roofing permits were never acquired and work estimates weren’t requested until three months after the fire. I pour through insurance documents and condo association’s by-laws. My head spins and my eyes glaze over.

February 9, 1923: The letters are now typed on very thin stationary as fine as tissue paper. They are stamped Mailing Copy and sent to Henry Turnbull from the offices of Bailey & Voorhees, Attorneys & Counselors at Law in Sioux Falls, S.D., recommended to the Hanover Bank by Mr. Van Nest.

In the February 9th letter Bailey & Voorhees admit this to Mr. Turnbull of Hanover Bank: “We should have acknowledged the receipt of your letter of January 19th, but on looking over our file it seems that was not done.” And furthermore, “If Mr. Van Nest gave us further instructions, they have inadvertently been misplaced.”

Suddenly this tale becomes all too familiar. On one of my trips to Providence to help my father with legal mumbo jumbo and insurance insanity we spent a morning checking on what remains of his wordily possessions at Enviro Clean, a place that specializes in cleaning mold and fire damaged goods. We sniff the now cleaned upholstery on his sofas and chairs. We inspect the tables and toilets, then sit down with the friendly and informative Jamie who tells us yes indeed, it did take the condo association and property management company at least four, most likely five weeks to bring in roofing engineers to estimate the work that needs to be done.

“Usually most places get the estimates a day or two after the fire. Your place is on the Narragansett Bay and there’s a lot of wind off the water so I would think they would want to get right on repairing the roof,” he tells us.

Yes, I would think so, too.

The next letter is also dated February 9, 1923 and if not for this date it would seem as if the information was plucked from the headlines of the past few years regarding the Great Recession, not the Great Depression which is looming for our cast of characters including Henry Turnbull, otherwise known as Dear Sir.

A suit has been “instituted against the Glanzers in the circuit court of Minnehaha County, S.D. on the $10,000 note. On February 1st, the day immediately preceding the last day which the defendants had to answer the action, they appeared in action by Mr. Clinton J. Crandall, Jr., an attorney of Onida.”

That is legal speak. In other words, the lawyer for Onida Loan showed up to represent the Glanzers the day before judgement would be passed due to default. Mr. Crandall served a demand that the trial be moved from Minnehaha County to Sully County. Bailey and Voorhees, the lawyers for Hanover Bank, returned the demand unsigned because they “do not see (their) way clear to sign it as the matter now stands.”

“Our complaint in the action is the ordinary one on a promissory note given to a third party and transferred by such third party to the plaintiff (Hanover National Bank) for value in the course of business and before maturity. The answer of the defendants (the Glanzers) to the complaint is in substance a general denial thereof. In addition, the defendants in the answer specifically deny that the Onida Loan & Investment Co. sold, endorsed or delivered the note to the plaintiff and that the plaintiff is or ever has been the lawful holder and owner of the note.

Whoa! If there are any legal minds out there reading this blog correct me if I’m wrong but did I just read that Onida Loan transferred a bad loan, the loan the Glanzers defaulted on, to the Hanover Bank and now the Glanzers are denying this and saying the loan always ever has been owned by Hanover? And apparently this is just an ordinary, every day old complaint that happens along the halls of justice in American courthouses during the course of day to day business?

Why do lawyers, and insurance companies write like this? To confuse and befuddle us? To discourage us from reading volumes of arcane language and legal terms that are full of loopholes and exceptions to the rule so they can hose us all in the end when we file a claim we thought we were covered for? Isn’t this something there should be laws against? Didn’t we fix all this after the Great Depression? Then overturn it all in the 80’s and 90’s when our short term memories left history far behind and we were hoodwinked by political propaganda and more mumbo jumbo?

“As near as I (Attorney Crandall) can find out” the Glanzers gave a $10,000 note to Onida Loan “to be held as collateral to all their indebtedness and delivered a real estate mortgage valued at $28,000 upon all their real property.” Onida Loan then wrongfully sent the Glanzer note and mortgage to the Hanover Bank as collateral for their own indebtedness.

Attorney Crandall also states that Onida has informed him that they have made an agreement with Hanover Bank who will except “other paper in lieu of this note and mortgage”, but for some reason, after Onida furnished the other paper, and Hanover accepted, Hanover failed to return the Glanzer note and mortgage.

