A Narrative History of the Bank of Williamstown
April 29, 1980 marks the 100th Anniversary of The Bank of Williamstown
It was sometime in the late fall or early winter of 1879/1880 that a group of the more prominent business people of the community met to discuss the organization of a bank to promote and serve the economic growth of the area. It was the consensus of those assembled that a bank was essential for the well being of the business community and, as there was no bank in the county, one should be organized with as little delay as possible.
This first meeting was followed by another, and yet another, and still others. The meetings were held two or more times a week at which legal requirements and ways by which the bank could be financed and chartered were discussed.
Finally, after several of those who had originally been involved became disinterested and others became interested, a "Savings and Deposit Bank in Williamstown, Grant county, Kentucky, with a capital of Fifty Thousand Dollars, named and styled as The Bank of Williamstown," was chartered by a special act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The act became effective with the signature of the governor and was recorded in the office of the Secretary of State on April 6, 1880. It provided the Bank could begin business when payment had been received for a certain amount of stock.
On April 26, 1880, a first meeting was held by E. H. Smith, W. G. Frank, T. L. Clark, John H. Webb, and Tim Needham. They had been specifically named in the charter as the first Board of Directors. The meeting was held in the office of Smith and Needham, and was held for a "general exchange of views," to discuss by-laws, and plan to receive payments on the subscriptions for the Capital Stock of the new bank. This meeting was followed by another on April 29, at which the list of the first 15 stockholders, W. G. Frank, Hill & Smith, J. H. Webb, R. L. Collins, N. H. Jeffers, D. L. Cunningham, P. T. Zinn, R. H. Elliston, J. Glascock, E. H. Smith, W. H. Daugherty, Joann Musselman, Tim Needham, T. L. Clark, and John M. Wilson, was presented and formalized plans were adopted. The Bank was then declared fully organized as required by the charter.
Twelve other meetings of the Board were held, in which E. H. Smith was elected as the first President, W. G. Frank as the first Cashier, and Tim Needham as the first attorney, of the bank. The officers were bonded and the oath of office administered to them. Quarters for the bank were leased in the Odd Fellows Building. By-laws were adopted, supplies and furniture were purchased, and the bank officially opened its doors with the general public on July 6, 1880.
Thus the Bank, with capital of $50,000.00, divided into 500 shares of $100.00 par value each, all subscribed for, was launched upon its 50 year span of life as provided by its charter. The success of the Bank was assured from the very beginning, it began to grow and has continued to grow, even until the present day.
E. H. Smith continued to be President until September 13, 1887, when, because of ill health, he tendered his resignation. John H. Webb was then elected President and served as President until his death on February 13, 1913. Captain A. G. DeJarnette, who had been Vice-President and Director for a number of years, was then elected President and continued as President until the date of his death on January 10, 1927. J. W. Webb, who had been Cashier and Director for a number of years, was then elected President. On July 25, 1952, he advised the Board "he doubted it would ever be possible for him to ever come back and that he was desirous of tendering his resignation." It was the consensus of the Board that his record of service had been long, faithful and valuable to the Bank and, until he was confident he could not return, the members of the Board were reluctant to accept his resignation. Mr. Webb was never able to attend another meeting or return to the Bank. Because of advanced age and feeble health, he found it necessary to make his home with a daughter living in Ft. Thomas. At the Annual Stockholders Meeting in January, 1953, the Stockholders reluctantly accepted his resignation. Mr. Webb served as President for a period of more than 26 years. This was a longer time than any other President of the Bank before of since. Altogether, as a Director, Assistant Cashier, Cashier, and President, he served the Bank for more than 59 years. On January 28, 1953, J. L. Webb, who was Cashier, was elected President. He continued as President and later as Chairman of the Board. K. M. Juett, who was Executive Vice-President and Cashier, was then elected and still serves as the Bank's sixth President.
