Our new Board President at The Kennebunkport Historical Society, Sarah Reagan Auer, is an accomplished businesswomen who also serves as vice President of Marketing at Kennebunk Savings Bank. Since Kennebunk Savings Bank is celebrating its 150th Birthday this year I set out to write a story about the history of the bank in Sarah’s honor. Little did I know that I would discover another accomplished businesswoman named Sarah who, believe it or not, ran the day-to-day operations of the bank from 1876 through 1896.
Christopher Littlefield of Wells was a brilliant man. He began teaching at Kennebunk Public Schools when he was just 17 years old and continued to teach in various towns for 35 years. He served as Town Clerk of Wells from 1842-1850. In 1854 he moved his family to Kennebunk to accept the position of Cashier of the newly incorporated Ocean Bank. The Littlefields lived on Main Street in the beautiful old house that would later be raised up and renovated by John Bowdoin.
The first Ocean Bank location burned in 1869 and a new brick bank was constructed nearby the following year. On April 17, 1871, the Directors of Ocean National Bank voted that for a price, the newly incorporated Kennebunk Savings Bank could have liberty to occupy rooms in their new building as long as their cashier, Mr. Christopher Littlefield, was also appointed Treasurer of the savings bank. Joseph Dane became President and Christopher Littlefield became Treasurer and Secretary of the Kennebunk Savings Bank. Christopher held all three positions at both banks until 1876 when his widowed daughter Sarah Littlefield Chase replaced him as Treasurer and Secretary of Kennebunk Savings Bank.
Let that sink in for a minute. In 1876, women rarely worked outside the home and certainly did not hold positions of influence. Educating a woman was playing with fire. Christopher Littlefield must have educated his daughter well because by all accounts she did a wonderful job for the Kennebunk Savings Bank. When I read in Andrew Walker’s diary that Edward E. Bourne became President of the savings bank in 1879, my first thought was bye-bye Sarah but that isn’t what happened. She was replaced as Treasurer by Joseph Dane, but she continued in the position of Secretary. She was pushed down the line once more in 1882 to Assistant Treasurer or Clerk, as that position was sometimes called. In this capacity, Sarah oversaw the day-to-day business of Kennebunk Savings Bank.
Christopher Litttlefield remained in his position as Cashier of the Ocean National Bank until 1888 when his age started catching up with him. His son Charles R. Littlefield replaced him in that job. Daughter Sarah was still running the business at the savings bank when her father and mother both died in 1890. Again, I wondered if the bank would keep her on after Christopher passed away but to their credit they did. Sarah continued in that capacity until poor health compelled her to resign. Sarah died in March of 1897 at the age of 63.
Congratulations to Kennebunk Savings Bank for being a trailblazer for equal rights and for reaching your 150th birthday!
THROWBACK THURSDAY will resume in 2022.