Get our newsletters

Heralding Our History: Farmers Bank uprooted from Hulmeville after scam entangles president


John Hulme’s success in having the Farmers Bank of Bucks County and the Hulmeville Post Office established in Hulmeville ensured the village was a hub of commerce, finance and communication by 1814. Hulmeville was humming but there was trouble on the horizon.

John Hulme died in 1817. His youngest son, Joseph, took over as president of the bank but he was not ready for that responsibility. A banking crisis hit the United States in 1819 putting all banks under some stress. Joseph’s naivete was taken advantage of in 1821 by two unscrupulous businessmen.

The two men had planned an insurance scam in which they pretended a cash shipment was destroyed to try to collect on a claim. They insured crates they said were filled with currency borrowed from the Farmers Bank that were to be sent to New Orleans. However, they plotted to have the boat the crates were on burned at sea in order to claim the loss. The plan failed when the ship was saved, and the crates were opened exposing that they were filled with rocks and debris not currency.

Because Joseph had tied up assets of the bank in the scheme, the Farmers Bank had to suspend payments. Joseph Hulme and the other two men were arrested. Hulme immediately resigned as president of the Farmers Bank. In a trial, Joseph was found not guilty but the other two men went to jail.

Much of the Hulmes’ property was lost to foreclosure. In 1823, the directors of the bank decided to move it to Bristol. One of the directors, Anthony Taylor, came to Hulmeville and packed up the bank’s belongings including its specially designed, iron strongbox and took everything to a new home in Bristol.

The mention of that strongbox is significant in 2024. For more than 200 years it was kept in Bristol. Hulmeville residents have long been proud of the fact that our tiny town was the home of the first bank in Bucks County. In the 20th century, the Farmers Bank was taken over by larger banks until eventually its possessions, including the box, were held by Wells Fargo Bank and displayed in the Bristol Branch.

Last month, Mercy Ingraham, the owner of 2 Water St., where the bank first operated, noticed that the Wells Fargo branch on Radcliffe Street was closed. She alerted the Hulmeville Historical Society, which contacted Wells Fargo and the bank graciously donated the strongbox to the historical society.

It is now prominently displayed in Hulmeville Borough Hall.

The loss of the bank was a setback but certainly not the end of progress in Hulmeville.

The population was growing, and new businesses were established along Main Street.

Anthony Taylor purchased the mills and other properties in Hulmeville. When the mills burned down in 1829, he rebuilt them on the island that sits between the Neshaminy Creek and the mill race. These mills were often damaged by fire and floods, but they were rebuilt, and they kept many men, women and, at times, even children employed for more than a century.

After the 1829 fire, residents established the William Penn Fire Co. In 1832, the company purchased the “Billy Penn Pumper” which it still has today. Hulmeville was, politically, a part of Middletown Township. But the village was gaining an identity of its own.

In 1831 the Grace Episcopal Church was established. In 1840, the Neshamony Methodist Church on the southern edge of town. Middletown Township built a public school on Main Street in 1855. This historic building serves as the Hulmeville Borough Hall today.

More than 20 men from Hulmeville served in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, a new railroad line was being planned through Lower Bucks County just over a mile from Hulmeville.

In 1870, John Johnson announced plans to construct a large building called Johnson Hall to serve as his home as well as a store, community hall and meeting place for the Local Order of Odd Fellows. That year, the Bucks County Intelligencer wrote, “The village of Hulmeville seems to exhibit more enterprise than almost any other town in the county.” In 1871, a prominent Pennsylvania politician named James Ross Snowden moved to town and became a community leader. The Hulmeville Beacon newspaper was established and there was a growing movement to ban the sale of alcohol in town. In this vibrant atmosphere, community leaders decided to petition the state to incorporate Hulmeville as an independent borough. This was quickly accomplished and on March 8, 1872, Hulmeville Borough was established.

With Snowden elected as the first Burgess, the newly formed borough council got to work implementing the Borough Charter. Section Seven of the Charter said the community had to vote on whether to ban alcohol in the town. The vote showed the residents opposed the sale of alcohol. However, Benjamin Worthington, owner of the Hulmeville Hotel, took this decision to Pennsylvania courts and Section Seven was declared unconstitutional so the beer continued to flow.

In other areas, council quickly took action to improve the streets, stop cattle from roaming and to round up stray dogs. Soon they were even lighting the streets at night and Hulmeville was moving into the modern era filled with optimism.

Note: A complete history of Hulmeville is available for purchase from the Hulmeville Historical Society. Contact:

Joe Coleman is the Hulmeville Historical Society’s archivist and a member of its board of directors.

“Heralding Our History” is a weekly feature. Each month, the Herald delves into the history of one of its towns.

Join our readers whose generous donations are making it possible for you to read our news coverage. Help keep local journalism alive and our community strong. Donate today.