Well, isn’t that just a fine mess. Apparently Onida has agreed to release the mortgage and cancel the note as soon as they get it back from Hanover, and they are offering to throw in a deed to eight acres of land in Hutchinson County, South Dakota worth $3500. Now I’ve been to South Dakota and I was curious to see where exactly this land was so I Googled it. It is not far from Sioux Falls and the Nebraska border, in what appears to be the middle of nowhere.

Attorney Crandall then adds this parting shot: “My clients (the Granzers) of course, are bankrupt, although they have not started any proceedings on that line, but certain it is that they have been the victims of some unscrupulous banking methods.

“I do not pretend to understand the legal strategy of this action, though if you investigated the means of my clients you must have known that a judgment against them is worthless.” Crandall goes on to ask that Onida Loan and Hanover Bank agree to dismiss this action.

Homeowners bankrupted. The victims of unscrupulous banking methods. Keep in mind, this is 1923. I know, it’s confusing. I too was beginning to think it all just happened yesterday.

February 19, 1923: On a recent Saturday, our roving bank investigator, Mr. Van Nest, was in Wessington Springs, S.D. “where he chanced to meet a Mr. McConnell of Onida Loan. Of course he took advantage of the opportunity to talk to Mr. McConnell about the Glanzer matter.” Van Nest mentions he heard Hanover Trust is not interested in taking Onida’s offer of eight acres of land in Hutchinson County in place of the defaulted note.

“Mr. McConnell, of course, went on to say that times had been hard, that the Company had been unable to collect money which would ordinarily have been paid months ago…..”

Blah, blah blah. I think we’ve all heard this song and dance before. The more things change, the more they stay the same. But again the plot thickens.

“Mr. McConnell then proceeded to claim that he had recently discovered in the files of the Company, a letter from (Henry Turnbull) dated in the latter part of 1921.”

There’s quite a bit of he claimed, he recalled going on here but the gist of this particular lost then found letter is that an agreement was made with a Mr. Allen, another lawyer from Hanover Trust, to substitute the Glanzer note for a note or notes belonging to one Mr. Vanderhook, and reduce the indebtedness from $10,000 to $5,000. McConnell admits the $5000 payment was not made at the time of the agreement but it has been made since and therefore Onida is entitled to have the Glanzer note returned to them. He also “intimated that (Turnbull) had overlooked this correspondence when (he) wrote to the company in reply to the company’s letter of the 3rd inst.”

Van Nest says he was not advised of these details and asks McConnell for copies of the correspondence from the latter part of 1921, and “(McConnell) says he will be glad to do so and would do so during the present week. It remains to be seen if he does that.”

Well isn’t that just fine and dandy. I am reminded of Paula, the woman who runs my Dad’s condo association, and the time I called her to ask when the roof would be repaired as it had been three months since the fire and a bright blue tarpaulin was still flapping in the breeze blowing west off the Narragansett Bay. Her reply was, “I’m going to take care of that this afternoon.” This afternoon? I could barely hold back my anger. She told me the past month has been difficult. Her past month has been difficult? How about my father’s past three months since he’s been without a home and my mother was moved to a nursing home because she wasn’t adjusting well to the temporary apartment they are renting and is now on a geriatric ward at a hospital in Providence?

Since then three weeks have gone by and it remains to be seen if the roof will ever be repaired.

I suppose we have to remind ourselves that humans are not perfect beings and many of them don’t do their jobs very well, or maybe they just don’t give a shit.

In the meantime, Bailey & Voorhees wrap up this letter with the following suggestions: They presume the Vanderhook note is good although in a previous letter it was referred to as the Vanderkolk note, so there is a possibility there are two notes owned by people with similar names or the legal secretary was having a bad month of her own and made a few typos. It happens. Apparently quite often.

McConnell claims the notes are good so Bailey & Voorhees have decided to go with that, and it occurs to them that “if that is the case, it might not be a bad plan” for Hanover Bank to institute a suit on some other outstanding notes because there won’t be any money forthcoming from the destitute Glanzers. They mention a Hal Howard’s $1500 note and H.C. Fitch et al’s $10,000 note.

