Odebolt Early Banks and Bankers

Early Banks and Bankers

Introduction  ....   German Bank ...  Private Banks ...  First National Bank ... Odebolt State Bank

"Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle, Vol. 51, Number 31, 
Thursday, August 25, 1938, Section Three, Page 1

For a number of years after its founding, Odebolt depended upon private bankers for financial accommodations.  One of these private bankers was George M. Taggart, who conducted a private institution called the “Farmer’s Bank,” in a small brick building on the southwest corner of Main and First streets.  This same building was, from 1901 to 1914, occupied by the Farmer’s National bank, headed by R. W. Sayre.  After this bank was merged with the First National bank in 1914, the Farmers Savings Bank was started on Second street.  This institution failed in 1926.

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The brick bank building on the corner of Main and First Streets
 is to the far right on this photo. (click for larger view)

Another of the early private bankers (and probably the first) was John Wright, who began farming southeast of the present town with his brother, N. Wright, in 1872.  Moving to Odebolt in the fall of 1878, Mr. Wright opened a private bank on the site of the present Odebolt State bank.  On Nov. 5, 1883, the Wright bank was voluntarily closed and an assignment was made for the benefit of creditors.

German Savings Bank

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 The German Savings Bank on the
corner of Second & Maple Streets

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Interior of the pre-1908 bank.  Later on it was known as Odebolt Savings Bank

The third of the private bankers was John N. Schmitz, who entered into the insurance and loan business in 1886.  In 1901, he formally named his business the “German Bank.”  After his death, in 1905, his sons incorporated the bank under state laws under the title, “German Savings Bank,” a title which was changed to “Odebolt Savings Bank” during the World war (first).  In 1908 this bank built a one story brick building on the northwest corner of Second and Maple streets.  This institution failed during the epidemic of bank failures which struck the country in the 1920’s and subsequently its building was occupied by the Sac County Mutual Telephone Company. 

Not until May, 1886, was an incorporated bank existent in the town.  At that time there was formed the original “Odebolt State Bank”, with the capital of $25,000.  The first president was W. W. Field, the vice president was B.A. Coy, and the cashier was George J. Low.  The directors were in addition to the officers, J. H. Ketterer, W. J. Summerville, S. H. Bowman and W. F. Bay.

In January 1891, this same group converted their institution into the First National Bank.  Four years later, the bank built and occupied what is now called the Masonic building on Second street.  There it remained until the World war period when it occupied the fine building bounded by First, Main and Second streets, and built by W. P. Adams.  The voluntary liquidation of this institution a few years ago and the founding of a new “Odebolt State Bank” are part of the recent story of the town.

Methods of Banking Have Changed Since Early Days

Country Banks Then Were Usually Privately Owned

"Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle,
 Vol. 51, Number 31, Thursday, August 25, 1938
By W. F. Bay, Los Angeles, Cal.

About the latter part of 1883 or soon after, the private bank of John Wright made a bad failure for all concerned and an attorney, C.E. George, who occupied upper rooms in the bank building and worked with him on collections, left town at once.

George J. Low and myself, who were employees of an implement company in Council Bluffs, were interested in checking up on considerable farmers’ notes with them for collection, and thought it a good opening here for us in banking.

At that time country banks were generally private affairs, never were examined or published statements.  In that early day and in comparatively new country, deposits were not large, and bank loans quite largely their own funds.  They required double names on chattel mortgages on all paper and interest up to say two or three per cent a month.

High Interest

To make this work, if a man wanted, say $100, for 60 days – draw note with interest after due, and give him $94 or $95, an there were no kicks.

At the same time banks paid a good rate on time deposits, and as farm lands advanced in value and money became more plentiful rates on money eased, and many private banks organized under state laws.

In that early day the typewriter was the only modern convenience – no adding or posting machines – and the depositors’ ledger was a cumbersome affair, carried forward each day by hand.

At the close of the month a clerk entered all checks in the customer’s passbook, balanced it and compared result with the bank ledger.  One wrong entry could cause much trouble or even loss.

In those early days there were two private banks in Odebolt; the Farmers bank owned by Thompson, Pierce and Taggart, and the Exchange bank of Low and Bay.

Later the Farmers bank was reorganized by G.M. Taggart as the Farmers National bank, with substantial board and stockholders.  In 1885 the Exchange bank became the Odebolt State bank and later, in 1891, took out a charter as the First National (Bank), with a fine board of directors and prominent stockholders, among them the late W. P. Adams, who built our beautiful banking home. 


First National Bank

An architect was in the city this week measuring the lot for the new bank building which is to go up on the corner now occupied by the W. F. Ahlberg store building, the old Farmers National bank building and Smith Bros. cafe. He is now preparing plans for the new building and will have them ready to submit in due time. The building is to be one of the most substantial in this part of Iowa.

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Click the photo to enlarge.
First National Bank, later Odebolt State Bank

The below is from  “Fairview Farm History”, Compiled by Kyle Hustedt
(A soft-cover compilation of the history of Fairview Farm,
& the Adams family, including many newspaper articles and photos.)

page 28 - In 1915, W.P. (Adams) built a bank in Odebolt of Greco-Roman architectural style, and he continued to operate it until the great depression of the 1930’s.
page 115 – The First National Bank of Odebolt was the only Midwest bank to carry its own gold standard currency.  At the end of 15 years it paid off all its accounts and closed its doors making this the only bank in the U.S. to ever do this type of termination.
Page 35 – A picture, probably from a postcard, shows the bank under construction.  It is labeled “Odebolt, IA. June 7, 1915.”