W. G. Frank continued as Cashier until November 6, 1882, when he resigned and Tim Needham was elected Cashier. On November 25, 1887, Mr. Needham requested a leave of absence without pay for the fore part of 1888 to attend the State General Assembly, to which he had been elected. This leave was granted by the Board and R. H. Elliston, one of the Directors, was elected Assistant Cashier to operate the Bank while Mr. Needham was away. However, at a later date, when Mr. Needham requested permission of the Board to make the race for re-election to the General Assembly, permission was denied. He continued as Cashier until July 1, 1898, at which time, because of ill health, he resigned. On July 6, 1898 J. H. Humlong, who had been Assistant Cashier, was promoted to Cashier. Because of ill health, Mr. Humlong tendered his resignation on September 25, 1902. The Board did not accept the resignation, granting him instead a vacation until January 1, 1903. J. W. Webb, one of the Directors, was elected Assistant Cashier to serve until that date. On January 15, 1903, because of the continued ill health of Mr. Humlong, the Board of Directors very reluctantly accepted his resignation, tendering sincere thanks to him for his long continued and devoted services. J. W. Webb was then promoted from Assistant Cashier to Cashier, which position he held until January 4, 1927. C. F. Elliston, who had been in the employment of the Bank for nearly 26 years, was then promoted from Assistant Cashier to Cashier. He continued as Cashier until the date of his death, June 29, 1938. On July 29, 1938, J. L. Webb, who had started to work for the Bank on March 1, 1928, was promoted from Assistant Cashier to Cashier. On November 15, 1943, he was granted a leave of absence, without pay, to be inducted into the Army and extend until he returned from the Service. Charles O Elliston, who had resigned as an Assistant Cashier of the Bank on Jul 15, 1942, to become a Junior FDIC Examiner, was then elected as Cashier. On May 28, 1948, Mr. Elliston tendered his resignation to become the Deputy State Banking Commissioner. Upon his resignation, J. L. Webb, who had returned to the bank in November 1945, after his discharge from the Army, was elected Cashier. He continued as Cashier until August 14, 1953. On January 7, 1955, Kenneth M. Juett, who had started to work for the Bank on July 1, 1950, was promoted from Assistant Cashier to Cashier, He continued as Cashier until April 22, 1977, when Wilie D. Lawrence was promoted from Assistant Cashier to Cashier. Mr. Lawrence, is the Bank's tenth Cashier and started to work for the bank on October 29, 194.
In addition to the Officers previously mentioned, it has been necessary for other persons to assume responsibilities in other capacities so the operation and growth of the Bank might be smooth and orderly. R. H. Elliston, J. T. Scott, R. L. Webb, O. P. Elliston, and John S. Juett, all served the bank well and faithfully, not only as directors, but also as Vice-Presidents. All served continuously from the time they were elected until the dates of their deaths with the exception of R. H. Elliston. Mr. Elliston resigned January 6, 1919, to make his home in California. Grace McKibbon was a faithful and devoted Assistant Cashier from May 17, 1929, until June 30, 1963, when she moved to Florida. Madeline (Neal) Carter was an Assistant Cashier until she found it necessary, because of family responsibilities, to leave the bank's employment.
It has been the philosophy of the Bank that a Director should have more to contribute to the operation than just the ability to own stock in the Bank. The Board of Directors of this Bank has always been composed of men of the highest standing in the community. Men in whose honesty, ability and fairness, the business community and general public had confidence. In addition to members of the first and the present Board of Directors and to those previously named as Officers, - N. H. Jeffers, John Conrad, A. B. Juett, S. R. Webb, C. M. Eckler, J. B. DeJarnette, H. S. Needham and R. A. Greene have all served the bank faithfully as members of the Board of Directors. Their devoted efforts have contributed in no small means to any measure of success which may have been attained.