Does this remind you of recent headlines regarding junk bonds, and bundling of bad mortgages, and scenes from the Academy Award winning movie The Big Short? Are you feeling good about the money you have sitting in your savings account earning .05 interest while the banks do God knows what with it? Are you thinking the mattress might be a better place to keep your hard earned money? Because I certainly am.

March 17, 1923: Kudos to Mr. A. R. McConnell. He has furnished the alleged letters from November 1921 as promised. Van Nest then met him in Sioux Falls and all McConnell could do at that time was to continue to offer the eight acres of land in Hutchinson County. Bailey & Voorhees on the other hand, are advocating lawsuits against the other notes that seem more promising than ever collecting a dime from the Glanzers, who may be Mennonites and might still be working the congregation for help with this situation but I haven’t come across anything regarding the Mennonites since the first letter. I think they have washed their pious hands of this mess the Glanzers got themselves into.

The last letter regarding the ‘Onida situation’ is also dated March 17, 1923 and was sent to Mr. A.R. McConnell of Onida Bank. If you were hoping for a happy ending you should reconsider where you gather your news on current events. There are very few happy endings outside of movies when lawyers, guns, and money, and I might add politicians, are involved in the story.

The Hanover Bank is emphatically “not interested in the exchange of securities proposed by you (McConnell), to wit: the substitution of a deed or a lien on land in Hutchinson County, S.D., for the Glanzer note.”

Bailey & Voorhees have examined the letters McConnell sent them dated November 1922 and they aren’t buying his story. “The situation with respect to this particular matter is not as you seem to have understood it and the correspondence does not bear out your contention.”

As B&V are reading it, an agreement to pay $5000 was made between Mr. Allen of Hanover Bank and Onida Loan in payment of Onida’s indebtedness to Hanover Bank, but only if the $5000 was free of any other collateral and was made promptly. Neither of these things happened. The payment was not made promptly and when it was made it was not free of collateral. It was made from a first mortgage of $5500 and therefore, Hanover Bank is not willing to surrender the Glanzer note, therefore legal proceedings will continue against the Glanzers unless Onida pays the full balance they owe to Hanover Bank. In addition, they have informed Onida they will be filing a lawsuit against them. The letter is singed Very Truly Yours.

So as I understand this, and correct me if you think I’m wrong, loans are being used to pay other loans, banks are exchanging loans with each other to pay off debt, and the Glanzers are left holding the empty bag.

I found one other short letter sent to Mr. Van Nest on stationary from The First National Bank in Onida, South Dakota during these trying times in the plains states while robber barons and flappers Charlstoned their way through the roaring twenties. It is a bit cryptic and I am wondering if it has to do with the Glanzers.

We need a hog.JPG

January 4, 1923: Dear Sir, We are writing to you regarding the chattel held by the Hanover National Bank on Montieth and Jones of this place.

They are in need of a male hog and we would like to have your permission to take enough money out of the proceeds of hogs sold to make a purchase of a hog such as they could use.

It is necessary that they have such help if they are to continue their operations.

May we hear from you continuing the matter.

The signature is illegible. Who are They? The Glanzers? Van Nest was no longer in South Dakota when the letter was sent. It was returned and then resent to Red Hook, New York. Was this former neighbor of mine, Mr. Van Nest of Marlboro, Vermont able to help them?

Return to Sender

Six years before Black Tuesday banks were dealing in hogs in lieu of collecting money people couldn’t come up with. Lessons were learned. Laws were enacted and decades later, during another renaissance of income inequality and robber barons of a new age, overturned.

The presidential election of 2016 is a long, nasty summer away. We have a choice: a former reality TV star and real estate tycoon who sounds a lot like some dangerous heads of state who came into power after the mess the Glanzers and others lived through versus a highly qualified woman who has some explaining to do regarding paid speeches to the likes of Goldman & Sachs. I know who I am voting for but at the moment I am still rooting for the elderly democratic socialist to get his agenda regarding banks too big to fail and income inequality onto the Democratic party’s platform, and if the lady in the pantsuits succeeds this November, as I hope she will, I will hold her feet to the fire regarding this matter.

I am not sure how these letters found their way into my house. Like Mr. Van Nest, I have some investigating of my own to do and I’ll share them in future stories from Higley Hill. In the meantime, I am left wondering if the Glanzers ever purchased that male hog.

There is one thing I know for certain and that is this: we ignore history at our own peril.

 

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