First National Bank

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A picture of the First National Bank in Newark, Ohio.
First National Bank in the early 1950's.

The First National Bank of Newark was founded in 1865, by a group of local Licking County businessmen led by Virgil Wright. The group was granted a charter on February 3rd, 1865, and this charter is one of the oldest of the National Bank charters in Ohio. [1] They met in the office of Jerome Buckingham, who was elected as the bank’s first president, and held that position until his death in November of 1902. Frederick S. Wright assumed the office of presidency next. The Federal Reserve Act was passed in 1913 and the First National Bank became one of the first banks in Ohio to become a member of the system. [2]

Wright’s brothers Edwin succeeded him to the presidency and served in that capacity until his death in December 1951. Through the stock market crash in 1929, and the subsequent years of the Great Depression, the First National Bank never lost the confidence of its customers, and records indicate that it was one of the first banks in the state to receive permission to reopen its doors. [2]

James M. Miller was elected the next president, and despite his short term of only two years, the bank went through a number of changes. The building was extensively remodeled, and on October 1st, 1954 the First National consolidated with Union Licking Bank. Harold L. Ballinger, former president of Union Licking Bank succeeded Miller, and the offices were moved to their place on Church Street. The historic building that housed the bank in its early days was closed in the early 1960s. In June of 1962 a branch office opened in Heath. Ballinger died in January 1964, leading the way to the sixth president Phillip B. Young. [2]

First National Bank merged with the First National Bank of Utica in 1969. [3] The bank was acquired by National City Bank of Columbus, ending operations as First National Bank of Newark on June 30th, 1979. [4]

A picture of the carving over the door of the First National Bank.
Supposed face of Adam Kiesel

Local Legend

Popular legend states that the well-known face carved into the doorway of the former First National Bank Building belongs to Adam Kiesel. Kiesel was a failed businessman who had tried several businesses after he returned from the Civil War, the last one being a grocery store. They all failed, so he reportedly insured the building heavily and then set fire to it. He was tried for arson and acquitted by the local jury who were thankful that he had burned down unsightly structures from the public square. The artist Thomas D. Jones was hired to memorialize Kiesel in stone above the door of the the bank building to honor his public service to the bank and the community. [1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The First National Bank 1865-1948. (1948). Folder Banks and Banking, Local History Vertical File, Licking County Library, Newark, Ohio.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Moody, Minnie Hite. 'Chronicle of a Bank'. Folder Banks and Banking, Local History Vertical File, Licking County Library, Newark, Ohio.
  3. First National Bank of Newark Expands. (1969, April 2). The Newark Advocate, p. 1.
  4. The First National Bank of Newark. Retrieved February 18, 2015, from