…and Everybody Else
The present Board of Directors and Officers are: J. L. Webb, Chairman,; K. M. Juett, President and Chief Executive Officer; R. D. Hogan, Vice-President; R. K. Bruce, Director; W. M. Stanley, Director; W. F. Threlkeld, Director; B. L. Ballard, Director; Jerome A. Griessmann, Executive Vice-President and Auditor; W. D. Lawrence, Cashier; Joyce Epperson, Assistant Cashier; Marietta Hedges, Assistant Cashier; Nell Lawrenc4e, Assistant Cashier; and Brenda Kay Points, Assistant Security Officer. Other members of the staff presently employed are, Nancy Harrison, Wanda Bickers, Donna Faye Herron, Sandra Kay Wallace, Vickie Lee Hughes, Jo Sharon Dyer, Tena R. Lawrence, Cymantha Sue Brewer, Vickie Sue Jump, Barbara Gail Cook, Barbara Joann Kely and Patsy Adkins. In addition to those, Frank A. Tucker, W. T. Mothershead, Edna Mathews, Kathryn Webb Day, Holly W. Juett, Nina Peddicord Allen, Marie Bishop Whitaker, Marie Jo Elliston Berge, Hazel Gill Wood, Reba Bennett Ward, Margaret Juett Perry, Sarah Elliston, Wanda Lowe Austin, Louise C. Webb, Dorothy Lanter Johnson, Viola Gardner Kinman, Loretta Sullivan Harrison, Elizabeth H. Hedger, Carlita Caldwell Johnson, Patsy Marquette Henderson, Blanche Gulick Pelfry, Irene Baker, Bernice Osborne Bell, Carleen Caldwell Kinman, Wallace C. Hall, Lucie O'Neil Sterling, Patsy Kenner Snow, William D. Peddicord, Marvin R. Wolfe, Edna Whaley, Connie S. O'Neil, Sandra Dungan, Ella Lawson Simpson, Dolly West, Rickey Carners, Brenda Melton Simpson, Carolyn Ruby, Sheila Simpson Scott, Hope Stone, Carolyn Wainscott, Jean Hammons, Steen Jenkins, and Karen Kinman have been employed at the Bank at various times and with various responsibilities.
The history of the Bank and its association with others has been one of existing fidelity and long lasting friendship. Three generations of the Elliston, Juett and Webb families have served as Directors or as Executive Officers of the Bank. One of the Webb family has been a member of the Board of Directors from the day the Bank was organized. Altogether, three individuals of this family have served the Bank for a total of 144 years. Other families have had two generations as Executive Officers or as members of the Board of Directors. There has been a continuous correspondent bank relationship, ever since the very beginning, with two of the present correspondent banks. There are many of today's customers whose parents, grandparents and ever great-grandparents are, or were, all valuable customers of the Bank.
The financial well being of those who sought the service and assistance of the Bank is, and has always been, the first consideration of the Bank. It has always been the philosophy of the Bank that the economic growth and prosperity of the Community was a reflection of the success the Bank had in meeting the challenges presented to it by its customers.
On January 8, 1884, the Bank paid the first cash dividend to its Stockholders. It has continuously paid one on a semi-annual basis ever since. Prior to that, three stock dividends were paid.
On March 28, 1930, the Bank's Charter was extended to December 31, 1999. The date of the Annual Meeting of the Stockholders was changed on September 26, 1958, to the second Wednesday of April of each year. The charter was amended April 20, 1962, to give the Bank Trust Powers. The number of Directors was increased from 5 to "not less than 5 nor more than 11" on April 9, 1969. On April 17, 1979, the Charter was amended to make it perpetual.
Communication and transportation being what it was during the early days of the Bank, most individuals found it more practical to keep what money they had on their persons or in their homes., As a consequence, deposits were not sufficient to service loan demand. With loans 1 1/2 to 2 times the deposits, the Bank sold additional stock to increase the Capital to $100,000.00 on January 17, 1889. Ration of deposits loans increased as time passed and on August 17, 1898, the Capital Stock was reduced back to $50,000.00. This was accomplished with the repurchase by the Bank of one-half of each stockholder's stock. On September 26, 1958, a 100% stock dividend was paid, increasing the capital again to $100,000.00. At that time, the par value of the shares was reduced to $10.00 each. On April 28, 1967, another 100% stock dividend was paid. Again, on April 17, 1979, a 50% stock dividend was paid. At the present time, the Bank has 30,000 shares of $10.oo par value stock outstanding for a total of $300,000.00 and Surplus and Undivided Profits of $2,200,000.00.
