“In God We Trust” is a motto that has passed through the fingers of every American who has ever reached into a pocket or purse for a few pennies or a handful of quarters to feed a bubble gum machine, parking meter, clothes dryer, or church collection plate.
The birthplace of the faith-filled man who coined that oft-engraved expression is the borough of Milton, a peaceful town that hugs the Susquehanna River in Northumberland County, just 50 miles north of Harrisburg. It is a Main Street community now laying the foundation for a golden age of sorts, thanks to the generosity of time, money, vision and community spirit of Milton Savings Bank.
In 1810, more than half a century before “In God We Trust” first appeared on coins, James Pollock made his illustrious way into the world in Milton. Pollock would go on to study at Princeton, return to his hometown to practice law and open a bank, and, later, become a congressman who roomed with none other than “Honest Abe” Lincoln.
Like Pennsylvania’s own Forrest Gump, Pollock was reportedly there when Samuel Morse invented the telegraph, and the phrase “What hath God wrought?” was transmitted in a tappety-tap sensation. He also led the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia, after holding the post of Pennsylvania’s 13th Governor from 1855 to 1858. During his term as Governor, the Pennsylvania State University was chartered, spawning a smattering of campus buildings and streets that bear his name to this day on the University Park campus.
The Milton man also led the Keystone State during the Panic of 1857, a gloom-stricken time of mounting bank and business failures, but who took quick and decisive action which prevented a cascade of additional bank failures.
Pollock’s little-known legacy is part of what Milton Savings Bank is endeavoring to preserve as the community rallies together to build the “In God We Trust Museum.” Ideally, town leaders hope to plant the museum in the former Milton National Bank, which Pollock founded, and which later segued into a public library. Their efforts have attracted state and national attention, and, they hope, will someday attract scores of visitors to the village of mom-and-pop stores and TIME-honored traditions.
Even state Rep. Rick Saccone is bolstering their efforts by sponsoring a bill to require the motto to be displayed in every school building in the Commonwealth.
The new museum would shine a well-deserved spotlight on Milton, which is nearing its 200th birthday, and the quaint borough’s favorite son.
The bank, led by Vice President and CEO Peggy Fullmer, is also at the heart of the 2017 Project, a multi-phased town beautification effort paving the way to the town’s bicentennial.
It is through ventures such as these that Milton Savings Bank, like Pollock, has minted a gold-standard legacy of public service.
Read the full article in March’s issue of Transactions. Not a subscriber? Visit the Transactions page on this website or call PACB at 717-231-7447 to start receiving the magazine.