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JIM: Early days of the First National Bank of Columbia

By Jim

Early days of the First National Bank of Columbia

(ref. Old Photo: Kesslers have facts which pique interest for more)

The first mention via the News of a new financial institution in Columbia came in a one-line announcement in the forepart of March, 1903: "It is our understanding that the stockholders of the proposed new bank will meet next Thursday to organize," and the following week, names were named--a virtual Who's Who of Columbia. The directory members were J.O. Russell, President; E.H. Hughes, H.N. Miller, J.P. Beard, Brack Massie, N.S. Mercer, and Z.T. Williams.

(Although Eld. Z.T. Williams is best remembered nearly a century after his passing as the beloved minister of the Columbia Christian Church, he was also a shrewd businessman, having been a partner for several years in the quite successful firm of Wheat & Williams, the general store of Montpelier fame.)

The article also stated it was "generally understood" that E.H. Hughes would be elected cashier, and that in addition to the above-named gentlemen, Bruce (also known as C.B.) Epperson would be elected bookkeeper (or assistant cashier; both titles were used).

Over a month passed before more news broke, this time to let readers know that one of the directors, J.P. Beard, had recently been to Cincinnati to order "a safe and other fixtures," and that Mr. Beard had paid the princely sum of $1,325 for the safe and vault. This issue of the News also stated that "Mr. C.R. Hoskins, Campbellsville, has been awarded the contract by the First National Bank to put up their new banking building. As soon as weather will permit he will commence making brick."

The News used but little ink about construction of the bank building. In June, it allowed as to how "We noticed the design for the front of the new bank the other day. It is handsome and very attractive," and then, over two months later, a little after the middle of August, another one-line entry mentioned that "Brick laying on the new banking building at this place begun this morning, the work to be pushed rapidly."

In all fairness, this issue of the paper also told readers that J.P. Beard had sustained painful injuries suffered while making some measurement for the edifice, the most painful of which would have been fractured ribs. The article finished with the rather prim reminder that folks should watch where they put their feet.

In mid-September, 1903, came the announcement that "The First National Bank, this place, will be opened for business the first day of October." (This was the first mention found of the bank's name.) Alas, October 1 came and went, but the plate glass and safe had failed to arrive on time, and the opening was pushed back to the 15th.

Confirmation of the latter-named opening date came with this paid notice in the October 14th edition:

"The First National Bank, of Columbia, Ky, will open its doors for business October 15, 1903. A progressive, modern bank, fully equipped to serve you in all details of practical banking, and is prepared to extend to its depositors every facility for the prompt and efficient conduct of their banking business. Special attention given to collections."We solicit your business.
"J.O. Russell, Pres.
E.H, Hughes, Cashier
H.N. Miller, Vice-Pres.
C.B. Epperson, Ass't Cashier
(Other) directors:
Z.T. Williams,
Braxton Massie,
N.S. Mercer"
The following week, the paper reported that officers of the First National Bank had stated "the institution is doing fairly well for a beginner" and that they hoped eventually "to receive a liberal share of the business of this section of the state." The article concluded by observing that "the two banks of this place are on the most friendly terms. Neither one is jealous of the other, the most friendly expressions coming from the two institutions."

(In early December, 1903, a "report of the condition" of the bank as of the close of business on November 17 showed resources and liabilities balancing out at $51,601.98 each, the latter including twenty-five thousand dollars of paid in capital stock. Three years later, the resources and liabilities totaled just under $181,000 each.)

Bruce Epperson may hold the record for shortest stint as an assistant cashier in a Columbia bank. He tendered his resignation in January, 1904, a little less than three months after First National's doors opened, with the view to accept a more lucrative (if unnamed) position. A.M. Mercer, son of bank director N.S. Mercer, came in to fill the vacant post.

Come January, 1905, the News announced that "Mr. Bruce Montgomery...has accepted a position with the Bank of Columbia. Mr. Montgomery will keep a set of books...." This likely was a typographical error by omission and the statement should have been that he had accepted the position with the First National Bank of Columbia, but an article the following year (January, 1906) lends a bit of ambiguity to the matter:

"Last Tuesday, the 9th, the stockholders of the First National Bank elected officers for the ensuing year. and so well pleased they were with the election one year, that no change whatsoever was made:..and Bruce Montgomery, Assistant Cashier. Mr. Montgomery has been assisting the cashier for a few months, and has proven his worth and adaptability to the position to the entire satisfaction to all interested parties."

(Mr. Montgomery's wife, the former Miss Kate Walker, was the niece of Kizzie Walker Murrell, the long time business partner and future wife of J.O. Russell, then the President of First National.)

On September 20, 1906, cashier E.H. Hughes tendered his letter of resignation, stating, "It is with regret that I sever my connection with the First National Bank, but the health of my family demands that I remove them to a different climate." A.D. Patteson, a nephew of J.O. Russell who had banking experience at the Bank of Jamestown and who was currently employed at the Bank of Columbia, was elected to replace Mr. Hughes. At the same time, Bruce Montgomery was re-elected as assistant cashier; J.N. Coffey was brought into the fold as a second assistant cashier; and James F. Montgomery, Bruce's father, came in as a director to replace Mr. Hughes.