From the very beginning, the Board of Directors conducted periodic audits of the Bank's books. On January 14, 1903, the American Audit Company of Cincinnati was retained to make an audit. This cost the Bank $163.70 for the services of two men for 6 days each, their hotel bill, and transportation to and from Williamstown. On August 19, 1910, the Bank contracted with the Secretary of State of Kentucky to make "not more than 2 examinations a year, at not more than $30.00 per examination." In January, 1918 the Board of Directors acknowledged receipt of, and agreed to, the State Banking Department's rules and regulations. Temporary membership in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation was granted on November 22, 1933. Their first examination was made as of September 10, 1934, and permanent membership was granted July 1, 1935.
On April 10, 1888, the Bank purchased the Johnson Hotel Property. This was located on the northeast corner of Main and Paris Streets. A two story brick Hotel building and a two story frame building (known as and belonging to a Mr. Mathews), were located on the lot. At the time it was thought the hotel building could be converted into a bank building. After further consideration however, this was decided against and on June 29, 1888, the Mathews building, already located on the Bank's lot, directly across Main Street from the Courthouse door, was purchased and the Bank moved into it. On September 6, 1909, this building was sold and moved from the lot. A two story brick building with a fireproof vault and door was built on the lot. In 1929, the building was enlarged and remodeled, including the construction of a new improved vault. During the construction, an air vent for the vault was purchased and installed. The Directors were at first opposed to this "useless expense." However, the salesman soon learned that at least three of the Directors were at he Bank quite frequently. The sale was completed when he convinced them that they might be among the ones locked in the vault in the even of a holdup. The building was remodeled again in 1938, 1953, 1957, and 1964. Some 4 years later, after due consideration and long study of the future needs of the Bank, the Board of directors decided the banking quarters were inadequate, that it was impossible to obtain anything other than temporary relief at the old location, that further investigation for remodeling or rebuilding could not be justified by the results obtained and, on November 19, 1968, directed the Active Officers to find a new location for the Bank.
Several locations were considered and options were taken on a part of three different ones without being able to purchase all of what was considered necessary in any one of the three locations. Finally, in July 28, 1972, after obtaining approval from Supervisory Authorities, the Board of Directors authorized the purchase of the present location. The experience gained by outgrowing the bank facilities and being surrounded by property that could not be purchased was most influential in the choice of the new site and the selection of plans for the new building.
The present location was obtained by purchase of four adjoining parcels of land totaling approximately 1.85 acres. It fronts on the west side of South Main Street for a distance of nearly 400 feet and the south side of West Street for a distance of nearly 300 feet. The new building is one story with 5,800 square feet and a full basement. There are two vaults, constructed one on top of the other of 18-inch reinforced concrete with a 7-inch solid steel door in each. The foundation and walls have been engineered and constructed to support another story if future needs require it. Also planned, and the construction provides for, and elevator and utilities to the second floor, if and when needed. Construction of the new building was started on October 22, 1975. Approximately 13 months later, on November 26, 1976, the Bank moved into its new home.
The first lockboxes were purchased by the Bank in 1914. From time to time since then additional boxes have been installed and a total of over 850 are presently available in the vault for the convenience and safe storage of customers' valuables. The first night depository was purchased in 1957. The Bank purchased its first mechanical bookkeeping machine in 1926 at a cost of $1,000.00. It was strictly hand operated with check and deposit activity placed into the operation by a hand crank. When the posting operation was completed and the new balance imprinted on the ledger sheet, the carriage was manually returned to the starting position. The carriage could be locked into a set position and the machine used as a straight adding machine. For some while the operation of the total key was not fully understood and, at times a subtotal would be carried over into the next listing [giving a customer a larger than actual balance]. Because of this, the machine was thought to be inaccurate. This became such a problem that the young lady bookkeeper would save the adding machine listings until she had time to visually re-add them. Later, the solution to the problem was discovered and the machine had a long and useful life.