(Note: After the First National Bank building closed its doors, it remained empty and unused for the next 33 years. The Odebolt State Bank opened in 1934, in a building on the north side of Second Street.  In 1967 when it outgrew the Second Street facility, the Odebolt State Bank bought the unused First National Bank building.  The Odebolt State Bank continues to operate from this beautiful building as of 2004, and it appears much the same. )

 20dollarfr.jpg (37938 bytes)20dollarb.jpg (37507 bytes)
Front and back of a $20.00 bill from First National Bank. (click for larger view)

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Front of $5.00 bill from First Nationa Bank of Odebolt (click to enlarge)

bank_interior1.jpg (60967 bytes) bank_interior.jpg (27410 bytes)

Above are two views of the interior of First National Bank

Also see "Odebolt's Historic Bank" from odebolt.net


Bank to Have Birthday Soon
Steady Growth Made Since Its Organization in 1934

"Fifty Years of Progress"; The Odebolt Chronicle,
Vol. 51, Number 31, Thursday, August 25, 1938

The Odebolt State bank will soon observe its fourth birthday anniversary.  It was in 1934 that residents of Odebolt took action to establish a new bank here.  Stock was sold, necessary requirements complied with, and the Odebolt State bank opened its doors for business Nov. 22 of that year.

The bank has shown steady growth since that time, and is now a well-established institution.  Its membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance corporation provides $5,000 maximum insurance for each depositor.

Present officers are R.H. Griffin, president; F.J. Gilbert, vice-president; Ira C. Martin, cashier; and W.R. Wadsley, assistant cashier.  Directors are Mr. Griffin, Mr. Gilbert, A.B. Traeder, R.B. Swanson and Don G. Mullan.

Banking Experience

Mr. Griffin, a graduate of the State University of Iowa, has had 18 years banking experience.  Before coming to Odebolt in 1935 he had been with the First National bank of Iowa City, the First National bank of Doon and the Delaware County State bank of Manchester. 

During his junior year in the university, Mr. Griffin went into the 42nd (Rainbow) division and served from May 1917, to April 1919.  After leaving the army he returned to Iowa City and was awarded his degree in the summer of 1919.

Odebolt State Bank Serves Large Area With Facilities
Business Volume Increases Each Year Since Bank

Source:  The Odebolt Chronicle Progress Edition, Volume 65, Number 44, Thursday, October 29, 1953

For six months prior to November 22, 1934 Odebolt and vicinity were without banking facilities.  On that date the Odebolt State Bank opened for business.

Those employed in the bank on opening day were R.E. Rogde, president, who came here from Ruthon, Minn.; Ira Martin and Walter Wadsley, formerly connected with the First National bank.

Ralph H. Griffin was elected director and president November 13, 1935, replacing Rogde.  Mr. Griffin immediately assumed management, bringing to the new bank an experience and executive ability gained from years in responsible positions with State and National banks.

Newspaper records show that Mr. Griffin is a graduate of the Iowa State University.  During his junior year in the university Mr. Griffin joined the 42nd Rainbow division and served from May 1917 to April 1919.  After leaving the army he returned to Iowa City and was awarded his degree in the summer of 1919.  Before coming to Odebolt he was with the First National bank of Doon and the Delaware County State bank of Manchester.

In the 19 years that the Odebolt State Bank has served this community the officers and employees are to be complimented upon the excellent financial services they have given to Odebolt and the adjacent community.  The bank has been a factor in financing various progressive business enterprises both in town and on the farms.  It is recalled that one of the most outstanding services rendered the public for which the bank received no profit whatever was the handling of War bonds and rationing accounts.  Since the beginning of World War II the bank has sold more than a million and a half of War Bonds, and handled a vast amount of gasoline and food rationing accounts and records.

The present officers of the bank are R.H. Griffin, president; Ira C. Martin, cashier; Neil Griffin, assistant cashier; directors are Neil Griffin, R.B. Swanson, F.J. Gilbert, Don G. Mullan and R.H. Griffin.

Those employed in the bank in addition to the officers are Nancy Witt and Fern Kessler.

Interior of Odebolt State Bank in 1962 before moving 
to the former First National Bank building in 1967

(In 1967 Odebolt State Bank bought and moved to the First National Bank building.)

Source: As Time Goes By, Odebolt, Iowa 1877-1977, The Odebolt Chronicle, May 1977, p. 220

…(In 1977) The present officers of the bank are Neil Griffin, President; R.H. Griffin, Vice-President; Audry Stehr, Cashier; Ralph D. West, Assistant Cashier; Donna Barclay, Assistant Cashier. Directors are Neil Griffin, R.H. Griffin, Ulla Griffin, D.J. Larson and Audrey Stehr.  Those employed in the bank in addition to the officers are Anita Gibson, Sandra Sorensen and Lisa Griffin, Bookkeepers, and Bernice West, Custodian.

The Odebolt State Bank in 2002

Also see "Odebolt's Historic Bank" from odebolt.net


 transcribed by B. Horak

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