(James R. Garnett was immediately elected by the Bank of Columbia to replace A.D. Patteson. Mr. Garnett later studied law and went into partnership with Judge W.W. Jones near the beginning of 1912, the latter-named gentleman also being long associated with the Bank of Columbia. In the same issue of the News came the announcement that J.N. Coffey of the firm Hughes, Coffey, & Co., general merchants, had bought out his two partners, E.H. and J.D. Hughes -- "The Messrs. Hughes will leave in a few weeks for the Southwest" -- and had formed a new partnership with Jo F. Patteson, a brother of A.D. Patteson, to continue the business.)

A few days earlier, Mr. Hughes had sold to S.D. Barbee his Burkesville Street residence, and on Saturday, October 27th, he sold at public auction his "household and kitchen furniture." The News made no note of the departure of the Hughes families from Columbia, but a long letter from B.F. Grissom appeared in the December 12, 1906 edition, detailing the recent trip made by a contingent of about 15 current and former Adair Countians to the city of Quanah in the Lone Star State, some 200 miles northwest of Fort Worth.

Mr. Grissom wrote that upon arriving in Quanah, the group "had the pleasure of visiting Mr. E.H. Hughes, his family, [and] Mrs. Kate Hughes, and son, James, who all left old Adair, just a few weeks before. Mr. Hughes is pleasantly situated in a cozy home in the city, and is interested in a large mercantile house. His daughter, Miss Cary, and his mother, both felt much improved in health since a change in location."

For reasons unknown, however, the Texas stay for the most of the E.H. Hughes family was of but brief duration. In early March, 1907, came the announcement that Mr. Hughes had purchased of Mrs. Laura Powell (widow of Andy Powell) for a consideration of $3,200 her residence on Burkesville Street, "one of the best homes in Columbia." The same article also informed readers that the Hughes family "will return to Columbia within the next few weeks and take up their abode with us. Come early April, the News reported that the Hughes family, with the exception of James and Tobe, were leaving Texas "this morning" (Tuesday, April 2nd). Within a few days, the family had arrived in Columbia, "having taken possession of their home--the Powell property, Monday," April 8th.

Sadly, Miss Cary passed in late June, 1907, six months before her 20th birthday, and her grandmother, Kate Hughes, passed in the closing days of 1909.

In January, 1908, J.O. Russell stepped down as President of the First National Bank and the directorate elected Braxton Massie in his stead. It was announced that A.D. Patteson, who had served as cashier for about sixteen months, had left the bank "to engage in other business" (he was elected Sheriff of Adair County the following year); E.H. Hughes was brought back as cashier; and Bruce Montgomery continued as assistant cashier.


By January, 1921, Miss Leonora Lowe, the daughter of FNB director John D. Lowe, had been elected as bookkeeper, and at the Board of Directors meeting the following January, longtime cashier E.H. Hughes assumed the title of Vice President; Bruce Montgomery advanced to Mr. Hughes' old position; and Cortez Sanders was elected assistant cashier.

When Miss Lenora Lowe and Mr. Rollin Cundiff married in the spring of 1922, he was an assistant bookkeeper at the Bank of Columbia and she held "a similar position with the First National Bank." Shortly thereafter, Rollin's brother Horace married E.H. Hughes' daughter Victoria, and within a few years, Horace had advanced to assistant cashier at First National.


This story was posted on 2012-06-08 14:54:50
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Old Photo: Kesslers have facts which pique interest for more

2012-06-02 - 224 Public Square, Columbia, KY - Photo from Collection of Eddie & Tiffany Kessler.
Eddie and Tiffany Kessler have this grand old photo of the lobby and tellers' cage in the old First National Bank, the forerunner of today's First & Farmers National Bank, which occupies this space and more on the Southwest Corner of the Public Square. "The information on the back of the photo reads First National Bank with Horace Cundiff and Bruce Montgomery. I was in the back., and it was signed Vern T or Vera T," Tiffany Kessler writes. "Looks to be circa 1920s or 30s. Assuming this was on the Columbia Square, not sure where the bank's building was at that time," she added. Larry Walker update, 12pm noon CT Sunday, June 3, 2012:: It's the same location of the present day main office teller lobby at 224 S. Public Square. The teller cage is on the same side of the lobby today. It was moved to the right side of the lobby around 1965 and then back to the left side when the old Adair County News Office building addition was added. The staircase in the picture is the same staircase used today to get to the second floor bookkeeping department. The second story did not exist at the time of the photo, just the area over the vault that contains the windows. --Larry Walker. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated. It is a case for the history cousins AND Larry Walker, maybe the Master Mind of all the Walkers, Cundiffs, and Montgomerys there are. Send using any Contact/Submit button. -CM

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