One day, two of the town's pranksters put highlife on a saddle horse while talking to the rider in front of the Bank. The horse tried to dislodge its rider and in its frenzy backed up to the front of the Bank, kicking at every breath. With every kick it seemed the big front window glass would be gone. Those on the inside ran to the back of the Bank to escape the falling glass they were expecting at any moment. However, even though the stone window sill bore numerous scars of the horse's shoes, the window was left intact when the rider finally regained control and road off.
In the early 30's, just prior to President Roosevelt's Bank Holiday, most banks were having difficulty in meeting deposit withdrawals. The Bank of Williamstown was fortunate that it was able to meet all its commitments and never at any time had to place restrictions on the withdrawals made by its depositors. Many times a merchant in Covington or Cincinnati called about a check drawn on the Bank. When told the full amount was available, a messenger was dispatched to present it for payment. Actual cash in the economy was just that scarce at that time.
To a large extent, credit for the Bank's ability to meet the demands made on it should go to the loyal depositors. They helped in many ways. One depositor, very apologetically, withdrew his money one day and re-deposited it the next morning. He explained that he and his wife had talked it over the night before and decided "risks were involved, regardless of where the money was placed but there seemed to be less while it was in the Bank." Another depositor, who was very influential in the community, would come to the Bank on Court Day or Saturday morning and make a substantial deposit. Then, all day long he would be showing the duplicate deposit as evidence of his confidence in the Bank. There have been many other evidences of the friendship and loyalty demonstrated by the Bank's customers not only during that period but during many other times as well. These demonstrations of friendship and loyalty have been greatly cherished and appreciated by the Directors and Officers over the years.
A number of years ago the Bank had a janitor who carried a gun at all times. During a time in which there were numerous bank holdups, he started siting in the lobby most of each day. Everyone knew he was waiting for someone to hold up the Bank and give him an opportunity for a shoot-out. All of the personnel were afraid of what would happen. Finally, he had to be told to spend some time elsewhere. At about this same time, local authorities were trying to solve the murder of a local man. Someone reported the finding of blood in the rear basement entrance of the Bank. The County Judge and Sheriff rushed over to examine the findings. They found, in addition to blood spattered walls, a lot of feathers and other evidence of the turkey the janitor had dressed for the Cashier. In those days it was impossible to purchase a Thanksgiving Turkey ready for the oven from a supermarket. It did create a lot of excitement at the time, though.
In this day of multi-digit inflation and interest rates, it is difficult to realize that for a number of years the Bank paid only 1% interest on savings and certificates of deposit. At the same time, funds were invested in U. S. Treasury obligations at 7/8% to 1 3/4% and loans were made at 4% interest.
The Bank has always maintained a conservatively progressive posture in its methods and operations, never too quick to make changes, or yet too slow when more modern methods were proven. The Bank became a member of the Kentucky Bankers' Association in 1895, qualified as a Depository of State Funds in 1931, as an approved Federal Housing Administration's Mortgagee in 1940, as an Issuing Agent for the sale of EU. S. Defense Bonds in 1941, set banking hours from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. in 1942, qualified as a Special Depository of the U. S. Treasury in 1942, qualified for powers to redeem U. S. Savings Bonds in 1944, started making Veterans Guaranteed Loans in 1947, started purchasing Farmers' Home Administration's Loans in 1948, qualified as the depository of Federal Food Stamps program for Grant County in 1967, adopted its Security Program as prescribed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1969, started use of Computer Accounting in 1971, adopted and Investment policy and Federal Funds policy in 1975.
By J. L. Webb