Friday, January 13, 2006

I. H. Harris, Banker, Tells a Funny Story

The Harris Home, Store and Bank Building in Waynesville
(no longer extant)
Below is photograph of the staircase in the I.H. Harris Home

The following story told by Israel Hopkins Harris, Waynesville banker, was published in the Miami-Gazette on November 17, 1869:

BOARDING IT OUT ~ Our Banker, Mr. I. H. Harris, who is as fond of a good thing as anybody else, is responsible for the following amusing incident in financial operations.

A number of years ago, an Irishman, apparently a stranger in the neighborhood, called at the bank and taking a parcel from his pocket, proceeded to untie string after string and unfold wrapper after wrapper ~ a string almost to every fold ~ until he finally produced one hundred dollars, which he remarked he wished to leave there.

"For how long?" asked the banker. "For a year," carelessly replied the stranger; and forthwith a certificate of deposit was made out in his name and he departed.

Mr. Harris saw or heard nothing more of his Hiberian depositor until perhaps four years afterwards, when one day the identical individual appeared, and walking up to the counter, accosted the banker with, "Still doing business here, I see," "Yes."

The Irishman produced the same parcel, with the same original strings, from which he drew his certificate, and expressed the desire that the interest thereon should be calculated, which was done. To Mr. H.'s remark that he supposed the money was wanted now, his visitor replying in the negative, and said that instead he had some more money to deposit, which, of course, was not refused. The stranger also, from the same marvelous package of paper and strings, produced some certificates of deposit received from some private banking houses in Cincinnati, which in the panic of 1855 or thereabouts had failed; one of these he offered to sell to Mr. Harris, but was informed that "This house is not dealing in that kind of paper."

Again the man took his departure, and again nothing more was seen or heard of him for several years. ~ Whether he was dead or alive, it was impossible for the Waynesville bank to determine. But one day, not very long ago, the same singular being again entered the bank, with the former nonchalant greeting, "Still doing business here, I see."

The same roll of valuables were produced, and the business transacted as before, with the exception that this time the money deposited was taken out. Then the stranger remarked: "You remember the certificate I showed you on that broken bank when I was here the last time." "Yes," was the reply.

"Well, I had some fun over that" and he proceeded to relate how he had found out that the broken banker was doing business in New York; he went there, found that the late banker's residence was up the Hudson, and at once departed for that romantic region in pursuit of his game. He found the villa to be a beautiful place, and the wife of his debtor at home. But her husband, doing business in the city, was only at home in the evenings and on Sundays. Our hero told the lady what his business was, that he was not very well, unable to work, had spent all his money, and that he had come to try to collect the debt from her husband. He had beforehand procured the worst possible suit of clothes, and these, added to his dilapidated boots, gave him a distressed appearance. Saying to the lady that he would loaf around the village until evening, when he would call again, he turned away from the charming retreat of his debtor.

Punctually at the time, he knocked for admittance in the evening, and saw the man he wished to see. But of course the recognition was not mutual; neither could the banker remember that his visitor had ever deposited any money with him. He could not, however, deny the genuineness of the certificate but they had failed, were not doing banking business now, and were not paying any of those old claims ~ could do nothing for him at all.

"Well", said the cunning Irishman, "you see my condition; I am not able to work, have spent all my money, and I thought if you could not pay me, I'd come and board it out with you".

The host was dumb with astonishment, but could not well refuse, so our stranger entered and lodged for the night. In the morning he expressed his extreme gratification with everything belonging to the place, and said he should be perfectly happy there, he had no doubt. Here was a dilemma. The man of business took the train for New York as usual, leaving the stoical Irishman apparently settled and contented in his new quarters. He returned at night, however, with cash enough to pay his visitor's claim off.

Stairway in the I. H. Harris House


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